Family vacations are a chance to make memories, discover new destinations and spend some rare and precious time together. With any luck you’ll still be reminiscing about that breathtaking ocean view, that charming waiter, or that mouthwatering lemon sorbet for years to come.
But family vacations can present their fair share of challenges too. Traveling with young kids can often feel like a hassle rather than a break, while teenagers may have strong opinions on what makes the ideal vacation – which may not always align with yours.
For a getaway to keep the whole family happy, a cruise might be the answer. With a wealth of onboard entertainment for all ages, top leisure facilities like spas, gyms, and pools, plus a range of excursions, cruises offer the ultimate in vacation variety without the extra admin.
And for those accustomed to a self-catered getaway, meals and refreshments are all taken care of – so you don’t have to worry about the cooking (or the washing up).
There are dozens of things to do on a family cruise, and you might find it a challenge to fit them all in. If you’re thinking of planning an ocean-going family getaway, here are our top five things to do:
- Hit the Beach
If in doubt, head to the beach. Little ones can build sandcastles or paddle, while adults and older kids lose themselves in a book, soak up the sun or swim in the sea.
Cruises in Europe and Asia are ideal for beach-lovers, with no shortage of sandy stretches and secluded bays to choose from. Favorites include golden Paphos beach in Cyprus, while Kamari Beach on the Greek island of Santorini is famous for its distinctive dark-gray volcanic sand.
A lack of noticeable tide makes the Mediterranean a great choice for supervising young paddlers, and means you can stick to your patch of shore without worrying about getting stranded – or your belongings being washed away!
North Africa is also a winner when it comes to beaches. Alexandria on the Egyptian coast is known for its exquisite shoreline – Cleopatra Beach is a family-friendly choice that’s great for a picnic and a dip.
- Dine Like Royalty
For whoever happens to be the designated family chef, self-catered vacations offer little respite from cooking and cleaning. And when you’re dining out in a new environment, any latent fussy eating tendencies can resurface, making it tricky to coax kids to eat unfamiliar dishes in restaurants.
With a wide range of food and drink on offer, cruises give young people the chance either to get adventurous and discover new dishes, or stick to some tried-and-tested favorites like pizza, pasta and baguettes.
Adults can also enjoy the gourmet delights of the cruise ship breakfast buffet (think fresh fruit, cheeses, cereals, pastries, and cooked options), while dinner might include mouthwatering steak or fresh seafood dishes. All-inclusive deals, where drinks and gratuities are thrown in too, make a family cruise even more appealing, and easier to budget for, too.
- See the Sights
From Heraklion to the Holy Land, onshore excursions are often the most memorable parts of any cruise. Now just imagine being able to introduce your kids to such awe-inspiring sights too.
The great benefit of a cruise is that you can fit plenty into just a few days – you could be gazing at the Pyramids of Giza one day and touring Ancient Ephesus the next. When family time is in short supply, a cruise means you can do more.
Joining an excursion as part of a cruise also takes a lot of the hassle out of any family trip. Your transport and tickets will all be sorted in advance, and you’ll have a guide to talk you through the significance of each spot. That means you can focus on soaking up the magic and making memories with your loved ones.
- Make a Splash
Any parent knows that swimming ticks all the family vacation boxes. It’s suitable for all ages, and it’s the perfect way for little ones to let off some pent-up steam (and give their parents a slightly easier ride at bedtime).
Many cruise ships now have a pool, or several pools, onboard, which means hours of energetic entertainment without you needing to leave the comfort of your ship.
Alternatively, you could choose to spend a day at a waterpark onshore. Flumes, slides, wave pools and waterfalls epitomize family vacation fun, and your little ones will be eternally grateful.
- Get Entertained
Onboard entertainment is a big draw for many cruise-goers, and operators offer a host of family-friendly activities including board games nights, quizzes, cabaret and even circus performances.
And you may have left school behind, but that doesn’t have to mean the learning stops on a family cruise vacation. The many educational options on offer include dance classes, language lessons and craft workshops. Play your cards right and your kids might just return home with a newfound talent for Spanish or salsa.
Many cruise operators also host kids’ clubs, which means you can leave your children in the care of the crew and take some time for you. You could treat yourself to a massage, work up a sweat in the gym, or simply read a book in the blissful solitude of your cabin. And all that indulgence is guilt-free, too, knowing your kids will be safe, making friends and having fun.