I am far from a cruise expert but thought I would blog about our family’s experience cruising. Before we booked a cruise I did my research. There are many cruise lines. We wanted to cruise the Mediterranean and ending up picking MSC because they let kids sail for free when staying in their parents cabins.
We certainly did not go on a cruise to eat good food. We knew going into it that food made for masses usually = not good. We tried to stay away from the buffets but actually enjoyed our sit down dinners. I would say it was a noch above Chilis but worlds apart from Jean Georges. It was more about the experience of being with our kids and enjoying what the cruise had to offer.
Most of the cruise lines have clubs for the kids, usually starting around age 3. My kids had a blast enjoying late night dance parties and costume parties. Since we were sailing an Italian Cruise line most of the guests were Italian. Luckily the kids club attendants spoke Italian and English, but my son ended up translating for the German speaking kids. What a great experience for kids.
If you sail in the off season the club may not offer all the services offered in the on season. Make sure to ask the cruise line what is available if you are sailing off season.
There is only 1 upside to kids sleeping in your cabin, they are free, at least on MSC. Everything else is a downside. Most cruise lines only allow 4 per cabin. A few cruise lines have family rooms up to 6. If you have more than 2 kids, your best bet is getting adjoining rooms, which in my opinion is better anyways. Next time we will for sure upgrade to 2 rooms.
The Ports. We consider ourselves independent travelers and prefer to navigate alone, but if unfamiliarity to language and cultures makes you nervous, I would recommend going on the Ship Excursions. The upside to this is you have all the events planned for you and security of someone else being your guide. But the Excursions can be quite expensive. For Example, we chose to navigate through Athens on our own. We hired our own taxi for our family for 6 hours and paid under 100 Euros, the same excursion would have been over 500 Euros for our family. We ended up at every site the tour bus went to but for a fraction of the cost. If you want to save time and money, do your research on all the ports before sailing. Some things I found useful were:
1. Having our own GPS loaded with International Maps
2. Location of the Port to Rental Car companies
3. Research main sites in the city to maximize your port time
4.Don’t forget passports
5. Read reviews from local restaurants
6. Have a day pack and guide book
7. Learning a few key survival words in the language also helps