Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Insurance, Insurance, Insurance!

Cruising with children takes planning. One of the most important things you need to remember is to GET TRAVEL INSURANCE for your cruise. And make sure that the travel insurance, if purchased through the cruiseline, also covers the air travel.

In the media recently, there is a story that talks about a family who was "abandoned in Nassau by a ruthless cruiseline" due to their infant becoming sick.

Taking a closer look at the story and you will see that the family had no passports and no insurance. So the baby's illness (and we all know how fast kids can become sick) left the family to pay for the expense out of pocket.

In our own family, we had a similar situation. Our youngest got sick and needed to be medevacced off the ship. But the difference between us and the story in the news is we had INSURANCE.

I can't stress it enough. For a young family, the cost of travel insurance is pretty inexpensive. What if your child gets an ear infection and can't fly to board the cruise? What if your child breaks a leg and can't cruise? We all know that things happen. Don't make the same mistake that the family in the news did, be prepared for what *may* happen.

Make sure if you are using a travel agent that the agent links the air portion of your travel as well. We learned the hard way and had to pay $1,250 out of pocket to get back from one of our cruises since the travel agent didn't link the airfare to the insurance.

Be informed. Be prepared. You just never know what's going to happen.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The "best" cabin on the ship!

"What cabin category should I choose?". The easy answer is the one that's in your budget and gets you on the ship. But let's elaborate a bit :)

Some say they choose an inside because they'll "never be in the cabin" and that's great if it works for them.

When cruising with younger children it gets a little more complicated. You have to think of things like "What do I do when the child goes to bed early?" No parent wants to spend their vacation tiptoeing around a cabin at 8pm every night. A balcony cabin is a great option. Nothing is better than putting the kids to bed and heading outside on your own balcony for some quiet time under the stars, overlooking the ocean. It's your very own little slice of heaven.

Now the next question is always, "But what if the kids fall overboard????" The balconies on cruise ships are really quite safe as long as you use some common sense guidelines. Many of the newer ships have plexi glass walls that are quite high as compared to a child's height. You can see how high the walls are in this photo. My oldest was 48" tall at the time.

But it's always best to have some rules in place...

1. No child is allowed on the balcony without an adult.

2. All chairs are moved from the edge. No standing on chairs.

3. Child must be sitting at all times while on balcony.

4. No horseplay on the balcony.

5. If any of the above rules are broken, the child will be instantly moved to the inside of the cabin and loses balcony privileges. ;)

With older children, those who may not be spending as much time in the cabin, your priorities start to change and now you want TWO bathrooms. Once again, your budget comes into play. Some families with older children like to get connecting/adjoining ocean view cabins (no balconies). The ocean view will allow some light in while the adjoining/connecting cabins will give you the prized extra bathroom. Often the prices of 2 ocean view cabins will be less than a suite.

Other families like to get a balcony for the parents with an inside cabin across the hall for the kids. It all depends on your comfort level and the age of the children. I would personally say that teens would do best in this situation and no younger.

Just be aware of a few things when booking 2 cabins for the family. First of all, make sure you choose your cabins and ask NOT to be upgraded. It's always great to get an upgrade, except when that upgrade moves you up a deck away from your kids! Stay away from a category "guarantee" where you can't pick your cabin number. On many cruise lines, at least one adult must be booked into each cabin.

As far as location of the cabin, look at the ship's deck plans and see what's around (above and below) your cabin. Would you want to be above the dance club?

Look for a cabin in a central location. Some like to have one deck of cabins above and below them to prevent any noise issues. Some worry about the motion of the ship, so staying low and center will have less movement than a higher deck. But just remember, the lower you go means more stairs to climb (elevators on ships are notoriously slow). You may love the idea of being on Deck 2 and working off your lunch on the way to dinner. But others may not be as happy to climb 8 flights of stairs.

There is no perfect cabin that makes everyone happy. Just look for the perfect cabin that makes your family happy.