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7 reasons why a cruise is the ultimate multigenerational vacation

Adults and children alike can enjoy themselves at the pool. Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean International®

On a recent vacation to The Bahamas with my 35-year-old son and 5-year-old grandson, I discovered that cruises are one of the best ways to bring family together for a reunion or multigenerational vacation.

A family cruise vacation offers many group experiences plus opportunities to relax solo. You can start together at breakfast, split up (or not) to do what you want during the day, then reunite at dinner to share stories and make even more memories.

Here’s why cruises are perfect for multigenerational family vacations.

1. The kids won’t be bored

Teens wearing virtual reality headsets walking through the Virtual Reality Zone

Cruise lines offer younger passengers special activities and areas such as Royal Caribbean's Viritual Reality Zone. Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean International®

Companies such as Royal Caribbean International®, Carnival Cruise Line®, and Princess Cruises® have programs for children in specially designed playrooms. They’re complimentary, though you may pay a babysitting charge during the late hours. Trained youth counselors supervise and keep younger children busy with age-appropriate arts and crafts, games, sports, and educational activities. 

Tweens and teens get separate programs catered to their interests. On Princess Cruises, for example, 13- to 17-year-olds can hang out in The Beach House. The surf-themed lounge has scavenger hunts, movies, video games, and sports such as basketball or ping-pong.

2. Parents and grandparents can relax

Couple receiving massages on side-by-side tables

Cruisers looking to unwind can head to the spa for a massage. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises®

With youngsters well-entertained, adults have time to lounge poolside, dive into a good book, or visit the spa. On some ships, the casino might beckon. Most cruise ships have many grown-up activities if, for instance, you want to join a cooking class or mixology lesson, or show off your trivia chops.

3. Multigenerational activities abound

Guests laughing as bumper cars collide

Bumper cars at Playmakers. Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean International®

Spending active time as a family is easy. On some of the newest cruise ships, you can prove you’re a cool grandparent by zipping down a waterslide or whirling on a rollercoaster (find Bolt®: Ultimate Sea Coaster on Carnival’s Mardi Gras). Royal Caribbean’s ships boast such family-pleasing activities as glow-in-the-dark laser tag and ice-skating. Looking for some friendly family competition? Many ships are equipped with mini-golf, shuffleboard, and basketball courts.

In the evenings, gather the clan for movie night or a show. Princess Cruises has outdoor Movies Under the Stars®, the shipboard equivalent of a drive-in movie. On Royal Caribbean, catch such Broadway favorites as Grease and Hairspray onstage.

4. There are menu options for everyone

Parents watching as children make their own pizzas

Get the kids excited about dinner with interactive speciality options. Photo courtesy Celebrity Cruises®

Shipboard restaurants aim to please various palates and dining styles. You can nosh on a burger poolside, grab tacos at the casual buffet, or slice into a juicy porterhouse at a fancy steakhouse.

Each night feels special in elegant main dining rooms, with dress codes ranging from nice jeans to dressy cocktail outfits. The menus feature numerous courses and a variety of international cuisines. Kid-friendly choices include childhood classics such as mac-and-cheese, cheeseburgers, and even small servings of filet mignon at some dining rooms. Keep in mind that early seating may work best if you have young ones.

Another bonus to onboard dining: Your hungry teen can eat their fill, since you can usually order as much as you like at no extra charge except at specialty restaurants. 

Celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion? Make a reservation at one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, available for a fee, often with reduced prices for kids. Besides steakhouses, cuisines may include French, Italian, Brazilian, Asian, and more. On select Royal Caribbean ships, treat the family to teppanyaki, where chefs put on a show as they prepare a meal on a heated surface at your table. 

Some ships also feature menus from famous chefs. On Celebrity Cruises' latest ship, the Celebrity Beyond, you can dine at the new Le Voyage Restaurant. It was created by world-renowned Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud, the line’s Global Culinary Ambassador.

5. You’ll explore new places

Family walking the grounds of a historic building

Shore excursions give you a chance to explore with the family. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises®

Your experiences on land are as important as your time on ship. Sailing the Caribbean? You might visit beach destinations including private islands where even the little ones can dip their toes in the ocean. Holland America Line's beach paradise is Half Moon Cay, while Royal Caribbean offers thrill-filled Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Create lasting memories during for-a-fee shore excursions as the family experiences new places. Hike a glacier in Alaska, encourage your children to speak French in Nice, or learn about ancient Roman culture at the Colosseum. When the kids get back to school, their teachers will be impressed!

6. Budgeting is easy

Family enjoying mini golf

A round of mini golf is a great option for family entertainment. Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean International®

Cruise costs can be easier to plan for since fares include most big-ticket items such as accommodations, meals outside of specialty restaurants, and activities including kids’ clubs, waterslides, mini golf, and entertainment (think shows, movies, and comedy clubs). You may pay extra for soda and alcohol—though some premium lines such as Princess Cruises offer fares that include these—crew gratuities and any tours you do on shore. 

Don’t want to worry about extra charges on your cruise? Consider an all-inclusive line such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises that covers airfare and select shore excursions.

7. There are cabins to suit different budgets

Family relaxing in stateroom

Whether you're on a budget or ready to splurge, ships have various accomodations to suit your needs. Photo courtesy Celebrity Cruises®

Perhaps some people in your group want to stay in a suite, while others prefer more economical options. Shipboard accommodations come at various price points, from inside cabins without a view for those on tight budgets to luxurious apartment-sized suites for those with bigger wallets. Many cabins sleep 4, and some connect for larger families. Some lines such as Royal Caribbean offer several family cabin and suite options.

Planning a multigenerational cruise is easy, especially when you use a AAA travel advisor to book everyone’s reservations. The hardest part, in fact, might be coordinating everyone’s vacation schedules.

Fran Golden is an award-winning travel journalist whose work regularly appears in such leading publications as Afar, Travel + Leisure, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Conde Nast Traveler. She is the author of many cruise and travel books.

Adult and kid on climbing wall

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