Family cruises

A cruise ship, yesterday

Have you ever been on a cruise with your family? I haven’t, but I quite fancy giving it a try. While cruises can have their downsides such as lack of independence (although that seems to be changing these days), the idea of having everything done for me, kids’ activities on tap and waking up somewhere different every morning is pretty appealing. Plus a lot of them have amazing facilities for families now, such as the cruises offered by Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises and of course by the kings of family friendly cruises, Disney. I wrote a whole article about family friendly cruises for The Express last year, but the one that appeared in today’s is about cruising in the Caribbean. A lot of the info is relevant to families too though, so I thought I’d include it here. Also Linda Jones over on Have a Lovely Time has some excellent family cruising tips, so good, in fact, that I included them in my book.

Anyway, here’s the article:

All Caribbean cruises are not the same – and they don’t have to cost the earth. CATHERINE COOPER has rounded up some Caribbean cruises with something different to offer which you can take for under £2,500.

Family-friendly cruise – There’s plenty to keep the kids happy on this nine-night cruise of the Western Caribbean on Allure of the Seas, a giant of a ship with a passenger capacity of over 6,000. Attractions  include a zip-wire suspended nine decks high, an aqua park, two surf simulators, parades and even meals with some of DreamWorks Animations best-loved characters including Shrek and Princess Fiona and Madagscar’s Alex and Gloria. The cruise departs from Fort Lauderdale and ports of call include Cozumel in Mexico where you can explore the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm, browse for jewellery in the shops of San Miguel or escape to the beach paradise of Passion Island.  There are a variety of kids clubs and activities from aged 6 months to 17 years and innovations such as “My Family Dining Time” which allows kids to be served quickly and then taken off to play while you can finish your meal in peace. There’s also a spa and several bars, lounges and nightclubs for the grown-ups. Departs Fort Lauderdale regularly from Jan 3 2012. Nine nights from £1,202 including flights and transfers. www.royalcarribean.com  0844 493 2061. 

Stay on a private island – Holland America Line’s seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise includes a stay on the cruise company’s private island with a two-mile crescent of perfect beach and interior lagoon, private beachside cabanas with butler service, showers, misters, a wealth of water sports on offer and a children’s aqua park. The cruise departs from Fort Lauderdale, one of the main ports for Caribbean cruises where you can take a trip on an airboat through the Everglades.  Highlights include snorkelling or diving in the crystal seas around Grand Turk and taking an all-terrain vehicle through the foothills of the rainforest in Puerto Rico. The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is a large ship accommodating over 2,000 passengers with a glitzy atrium as its centrepiece.  Facilities include several bars and restaurants, a spa, fitness centre, pools,  shops and an on-deck beach-style “Cabana Club” – a luxury retreat with robes and misters where guests are waited on with frozen grapes, chocolate-covered strawberries and even a glass of champagne at 3pm. Departs Fort Lauderdale Feb 4 2012. Nine nights from £949pp including flights. www.hollandamerica.co.uk 0845 351 0057. 

Cruise and Walk – For walking enthusiasts, The Ramblers are organising a Caribbean cruise with the emphasis on walking at the ports of call. Starting in Barbados the ship then heads to Bonaire, 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela with woods and mangrove swamps and surrounded by coral reefs. It then calls at Aruba, for a chance to explore the island’s wild side beyond the beaches and onto Jamaica where away from the beaches there are mountains, rainforests and 3,800 varieties of flowering plants and ferns. Other ports of call include Cuba, Grand Turk, Antigua and Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands. The Fred Olsen cruise ship Braemar accommodates just over 900 passengers and has a five-deck central atrium and public rooms featuring polished wood and brass fittings. Facilities include two open-air swimming pools with a poolside bar and twin jacuzzis, three restaurants including the Thistle restaurant serving a seafood buffet with ocean views on three sides. There are also several bars (including a pub), a fitness room, spa,  hair salon and golf nets. Departs March 15 2012. 14-nights including flights, transfers, accommodation, walking excursions and services of a dedicated tour leader from £2,065. www.ramblersholidays.co.uk 01707 33 11 33. 

Tall ship cruise  – A tall ship cruise offers a more intimate cruising atmosphere as well as allowing to you get to smaller bays where the big ships can’t go including Tobago Cays – an archipelago of five small, uninhabited islands with white sand and coral reefs and Iles des Saintes, just off Guadeloupe with beautiful beaches and great dive sites . Royal Clipper takes 227 passengers with a crew of 106 and offers regular seven-night cruises out of Barbados. There are no rigid schedules on-board and the restaurant is free-seating. Lunch is a buffet or an on-shore BBQ and evening entertainment is provided by local performers as well as an on-board team – everything from folk dancing and steel bands to crab racing. The cabins are kitted out in nautical style with brass fittings and mahogany and have all mod-cons including DVD players and marble-lined bathrooms. 14 deluxe suites also have private verandahs, whirlpool baths and 24-hour room service. Departs Barbados various dates until March 2012. Seven nights  including flights, tax and transfers from £1,738. www.starclippers.co.uk, 0845 200 6125 

About catherinecooper

Journalist and author specialising in travel with children. I write for several national publications and am author of Travelling with Children: A Parent's Guide. You can see some of my articles at www.catherinecooper.net
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