I know what you’re thinking. Why would I take a cruise with my kids? That sounds like being trapped with a monster, on a ship full of other monsters. But just hear me out. I felt the same way once.

It’s safe to say my first cruise experiences were not a success. 

I went on my first cruise when I was about 18 years old. It was a typical family vacation but, as an older sibling, I didn’t have anyone to “hang out” with. I shared a room with my younger step-sister who was 13 at the time. It wasn’t a bad trip, but there was nothing too thrilling about it at the same time.  

Years later I went with a group of girlfriends to celebrate graduating college and all four of us suffered from the worst case of food poisoning I had ever experienced. Right then and there I swore off cruises forever and ever. Amen. I mean really, what was the point?

For years I stuck to my guns.  I moved to Germany with my husband and we were thrilled to explore country after country via all modes of land transportation.  We would turn our nose up on friends taking off on cruises. Why would you be stuck on a boat all day? Why would you want to go on someone else’s schedule?

Then we had children.  

5 years into our marriage we gave birth to the most awesome kid around. She also was born with a severe brain deformity and for several years our travel plans were on hiatus.  When the military relocated us back to Germany we vowed to return to our travel fever ways. A few weeks after we landed in the country, we jetted down to Rome to meet up with family for a long weekend. It was challenging for sure. But when you have a 5:1 adult to child ratio, and all adults are related to each other, it’s easy to share the load. 

With this confidence, we scheduled a 10 day, 5 city marathon through Italy with another couple we have previously traveled with. Only this time we had a 3 year old in tow.  

I know….I can hear you laughing. 

It was bananas.  When you are packing for yourself you can breeze through life with a backpack and nary a care in the world.  When you have a toddler in tow you must pack like you are preparing for every season, emergency, and travel contingency. Truly, if you thought the Griswold’s packed like crazy people, can you imagine what they would have looked like when Rusty and Audrey were 3 and 5 years old?

Did you realize when you plan a 10 day, 5 city vacation you are packing up and moving every two days? Yeah – I missed that one. 

Did you also realize that not all Airbnb’s are as kid-friendly as you’d think they are? Missed that one too. 

When we returned home from that trip I was wiped out. Nothing about it felt like a vacation. I hardly got a minute to myself, and when I did, I was totally alone, because it meant my husband had to hang back in our room with our daughter so she could rest. 

Then someone mentioned to me a Disney Cruise. 

I was skeptical. I was leery. I was not at all convinced this was the way to go. Even worse – my husband was adamantly in the We-Are-Not-Cruisers” Camp. Convincing him otherwise was no small feat. 

But I started researching. I talked to friends that had cruised before. Then I booked it. I pulled the trigger and just booked it. And it was the best vacation my family has ever gone on.

It might just be time for you to reconsider a cruise.

And here’s why you should take a cruise with kids:

1. You only have to unpack your bags while visiting several places

This was life affirming for me. After that Italy vacation, we had really resigned ourselves over the next year of only taking long weekends to one location. The amount of energy it took to repack everything every other day and make sure nothing was left behind, was enough to make me just want to stay home.  Since this trip we have taken two cruises.

The first on along the Fjords of Norway (where you are traveling to places that are best appreciated and more easily accessed via boat). And the second revisited Norway and went on to Iceland and Scotland. Being able to explore these places via the cruise ship has allowed us to visit several different cities instead of just one, and do it without having the hassle of dragging luggage from point to point. 

2. Kids Clubs Are Worth Their Money in GOLD

Again – lifechanging.  As you know, my daughter was special needs, which meant that finding care for her on a regular basis was very difficult for us, especially living overseas. The typical 15 year old sitter just wasn’t enough. And as a military family we have never lived close to relatives.  We rarely had time for ourselves. But the staff at the kids club was AMAZING. When I told them of my daughter’s condition, they didn’t blink an eye. They took incredibly detailed notes and went above and beyond to make her feel included in events. And on Disney Cruise Lines you are given a Wave phone where you can be called or texted at any time if there is a problem.  On the ship

The kids club allowed us the opportunity to drop her off and actually take time for my husband and I to have time together on vacation ALONE. 

I was never more than a 5 minute run back to her. The best part – she never wanted to leave the kids club. This gave Mom and Dad plenty of time to watch a movie in the theatre, book spa appointments, relax in the hot tub, read a book, play bingo, listen to live music, attend a comedy show. You name it, we did it. We totally took advantage. And everyone was happy. This is by far the best reason to take a cruise with kids.

3. A cruise ship is like a moving all-inclusive. 

Want some ice cream? You can find that up by the pool. Noshing for some fries? Around the corner from the ice cream. Feeling a little chilled traveling around those fjords? Grab yourself a hot chocolate right over there. Don’t feel like leaving your room? Feel free to call in-room-service. 

Are there dining experiences that cost extra? Yes. Adult beverages you have to pay a little extra for. Same goes for the specialty dining restaurant.  But for the most part, if you wanted to pre-pay for everything and not spend a dime on board, it would be completely possible (though we will acquiesce that it’s not a very probable expectation). The point is that you really want for nothing during your time on board. You want it, go get it. And you don’t have to travel far. So if your kids orders a hot dog, and upon receipt decides she’d rather have spaghetti, not a problem. Order some spaghetti and enjoy yourself. 

Next time you are planning a vacation, do the unthinkable and reconsider a cruise. Talk to a travel advisor that can match you with a cruise line and itinerary that will work best for you, your family, and your budget. Then, pack your bags and GO! Taking a cruise with kids might be the most relaxing vacation you’ve had in a while.

While it may be your first, chances are it won’t be your last! 

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