In this hectic day and age when busy families are going a dozen different directions, sometimes living miles apart, and finding it difficult to spend quality time together, be creative when planning a celebration. One of the best gifts you can give your family is to take everyone on an unforgettable cruise to exotic ports, rather than hosting an expensive land party lasting only a few hours. Modern cruising offers something for every generation's taste and family budget.
Cruises as short as three or four days are available to accommodate work and school schedules, and seven-day and longer itineraries are always available. Caribbean and Mexican cruises are very popular, but destinations such as Alaska and the Mediterranean are becoming "hot" tickets.
Disney Is A Wonder
Families and Disney go together like bacon and eggs, but as adults, traveling without children and envisioning hordes of little ones running amok, we contemplated our Disney Wonder cruise with some hesitation. Were we in for a pleasant surprise! We met Seattle honeymooners, Julie and Dick, Disney fans since childhood. They said, "A three-day tour at the Disneyworld resort, followed by a four-day cruise was like getting two vacations in one."
No other ship puts on a comparable sail-away. Energetic Disney characters perform to the music "YMCA," "Celebration," and the "Macarena." Serpentine streamers are thrown, while passengers join in singing and dancing, and get into partying. The excitement of the youngsters was contagious, as their doting relatives beamed.
Being "kidless," we frequently chose venues designated "adults only" -- the adult pool, beach, Cadillac Lounge, and alternative restaurant, Palo. Our dining experience at sophisticated Palo spanned two hours. Sicilian honeymooners, Salvatore and Macela, gushed about the Italian cuisine, service, and atmosphere. All for a $5.00 service fee per person. We suggest making a reservation soon after boarding, as there often is a waiting list.
All passengers are assigned to a different dining room each evening, an innovative concept. To foster a relationship between servers, passengers, and tablemates, everyone rotates with their assigned table. We enjoyed meals in the formal Triton, colorful Parrot Cay, and Animator's Palate. Children are offered a different menu each day, along with Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars. Pluto's Dog House, Pinocchio's Pizzeria, and 24-hour room service are available.
Disney is synonymous with entertainment. The Buena Vista Movie Theater shows first-run Disney films. In the main showroom, the Walt Disney Theater, slick productions of "Hercules" and "Disney Dreams" are presented while many munch popcorn and chips. The children are enthralled, while adults are transported back to childhood. Generations karaoke and disco together, and children can attend bingo with parents. To maintain the family image, Disney ships forego a gambling casino. Other ships that choose to forego casinos include the Norwegian Star [Norwegian Cruise Line], since it sails among the Hawaiian Islands and gambling isn't permitted; World Explorer [World Explorer Cruises], which stresses education, and the Delta Queen steamboats.
Since nearly 1000 children are on a typical Disney cruise, we checked out the infirmary. Dr. Ernie, from Peru, tends to bruises and lacerations, but contacts Miami Children's Hospital and a life flight helicopter service when necessary. Children with a communicable disease must be quarantined, so entertainers visit them costumed as Disney characters.
On Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, we "chilled out" during a romantic massage for two in an open-air cabana overlooking the shimmering Caribbean. Totally relaxed, we flopped under an umbrella instead of taking advantage of the available water sports and admired bicyclists and volleyball players who actively burned off calories from the barbecue lunch. Popular hair braiding with beads, inexpensively being done on the island, appealed to many moms and their kids who really looked cute returning to the ship.
Children of all ages are a Disney priority, from Flounder's Reef Nursery to Mousketeer training, Animation Antics, and the teens' Funnel Fusion Dance Party. Celebrities like Whitney Houston and Markie Post and their children have enjoyed a Disney cruise, as have the couple and their two youngsters who brought along their 70-year old aunt to celebrate her birthday. They plan to return every other year to this ship they call "enchanting" and "magical."
Other Cruise Lines Are Family-Friendly, Too
Disney isn't alone romancing families. Belying its senior citizen image, Holland America's Caribbean cruise on the Maasdam attracts attractive clans like the Henseys, from Sarasota, Florida, celebrating a fiftieth anniversary. Even before the sail-away, the different generations were choosing diversions for later, including gambling in the ship's large casino. Holland America's private island, Half Moon Cay, features a romantic wedding chapel for vow renewals.
Edward Cookson brought his excited family of twelve on a 4-day Ecstasy [Carnival Cruise Lines] cruise to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday. Over 150 Hollywood High School '50s graduates, including actor, John Philip Law, and their families, bonded at private cocktail parties on the ship after visiting Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.Those who pooh-pooh cruising as too sedentary are amazed that there is rock-climbing, ice and roller-skating, and miniature golf on Royal Caribbean International's "Voyager" class of ships. Their International Adventure Ocean Youth Program is "geared to the children of parents who travel to bring the family closer together, while expanding the cultural and educational horizons of youngsters."
We wouldn't have expected the smaller Wind Star four-masted sailing ships to attract families, as there aren't a lot of formal activities for young adults or children. However, on a recent Greek Islands cruise, we met several multi-generational family groups, although no really young children. Wind Star's main draw is a marina that lowers for water sports, so grandparents, along with their kids and grandkids, can straddle banana boats and scuba dive. Exquisite cuisine is served at open seating. No complaints were heard, even from the teenagers.
Joining Princess, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, even 6-star Crystal Cruises is now promoting family cruising by refurbishing the Crystal Harmony's Fantasia venue for children's activities. The Junior Activities Program extends to activities such as galley tours, "stretchersize," and water polo.
To create a lifetime of memories for your family contact a travel cruise specialist or the cruise lines referenced at their toll free numbers.
If you go:
Disney: (800) 939-2784 Holland America: (800) 426-0327 Crystal Cruises: (800) 820-6663 Princess: (800) 774-6237 Royal Caribbean: (800) 262-1128 Norwegian: (800) 327-7030 Carnival: (800) 227-6482 Windstar: (800) 258-7245 Costa: (800) 445-8020 World Explorer: (800) 854-3835 Delta Queen Steamboat Co: (800) 459-5539
Photos courtesy Jack White and Disney Cruise Line
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie "Out to Sea" on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please