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A long-time cruise specialist, my aunt Sheila was the first person in the travel industry whom I recall using the term “floating city” to refer to both a ship’s physical size as well as the remarkable depth of things to see and do aboard an ocean liner.
In a way, that term helps shape an important travel-planning question for your family vacation: If you want to take your kids on a cruise, you’ll naturally look hard at the cruise line’s overall reputation. But you’ll also want to factor in which “city” – aka, which ship within any given cruise line – has both a good reputation and the specific attractions and activities that suit your family best.
The other day I heard from Heidi Allison-Shane, publisher of AllThingsCruise, who recently planned a cruise for her husband and four children, all “Gen Y” young adults. She made the point that it was tricky to find ships that balanced her kids' action-oriented needs with her and her husband’s more low-key ones.
Among Heidi’s findings were that aboard Carnival’s popular “Fun Ships,” kids of all ages can avail themselves of Punchliner Comedy Clubs as well as live karaoke, and that shore excursions might include such family favorites as snorkeling, zip-lining, and 4x4 rides. With that in mind I turned to the recent roster of ShermansTravel.com hand-picked cruise deals and found a fun ship departure that might pack appeal, a 7-night Bahamas Cruise, starting at $449, sailing December 4. The floating city in question is the well-regarded Carnival Pride that sails round-trip out of Baltimore.
Heidi also points out that the Royal Caribbean International (RCI) fleet is adept at balancing such parent-friendly perks as VIP pool deck seating with whipper-snapper-pleasing pursuits, like 200-foot rock-climbing walls and pool wave machines. She adds that RCI ships Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas have such enviable extras as boxing rings, water parks, and something called a FlowRider that allows guests to surf on while on board the vessel.
Turning once again to Shermans cruise deals this week, I noticed that RCI had a 4-night Bahamas cruise from $189 out of Miami, leaving October 31. The ship, the Majesty of the Seas, recently underwent a $35 million renovation and includes the aforementioned FlowRider as well as a rock wall, scuba diving, and mildly scary-sounding “family discos.” And giving a nod to the notion of a floating city with hearty eats, there are Ben & Jerry’s and Johnny Rockets outposts on board.
A practical point that Heidi makes about Generation Y, but which easily applies to most parents I know, too, is that we’ll likely want to be connected to our social networks during our voyages, as what's the point of being on a cruise if you can't rub it in on Facebook? She notes that it’s worth checking out if the ships you’re researching have pre-paid Wi-Fi usage plans, as “they tend to be significantly cheaper than the pay-as-you-go options.”
Family cruise tips and, of course, the many permutations of cruise travel go well beyond this post and blog. Also this week, Gay Travel blogger Justin Ocean looks at Atlantis’ 2012 Caribbean Cruises and in Cruise News, Elissa Richard reports on Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Cruise Like a Norwegian” campaign.
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