Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cruising..The Ultimate Family Vacation

I love travel, whether it is within my home State of Georgia, or to the other side of the globe! I must admit that flying is a bit more inconvenient and less pleasurable than it was some years ago, but it does get you where you want to go in a hurry.

Here's the thing I love most though - cruising. Whether you decide on an Alaskan Cruise or a Caribbean tropical one, or a more exotic cruise to destinations abroad, cruising is the best value for money spent. For families in particular the price of a cruise can be a huge money saver.

These new ships are HUGE, and have so many amenities that there is something every member of the family can enjoy.

The pools on most of the ships now are divided into three groups, the "kiddie" area for the smaller children (these have water canons, shallow pools, and all kinds of entertainment for the toddlers), the "family pool area" (for those kids who are a little older and want to actually swim with other family members), and the "Adult" pool which is for adults only; here you will find older adults relaxing in the sun and younger adults who don't have children.

Food...well what can I say? Everyone has heard about the food on cruises. On Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, for example, there is the Formal Dining where the food choices are great and the delicious food is served by attentive and entertaining wait staff. Then there is the Windjammer which can be a great choice for families with children because of the huge variety of food and the less formal atmosphere. There is everything in the Windjammer from hot dogs to Sushi!

For those "special" times there are some specialty restaurants aboard also. These cost a little extra, but are well worth the price. The Portofino aboard the Liberty served us a fabulous Italian dinner from the most lovely antipasti platter I have ever enjoyed, to a seafood brochette which included a baby lobster tail, scallops, shrimp and fish and was served artfully, to the Tiramisu served in a chocolate tulip bowl, all for a price of $20 per person!! The atmosphere was fabulous, the wait staff outstanding, and since we were anchored in St. Thomas, the view of the lighted hillside was soooooo romantic. What a lovely evening.

All day there are other "free" food options such as Sbarro Pizza (bet you'll have a hard time keeping the kids out of there!), soft vanilla and chocolate ice cream up on deck beside the pool, and again, the Windjammer. There are frequently special buffet options served either poolside with musical entertainment, or down in the Central walkway below, where you are served fabulous desserts, cheeses, and so many other options. You have to be careful not to be eating all day long.

There are fabulous programs for all ages of children, including babysitting in your cabin if you wish to have a special night out with your sweetheart. The programs for the children cover all kinds of entertainment from toddlers to teens. They even have teen "clubs".

Last time we were out, I went ice skating at sea. Wow, that was fun. My hubby rode the "Flowrider" a surfing machine at sea only available on Royal Caribbean. What a hoot! It is a blast just to watch the activity here, and there are stadium seats available so you can do just that.

We witnessed a really beautiful Ice Show in addition to the usual nightly stage shows all available at NO ADDITIONAL Charge.

You will pay extra for alcoholic drinks and soft drinks, but there are packages available which allow you to pay one price for the entire cruise. These are a good deal if you or your children drink a lot of sodas or alcohol.

There is no limit to the entertainment aboard. Whether you love the "one armed bandits", or Blackjack the Casino is available whenever you are at sea. The rock climbing wall, mini golf course, basketball courts, and so much more are all included in your cruise price.

All of this is available for $100 a day or less, and children in the same cabin are discounted by half or more! You just can't beat room, all the food you care to eat and so much entertainment on any other vacation plan.

The extras are as I said before, certain specialty restaurants, alcohol, sodas and shore excursions...but there is so much aboard, that you really don't have to leave the ship, and it only costs to leave the ship if you are joining a group can choose to go ashore and check out the town or shopping for no additional charge.

One tip I recommend strongly is DON'T OVERPACK...the first few times I went cruising, I took twice as many clothes as I could have worn. Remember that most of the time is bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts, etc. Usually on a 7 nite cruise there is ONE "formal" night. You don't HAVE to get dressed up, but it is fun!

NEVER take excursions you book outside the cruise company you are dealing with. They may or may not be cheaper, but if you miss the boat you can find yourself in a lot of HOT WATER. The companies who contract with your cruise line HAVE to get you back on time or pay to get you back aboard at the next stop...this is IMPORTANT!

The ship will not wait for you if you are don't take any chances.

So, I hope I have teased you a little....check out for some real deals on cruises. Also, if you register with the cruise lines, they will frequently notify you of special prices.

Have fun, and do try cruising, you won't regret it.

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