There’s nothing like a family vacation. The absolute best family vacation I’ve ever been on is a cruise. A few years ago, I also converted my husband to “cruise-only” vacations when he went on his first one with my family. A cruise is by far the best way to spend your vacation stress-free, enjoying quality time with your family. On top of that, it’s often less expensive than a more traditional vacation spot.
When I was 16, I went on a cruise for my first big family vacation. My entire family, all 20 or so of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins went on a cruise to celebrate my grandparent’s 50th anniversary. It was the first cruise for everyone except my grandparents.
The cruise was Grandpa’s idea. He and my grandma cruised a lot and loved it. Many of us were a little apprehensive, however. A cruise was a big, extravagant trip, and it seemed expensive. But it was what he wanted so everyone saved and in January of 2001, we left our frozen tundra for the Caribbean waters.
It was the best thing we ever did.
Day one was rough; we were up early, had some last-minute disasters, rushed through a layover in Atlanta, had a bus driver drive 30 minutes in the wrong direction, and almost missed the boat. In fact, everyone was standing out on the deck in their life vests going through the muster drill as we ran up the gangway.
There were some tears that day, people were annoyed, and everyone was over tired and hungry. But after day 1, we all settled in and had a blast. We came back home talking about planning the next one. That trip will be remembered forever as the moment our group who rarely traveled outside of our state fell in love with the cruising my grandparents loved.
Later that year, my grandfather passed away and the trip took on a whole new meaning. We all value that time as something we got to do together before he was gone. We’ve been on four cruises since then, mostly as a large group.
A cruise is the ultimate family vacation. It makes you feel relaxed and rich, no matter your stress or income level. There are endless activities and opportunities for fun. The food is amazing and you can have as much as you want. You can get all of this without ever leaving the boat!
Our family isn’t wealthy. But every few years, we save up the money and go on a cruise. Because quite honestly, I have little desire to vacation any other way. A cruise allows us to let go of the stress of planning the vacation, and enjoy it instead. We enjoy a wonderful trip and quality time with family!
How much do they cost?
First, let’s talk cost. I know those of you who have never cruised are probably thinking, “Great, sounds wonderful. How much?” I get it. They seem expensive initially, but not so much once you consider everything you get included in the cost.
An average 7-day cruise usually costs about $1500 per person including airfare, but it can be cheaper. Last week, Andy was looking at some deals on the cruise line website and had the total cost for our family of 3 to about $2500 total (keep in mind the little guy is still free on the airplane until he’s two though!)
It really all depends on when you book. There are some GREAT deals out there. It sounds like a lot, but when you consider everything that is included in the cost it actually costs less than most other vacations.
Breakdown of cost:
- $600-$1000 is generally what we pay for the room and everything that comes with it (more on that in a minute!).
- A few hundred dollars in taxes and fees.
- $300 is what we pay on average for airfare from Chicago to Miami. We choose to do non-stop flights and there are no non-stops out of Milwaukee.
- The cost of getting to the airport. There are lots of options and ultimately depends on your situation. Since our airport is about 1.5 hours away and we generally have a group of at least 8, we rent a van or bus to drive us there. It costs $25 per person to get there and we do the same thing on the way back (another $25).
- The cost of getting to the port. Once we reach Miami, we always book the bus from the airport to the port through the cruise line. This costs $32 round trip per person. There are also taxis that are very cost-effective. Miami International is only a 10-15 minute drive to the port of Miami.
What Do I get for all that money?!
Unlike most vacations, there are a lot of costs rolled into the cruise fare. This will have already been paid for before you get onto the ship. Once you arrive at that floating city, you really have the option of spending no additional money the entire rest of the trip. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to spend but you don’t have to. Everything you need is included.
You’ll have a lovely room to stay in that is well maintained throughout your trip. It’s not huge, but it’s nice. Almost all of the food is included and you can eat as much or as little as you please.
There are various forms of entertainment onboard, as well as a fitness center, pools, hot tubs, a jogging track, and some form of sports area such as a basketball court. Most ships also have some other form of physical activity to do that’s included in the cost. Water slides, rock climbing walls and rope courses complete with a zip line are just a few of the ones I’ve seen.
You really do have endless options once on board, and almost all of it is already paid for.
6 Things That Make a Cruise the Best Vacation!
Obviously, a cruise is a cost effective option for a family vacation. But that’s not the most important thing when considering a family vacation. The most important thing is that there is a focus on family.
I want a family vacation to be fun and relaxing. It needs to have something for the grown-ups as well as kids of various ages. I want to feel safe, at ease, and comfortable. The stress needs to be minimal, there need to be plenty of family friendly activities, and I want to feel like we have options on how to spend our day. I do not want to be stuck with specific types of activities that get boring as the week goes on.
A cruise perfectly fits all of these requirements.
- Beautiful, Comfortable Accommodations
Obviously, there is a place to stay. The rooms aren’t grand unless you pay more for suites, but they work. And they’re nice! They’re clean, comfortable, and have everything you need, just like a hotel. Trust me, you aren’t in there much anyway. The rooms feel safe and secure, and the staff is pleasant and always willing to assist with any need.
- Amazing Food
Ohhh the food. *Cue Homer Simpson donut drool.* All of the meals are part of the cruise fare and they are good! Unless you want a specialty item or meal for a small up charge, you can go the entire week without paying a single penny for food. What’s more, you can eat as much as you please. The buffets and main dining rooms have tons of options and they’re all very good. Can’t decide between the halibut and the steak? Order both. No problem. Have an extra dessert while you’re at it. Some ships have special nights where they cook specialty menus such as Asian, Western, or Seafood night. We’ve also experienced some awesome chocolate dessert buffets. For those of you who love seafood, there is usually a lobster night. Your only problem will be trying to stop eating. Seriously, it can be tough!
- 4 Star Entertainment & Non-stop Activities
Excursions on the islands and shopping will add expense. However, there are tons of things to see and do both on the ship and off. Shows, games, and dance parties are popular on cruise ships and are very good. Comedians, well-known plays and musicians…you name it and there is probably a cruise ship that has had it at some point. There are also dance classes, trivia contests, a fitness center, jogging track, pools, and beach chairs that you can take advantage of.
Most ships even have special things like rock climbing, slides, ice rinks, bowling, game rooms, casinos, small libraries, and ropes courses. Some ships may charge a small fee (a few dollars) for some of these activities but most are free. There will be a daily itinerary of things happening about the ship that you can watch or participate in. They also have “teens only” and “kids only” activity areas. They’ll plan special daily activities that they can participate in where they can spend time with others their own age (supervised if they’re young). Art galleries and auctions, shopping spots, bars, ice cream parlors, sports bars….there really is an endless list of things to do.
On the islands, beaches are often very close and easily within walking distance of the port. There are usually several historic or natural landmarks to visit as well. For a small upfront fee (usually around $4), cabs will take you further inland. There are street performers on some islands, and just perusing the shops can be fun. Some rum shops offer samples as well and you’ll find some amazing deals on any you want to buy!
- The easiest travel ever
On what other vacation can you see two or more countries, go to dinner and then a show, and follow it up with a dance party every night and never have to worry about how to get there or where it is? On a cruise, there really isn’t any travel to consider once you’re on the ship. You never have to worry about finding something to do; options abound and you can partake in as many as you’d like or none.
If a particular island doesn’t seem interesting to you, you can sit on the boat and still have plenty to do to enjoy the day. You never have to worry about finding a ride back to your hotel if you drink too much. You can change your plans at the last minute with ease. It really makes seeing the world and having a good time so easy.
- Feel rich without spending a fortune
I don’t know about you but my family has a modest income. We don’t pay for extra luxuries or fancy hotels. But on a cruise, luxury is part of the package. Your room steward knows your name and greets you regularly beginning on day one. You can order two entrees at dinner if you can’t decide. Relax by the pool and servers bring you drinks. Partake in quality entertainment, visit several countries, and have staff treat you as if your good time is the number one priority. If that isn’t enough, you never have to cook, clean, or even find ways to entertain the kids! How’s that for luxury?
Cruising is hands down the most relaxing way to vacation. With food, travel, lodging and entertainment all planned and readily available, there is little to worry about. You can make plans for the day and change them as you go at the last minute. You don’t even need to have cash or your ID with you while on the ship, just your room key. Seriously, ladies, no purse for a week? Yes, please.
If you’re planning a family vacation, I strongly suggest trying a cruise. It truly can’t be beaten. You get to spend your time enjoying your family and that’s what a family vacation is all about. Norwegian Cruise Line has been the cruise line of choice for our family, but we have heard good things about Royal Caribbean as well. We may try them on our next family vacation.
Have you taken a cruise as a family vacation? Tell me about it in the comments!
-To your Better Life-