Cruising is one of the easiest ways for families to travel. It doesn’t matter where you go, being able to unpack once and wake up somewhere new just about every day has a way of making vacation actually feel like vacation. But cruising with kids offers a long list of perks that aren’t quite as obvious, especially if you’re exploring more off-the-beaten-path locations for families like Southeast Asia.
When you think of kid-friendly cruise itineraries, destinations like the Caribbean or Europe usually come to mind first. Beaches loaded with colorful fish and castles seemingly straight from the pages of fairy tales have a natural way of engaging travelers of all ages. Travel to Asia, on the other hand, can feel daunting. A cruise can help simplify logistics and relieve some of the stress.
One of the best things about traveling as a family is experiencing new things together, but even more adventuresome broods have their limits. Exploring Southeast Asia can quickly become overwhelming; easy-to-digest information isn’t as plentiful as it is in more mainstream family-friendly destinations.
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By arming parents with everything they need to know, Asia cruises help families expand their comfort zones. I traveled through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand with Holland America Line. The constant, steady stream of reliable information eliminated the intimidation factor that often accompanies travel in this region. From dress code tips and temple etiquette, to ordering dim sum and Vietnamese coffee, daily port talks along with question and answer sessions filled in the blanks and removed any fear of the unknown.
Seeing Asia by cruise ship offers families a taste of several countries in a single trip. But the real beauty of cruising to gems like Singapore, Hong Kong and Koh Samui is that parents can relax and let ship staff handle all of the logistics.
Asia is an enormous place. Even when you limit your family to Southeast Asia, you’re still talking about a huge stretch of the world. With a cruise, you’ll cover a lot of ground efficiently. Ports can be distinctly different from one day to the next, providing access to popular tourist destinations like bustling Bangkok as well as lesser-known locations like Pattaya.
Ideally, you’ll find something to love at each stop, but you could come across a location that doesn’t suit your family’s fancy. Maybe it’s impossible to recover from a sighting of jellyfish salad in Hoi An. Or maybe Nha Trang’s Dam Market is a bit too frantic. Keeping the day meltdown-free, and maybe even sneaking in an extra nap, is as easy as getting back on the ship.
Because of the sheer travel distance many visitors face just to get to Asia, trips tend to be longer, testing the waters for families accustomed to shorter trips.
After spending the day in a remote Cambodian fishing village, there’s something reassuring about having a space of your own to come home to. Five days later in Vietnam, after a scooter adventure on Da Nang’s Monkey Mountain, that same comfortable bed will still be waiting. The familiarity of having the same location to sleep over a long stretch of time allows for a welcoming routine in a destination where nothing is routine.
Southeast Asia’s culinary culture is unlike anywhere else in the world. Street food here is a delicious bargain that can come with Michelin stars. But parents know that’s no guarantee a tired kid will like it. Convincing little ones to try a new dish is an easier sell when familiar staples like pizza and spaghetti are waiting in your ship’s kitchen.
Along with plating kid-friendly favorites, cruise kitchens have a knack for introducing unknown Asian foods to palates of all ages. Buffets make it easy to commit to just a taste. Menus change daily. One day may offer sushi, the next, pho.
It makes sense that families would want to make the most out of their time in unique destinations like Hoi An or Hue, but skipping time in port isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being onboard a ship during a port call comes with its own list of perks.
Larger cruise ships offer so many bells and whistles (Carnival’s Panorama boasts a trampoline park, and its newest ship will feature a roller coaster) that families can run out of time before they get to try them all. Kids, or kids at heart, can ride the waterslide as many times as they want without a wait while fellow cruisers are focused on rickshaw rides. Kids’ clubs offering fun, culturally infused activities come in handy when parents crave some downtime of their own.
There’s no surefire way to keep your kids from getting sick during vacation, but knowing medical care is easily available 24 hours a day provides great peace of mind. Simply having access to safe medication can stop a bug from wreaking havoc on a family vacation. When it comes down to it, cruise vacations, albeit unintentionally, have all the makings for a great family-travel safety net when exploring Southeast Asia.
Browse all tips and ideas for Vietnam with kids on Ciao Bambino
Introducing kids to Vietnam’s complex and colorful past in Hue
Island-hopping adventure in southern Thailand with kids
5 essential things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids
Best beach destinations in Thailand with kids
The ultimate guide to Cambodia’s Temples of Angkor with kids
Top 5 reasons to visit Vietnam with kids
Postcard from Vietnam: Exploring the Mekong Delta waterways
Editor’s Note: Dana’s Southeast Asia cruise was hosted by Holland America Line. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Dana Rebmann.
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