written by Sandra Lupini
Caroline recently inquired about the itineraries from some of our early family trips. This lead me to start thinking about how cruise vacations can make traveling with young children easier, particularly due to the fact that they can be restful for the parents. Just for starters, you can see multiple locations without the hassle of packing and unpacking luggage. A single person may not see the advantage to this, but wait until you are trying to move around as a foursome or even more. In addition, most ships offer supervised programs for children, allowing parents to take a break for some much needed R&R. Our MO had the family spending the entire day together on shore and then enrolling our daughters into the “club” for the evening. The adults could have a fine dining experience followed by a show or gaming at the casino, while the children were highly entertained with age appropriate activities. I remember clearly how heartbroken the Point Princess was at the end of our first family cruise when we told her it was time to leave the ship. Her tears were so great the vessel took on water.
The following itinerary belongs to a 1998 cruise when our President’s celebration in February was not a long weekend, but a full week winter break…
San Juan makes a favorable departure port for anyone wishing to get straight to the warmer weather.
When time permits, sightseeing in San Juan either on the front end or the back end of a cruise is worth the effort. I recommend taking in the Forts of Old San Juan, aka the Guardians of the Caribbean, along with sightseeing local culture. The cruise line can make these reservations for you; the more adventurous can find their own arrangements.
Most people think SHOPPING when they arrive at St. Thomas, an island known for their boutiques and particularly jewelry. I remember one visit when looking for a t-shirt turned into owning a tennis bracelet. True story. However, on this visit we did not partake in mass consumerism, but instead headed to Morning Star Beach – a perfect spot for playing in the surf and building sand castles with the girls. East Island Excursions can help with more advanced water activities – snorkel, scuba, catamarans, etc.
My notes on this port are minimal. The locals braided both the girls hair with beach bead accents and dad even joined them for a braid or two of his own. I do see a notation that we would find Guadalupe was “not for us”, but I cannot remember or imagine why… The island, part of the French West Indies, is known for it’s beautiful beaches, charming villages, rain forests, and waterfalls.
The white sands of Grand Anse Beach cover a two-mile stretch of a bay dotted with brightly colored fishing boats. Tourists are warned of aggressive vendors in the area, but this was not our experience. We were greeted at the water’s edge by a strolling musician – eye catching in his highly decorated straw hat and tropical shirt, ear catching with his classical guitar and lyrics. His song captured my heart when he sang, “You have a lovely daughter and another in the water…”
Uniformed military police carrying machine guns at the point of debarkation puts a real damper on vacation spirits, especially when traveling with young children. Enough said.
This particular cruise had a high percentage of solar astronomy enthusiasts on board because the waters near Aruba were the prime location to observe the total eclipse of the sun in 1998. We stayed at an island resort for this exciting and moving natural phenomena. Rather than describe the event, I strongly suggest you put the great celestial cover-up on your bucket list. The next total eclipse can be best seen, weather permitting, from Indonesia on March 9th, 2016.
The news has been full of negative stories about cruising over the past few years. The trend towards larger “monster” vessels, coupled with all the acquisitions and mergers may be contributing to a lower quality product. Most recently, reports on ships restricting passengers from bringing beverages on board leave me thinking ‘hmmmm… Cruising has changed.’ Still, there are still many reasons to cruise travel. Do your research and book selectively.