Cruising With Tweens and Teens
We have wanted to take a cruise for a long time, but certain factors have put us off in the past; the cost has always been an issue, but also we were unsure as to whether it would be a fun trip for the kids. Mark's parents are huge cruise fans and have cruised to many places, including America and the Caribbean, and they decided to show us how good cruising is by booking a cruise for us to go on with them!
Our long-weekend cruise departed from Southampton on Friday evening and sailed to Zeebrugge and Cherbourg before returning to Southampton on Monday morning. We cruised with Celebrity Cruises and, I'll be totally honest, it wasn't the type of cruise I would have necessarily booked for us as it was a 60's music cruise, but as Mark's parents had paid for it there was no way I was going to complain. I must admit that the atmosphere onboard was fantastic and the music was much better than I expected!
Our stateroom was a great size for two people and just about manageable for four, but if I was cruising for longer then I would probably opt for a bigger room. The storage was fairly limited and if we were to be cruising for a week, or longer, there definitely wouldn't be room for all of our items. On the plus side, our bed was huge! One of the kids slept on the sofa and the other had a pull down bed that our Stateroom Attendant set up for us each evening and put away each morning. Both children said that their beds were comfy. The bathroom was compact but it had enough room for us. We had a balcony too, which we loved as it gave us a bit of additional space and it was great to be able to sit out in the sun.
Inside, the ship was beautiful! The decor was opulent and there was a luxurious feel to the whole ship, the shops sold designer goods and the dining rooms were opulent. There was so much for adults to do onboard the ship - a casino, a nightclub, evening shows, live music, an art auction, shopping and more, but I was worried about what activities would be available for the kids. There were two outdoor pools with four hot tubs that the kids enjoyed, but it was a tad cold given the fact it was October and unfortunately under 18s weren't allowed to use the Solarium which was a shame as they would have been much warmer in there.
I knew there would be a good selection of food and I wasn't wrong. It felt like there was food available 24-7 and the Ocean Cafe had plenty of options for the kids to try during the day including pasta, pizza, burgers, salads and ice cream. I liked the fact that the kids were able to go up to the Cafe without us and get food whenever they wanted it. Our evening meal was in a formal dining room with fantastic food and the kids' menu was pretty good with a nice choice of meals.
Up on Deck 15 there was a kids club, called the Fun Factory, which the kids used quite a bit, but it seemed to close at slightly random times of day - we were back onboard by early afternoon but the Fun Factory shut at 5pm and didn't reopen until 7pm. This meant that for the majority of our spare time onboard the kids had nowhere to go that was suitable for them, other than the cabin or the basketball court. By the time we had finished our dinner sitting, the Fun Factory was only open for another half hour. X-Club, the teen area, didn't open at all for the duration of our cruise which was disappointing as I think the kids would have preferred to use that area. In fact, there was no mention of any of the teen activities at all and although we were told that Abby could stay in the Fun Factory past 10pm, Harry was not allowed to stay which was pointless as Abby would have been on her own, so they tended to spend most of the evening in the cabin watching movies. I have no problem with the fact that there are rules and regs but, being the only kids onboard, it would have been nice to see the crew going a little bit above and beyond to accommodate them and make them both feel welcome.
I'm sure if this wasn't a charter cruise there would have been plenty more for them to do and if we book another cruise we would definitely choose one that was aimed at families.
Despite the slight annoyance over the Fun Factory and X-Club, the kids still had a great time! They loved playing basketball and football on the court right at the top of the ship. According to them the arcade was fab and they were totally wowed by the fact there was a tree growing through the middle of the ship! The kids' favourite parts of the cruise were the excursions, particularly the one to Bruges as they really enjoyed wandering around the town and eating Belgian waffles covered in chocolate.
So our first ever cruise was lots of fun and although it wasn't particularly great for the kids, they are already asking when we're going to book another one. We had a great time too and are sure we will cruise again in the future.