We have been fortunate to take our kids on 6 Disney cruises, with a 7th coming up in a few months. My husband and I have also cruised as a couple (without kids) on Royal Caribbean and Carnival (one time each). The opinions below are solely our own and are based mainly on our Disney cruise experiences, although we believe the observations would apply to other cruise lines as well (again, based on our RC and Carnival experiences). In a future post I discuss why we prefer Disney.
In my opinion, a cruise with the family is one of the best vacations you can take. Why? Because there's something for everyone. It's a nice mix of family time, alone time, and couples-only time. It also makes it easier to travel with extended family -- you can all do things together, but there's also opportunity for some space. Kids can swim, play shuffleboard, basketball, go to the kids' club, watch a movie, go to the arcade. Parents can enjoy the spa, the gym, a cooking class, learn about the ship, or relax and read a book. Families can participate in games and events around the ship, play together or relax. When the kids are in the kids' club, the parents can enjoy any of these activities together, or enjoy the adult-only book, coffee shop, or restaurant. On days when you're in port, you can stay on the ship, leisurely stroll the port or take a variety of excursions from shopping, to sightseeing, to active adventure. It really is a nice mix of activities for everyone, whether you're a vacationer who likes to relax, or someone who can't sit still. And let's face it, how often is it that everyone in your family wants to do the same thing at the same time?
Further, the food is fabulous. At any time of day, no matter what your schedule, you can find something to eat. You can choose a buffet with a view or choose more formal dining in the dining rooms. There are plenty of healthy options too, with a plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also a good opportunity for those picky eaters to try something new -- without spending extra money for it. At home, my kids are pretty boring eaters and when we go to a restaurant, I certainly don't encourage them to try something new because then if they don't like it, that's wasted food and money. On a cruise, if you don't like it there's always something else you can pick. My daughter has really expanded her palate, based on food she has tried on a cruise ship!
The entertainment and service on a cruise ship also cannot be beat. There's always a variety of live music playing, games, broadway-style shows, comedians, you name it. The service is great in the bars, restaurants and also in your cabin. Your room is made-up several times a day, with towels, linens, and some chocolate and towel animals at night.
One of the best things about a cruise, in my opinion, is that usually at sea you are without electronics. Your cellphones do not work, there is no internet access unless you pay for it. You can't worry about things back home, including your job, because they just can't reach you. Your out of office message can truly say, I will not be checking my emails and voice mails. For me, that's when I can really relax and enjoy my vacation. Yes, when we're in port, I do check my emails and phone messages quickly to make sure there are no emergencies anywhere, but unless it's on fire, I don't deal with it. When I'm more relaxed, I can enjoy my family more and just have fun!