After more than two years of limited or no travel, do you want to gather the extended family? Do you want to cruise the Mediterranean, stopping to see ancient sites?
Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. Or Hawaii. Or the Caribbean – with an always-smiling crew catering to every need and whim.
If you’re nodding YES! – then your next vacation should be a cruise. And with two dozen ports in the United States to choose from – everywhere from Galveston, TX to Boston; San Diego to Seattle, you may well be able to find a cruise port that’s a drivable distance from home.
In fact, 35 percent of those just surveyed by CruiseCritic.com say they will be looking for drive-to ports to avoid the hassle of flying.
Cruising is back! And it’s safe.
The CDC has removed COVID-19 warnings for cruise ship travelers.
The cruise industry, for their part, has developed a multi-layer approach to health and safety including:
- Proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding
- Regular testing of crew
- An environment where every eligible person is vaccinated
- Ongoing sanitation of all public spaces and guest/crew rooms
- Social distancing
- Enhanced air ventilation
Plus other measures that public health experts around the world have endorsed.
That’s why even families whose children are under five and not yet eligible to be vaccinated believe a cruise is one of the safest vacations they can take.
“Safer than going to the grocery store,” one mom told me aboard the Carnival Mardi Gras.
Cruises are great for families
Multi-generational families love cruises because there are activities – on and off the ship – for all ages. There’s no arguing over where to go or what to do as families can split up during the day, gathering for dinner to talk over their adventures. Adults get time together as there are terrific on-board programs for kids and teens.
There is a cruise for every style traveler and within their budget, from small ships that focus on outdoor adventures to those offering every luxury and others, like Mardi Gras, upping the fun quotient for families with bumper cars, waterslides, and even an on-board roller coaster.
Cabins are designed for families too. Some Princess suites even have bathtubs for those traveling with young children. Holland America’s MS Koningsdam has dedicated family staterooms that accommodate up to five guests.
Some Carnival ships have “Family Harbor” specialty staterooms with a special Family Harbor Lounge with breakfast, snacks, board games and more. Other family-friendly cabins are designed to sleep five – and an extra bathroom.
Cruise ships have amazing food
The youngest foodies in the crowd appreciate they can eat whatever and whenever they want without any extra cost. No worries either if someone needs a special diet. Vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, sugar-free – can be arranged without any fuss.
Whether your gang are picky eaters or we’ll-try-anything types, they can’t help but be satisfied – from bountiful buffets serving dishes from around the world to freshly baked pizzas to sushi, steaks, street food and more.
Carnival’s Mardi Gras even has a restaurant that features an entire Mexican and a Chinese menu. Shaq O’Neal’s Big Chicken is a huge hit on Carnival ships with chicken sandwiches, fried chicken baskets and biscuits and plenty of sides.
How to find your perfect cruise
You likely will find plenty of cruise deals – everything from upgrades to on-board credits, free Wi-Fi , specialty dining and drink packages.
Because of the bewildering array of choices, this is a time to work with a travel advisor who is a cruise expert. They can not only talk you through your options, but guarantee you get the best deal – including a few extra perks.
Consider the experience you want. Carnival Cruise Line carries more children than any other and can be the most budget-friendly. Opt for a luxury experience aboard a Cunard ocean liner and sail across the Atlantic from New York to Southampton. And bring your pet along!
Combine ultra-luxury with expedition-style aboard Seabourn’s all-inclusive small ships. An onboard expedition team includes a marine biologist, ornithologist, geologist, historian, photographer and wildlife experts.
Soak up local culture and enjoy fine dining aboard Holland America and Princess – enjoy street tacos in Mexico or the seafood you caught in Alaska, craft bespoke cocktails and amazing, sweet treats.
Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are the biggest players in Alaska with six ships each, including MS Koningsburg sailing from Vancouver for the first time. Princess’ newest Medallion class ship, the 3,660-passenger Discovery Princess will be sailing from Seattle.
Cruisers love the Princess wearable disc medallions that enable them to check-in online, check-in with their kids on board, make reservations, have food delivered wherever they are and even open their stateroom doors – contactless travel to a new degree!
Holland America fans love the culturally immersive activities wherever the cruise is going. This season is Holland America’s 75th in Alaska and they are pulling out all the stops– exclusive FOOD & WINE shore excursions during which guests can chow down at a crab feast or sample Anchorage’s craft beer.
On board, EXC talks focus on history and culture – perhaps stories of native Alaskans while naturalists will help you spot wildlife from the deck.
Onboard Princess, there are unique Discovery at Sea activities for kids and teens and special family Discovery shore excursions. Many are based on the hit show “Animal Planet.”
All ages rave about Carnival’s onboard fun and games – everything from Dr. Seuss for the youngest cruisers to teen dance parties to SkyRide and WaterWorks water slides and play areas, karaoke, cooking demonstrations, fitness classes and unique spa treatments.
Mardi Gras even boasts Bolt, the first roller coaster at sea. There’s the SkyCourse ropes course — two levels of challenge—a SportsSquare with mini-golf, basketball, soccer and volleyball, foosball and ping pong.
So which cruise will let you check off the bucket list trip?
Author Eileen Ogintz is an avid cruiser who has sailed Alaska many times, on all sorts of ships and in all sorts of styles. She contributed this post on behalf of sponsor TakingtheKids.com.