Tips for Planning a Multigenerational Cruise

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Several vacations ago, I (willingly) boarded a cruise ship to the Bahamas with my husband and his parents. And guess what? It was fun! If there ever was a place tailor-made for multigenerational family vacations, it’s a cruise ship — in part for its myriad of onboard activities fit for adults, grandparents and kids of all ages.

Thinking of embarking on a multigenerational cruise? Here’s how to make an extended family vacation work for you.

Book Separate Staterooms

Son and daughter look over the edge of their stateroom balcony with their mother on a cruise

Don’t underestimate the value of privacy. Book a block of staterooms on the same deck or find those that connect, which make it easier for friends and family to get together. Designate a meeting place (in case anyone gets lost or is running late) or get everyone together before dinner (my husband and I hosted pre-dinner drinks in our suite) to take the stress out of having to be somewhere on time.

Pre-arrange Dining Times and Seating Arrangements

Wine steward pours wine for the guests to propose a toast during dinner on a cruise

Make sure you request either a large table or a section of the dining room for the whole brood before your cruise, or have a quick chat with the maître d’ immediately after boarding the cruise ship. If getting together at the dinner table is important you, make sure you’re not sitting separately, on opposite ends of the dining room or, worse yet, dining at different times.

Plan Your Shore Excursions

Family sets out on a shore excursion to catch fish and share stories with the grandfather

Private tours, such as fishing trips in Alaska and car/driver combos in Europe, can be a great option for multigenerational groups who have similar interests or who are willing to discover something new together. Splitting up works too. Grandpa can do the all-day bus tour in Seville while Grandma and the kids head to a nearby beach.

Split Up For Quality Time

Mother and Daughter rub noses and smile as they spend quality time together while on the beach

When cruising with extended family, allow yourself to naturally gravitate toward various groupings. For instance, my niece and I got manicures in the salon, while my sons and their uncle hit the video arcade. Everyone gets the chance to do what they really like (no tears, no complaints!) and there are plenty of stories to swap come family dinnertime.

Make Use of Your Built-in Babysitters

Multi-generational breakfast from the balcony stateroom on a cruise

When my 70-something parents joined my 4-year-old sons and me on a cruise, my mother enjoyed taking the boys back to the cabin after dinner and helping them go off to sleep while my father and I hit the shows in the lounge. Grandma bonded with the kids, I enjoyed late-night quality time with my dad.

Opt for Big Cruise Ships

Waterslides and colorful winding tubes on board Norwegian Getaway

For multigenerational families, large cruise ships with lots of entertainment, activities and dining venues work best. One can doze on a deck chair or hit the spa on a sea day, while more social types can join classes or participate in games on board. Also, the kids’ programs tend to be top-notch, which is a huge plus if your extended family includes mini-cruisers.

Ask About Group Perks

Top quality service provided from the receptionists on a cruise

Many cruise lines offer perks and help make group planning easy. From arranging shore excursions, special dinners and private parties to deals on drinks or specialty dining, it’s worth asking when booking or inquiring about once on board.

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