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Can't Cruise With Them

Reader Feedback by Brent Betit

For the record, I'll admit to being surprised by the response. I wrote the column initially to stir up a spirited debate about the issue (which I certainly did accomplish). But I must say that I figured nearly everyone would DISAGREE with the column's opinion that children are better left home during a cruise. Well, I was wrong. About 67% of all respondents agreed that children should be left home, and only 33% argued that cruises were meant for both adults and children.

In addition, there was a remarkable consistency in the reasons why children should or should not cruise. The reasons why cruisers don't relish sharing a cruise with children aboard are: romance, bad manners, peace and quiet, peace and quiet, and peace and quiet. Here are a few representative responses:

Ron from Springfield, Illinois, wrote: "our last attempt to spend a week lost in a fantasy world was constantly interrupted by the numerous young people on board with us. They were allowed to occupy seats in the casino, they sat on stairways and they were seated in the various "night club" shows. ( shows that were meant to be for more mature audiences.) Where mom and dad was is anyones guess, probably somewhere hidden away trying to have some time away from the kids. My wife and I both love people of all ages. She is the registrar at a local high school and I am a government employee who has coached kids of various ages for 14 years. We both feel very strongly that cruises should be for adults. Take those kids to Disney or camping or any one of the numerous vacation spots that are available to families."

Pat from Horsham, PA, essentially agrees, but for different reasons: "Coming from a different view, a single traveler, I agree with your statement that cruises are for adults. Spending time with your children is one of the most important things you can do in life. On board ship is not one of the safest places to do it. Not many people are fast enough to catch a giggling speed-demon as they race towards that enticing but not child-proof rail. I have seen families handle things different ways: 1. Bring 'em on board, then ignore 'em. This one went over well with the other passengers. The kids threw ice cream into the pool, knocked over elderly passengers and interfered with the pool games so much that the employees yelled at them. Their parents could always be found in the casino. 2. Let the "kids-kamp" people take care of them. Not what I would call quality time. The kids were spending most of their time with adults they just met. 3. One couple brought their au pair along. Sounds expensive to me but maybe that was the adult they were most used to spending time with. 4. The poor conscientious parent! This poor person missed dinner because their little toddler had to be carried shrieking from the dining room. It was way too late for a little one to be expected to behave at the table. They also were mortified when their normally adorable child kicked other passengers. And they valiantly tried to control a major temper tantrum when all of the adults were also hot, tired, dirty and rightfully cranky. . . ."

Edward V. from Overland, MO had perhaps the most original response: "There's nothing wrong with children on a cruise - they go great with a little barbecue sauce, if they are not too old!"

David V. from Salisbury, NC, enthusiastically agreed with the column: "Hoooray! Finally an intelligent way to pose the idea to parents --- LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME ! ! ! NO ONE wants to work hard all year, saving up their hard earned dollars to go on an exotic week-long cruise, only have it ruined by small children running at full speed all through the ship, yelling and squealing at dinner tables and in the showrooms, and doing hand stands in bars where they don't even belong in the first place."

Dennis Guy from Toronto, Ontario wrote: "I don't have a problem traveling with "kids" as long as they are of the "responsible" age and that you never tell them you are picking up the bar bill until the account is settled. As far as the ankle biter size then there should be kid free ships just like smoke free ships are making the scene or similar to adult only condo's. There should not be segregation as such but I resent showing up on a ship and finding out I didn't know there was a school holiday in Mexico and there are 160 of the urchins aboard and hot tub cramming. Having a reasonable choice is all I ask."

Ann D. from San Antonio, TX, wrote: "I appreciate parents such as you. My husband and I cruise to enjoy the best of vacationing. It is spoiled by other cruisers' children--those who are not disciplined, with bad table manners, those who run the corridors day and night, those who push older people out of the way to get to the head of the line, etc. I applaud you for figuring out how EVERYONE can enjoy your vacation time!"

Charles M. from Greensboro, NC: "Right on! The last cruise my wife and I were on a woman had a 7 month old crying by the pool daily. Even the smell of diapers was in the air. If we take the kids, it's Disneyworld. Cruising is for the romantic in all of us, and we all need some time away from the kids even if it's just once every 5 years as in our case."

There were several readers who disagreed, many of them quite rightly pointing out that some cruises are suitable for children, and some aren't. Others just had fun trashing me, like Bob from Allentown, PA: "A little narcissistic, I think. Why even bother having kids in the first place.... There will be plenty of time to go without your kids when they leave the nest. I am sure they won't want to go with you, since you never seem to want to go with them."

And Randy from Washington, DC: "We've enjoyed four cruises--two with and two without kids. I said enjoyed, and really meant it. It is fun to have "adult time" and those romantic moonlit evenings on the wind-swept promenade deck. It is also fun to see the glee in the little ones' eyes as they see a Sergeant Major fish through a mask for the first time. To see them acting very "big" as they order from the kids' menu to a solicitous waiter on formal night. Kids are a part of our life, and with well-behaved kids (It is really the parent's fault if they feel free to discuss flatulence in a public restaurant or play WWF on the atrium floor), it can be a lot of fun to bring 'em along. Yes, you sacrifice intimacy if you are 4-to-a-cabin. Yes, you will likely have to take early seating, and pick the kids up by 10:00 PM from the kids' club. Recognize this going in, and have a good cruise. Or if you are really lucky enough to have family to take care of your progeny for a week or 10 days--have at it! Just don't think cruising is an "adults only" activity."

And finally, a considered, professional opinion was shared by Steven N from Coppell, TX: "I must disagree with the theme of this article, although many of the points are valid. I have been helping people plan cruises for years. I have two statements that I feel are equally true. #1: A cruise is the best way for two stressed-out parents to take some romantic and relaxing time away from their children, and there is no need to feel guilty about vacationing without them. #2: There is no better family vacation than a cruise. I am very sorry that Brent has problems with his children. I have certainly seen some children on board cruise ships that I wish were at home. Of course, I see these same children in the supermarket, on airplanes, in nice restaurants, and at church. The majority of the children that I have encountered on cruise ships have been delightful. I am very grateful to my parents for taking me on cruises when I was younger. There is absolutely nothing on Earth that I enjoy more than cruising, and I might not even know that if we had not taken cruises as family vacations."

I tend to agree with Steve. And for the record, some of the incidents with my children were exaggerated for illustration. I've got two of the sweetest kids on earth, and even though they disagree in public, they do so pretty discreetly. Also, if they feel the need to discuss subjects of a scatological nature or compare alimentary canal productions, they do so quietly. In fact, I'm probably going to take them on my next cruise. I'll just be sure it is a cruise suitable for families, and make sure my children behave appropriately in public places. That certainly sounds like a reasonable approach, but one that many parents apparently do not take when cruising.


Brent BetitBrent Betit is a freelance writer who lives in Vermont with his wife and two young children who provided the inspiration for both of Brent's articles on Cruising with and without kids. If you missed either of Brent's articles, you can read them at:

Kids: Can't Cruise With Them
Kids: Can't Cruise Without Them

Brent's Sealetter columns include material for a planned book on the subject of cruising. He is interested in your comments and suggestions and may be reached at: bbetit@bigfoot.com.

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