Create unforgettable memories for the whole family. Embark on adventures worthy of a bestseller. Get your family together – three generations, if possible – and take a multi-generational family cruise.

Multi-generational Family Cruising

Multi-generational groups are a fast-growing segment of the traveling population. Some cruise lines are renovating ships and adding new spaces to accommodate multi-generational family groups. Cruises are the perfect vacation for a family group of grandparents, parents and kids because they can engage in all sorts of different activities onboard, each to his or her liking. Kids can be with other kids in supervised play; teens with other teens in cool, fun activities; parents and grandparents can roam the ship, visit the spa, swim in an adults-only pool, lounge on deck or in the library, gamble in the casino, or indulge in dozens of other things. Of course, plenty of activities are offered in which the whole family can participate, too.

On Norwegian ocean liners, families are the second largest cruising segment, only behind the 55-plus age group. On NCL – Norwegian Cruise Line – currently, 15 – 20% of guests on any cruise are in a multi-generational group.

More than half of Carnival Cruise Lines’ bookings involve more than one stateroom, which may indicate multi-generational family cruising vacations.

Even luxury lines, which generally appeal to an older crowd, are now seeing more children on board. Family groups increased 30% in 2012 over 2011 on Crystal Cruises.

To accommodate the needs of Golden Agers, their children and grandchildren, ships are enlarging areas for kids’ activities. Adult-only pools and quiet areas for adult passengers are appearing on cruise ships. Norwegian ships offer areas with key-card access and private courtyards called “The Haven”; they’re not adult-only but are quieter than other parts of the ship. Carnival’s ships offer “Serenity Spaces” for adults, and on many of their ships an observation area next to children’s activity rooms so parents and grandparents can watch their kids at play.

Nearly all the larger cruise ships – and some smaller ones — offer supervised programs for kids, including teenagers, so they don’t have to hang out with the “old folks” all the time, and you don’t have to worry about keeping them entertained. Babysitters are available too, generally. Most ships have kid-friendly meals for picky eaters too.

The multi-generational cruise is a perfect way to have a family experience without being joined at the hip(s). Too much togetherness can spoil the trip, so these ships provide alternatives. See suggestions below.*

Multi-generational Family Cruising

My favorite summer-time destination for a multi-generational American cruise is Alaska. Seattle or Vancouver to Seward (or vice versa) or Inside Passage beginning and ending in Seattle or Vancouver.

Shore excursions and trip-extensions are fabulous. Everyone from toddlers to Great-Grandmas will be wowed by the scenery and wildlife they’ll see from the ship, which may include whales and dolphins, bald eagles, moose, bears, and who knows what-all. You’ll get up close to glaciers and visit ports-of call that are magical.

In the winter months, the Caribbean is a real treat. You’ll stop and go ashore, if you wish, at a different island nearly every day. If you’re coming from the northern states you’ll be in your glory, and go back home with tans and island trinkets. The inter-island Hawaiian cruise is great, too, stopping at each island in the chain for a day’s Aloha outing.

If your choice is a European cruise, you’ll find many and varied options.

There are many ships and cruise lines to choose from. Each has its advantages. It’s strictly a personal choice, so do your research and discover which suits your family best.

My suggestions for a successful family (multi-generational) cruise vacation:

• Appoint one person to be the group’s leader/organizer/ultimate decider. (In most groups a leader has emerged, so no appointment is necessary.) To streamline reservations, he or she may want to do all the bookings. If wheelchair access is required, be sure to mention it at the time of booking.

• Utilize the Internet to the fullest to learn about cruise lines, individual ships, destinations, and all their amenities, et cetera.

• Since family members may be arriving from different directions, have everyone arrive the day before the cruise’s departure date. What with flight delays and cancellations, this will assure that no one misses the boat. Literally.

• Before leaving home, place easily-identifiable markers on every piece of your group’s luggage.

• Remember the Traveler’s Rule: Take half as many clothes as you think you’re going to need, and twice as much money.

• Plan to dine together every evening so you’ll stay connected, and can share the day’s adventures with one another. Switch the seating around so everyone gets to sit next to everyone at some time during the trip. Dining together at the other meals may be optional, since there is a multitude of possibilities, both on ship (the large ships anyway) and on shore.

• Learn the ship’s charges for things the kids might want, such as soft drinks, tee shirts, souvenirs. Some things, like soft drinks, which used to be included in the fare, are not anymore, generally. Have an understanding – in advance – of what on-board purchases are allowable. Generally, they are added to your shipboard charge card, so they can add up without you even knowing about them. If the kids are spending their own money, parents may still want to have some boundaries.

• Ban all electronic devices, at least at the dinner table. (If it were me, I’d ban them from the entire vacation!) Warning: the kids may exhibit symptoms of withdrawal.

• Shore excursions are as diverse as are the members of your family group, so I advise splitting into interest groups (as far as possible). However, there may be some activities the whole family will want to do as a group. Go for it.

• Do your research; find out in advance what shore attractions are available at each port of call so you can plan who’s going to go where and do what (subject to change, of course. You’ll learn about various offerings as you go).

• Unless a shore activity has limited capacity (such as the zip-line groups), you may want to make arrangements once you disembark. It can save you piles of money. (The cruise lines add a nice profit on top of the excursion’s actual price.) For example, in Juneau, there’s a city bus to Mendenhal Glacier ($14 Round Trip, last time I was there). If you book a shore excursion, which includes Mendenhal Glacier, a Hatchery tour, and a Salmon Bake, you’ll pay a lot more. If you want all that other stuff and prefer that someone else handle the arrangements, go for it. But if you just want to go to the glacier and the visitor center, I advise taking the city bus, which is just up the street. The Visitor Center is an extra few dollars; well worth it.)

• When going ashore, make sure EVERYONE knows who is responsible for EVERYONE in the group. Buddy up. VERY IMPORTANT.

• Take lots of pictures and videos. But not to the point where recording the adventure distances you from it. In fact, I’d let the kids and grandkids do the picture taking and just “sit back and enjoy the ride”. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of pictures. Yours won’t be needed.

• I’d try to schedule one-on-one time with each grandchild (and maybe each adult child). That may be the most memorable part – for you and for them.

• Stay loose; relax; do what you want to do and let others do what they want to do.

• Don’t expect everything to go smoothly. There will be glitches. Remember, in a great memoir or novel, conflict, tension, suspense, crises, etc., are required.

• When you get home, set up an online family website on which you can share your multi-generational cruise photos and experiences.

• Have fun and enjoy your time together.


Click on this link to read about one family’s multi-generational cruise experience. It’s a delight.

If you have taken a multi-generational cruise vacation, or if you plan to take one soon, please share your photos with us, along with a short “memoir” that tells the high points – and maybe the lows, if any. Tell us about the most memorable event. And whatever else you like.



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