Paradise. You're on a cruise to the Caribbean, standing on deck as the ship cuts through turquoise seas, a big moon shines overhead, and a warm breeze ruffles your wife's hair. It does not get any better than this, and you both feel a rekindling of the spark that brought you together in the first place. She gazes into your eyes, and just as you lean over to give her a kiss. . .
. . . your eldest son pops his brother in the nose, setting off a wail audible in Europe; they grapple on the deck, tearing and wrenching at each other's new suits, and end up sprawled on the teak, both crying at once, snuffling through bloody noses as your fellow cruisers stare at you, aghast.
You just can't cruise with kids. They are indeed, as Joseph Morgenstern wrote, "gleeful barbarians," and besides, as my friend Brian says, "cruises are adult stuff."
First of all, think of the expense. I have two kids, so this automatically doubles the cost of any cruise my family might take. And schlepping suitcases enough for four people instead of two through airports and into cabs probably describes one of the levels in Dante's Inferno -- or it would, if they had invented cabs back when he was writing it. Finally, it's bad enough dealing with your own fatigue, motion sickness, and other travel-related challenges without having to deal with those same things for two little guys like mine, who apparently think that the whole world is both interested in and should know every aspect of their unfolding lives: "Hey Matt," my youngest loudly exclaimed the other day in a crowded restaurant, "I just cut the cheese." A charter member of the Gleeful Barbarians Club, is my little Nick.
The sea possesses much romance and mystery, and one of its chief attractions is shedding worldly cares and pretending, for awhile, that you inhabit a paradise where instead of waiting on children, you are waited on; where instead of preparing dinner for children, you order and are served almost anything you want; where instead of breaking up fights, washing faces, brushing teeth, and struggling to convince children to cooperate, just for a minute, you can relax for seven glorious days or more, and dance the night away under the stars.
Of course, every parent feels guilty whenever they leave their children home, whenever they vacation without them. But every loving relationship deserves the occasional stress-free interlude when all one's worldly cares drop away and you begin to remember again what it is like to have an uninterrupted conversation, meal, or hug; what it is like to sleep in for a change, instead of waking up to the sound of Angry Beavers blaring over the television speaker at 6:00 a.m.
So here are my Sure-Fire Steps to a guilt-free cruise without the kids:
Try to get a sitter (we will only do this with a family member) to stay in your home, so your children's daily routine is not interrupted, and so they don't have so many opportunities to feel homesick.
Make sure you sign a childcare authorization, giving your sitter the authority to make medical decisions and the like while you are away (after all, you will be pretty unavailable most of the time). Also, if they are in school, inform the principal that another person has childcare authority. Draft, "fill-in-the-blanks" authorizations are included at the end of this column.
Have your affairs in order, with notarized wills, life insurance policies, and other important documents in a central file in your home where your family can locate them in the unlikely event that this proves necessary. Consider leaving a package with the same information in your attorney's files as a safeguard.
Hang a copy of your itinerary, the main number of the cruise line, and the Sea Operator's number on the door to the refrigerator. Make sure your sitter knows the name of the line, the name of the ship, and your room number aboard ship!
Consider making a day-by-day video tape before you leave. Place your video camera on a tripod, and just sit with your spouse as you describe your planned day-by-day itinerary, telling your children what you plan to do each of the days you are gone, letting them know where you will be, and ending each "day" by telling them you love them. I once prepared an elaborate tape like this before departing for a ten day trip. I filmed it in segments, opening each with the day ("Today is August 6,") and describing in detail what I had plans to do on that day, pointing to a globe to let them know where I would be. My kids watched a segment each night before they went to bed, and this allowed them to "travel with me" while I was away.
Couple the evening's video segment with a small, wrapped gift for each child if you really want to give them something to look forward to each day.
If your children are small, don't call during the cruise unless you are prepared to listen to tiny voices accompanied by sobs and tears pleading with you to return right away. I did this once while aboard ship and spent $45.00 listening to my son cry for five minutes (and this was during a "special," when rates were only $9.00 per minute!)
Remember how important it is to make time for romance with your spouse -- and that the most romantic place on earth is the deck of a cruise ship under the stars.
Make sure you set aside time each year to take your entire family on a land-based vacation, bloody noses and all. This fall, my family is hitting Disney. Mickey will never be the same.
CHILD CARE AUTHORIZATION
The undersigned parent(s), ___________________ and _________________, of [address]: ___________________________________________________ hereby grant [sitter's name] ___________________, of [sitter's address]: ___________________________________, the authority to take temporary care of the following child(ren):
This grant of temporary authority shall begin on ___________________, and shall remain effective through _____________________.
The above named childcare giver shall have the following powers:
The power to seek appropriate medical treatment or attention on behalf of the child(ren) as may be required by the circumstances, including but not limited to, medical doctor and/or hospital visits.
The power to authorize medical treatment or medical procedures in an emergency situation when the parents cannot be reached.
The power to make appropriate decisions regarding clothing, bodily nourishment, and shelter.
The power to grant permission to participate in school or personal activities.
DRAFT LETTER TO CHILDRENS' SCHOOL:
Mr. Mykid's Principal
Dear Mr. Mykid's Principal:
The purpose of this letter is to advise you of the authority given to [caregiver's name]: _________________________ while taking care of our children:
This grant of temporary authority shall begin on ________________ and shall remain in effect until ___________________________.
The above childcare giver(s) shall have the authority to:
During our vacation, our children and their caregiver will be staying at our home. You may therefore reach our childcare giver at 300-0009 should you have any questions. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
Brent 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 the other article, you can read it at:
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please