The world seems to be divided into those who are “cruisers” and those who are not. I was in the latter category until my recent experience on Holland America’s ms Nieuw Amsterdam in the Western Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong, I have cruise caveats, but I see the appeal and I absolutely understand why cruising with kids is so popular, particularly for multi-generational family trips that are otherwise a logistical nightmare.
Here’s my top ten list of cruising perks. Note, these observations are based on the Holland America Line. Different lines offer significantly different experiences.
Holland America features some of the biggest verandahs in the industry and I couldn’t get enough of our waterfront room with endless ocean views and sounds. The value for money compared to what you need to pay to be on the ocean at a land-based resort for similar quality is huge.
Packing and repacking is a hassle; add kids and it’s an exponential hassle. Unpacking just once on a cruise while exploring a variety of diverse destinations is paradise.
Our ship offered amenities for ages 3 to 99. Families can divide and conquer, which means everyone can engage in activities ideal for them and then get together again for meals.
At 75 cents a minute, the Satellite Internet is a premium on a cruise. Most guests opt to check email periodically, but nobody can afford to stay online for hours at a time. It certainly takes the bite out of obsessive social media checking.
From the library to cozy lounge and bar areas to the pool decks, there are countless places to lounge on a ship, even in bad weather. Holland America has routes all over the world and designed their ships for passengers to enjoy all weather conditions.
I got more exercise on our ship that I do at home in an average week. We did a fantastic Boot Camp with the ship’s personal trainers. The bottom line is that between the gym, Promenade Deck walking (three laps = a mile), and shore excursions, even Type A movers can be satisfied.
The mid to large ships that cater to families have kids’ programming. Ours had a teen center, kids’ club for ages 4-12, and another room dedicated to care for potty-trained toddlers. Parents don’t need to make reservations ahead of time, i.e. it’s stress free. You just drop your kids off when they want to join the program for a few hours. There are night hours for parents who want solo time in one of the fine dining outlets onboard.
All ships are not created equal on this front (I’ve read some scary reports), but the Holland America premium line food program is top notch for discerning palettes as it offers a few different upscale dining outlets. You pay an incremental per person cost ($10 to $25 per person) to eat at them, but it’s worth it. The experiences are truly wonderful and distinctive with their own flavors, staff, and theme.
I can’t think of another travel category that enables families to cover such a wide variety of destinations so efficiently given that there is zero packing/unpacking required and these ships sail overnight so they cover ground, enabling seamless country-to-country exploration.
Normally when you go to a destination, you need to research all the different activities and associated activity providers. On a cruise, in contrast, the activities are presented in a neat and nicely packaged format. You just need to choose what/when you want to do something and the work is done. This assumes, of course, that the cruise line is a discerning and reliable resource for the best possible excursions. But guests always have the option of choosing their own activity providers.
All of these perks aside, sure, there are moments on the ship when it feels confined, but our stateroom with a verandah saved the day as we always had a place to go that was our own with fresh air.
The cruise food experience is another common complaint. There were times when the main buffet on the Lido Deck was too crazy and unappealing per any buffet set up, but on our ship room service was always an option and there were additional outlets open for all meals.
The itinerary and schedule determines if you will have time to go beyond the busy port tourist zone. There are definitely ports where limited time means you can’t get much further than the touristy port area.
I’ll do a full tips post later, but there really are not a long list of negatives to report beyond this … And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to try another cruise! This category has a cult following and now I understand why. People who aren’t cruisers may be that way because they haven’t found the right cruise line; they come in all shapes and sizes and finding the right match takes some digging.
Editorial Note: Ciao Bambino was part of a media trip to experience the Nieuw Amsterdam. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy
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