Some people like to describe Club Med like "camp". This is probably pretty accurate, although you're not REQUIRED to take part in any of the activities. You could just lounge by the pool with a pina colada all day. But most people who I encountered during my visit to Club Med Sandpiper Bay were not lazing around.
The children's clubs have a busy roster of fun activities scheduled throughout the day...and the adults have not been forgotten!
Each Club Med is a little bit different. At Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida, there is a clear focus on wellness and sports academies.
What are the academies?
Unique to this Club Med property are the Tennis Academy, Golf Academy, Fitness Academy, and the Beach Volleyball Academy. Group lessons are included for those who are beginners or looking to improve their skills. For an additional fee, you can opt for private lessons or more intensive instruction.
Currently, the Tennis Academy is directed by Gabe Jaramillo and Scott Del Mastro and their coaching staff. Gabe Jaramillo has trained many top tennis players in the world. Daily group lessons are included In your vacation, whether you are a beginner or you've been playing for years. You can also include the Tennis Boost Package (at an additional cost), that combines a personalized coaching program with spa therapies, healthy cuisine, and specialized fitness training and analysis.
The Golf Academy is currently under the direction of Don Law, a founder and director of one of the largest golf training programs in the country. Group lessons (and full equipment) are included in your vacation package, for beginners up to more advanced players. Guests also have full access to the driving range, putting green, and practice facility. While you're visiting, you can also take advantage of the Active Boost Golf Training Package; if you can't make it, don't worry - there are also remote training options available!
If you're looking to train for a triathlon, or just improve your fitness overall, then consider the Fitness Academy at Sandpiper Bay. Though several packages are at an extra cost for more intensive focus on fitness training, there are several programs offered at the resort that are included, and geared for all levels. Each day, you can try classes in Yoga, Cardio Fusion, Water Aerobics, Zumba, Pilates, and more.
Beach Volleyball Academy
This is actually the first and only Beach Volleyball Academy in the world at this time. Like the other sports, there are group lessons offered that are included in your vacation package. But if you're looking to take your sport to the next level, a Beach Volleyball Boost Package is available.
With all of the enticements from the Academies, I'll admit that I didn't get a chance to try any of them. I think if I stayed for a whole week I would have had more time to branch out and try new things. On a day to day basis, I don't play tennis or golf or volleyball, and I don't have any current plans to participate in a triathlon.
However, my family and I did try to partake in some of the other sports offered around the resort!
Basketball ~ Soccer
I noticed that the basketball courts were often being enjoyed, but anyone who wanted to play could join in. There were also daily pick-up soccer games, including one for kids (every day at 5pm!) After a while, I noticed some kids on the field who seemed to be there all the time! I guess that was just their favorite thing to do!
Flying Trapeze and Circus School
This is a popular activity found at several of the Club Med resorts. I gave it a shot, and it was fun. Again, if I had more time at the resort, I think I would have been able to definitely learn some new skills! The staff at the trapeze was great at making you feel comfortable and confident!
Circus school and Trapeze were also highlights for my kids. Children as young as 4 years old are allowed to participate (though an adults-only session is scheduled each day so the grownups can have their own play time!). For kids, there is also a smaller version that they try before going up on the big trapeze.
Sailing ~ Standup Paddle Board
Though the resort is not located on a typical white-sand beach, it is situated on the St. Lucie River. So the resort's small beach is used as a base for setting out on sailboats and paddle boards, and some people do swim there. Instruction is given for sailing twice a day; once you've taken a lesson, you're free to take a boat out as often as you'd like. Kids as young as 6 can be passengers on a sailboat, but you need to be at least 11 to learn to sail.
Stand-up paddle boarding seems to be a new popular sport these days, and I finally had the chance to give it a try. I thought it was easier than it looks (I was brave enough to try it upside down too!). My 13 year old daughter really picked up on this and loved it. She doesn't really like typical sports, so I was glad she found a new activity that she enjoyed. That's part of the beauty of a place like Club Med - there is a huge variety of things to try, that maybe you wouldn't do in your day-to-day life, and it could turn out to be a personal favorite. You needed to be at least 11 years old for paddle boarding; but for kids under that age, but over age 6, they can be a "passenger" on an adult's board.
On my last day, I noticed an informal sign-up for a sunrise paddle board tour the next morning. It was a 2 hour tour, and included in your vacation package. Too bad we had to leave. I thought about Izzy and the folks at the beach the next morning when I was driving the kids to school!
Swimming ~ Water Polo
There were 3 pools at Club Med Sandpiper Bay: the main pool, where water aerobics and games were held each day; the heated lap pool for swim training (and water polo?); and the children's pool, which was a shallow pool with spray features and a small climbing structure.
Table Tennis ~ Bocce Ball
I saw plenty of people having fun with ping pong! The bocce ball court was not used as much, but my guess is that most people probably don't know how to play bocce!
Club Med Sandpiper Bay is part of a large group of French-owned resorts - over 70 properties around the world! Though Club Med may not be a household name in the U.S., it is well known in Europe. And as a result, a lot of Europeans visit the property. During our stay, we heard other people speaking in French, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, and more. At evening shows, the chef de village (i.e. Village Chief, sort of like your 'cruise director') would make announcements in both English and French. As American English-speakers, we never felt out of place or had problems communicating with people. The children's clubs were very accommodating to children who spoke other languages too; I noticed at least one family of children who only spoke French, and the counselors spoke to them in French and made sure they were included.
The rooms are spacious, and clean. But they are not "fancy". On the outside, the buildings do appear quite dated. But on the inside, they have been reasonably updated. There are seven buildings in all, each with 3 stories (and elevators to reach upper floors). Club Rooms are the standard rooms, and most have balconies. Deluxe Rooms are the same size, with slightly different furnishings. You'll also get evening turndown service (with chocolates on the pillows!), a stocked mini-fridge (with water and sodas), robes and slippers for in-room use, and a nicer view. Catering to families, there are plenty of connecting rooms available, as well as Family Deluxe Rooms that have a separate bedroom area for the kids.
Tip: If the cost difference is minimal, definitely choose the Deluxe Room! The kids loved getting the chocolates on their pillow at night, and everyone appreciated the cold bottled water in the evenings, or to bring along to the beach.
If the overall look of the hotel underwhelms you, just remember that the highlight here is not "the look". The rooms are clean, and the food is fresh and tasty... but what's really outstanding here are the programs for kids and families, and especially the Sports Academies. In the next post, I'll highlight what really makes Club Med a great resort for families and people who like to be active.
If you're headed to Seattle for some sightseeing, whether it's your entire vacation or a pre- or post-cruise trip, I highly recommend the Hyatt Place Seattle/Downtown.
I recently had the opportunity to check out this Hyatt Place, and it was every bit as great as I expected!
Th Hyatt Place Seattle/Downtown is quite similar to other Hyatt Place properties - spacious rooms, a hot breakfast buffet, free wi-fi, and a super-friendly staff. A big standout here, though, is the location. You literally step out the front door of the hotel, and you can see the Space Needle. For a first-time visitor, it's pretty exciting!
It's less than a 5 minute walk to the Space Needle, EMP Museum, and more! And for places a little further away, the Hyatt Place runs a free on-demand shuttle service. They will take you to the Pike Place Market, or anywhere else you'd like within a 1-mile radius, and when you're ready, give them a call and they'll pick you up!
The lobby was friendly and inviting, with several tables, chairs, and couches for hanging out, or if you're waiting to meet someone. There's a small nook with computers available so you can do your airline check-in, if needed, or for a quick check of your email. If you have your own computer or tablet, there's free wi-fi available. And of course, there's a kitchen area, where a nice hot breakfast buffet is served each morning. For other meals, there is a small counter with a few items for grab-and-go, as well as a small menu (we tried the nachos - they hit the spot!) offering a variety of foods and drinks throughout the day.
One thing I really appreciate about Hyatt Place is their larger rooms. If you have a bigger family, like I do, you know it's tough to find a single hotel room that will accommodate 5 or 6 people. But the Hyatt Place always works out great for us, with a room with 2 beds and a sleeper sofa. And if you are a smaller family, or not traveling with kids at all, you'll still appreciate the extra space in the rooms!
The hotel also had a few other amenities, such as a small gym, an indoor pool, and conference facilities.
If you're going to be in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the Hyatt Place Seattle/Downtown - it's a new, clean, and modern hotel with some great amenities at a fantastic value. Be sure to contact Sunshine Travel for the best prices for your travel dates!
If you're going to Alaska, no trip is complete without a train ride. Whether it's a glass-domed train trip all the way to Fairbanks, or a shorter version from Anchorage to Whittier, a train is a great way to sit back and enjoy all of Alaska's beautiful scenery.
I just got back from an Alaska cruise that sailed from Whittier. The closest airport is Anchorage, which is over 2 hours away. If you're sailing from Whittier, and flying into Anchorage like I did, you have a few options: rent a car, take a bus, or take the Alaska Railroad. We opted for the Alaska Railroad's Glacier Discovery Train, and I'm so glad that we did. The ride is extremely scenic, the seats are comfortable, and it's easy to get up and walk around, get a snack, and some fresh air too. Renting a car might seem like a more flexible option, but it's hard to look around at the scenery while you're driving, and you might run into a slight issue at the tunnel (more on that later).
Our train ride was scheduled to leave Anchorage at 9:45am, and arrive to Whittier at 12 noon. We were supposed to arrive an hour early for check-in, but since our hotel's shuttle left every hour on the hour, we ended up arriving closer to 8:15 vs. 8:45; that worked to our advantage as there were absolutely no crowds! It was easy to drop off your suitcases - just put your cruise luggage tags on there, and they took care of getting them to the ship for you in Whittier. Then go inside and pick up your tickets... and that's all there is to it! While you're waiting, you can browse in the gift shop, go outside to take some pictures, or purchase a cup of coffee or small snack.
Boarding is quick and easy. The seats are pretty plush, and there's plenty of room under the seat or above you on the overhead shelf to store any bags you've carried on. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the view now!
There are Alaska Railroad train route booklets available for purchase onboard for $5 (cash only, prices as of July 2013), as well as a free magazine that was still relatively informative about what we were passing along the way.
Note: the last portion of the ride to Whittier involves 2 tunnels, so it does get dark for a few minutes. The benefit to railroad is that they have priority through the last tunnel, which is shared with trains and cars, and only allows one-way traffic. If you decide to drive, you'll need to know the schedule, or you may be stuck waiting up to an hour until it's safe to drive through!
Great Views of Turnagain Arm
Keep a lookout for Beluga whales in the water!
More Scenery along the way
There's more wildlife to watch for in the mountains, especially Dall Sheep. You can also see some remnants from the big earthquake from the 1960s.
When you arrive in Whittier, it's a short walk across the street to the cruise ship terminal for checking in. Since your luggage was tagged for the ship back at the depot in Anchorage, it will automatically meet you at your stateroom in the afternoon!
The Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Train was a really easy and scenic way to get to the cruise port - I highly recommend this for cruisers flying in or out of Anchorage! We also met several locals who were doing a daytrip to Surprise Glacier, so note that the Alaska Railroad has many options, not just cruise transfers.
A thumbs-up from the kids
A few notes on kid-friendliness: This was a great trip with children! Here's a few reasons why:
Siesta Key, courtesy of Sarasota CVB
While Sarasota may be known for being a quiet town, there's plenty to do with the kids!
First of all, the beaches are a big draw.… Siesta Key was rated the #1 Beach in the World last year by Dr. Beach. With soft white sand, and calm waters, it’s a practically perfect beach for the kids (and adults!). Other beaches right in the Sarasota vicinity are also nice, such as Lido Beach and Longboat Key, and you'll find several family-friendly beachfront resorts there as well.
Manasota Beach, courtesy of Sarasota CVB
Venturing south from Siesta Key, be sure to take your kids to Venice Beach, known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World! (There's even an annual Shark's Tooth Festival every April celebrating this!) But don’t worry: there aren’t thousands of sharks lurking off shore waiting to take a bite out of you - what you'll find in the sand are primarily prehistoric fossils that wash up over time. Whether you stop at Venice Beach, Casparan Beach, or Manasota Beach, you’re bound to come home with some unique finds!
If you can tear the kids away from the beach, they'll be happy at G.WIZ, short for “Gulf Coast Wonder & Imagination Zone”. With 33,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, there’s sure to be something your child will enjoy. There are plenty of permanent and special exhibits for kids to explore, including a race track and a game called MindBall ("Compete against a friend to see who can move matter with their mind!"). For the younger set, there's even a "tot zone". Opening in 2012 is a Medical Simulation exhibit as well as a robotics lab. And for inventors of all ages, an all-access pass to a real fabrication laboratory (“fab lab”) is available so you can build your own invention from scratch! Click here to find out what you can actually make in a Fab Lab!
Mote Aquarium, courtesy Sarasota CVB
The Mote Marine Laboratory is one of the country’s leading facilities for marine research. Through their aquarium, and a variety of outreach programs, such as camps, school programs, lecture series, and more, Mote hopes to educate visitors on the importance of marine conservation and research. At the Mote Aquarium, you’ll find touch tanks, interactive exhibits, and the opportunity to see a variety of marine wildlife up close, including sharks, dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Through Mote’s Center for Shark Research, you can view several species of sharks, and see how researchers have learned to train sharks at a Narrated Training Session. At the Seahorse Conservation Laboratory, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, and Dolphin and Whale Hospital, the focus is on conservation and keeping animals healthy; you can even adopt an animal of your choosing. If you visit before mid-April 2012, you’ll also get to see a special temporary exhibit, Penguin Island!
Nearby Mote, each Sunday at 2pm (except in summer), there’s a free water ski show right in the Sarasota Bay called Ski-A-Rees. Professional water skiiers put on a stunt-filled performance that everyone is sure to enjoy. And did I mention it’s free?! Also on Sundays (and also free), about an hour before sunset, head over to public beach at Siesta Key for the Drum Circle...there are drummers (of course), belly dancers, and plenty of curious onlookers for this unique event.
Myakka River SP, courtesy Sarasota CVB
Just east of Sarasota you’ll find the Myakka River State Park. It's one of Florida’s largest state parks, and is easily explored by hiking, biking, canoeing, or kayaking. A main attraction is the Myakka Canopy Walkway, the first public treetop trail in North America. Suspended 25 feet in the air, you'll literally walk through the trees to a 74-foot tall tower with even more spectacular views. Be sure to get out on the water and explore the Myakka River by canoe or kayak. If that's too strenuous, opt for an airboat tour on the Gator Gal, one of the world’s largest airboats!
For closer animal encounters, visit Sarasota Jungle Gardens, one of the longest-operating attractions in Florida (it opened in 1940!). Kids will enjoy shows featuring birds of prey, exotic birds, and reptiles. You can even hand-feed a flamingo - definitely a one-of-a-kind experience! A new playground and 10 acres of tropical gardens are an added bonus.
Ringling Museum, courtesy Sarasota CVB
And last, but certainly not least, consider a visit to the Ringling Museum. John Ringling, of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, made Sarasota the winter home for his circus in the 1920s. Today, you can visit the entire estate, which consists of the Ringling’s 36,000 square foot mansion, a museum housing their personal art collection, a circus museum, and more. Even though a museum complex isn't a "typical" kid-attraction, families (and strollers) are welcome; the Ringling Museum even has some fabulous suggestions on enjoying your visit with children. On the second Saturday of each month from 12pm to 2pm, there is a special family-friendly event called Center Ring Saturdays at the Circus Museum: a circus performer takes visitors “behind the scenes” and shares their insights on what it’s like to be part of the circus.
So when you visit Sarasota with your family, you'll have the opportunity to do more than just enjoy the best beach in the world. Your kids can also search for fossils, create their own invention, see sharks up close, watch a water-skiing stunt show, experience a drum circle at sunset, take a walk in the treetops, go kayaking or canoeing, feed a flamingo, and learn what it's like to be a circus performer... Contact Sunshine Travel to find the best Sarasota lodging (at the best price) for your family's needs!
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I recently sailed on the Allure of the Seas and Disney Dream within about a month of each other. These are two of the newest ships at sea, and both are heavily marketed towards families. Since I traveled with 4 kids, ranging in age from 2 to 10, I was able to really put all of the childrens programs to the test. Read on to see how the ships stack up! This post is all about childcare for babies under 3 on both ships.
About the Nursery: While a nursery for babies has been a part of Disney Cruise Line since their inception, Royal Caribbean recently launched the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery on the Oasis and Allure of the Seas (and seeing the popularity, added the Nursery to several other ships in the fleet). If you’re going to cruise to the Caribbean or Bahamas, these are the only ships available that offer guaranteed childcare throughout the day and night for babies and toddlers.
Both cruise lines ask that you provide a change of clothes, diapers/wipes, and any other necessity your child requires (we packed a favorite stuffed animal). Royal Caribbean provides a cute reusable bag that they label with your child’s name, and you can take it home with you after the cruise.
Rates & Availability: For both cruises, I didn’t have any trouble securing the times I wanted. While I could pre-book some hours for the Dream online prior to the cruise, I could only make the Allure’s reservations in the Nursery once I was on the ship. Both nurseries only allow a certain number of hours (I believe it was 10 hours on the 3-night Disney cruise, 20 hours on the 7 night Royal Caribbean), but you can add more hours later in the cruise if available. And if you don’t think you want to use all the hours you reserved, both lines were very accommodating to cancellations, as long as you give them a little bit of notice.
Disney’s rate is currently $6 per hour, and Royal Caribbean’s is $8 per hour. Both require a 1 hour minimum.
Contact: On the Disney Dream, all staterooms are equipped with 2 “Wave Phones” that can be used to call or text any other wave phone or stateroom. While this is a great way to keep in touch with those you’re traveling with, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of toting around a phone to text or make calls…I’m on vacation! That being said, we did keep it nearby when our son was in the nursery…just in case!
On the Allure of the Seas, you are given a “DECT phone” only if you register at the nursery. Whenever you drop your child off there, be sure to keep the phone nearby in case you are needed.
The Play Space: On the Allure of the Seas, the Nursery is located in the same area as the older children’s activity rooms. There is a glass wall and door with a full view of the room, so you can always peek in on your child (though they may see you!). The reception area is very small, only really big enough for one family to enter and check-in at a time (it also makes the drop-off process feel more personalized and a little bit calmer). The play area is large and wide-open, and the toys in the room are changed daily. Being a partner with Fisher Price and Crayola, there is no shortage of kid-appropriate toys in the room! There is also separate area with cribs for when the little ones get tired and want to sleep.
On the Disney Dream, the setup of the play space is a little bit different. There is a large reception area, where many families can be checking in at one time, and a small play area for kids and siblings while they wait. There is one doorway where the babies enter into a corridor filled with a variety of toys. Beyond that, the room opens up into an area off to the side that you cannot see from the reception area, as well as another room in the back with cribs.
Interaction: Every time my son was dropped off on the Allure of the Seas, there were 3 counselors and no more than 4 children or so at any given time (maybe it was a quiet week?), so I know he was given extra-special attention. Although he cried every time we dropped him off (he isn’t used to daycare or babysitters), the staff was caring and patient, and he always stopped crying within a few minutes. By the end of the week, the counselors really got to know him, figured out his language, and even did a special finger-painting with him. One night (with our permission), they brought the babies (in their strollers) to the parade in the Royal Promenade. I know he really enjoyed that little “field trip”! Every time we picked him up, the staff gave us a written report and explained to us what our son had done, how many times his diaper had been changed (and why), and on the night he ate dinner there, what he ate.
On the Dream, we were only onboard for 3 nights, and ended up using the nursery only once so we could have dinner at Palo (adults-only specialty restaurant). Again, he cried when we dropped him off, but he quieted quickly, as we checked on him just before we set off to dinner. When we arrived to pick him up, he was within view of the reception area, so we were able to watch him briefly before he noticed us. He and another boy were having fun making noise by banging puzzle pieces on the table. One counselor was sitting nearby with a little one on her lap. There were quite a few children in the room, but I couldn’t see any other counselors (they were around the corner, I’m sure!).
When I picked him up, I asked the counselor what he ate for dinner (he was there from 5:30pm to 8pm). No one seemed to remember, but after consulting a list, it turned out he didn’t eat anything (this was probably because that night’s dinner was corn-dogs - NOT a favorite for him!). I have no idea what he actually did in the time he was there, but he was happy and healthy, and we enjoyed our one quiet dinner. After our experience on the Allure of the Seas, I think I would have liked some feedback on what he did while he was there, especially a note that he hadn’t eaten any dinner.
The Winner: While I think both nurseries provided overall good care for my son, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use either one again in the future, I think Royal Caribbean’s Royal Babies & Tots Nursery wins. I think my son did receive more personal care and attention there, but that could be attributed to the fact that there were less babies on the cruise, and we were onboard for a week (more time for the counselors to get to know him). The nicest touch was the personalized feedback they provided at the end of each session letting you know what your child did while they were in the nursery.
My family and I just returned from a quick weekend aboard Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Dream. If you’re traveling with children, or are a Disney fan of any age, then I know you’re going to love the Dream!
While the ship is 40% larger than the other ships in Disney’s fleet (Magic and Wonder), it’s still about half the size of the Allure of the Seas. That being said, I want to note that three days is still not enough time to really experience everything the ship has to offer!
While I could go on and on about all the great things on this ship, I’m going to highlight the features of the Disney Dream that really make it unique among cruise ships.
To begin with, you know your cruise is going to be different when the ship doesn't even have a "regular" horn blast at sail away...
What else is unique about the Disney Dream?
Aside from all of this, there is a Mickey waterslide for the kids, a mini-golf course, basketball and sports courts, two family pools, a giant LCD screen by the pool for watching movies, and a 3D movie theater with first-run films (we saw Cars 2 and The Help).
Service was first-rate, the entertainment was fun (and suitable for the whole family!), and the food was pretty good too! So, what did we like the best?
The Adults' Favorites:
The "Big Kids" Favorites (ages 7 and 10):
The "Little Kids" Favorites (ages 2 and 3):
Stay tuned for a series of posts that compare the Allure of the Seas to the Disney Dream when it comes to kids programs, private islands, dining, and more!
I just returned from an amazing week onboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. Now, there are a lot of people out there who feel that a week on ANY cruise is an amazing experience…and I won’t argue that. But this ship is so unique, so different. I don't think you can even compare it to other “cruises”.
Because once you have a huge Central Park, with live trees and foliage, pathways lined with boutiques and cafes; a real Boardwalk, complete with fun house mirrors, a hot dog stand, a carousel, and a clown doing face painting; sports activities like a 40+ foot high rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, 2 surfing simulators, mini-golf course, and a zip line… it hardly feels like you are on a cruise ship!
For my family, the cruise was a perfect match. If you don’t already know, we have 4 children, ages 2, 3, 7, and 10. Choosing a cruise requires a little extra attention – for example, we need one room that will accommodate all of us (a real rarity, but several choices on the Allure of the Seas!) or two connecting rooms. We also prefer a cruise with childcare options for our youngest child so we could see a show, have a quiet dinner, or explore the ship. And as far as the kids go, we needed something that would entertain the little ones as well as the older ones. The Allure of the Seas (or her sister, the Oasis) is perfect for this. In fact, I would whole-heartedly recommend this ship for any family traveling together, from babies up to grandparents. There is really something for everyone here.
There are many reviews all over the internet, so I will just focus here on our favorites, which happened to be geared towards the more "active". But trust me, even if you are not interested in these sorts of activities, there is still much to see and experience on this ship; my experience is merely one perspective, but I can honestly say I wish I had another week onboard to try to do EVERYTHING! If you have any questions to ask about the Allure or Oasis of the Seas, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
My husband’s favorites:
10-year-old girl’s favorites:
7-year-old boy’s favorites:
3-year-old girl’s favorites:
2-year-old boy’s favorites:
When my first child was born, I insisted that I wasn’t going to let a baby take over my life. Unhappy about images of a house taken over by toys and baby-proofed with all sorts of locks and padded corners, I naively set out to keep all of this in check. I kept driving my convertible, with her car seat safely secured in the back. And of course, we continued to travel.
By the time she took her first cruise (at age 4 months), she had already been to Disney World and a plane trip to Vermont and Montreal to see fall foliage. She obviously doesn’t remember any of it, and it was clearly more for us than for her, but it’s just a note to all parents that just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you have to stay home! With some advance planning and knowledge of what to expect, it’s entirely possible to have a very nice family vacation with a baby.
Here are what I consider to be the top 5 points to consider before you cruise with a baby:
How important is babysitting?
If getting some mom-and-dad alone time is important to you, you’ll need to know if your cruise will offer any kind of babysitting for little ones and what the extent of it might be. Only a handful of cruises offer an actual nursery where you can leave your baby in good hands while you have a quiet meal or take part in other shipboard activities (this is a separate charge from your cruise fare, and space may be limited) . While some ships offer in-room private babysitting, they generally require children to be at least 1 year old.
If you don’t need a babysitter, keep in mind that most ships will allow you to accompany your baby into the children’s facilities to play or borrow toys (although they may not always be suitable for infants); you just can’t leave your little one there while you head out for a spa treatment. Also, some cruise lines offer parent/child playgroups for babies and organized morning stroller walks, which is a nice way to socialize with other parents onboard.
Where do you want to go on your cruise?
If you just want to sail to the Caribbean or the Bahamas, then there shouldn’t be any problems, as long as everyone in the family has proper travel documents (such as a passport). Some lines allow babies as young as 12 weeks to sail. But if you want to go somewhere more far-flung, like Hawaii, South America, or a Transatlantic crossing, babies will generally need to be at least 12 months old.
Does your baby like to swim?
Keep in mind that public health regulations prohibit babies in diapers (any kind, including swim diapers and pullups) from using the pools onboard. However, there are some ships that have specially-designated water play areas just for babies. If your baby loves the water, you may want to consider one of the ships that will accommodate your little one. And please, whatever you do, do not think that is ok for your baby to swim in the regular pools just by removing their diaper!
What is your budget?
Your budget for the trip will determine what kind of room you will reserve. Most cabins can accommodate a baby as a 3rd guest in a room, and cribs or pack-n-plays are generally available. It is important to note that you will have the pay the going rate for a 3rd guest in a room, even though your tiny traveling companion won’t be eating or taking up much space in your room.
Many families that travel with a baby prefer to choose a room with a balcony. This way, when the baby naps or goes to bed early at night, mom and dad can relax on the balcony without having to whisper in the dark. Sometimes, it can even be beneficial to opt for a mini-suite or a suite: not only do they come with extra pampering perks for mom and dad, but also the rooms are larger and they generally have a bathtub (instead of a small shower that is standard in most cruise cabins).
Do you think your baby will be happy?
An old adage in the life of a parent goes something like, “Happy Baby, Happy Parents”. Obviously, your baby isn’t going to have any idea that they are on vacation on this fabulous cruise ship. But around the age of 4-6 months, babies tend to fall into a regular routine, and with some luck, they might even be sleeping through the night. If you think you’ll be able to stick (somewhat) to your baby’s regular naptimes and feeding times, there’s no reason why you can’t take a cruise. Your baby will be coddled by all the staff on board, and will love getting rocked to sleep by the ocean waves. And best of all, you’ll be able to spend family time together, without the intrusion of having to do laundry, cook meals, and other household chores!
There are several factors involved with planning a cruise with a baby – these are just a few. Contact Sunshine Travel today so we can help you get started!