AFAR’s cruise expert Judy Perl on how to plan a family voyage that will be a hit with the whole gang. Read “The Hero’s Journey,” about a father-son cruise around Greece.
Which cruise company is best for traveling with kids?
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line are the best for families with young children. Their kid-friendly programming and facilities are staggering. Royal Caribbean has complimentary activities for every age group: DJ training, beach volleyball, karaoke, and pirate nights. And their ships have zip lines, water parks, rock wall climbing, simulated surfing machines, mini golf, and ice-skating. The best part? There’s also an adults-only area for peace and quiet. Holland America is a good choice, too—check out their family reunion packages for eight or more staterooms, which include benefits like beverage credits and upgrades. Holland’s ships also have an “adult-free zone” for teens and a club for eight- to 12-year-olds. Every age group starting from three-year-olds has its own programs.
What about travel with my grown children?
Regent Seven Seas is my top pick for all-inclusive luxury cruises for adult groups. Their cabins are among the largest in the industry, every one of them a suite with a balcony and a walk-in closet. With Regent, it’s easy for groups to control their budget because everything is prepaid: open bar, gratuities, shore excursions, air, and a precruise hotel. If you want to plan something really special, Crystal Cruises just launched Crystal Celebrations, which will organize elaborate events on shore as well as on the ship. They’ll handle everything from renting a Tuscan villa for the grandparents’ big anniversary celebration to hiring a caterer or live music.
How will I keep everyone entertained?
Pick a trip with activities that are all over the map, and the more the better. A Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona is a good choice. There are world-class cultural and historical sites, beaches, plus great shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. Check out Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic, which sails from Barcelona.
Or, cruise Oceania’s Riviera from Barcelona to Venice. Another great trip for big families is an Alaskan cruise out of Vancouver. It’s soft adventure, the lady and gentleman’s way to explore the last frontier, and it appeals to all ages. Itineraries on Regent Seven Seas’ Navigator go as far north as Seward and include shore excursions.
I’d like to plan a private trip for my family. Possible?
It’s called a takeover, and yes, there are plenty of ways and places to do it. My expertise is in planning exclusive, bespoke cruises, and matching up the right boat with the perfect location. My favorites are: For a group of around 18 people, rent a sailboat in the Galapagos such as the Grace; for a group of around 12 people, cruise the Turquoise coast on a traditional Turkish wooden yacht called a gulet; for larger groups of around 40, book a riverboat on the Peruvian Amazon, such as the Aria.
For more information and to book a cruise, email Judy. Photo by Thomas Prior. This appeared in the January/February 2014 issue.