Subject: Age Requirements
Q. "I want to take my two children, ages 14 and 16, on a cruise; we'll buy a separate cabin for them. Want them to feel independent, but we also want to keep an eye on them. What do you recommend in terms of a cabin for them?"
"I'm getting married next month and my husband and I, ages 21 and 23, want to take a cruise as a honeymoon. Are there any ships that take younger passengers?"
I'd recommend the family look for a cruise line that permits this type of booking; not all do. Pretty much across the board, cruise lines do not allow children under the age of 18 (sometimes 21) to travel without a parent or legal guardian. Beyond that generalization, the cruise lines vary in their policies. For example, Carnival and Celebrity will not allow teens like yours to stay in a room without an adult of legal status over age 25 in that room. Norwegian Cruise Line will allow your teens to stay in a room that connects to yours. And according to their brochure, Royal Caribbean apparently would allow them to stay in an adjoining room. I'd check very carefully with the line you are considering to see what their policy is.
Once they're on board, of course, they are as independent as you want them to be. Whether they take part in the excellent teen programs offered by lines such as Carnival and Celebrity, or they are on their own when it comes to activities, cruises are a great way for families to travel.
As for the honeymooners, they shouldn't have a problem since they are 23 and 21. They should double-check before booking just to be sure. Separately, the only line that I know of that has a lower minimum would be Windjammer, which starts at 18.
Subject: Booking Shore Excursions Independently
Q. "I'm taking a Caribbean cruise and was shocked at the price of shore excursions. Is there any way my wife and I can do some of the same stuff, but book it on our own?"
Last month, I briefly debated the pros and cons of booking shore excursions through the cruise line/ship or doing it on one's own. There's no hard and fast rule. For example, last summer I was traveling as part of a group of nine and one call was at St. Lucia. My buddy went online using Google, plugging in the name of the island. He went to the official website and navigated through it to local tour operators. He found one that was fully licensed and insured -- one that he felt very comfortable with (very important) -- and booked our excursion. It was far cheaper this way than going through the line; we saw more than the organized ship’s tour and were able to move at our own pace, including lunch. We told our driver up front and a couple of times during the day that we had to be back at a certain time (we gave ourselves a cushion, of course), and he had us back exactly when he said he would.
So, if you are independent and want to go off on your own, it's pretty easy these days with the Internet. Just make sure your tour company has the required insurance and licenses, and that you get back at the right time. If you're late and miss the ship, you may be stuck on the island.
Subject: The Weather
Several readers apparently want to know what the weather is going to be like during their cruise. That makes sense, but it’s not that simple.
I think it's quite humorous when I get an e-mail asking for a weather forecast. It's not quite my area of expertise. I usually consult CNN Weather for short-term forecasts; but for the long-term outlook, check out Worldclimate.com, which provides historical monthly averages of temperature and rainfall for almost anywhere. There are still no guarantees, but it's a good place to start.
OK, I'm off the soapbox for this month. If you have any comments on these or other issues, please let me know. Send a note to my e-mail address listed above.
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