Children On Cruise Ships

| Monday, 19 Sept. 2011
  Kids have many of their own spaces on larger cruise ships.

 

With the news that Royal Caribbean will now allow passengers under 21 into their exclusive Concierge Lounges, I thought my own unique, personal experience - I am 27 years old and have been on 43 cruises, many of them as a child - would interest our readers.  I want to look at kids programs, proper etiquette for kids on cruises, and offer advice on the best cruises with and without children.

My Experience

My parents graciously started to share their passion for cruising with me before I was even two years old, and I have been cruising with them on a regular basis ever since. It has truly felt as though I was raised on cruise ships, and many of my most memorable experiences as a child are from these cruises. I have also seen the changes over the years as cruise lines have modified and expanded their youth programs and policies.

Back when I started cruising, children were very seldom passengers on cruise ships at all, especially on the smaller and more exclusive lines my parents and I first enjoyed. According to my folks, I was quite the amusement for older passengers onboard who enjoyed playful cheek pinching of my smily, infantile self.

One of the first ships I ever experienced, the Crystal Harmony, had but a postage stamp of a kids' facility with a small "jungle gym" and broken or missing Nintendo game consoles. Crystal Cruises, had a meager selection of kid's activities, including non-monetary bingo and scavenger hunts, surely only a smattering of the offerings available to kids today, but they were plenty enjoyable for me as a child. Then with the introduction of the Crystal Symphony, the children's spaces got bigger with a ballroom and actual arcade games, exciting ship additions for their time.

Possibly because of the more spartan facilities, my most treasured memories are actually of the short but pleasant interactions I had with the other children onboard; getting to know them and playing with them. There was also more time available to spend with my parents and enjoy the shipboard experiences together as a family.

This was all at a time when the cruises with the most children onboard were during Christmas and Easter vacations, which is still true today, but it was far more significant back then. Outside of such holidays, there may have only been a dozen or fewer kids sailing on my earliest cruises. Since then, the kids' facilities and activities on cruise ships have expanded as have the number of child passengers.

Ship Etiquette

When I say I felt as though I was raised on cruise ships, it's to say I was truly reared by my parents to be a pleasant fellow passenger complete with appropriate etiquette. Was I always a perfect child on ships? By no means. I certainly had my shortcomings, but I understood what was expected of me, especially at formal events. I was taught to be mindful of my manners at all times and in all places. I even wore tuxedos in the evenings when, unlike today, formal was more than a mere suggestion.

Back then, the entire ship was made available to kids, the lounges included. So what stands out to me from the discussion of Royal Caribbean allowing children into their Concierge Lounges is the fear of rambunctious behavior disturbing the decorum of these ship spaces, and we can all understand that fear.

It's easy to assume that kids will be a detriment to your adult cruise experience. Certainly, we have all observed a temper tantrum interrupt a meal, a youthful race down the stateroom corridors, or worse yet, a diapered child in the ship's pool. Such poor behavior in the Concierge Lounge on a Royal Caribbean ship would indeed be unpleasant, and at this point, the line is assuring us it will not tolerate such behavior and will monitor accordingly.

And to be sure, not all kids today are of this disruptive variety. So I don't want this to sound like parental advice, but suffice it to say, in my opinion, proper manners in children onboard cruise ships go a very long way as basic courtesy to your fellow passengers.

Coping with Kids on Cruises

Still, there will always be that one screaming child on the plane that makes your cross-Atlantic flight a misery, and such children can quite possibly make their way aboard your ship just the same. So the trick is to plan a cruise that will be the most pleasant for you based on your tolerance for children.

Holiday vacation cruises, like those during spring break, will have the most kids onboard. If you are a parent with school children, this is often the only time you can plan a family cruise vacation, but if you are hoping to avoid children, these are not the times to take a cruise.

As cruise ships have gotten larger and larger, kids' facilities and policies have drastically changed, and children are often in their own secluded ship spaces. Usually, the larger the ship, the less likely it is that you will have encounters with kids, or at the very least, the more spaces you will have for escape. These days, even child-friendly lines like Disney can also cater to adults seeking solitude.

In short, there will always be children onboard cruise ships, more or less depending on the cruise line, and I am extremely thankful for my early and lifelong cruising experiences. Kids will always be kids to an extent, but just as chivalry is not dead, neither should good manners in children be a thing of the past, on cruise ships or otherwise. And for us adults, there are plenty of cruising options for those seeking to travel with or without kids.

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