Cruising Kids - Three Most Popular Cruise Destinations for Kids.

By: Thomas Hunter

Decadent buffets, VIP service, round-the-clock entertainment, and exotic shore excursionsóitís easy to see why more Americans than ever before are shelling out big bucks for long, relaxing cruises on ships the size of small cities. Kids love cruising, too, on the right ships heading to the right places and parents are booking cruises for their family vacations. Everyone knows that if the kids arenít happy on a family vacation, then the parents arenít happy either. Thatís why itís best for parents to do their research and figure out before they book an expensive cruise to New England whether or not their kids will be miserable with their decision.

Remember that cruising is as much about the experience at sea as it is about the outings and destinations. Finding cruise ships that cater to children young and old will help you relax between ports of call. Three cruise ships that are family friendly are Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. As for destinations, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska are perennial favorites for children and are reachable by the aforementioned ships that cater to children and offer family friendly shore excursions.

Disneyís ships, Magic and Wonder, stop at various ports of call in the Caribbean, and they cater both their shore excursions and on-board activities to families. For longer 7-day cruises, families stay at a resort three days prior to boarding the ship and have an opportunity to visit theme parks in the area. Families are transferred by land to the ship, which docks in Port Canaveral, and visit a variety of ports, including St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau, and Disneyís own private island Castaway Cay. The stop in Nassau, for example, offers both children and adults a number of shore excursions that explore the old historic town and the pristine blue waters and abundant ocean life. Children can sail through the water on a catamaran, power boat, or glass bottom boat, cavort with sting rays or dolphins, or snorkel through the aquatic reefs. While adults take the opportunity to shop or gamble, kids can have their hair braided into dozens of tiny cornrows. Donít forget that, after late December 2006, all cruises to the Caribbean will require visitors to have a passport.

A cruise to Hawaii is another tropical adventure that kids will enjoy if the shore excursions are family friendly. Both Royal Caribbean and Princess cruise lines offer trips to the Aloha State that the whole family can enjoy. Cruises often stop at islands as diverse as Honolulu, Kona, Oahu, Hilo, and Maui. Kids can visit Waikiki beach, swim in Hanauma Bay, or see aquatic life in a submarine or a glass bottom boat. They can swim with the dolphins, snorkel with the sea turtles, or go whale watching. On dry land, they can go horseback riding, learn about Polynesian culture, or witness volcanic geology firsthand, watching molten lava roll into the sea. Adults may even enjoy introducing their children to kayaking and sport fishing. The opportunities for adventure in Hawaii are as diverse as the island itself, but they can be pricey. Plan ahead what you would like to spend your money on, and consider the option of seeking excursions on your own while you are in port.

Alaska, the land of glaciers and ice, may not be quite the same as a tropical island in the Caribbean or Pacific, but, given the right ship, it offers unparalleled adventures for both children and adults alike. Both Princess and Royal Caribbean offer family friendly cruises to Alaska. Active families can kayak in Prince William Sound, bicycle around a glacier fed lake, or hike through an Alaskan rainforest. For an educational experience, kids can visit a wildlife preserve for eagles, take a wildlife safari, or go on a whale watching excursion. As beautiful as Alaska is, however, younger children might not be able to appreciate the scenery, so keep your childrenís age in mind.

Whether you decide on a cruise to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or Alaska, itís important to be aware of a few simple suggestions to have the best shore excursion possible. Remember your childrenís strengths and weakness; donít book a catamaran ride or lengthy bus ride for children prone to motion sickness. Make sure the shore excursions arenít too lengthy, and remember to bring snacks along. Finally, once you decide on the perfect excursion, book it as soon as possible, either online or right when you arrive, and donít forget to arrange babysitting beforehand for young children who may need to stay on board. Whatever your family decides to do, whether you pan for gold or take a horseback ride to a glacier, your kids are sure to have an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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