If you’d prefer getting a root canal to going on a holiday with your parents or in-laws, take heart. There is a way to vacation with the folks while minimizing family blow-ups. Booking a cruise with extended family is a fantastic way to be together, as much or as little as you’d like. And nobody has to cook or wash the dishes.
My family’s Alaskan Celebrity Cruise
We’ve done many trips with our extended family (both sets of grandparents and siblings) over the years, from beach and resort vacations to driving holidays through Europe. There are many benefits to multigenerational travel: sharing the costs of accommodations, food and travel; fostering family relationships across generations; celebrating family milestones; and creating lasting memories.
Of the many multigenerational family holidays we’ve enjoyed, the one with the least amount of stress and internal strife was our extended-family cruise to Alaska in the fall of 2011.
Prior to this, we’d never cruised before, and frankly, I was skeptical of cruising. I thought, “We’re independent. We like to go at our own pace. We’ll be stuck on the ship. All we’ll do is eat all day.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
A multigenerational toast at sea
Cruising offers a solution for everyone’s travel sanity
When considering multigenerational family travel, there are so many factors to include in the decision-making process: the age, health and mobility of family members, everyone’s personal dietary and accommodation preferences, schedules and habits, personal finances, etc. It can be really difficult to come to any kind of agreement at all.
With cruising, all you really need to agree upon is the three keys – destination, dates, and cruise line. This can be tough enough, if Uncle Ben wants to cruise to Hawaii, Grandma is dreaming of Alaska, and the kids want to spend time in the Caribbean. It’s important to keep in mind what destination and cruise line works best for your family, and the type of holiday your group desires. But, once these three elements are decided upon and the cruise is booked, you really don’t have to worry about much else!
Cruise = Concierge, Chauffeur, Chef, Waiter, Butler, Laundress, Barista
When you book a cruise, everything is taken care of. Nobody has to drive, (or ask for directions!), shop for groceries, cook, do the dishes or the laundry, or make the beds. Every family member can truly relax and enjoy the holiday, whether it’s in the kids club, computer lab, casino, or by the pool.
A tour of Celebrity’s impressive kitchens
Food, glorious food!
Food is a big part of the appeal of cruising. It’s plentiful, delicious, and available 24/7. The fact that someone else has prepared it is icing on the cake for those of us who have to menu plan on a daily basis. Food quality can vary widely by cruise line. We traveled to Alaska with Celebrity Cruises. Although our cruise was much more than just eating all day, Celebrity is known for their excellent service and cuisine, and they certainly lived up to the reputation.
The variety of food and menu items offered, and the attention to dietary needs (i.e. diabetic, vegetarian, kosher, gluten-free, kids’ menu, low salt) is staggering. All you have to do is choose what you want to eat! I toured the galleys of our Celebrity Cruise ship and was amazed by the size of the kitchens, the quantity of the food stocked, and the number of meals prepared daily.
When traveling with older or less-mobile family members, health and ease of getting around can be important considerations. Cruise ships are wheelchair accessible and equipped with elevators. Medical care is on-board, in the form of ship’s health clinic with 24/7 medical staff. This provides peace of mind for anyone, no matter the age.
Cruising allows togetherness as well as independence. Each family unit occupies a different stateroom, which can vary in cost and luxury, and may be side-by-side or on different levels of the ship (a necessary separation for some traveling families). Kids get their own access cards and, depending on age, can come and go as they please, or as Mom allows. Nap schedules (for young and old) can be easily maintained, and families can meet at formal mealtimes and catch up on the day’s events. When someone needs a break, he or she can always seek refuge in the cabin, or go for a walk around the ship.
Bundled up on our Alaskan cruise
With the multitude of on-board recreational options and age-specific kids clubs (from babies to teens, depending on the cruise line), everyone can happily go off in many directions doing completely different activities, or nothing at all. On our Alaska cruise, the naturalist lectures appealed to half of our group, while the other half enjoyed activities of their own choosing. For shore excursions, we chose to go whale-watching in Juneau as a group of nine (with ages 5-75), but in Ketchikan, our family of four toured the town and the Saxman Native Village on our own.
Destinations and cruise lines vary widely in cost. It’s important to find a cruise package that will appeal to the majority of family members, and remain within everyone’s budget. You should also consider from where everyone will be traveling to depart on the cruise, and the costs involved in getting to that destination of choice. Fortunately, pricing has become more competitive and consumers have benefited from some great deals this year.
Are you nervous about sharing your family holiday time with your mom, or your mother-in-law? Or have you taken the multigenerational family travel plunge? Let us know in the comments!
All photos by S. Laroye