By Darren Griffiths

8 Tips for Taking Your First Family Cruise Vacation

27th October 2023

Going on your first cruise as a family is a marvelous opportunity to create some core memories for your kids, as well as for you and your spouse. There are also a lot of practical advantages to going on a cruise compared to a multi-stop travel adventure by air. Perks like easily accessible leisure and entertainment, the ability to visit multiple locations whenever the ship is at port, and even supervised children’s programs make a cruise the ideal vacation experience for family members of all ages. 

But as first-time cruise guests, you may feel intimidated or unsure about which cruise line to choose, what to pack, and what to expect during the trip. To that end, here are eight essential tips to prepare you to embark on an unforgettable family adventure at sea: 

1) Choose a Family-Friendly Cruise

The very foundation of a successful family cruise vacation begins with your choice of cruise line and ship. Keep in mind that different cruise lines cater to various demographics and interests. For instance, some cruises are exclusively for couples, singles, or seniors. 

Look for cruise lines that are renowned for their family-friendly amenities, such as family staterooms and age-appropriate activities. Pin down the dates and the number of days you want to spend on vacation, and book a cruise you’re sure you and your family members will all enjoy together.

Next, choose an itinerary that will suit everyone’s preferences. Make it one that allows for a good balance of structured activity and rest so that end up neither breathless nor bored during your cruise vacation.

2) Ask a Cruise Expert for Recommendations

The world of cruise travel can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for first-timers like yourselves. Hence, don’t hesitate to seek advice from cruise experts or travel agents. With their knowledge and expertise, they’ll be well-equipped to match your family’s preferences with the ideal cruise experience. You can count on them to provide insights into itineraries, onboard activities, and excursion options tailored to your family’s needs, thus ensuring a seamless and enjoyable vacation.

3) Pack Light and Versatile Clothes

cruise ship climbing wall

Packing lightly and efficiently is crucial when embarking on a cruise. While it may be tempting to bring your entire wardrobe, resist the urge to overpack, knowing that you’ll likely have limited space in your cabin. Instead, opt for versatile clothing items that can fit into compact bags or suitcases and be mixed and matched for various cruise activities. You can help your kids pack their luggage with the same mindset. 

Bring a couple of adaptable sets of swimwear and shirts or scarves that can double as cover-ups, as well as casual wear for daytime excursions such as women’s leggings and tank tops. If there are special dining nights on your ship, each attendee should also bring at least one set of formal attire. 

Comfortable shoes are another must-have if you plan on participating in onshore adventures. You and your family members should each pack adaptable sets of footwear, like walking sandals or sneakers. 

4) Keep Your Travel Documents on Hand

Long before setting sail, ensure that all your family’s travel documents are in order. Double-check the expiration dates of all your passports and visas, if required. Don’t forget copies of your cruise tickets, too. It’s advisable to make photocopies and digital copies of these documents and to keep them in a separate bag as well as on your smartphone. Doing so will make it easy to present info to cruise staff and other authorities and to get help in cases of emergency.

5) Keep the Cruise Line Informed of Any Dietary Needs or Allergies Your Family Members Might Have

If any of your family members have dietary restrictions or allergies, you’ll want to inform the cruise line in advance. It may be a relief for you to know that most cruise lines are well-equipped to accommodate special dietary needs, but they require prior notice to make necessary arrangements. 

Reach out to the cruise line’s customer service team to ensure that your family’s dietary requirements are met, and consider preparing allergy cards or letting a family member wear an allergy bracelet that you can present to staff at the cruise’s dining establishments.

6) Inform Your Bank That You’ll Be Traveling

To avoid potential financial hiccups during your cruise, inform your bank or credit card company about your travel plans. This will prevent your cards from being flagged for suspicious activity when used in different locations while you’re on your cruise. Indeed, this simple step can save you from the frustration of having your purchases declined while you and your family members are supposed to be enjoying yourselves.

7) Manage Motion Sickness

Some of your family members may be prone to motion sickness while you’re cruising. To mitigate this, you can slowly acclimatize to the ship’s motion by spending more time on deck throughout the duration of the cruise. Cruise staff may be able to provide you with over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications to alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness, but be sure to pack these items in your family travel first aid kit just in case.

8) Pre-Book Cruise Activities

Although many cruises offer all-in-one packages for accommodation, meals, and entertainment, there may still be some activities that won’t be included in the basic package. To make the most of your family cruise vacation, pre-book onboard activities and shore excursions that you’re actually looking forward to. By doing so, you can secure spots for popular experiences and ensure that you won’t miss out on any must-do activities. 

Some cruise lines have convenient online booking systems that will allow you to plan your itinerary beyond the basics. Take advantage of these if they’re available and make plans with your family members. 

It may be your first time on a cruise, but with the tips listed above, you and your family members will likely be able to set sail with confidence. Get ready to embark on an ocean adventure where you can look forward to excitement, relaxation, and quality family time.