How To Plan A Cruise: Your Ultimate Guide

To plan a cruise for your family, consider the ages of the family members first. Choose an itinerary based on the common preferences, budget, and time at hand. Your budget should include the cost of the cruise packages. Also, include the cost of flights and hotels at the embarkation port.

a large family in front of a cruise ship posing for a photo.

Understanding Cruise Holidays for Families

If you book a cruise holiday you do not need to make the travel arrangements on your own.

But, passports and the visas for the cruise are your responsibility.

You can choose an all-inclusive package for your family. Or you may book the onboard activities and excursions you want after booking your cruise.

You get to enjoy new destinations almost every day during your cruise. You can book a shore excursion through the cruise line or on your own.

But you must take the time to research different ships and cruise lines. Or else, you and your family will not have a great time on the cruise.

On the cruise, you will have many dining options. You can choose to have only the free buffets. Or try one of the specialty restaurants onboard. You will get a wide variety of different types of cuisine to choose from.

The teens and the kids can enjoy the water slides, surf simulators, rock climbing, and even ice skating. They can play video games too.

The adults can also enjoy the spa, massages, and facials onboard. There are also late-night party zones, bars, and casinos. Some ships have mini-golf courses and basketball courts too.

And there are swimming pools and live stage shows for the whole family.

Which are the best cruise lines?

There are many cruise lines for you to choose from. But you should choose the one that has the best types of entertainment for the entire family.

Disney Cruise Line is at the top of my list because it is the best for toddlers. They are going to love the Disney characters onboard.

Royal Caribbean is ideal for teens looking to play video games and pool. They even have dance floors meant only for teens.

Norwegian Cruise Line has water parks and sports complexes. So, everybody can enjoy the pools.

Princess Cruises has shore excursions in collaboration with Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. So, these excursions will educate and entertain the entire family.

And if you want a luxurious family vacation, consider the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.  Although less well-known, you can have a peaceful family vacation. Their ship, Evrima, is recognized as the Best Luxury Cruise for Families by Forbes.

Top Destinations for Cruise Holidays

Barcelona cruise port
Barcelona Cruise Port

The top destinations for your family are:

The Caribbean: The Caribbean islands offer picture-perfect beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant cultures. Your family will love the Bahamas, Jamaica, and St. Lucia islands. You can go for a short vacation to the Perfect Day at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island.

Alaska: For a more adventurous journey, consider cruising along the Alaskan coast. Get mesmerized by magnificent landscapes, stunning Glacier Bay, and fascinating wildlife.

Mediterranean: If you like history and culture you will love a European cruise. You can board from the bustling Barcelona, and visit Rome, Naples, and Vatican City. Or board from the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos. Visit the coastlines of Italy and Croatia. And do not forget to visit Venice, renowned for its romantic canals and captivating charm.

Hawaii: The Hawaiian islands offer golden sandy beaches and lush tropical landscapes. You can take a surf lesson on the world-famous Waikiki Beach. Or visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

How to plan a cruise for a family with kids?

1. Points to keep in mind

Keep these things in mind when planning your cruise trip: 

  • Ages and preferences of the members of your family.
  • Amenities onboard different cruise ships.
  • The permissions required for carrying medical equipment.
  • Passport, visas, and other documents required.
  • Types of shore excursions available.
  • Your budget.
how to plan a cruise

2. Choosing the Itinerary

When choosing the cruise itinerary, you should:

  • Consider the number of days you have at hand.
  • The destinations you’d like to visit. 
  • The activities you and your family will love to have.

3. Choosing the Cruise Line

Choose a cruise line that has:

  • Bigger staterooms.
  • Wide range of dining options.
  • Activities for kids.
  • Entertainment options for the adults.

4. Choosing the Staterooms

When choosing the staterooms consider:

  • How many people will be sharing a room?
  • Whether connecting or adjoining rooms are necessary. 
  • Location of the stateroom on the ship. This is very important if someone is prone to seasickness.

5. The Budget

When deciding the budget for your cruise, keep in mind that:

  • Cruise fares include meals, accommodations, and onboard activities only.
  • You have to pay extra for gratuities, beverages, shore excursions, and spa treatments.
  • You can get good deals if you book the packages before boarding the ship.
  • You may have to book hotels and flights to reach the departing port.

Booking the Trip

booking a cruise.

You should book a cruise vacation at least six months in advance. This will ensure you have enough time to do your research and get the best travel options.

Now, let’s find out how you should book an entire cruise trip for your family. 

1. Cruise Tickets

To find the best family cruise, start by searching for the best deals. Make sure to compare the prices, cruise lines, and itineraries to find the perfect fit for your family.

2. Permissions

Ensure that everybody has valid passports. If you are visiting foreign ports you need visas too. Check that the expiry dates on your passports have at least 6 months of validity remaining.

3. Flights

Once you have booked your cruise, it’s time to arrange flights to the port where you will embark on the cruise. Keep an eye out for flight deals and book early to secure the best prices. When booking flights, consider arriving a day early in case of any travel delays. This ensures you won’t miss the embarkation of your cruise.

4. Hotels

If you are embarking at a different city you’ll need to book hotels in the port city. So, arrive a day early and book a hotel close to the cruise terminal. Check whether the hotels have shuttle services to and from the cruise port.

5. Cruise Packages

There are different packages that you can buy if you need to. Book a beverage or an internet package before embarkation to get the best discount. Also, do not forget to book the shore excursion packages.

How to Prepare For the Cruise?

cruise journal

After you have done all the bookings, now is the time to prepare for your cruise.

1. Documents

Check that everybody traveling with you has the following:

  • Valid passport with at least six months remaining before it expires. 
  • Visas, if required.
  • Insurance papers, if any.
  • Emergency contact numbers of the cruise line.

2. Credit Cards and Cash

Enable your credit or debit cards to make online payments at the ports.

If you prefer using your debit card, link it to your online cruise account.

Carry extra cash in case of emergency. You may also need to give tips for purchases at the ports.

3. Packing

Most of the cruise lines do not have any dress codes for their events onboard. But you must pack both casual and formal dresses for the cruise.

Also, check the weather forecast for your destinations and pack accordingly. 

Divide your packing list into categories:

  • Clothing: Bring casual and formal wear, along with swimwear, pajamas, and comfortable shoes.
  • Toiletries: Pack travel-sized essentials like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and sunscreen.
  • Medications: Bring any prescription medicines, as well as a small first-aid kit. If you are prone to seasickness ask your doctor for the medicines you should use. Do not forget to carry the prescriptions with you.
  • Entertainment: You can carry your favorite books and card games if you want.
  • Miscellaneous: Don’t forget essentials like sunglasses, reusable water bottles, and power adapters.

4. Cruise App

Many cruise lines offer a dedicated app to enhance your onboard experience. 

Download the app before your departure to familiarize yourself with its features. You’ll have access to daily schedules and make dining reservations. Some apps also offer chat functionality onboard too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there all-inclusive packages for families?

Yes, many cruise lines offer all-inclusive packages. Such packages include accommodations, meals, and entertainment for the whole family. Some packages may even include shore excursions and activities.

Which cruise lines offer discounts for kids?

Discounts for kids depend on the cruise line, destination, and time of year. Check the cruise line’s website or consult a travel agent.

How do cruise lines accommodate large families?

Some cruise lines have staterooms for large families. You can get adjoining cabins if you have a large family.

What age restrictions apply for kids on cruises?

You can take along kids aged six months to 12 months on cruise ships. But age policies vary by cruise line.

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About Tully Seal

Avatar of Tully SealTully Seal is a travel blogger. She is a BA graduate in Hospitality Management and has over 4 years of work experience in the travel and hospitality industry. She loves to cook in her spare time.

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