As mammoth cruise ships continue to build upon child care programs and family-friendly entertainment, it’s becoming easier to bring the kids along as you sail into the Caribbean sunset. Finding a cruise that lets kids have fun and learn something on vacation (gasp) is a challenge onto itself. With more and more emphasis on “going green,” it’s no surprise that parents are looking for creative ways to educate their kids about the environment, and eco-cruising on smaller vessels can bring this concept to life.
The mother ship for all wildlife encounters is the Galapagos Islands, where 97 percent of the landmass has been declared a national park and 95 percent of the species are endemic. The family-owned Ecoventura carries some 4000 passengers to the islands each year on three hybrid, solar-paneled yachts. In 1996, the company began operating special kid-friendly voyages with a handful of summer departures.
The idea caught on quickly, and now more than 25 cruises each year are geared toward families with little ones. The cruise line has also reported a growing interest with parents who want to take their teens on a unique and memorable vacation before they fly the coop. Even the most rebellious teenagers would enjoy snorkeling next to colonies of sea lions, hiking past lava fields, whale and dolphin watching, kayaking and of course, three meals daily and plenty of snacks.
Recently, the company added graduation cruises with more strenuous outdoor activities, a ship full of high school and college grads, and special parties on board. For the younger crowd, customized cruises are available for ages 7 to 12 with talent shows, navigational classes and knot tying lessons with the captain, ice cream, and kids' menus with favorites like pancakes, chicken fingers, fries, and hamburgers. For each of these family cruises, kids up to age 11 receive 25 percent discount and teens save 15 percent off cruise rates.
Most importantly, these cruises teach families about sustainable travel and ecology; lessons that will stay with children as they make their way into the world. Ecoventura has their eco-certification from Smart Voyager, the Ecuadorian company that educates tour providers on reducing their carbon footprint and providing support to local communities.
The cruise line did not stop with a certification stamp: it also started the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund (in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund) to help promote conservation of the delicate ecosystem beneath the surface. The company is affiliated with the Rainforest Alliance and the International Ecotourism Society (among other non-profits).
To learn more, visit Ecoventura.com.