In this series of posts, we share advice on how to get the most out of a family cruise vacation. For more on great family cruise vacations, see our Spotlight On: Norwegian’s “Epic” and Family Cruising in the Caribbean.
How to Make the Onboard Kids Club a Success – for All of You
Now that kids clubs are ubiquitous on most cruise ships, the complimentary programmed activities offered therein provide children with hours of fun while simultaneously giving their parents a welcome break. With a new activity beginning every half-hour, kids club scheduling ensures that children are engaged and kept active – indoors and out on deck – in their age-tiered, counselor-led programs. And parents, salivating at the thought of a few hours of freedom for themselves, couldn’t be happier. But, not so fast, Moms and Dads — this doesn’t work on autopilot. For first-time cruisers – and even for many repeaters – the key to kids club success (i.e., getting your child to attend willingly) is easing them into the program, rather than pushing.
On embarkation day, once you and your family board and have deposited your carry-ons in the stateroom, the first order of priority is lunch. Breakfast was hours ago, and the embarkation lunch in the casual Lido area is often a good one. After lunch, bring the whole clan to the kids club, where counselors are often greeting families, giving tours and signing kids up in their respective, age-tiered programs. You and your child can get a feel for the space, meet the counselors, find out about upcoming activities and learn the rules. Take this opportunity to introduce yourselves to other families with children of similar ages so that your child will know someone when he/she shows up again – without you. Then, on the next day, resist the urge to drop your kid off for a half-day. Start with a couple of hours, maybe even just an hour and a half. Let them get their feet wet with the program, maybe connect with other kids, then pick them up and get their unfiltered review. Did they like the activities, meet other kids, engage with the counselors? Use this as your basis for further attendance, gradually lengthening their stay in the program until they’ve reached a happy medium between club fun and missing you. You’ll all be the better for it.
David Yeskel is a veteran travel journalist and the go-to expert for all matters relating to the cruise industry. Over the past 20 years, he has been praised for his outstanding cruise industry coverage for Travel Weekly, TravelAge West, CruiseMates and Tours.com. He is intimately familiar with the vacation options offered by all of the major ocean-going cruise lines and is able to differentiate each line by its level of quality, dining options, entertainment, on-board atmosphere, passenger demographics and ratings. Follow David Yeskel, aka The Cruise Guru, on Twitter at CruiseGuru