A family cruise is a wonderful adventure: time together without the stresses from home. This is your chance to create memories that will last forever and bring your family closer together.
Cruise ships today are often enormous – much like a floating city. And, just like you would when traveling in a large, new city, certain safety precautions are a must when you’re cruising with children. We’ve heard the stories in the news about accidents, assaults and thefts and this is not meant to frighten or dissuade you from taking the little ones on a cruise. But there are some safety tips that you might not even think about, being in a new environment. We hope this article will help prepare you for a wonderful, safe and memorable family vacation!
Tip #1: Never go into someone else's cabin or invite someone into yours.
It’s really no different than the behavior you’d teach – and expect – from your children at home. We teach our children not to go into a strange car or house. We warn them against opening the door to strangers. The same applies on a cruise ship. The Buddy System is a great idea on a ship, just like at home. If one of the children (older ones!) needs to go back to the cabin for any reason, they need to take a Buddy and stick together. And never should a child open the door for a crew member. Whatever it is can wait. One more good rule-of-thumb: if your child is a little leery about going back to the cabin without you, going to the restroom or anywhere on the ship without a parent, take the time to stop and go with him/her. It’s important for them to stay alert and be comfortable while on board!
Tip #2: Never accept a drink from someone else or leave yours unattended.
This should be a cardinal rule for us all, regardless of age or environment. It doesn’t matter what you’re drinking: water, juice, soda or alcohol. Don’t accept a drink from anyone you don’t know well and NEVER leave your drink unattended! Someone suggested the way to reinforce this to a teen that might think this advice is silly: slip some Tabasco in your teen’s drink when their back is turned to show them how quickly a drink can be doctored.
Tip #3: Check in on a regular basis.
We took our two teenagers (17 and 16) on a cruise during my daughter’s Senior year in high school. They pretty much had the “run of the ship” in their mind, but we had a set of guidelines they had to abide by. One was to check in with us at certain times. Some of the ships now have a phone-to-phone messaging service app that enables onboard the ship – but reception isn’t always reliable, so I suggest some form of back-ups. You can set your own schedule, based on the age of your children and their level of responsibility, but make sure they do check in – IN PERSON – periodically, as well as maybe by leaving notes on a cabin-door white board, or something that works for your family.
It’s also important that your children know where to find you … and what your plans are. If something comes up that alters YOUR plans, you have the responsibility to make sure your kids know!
Tip #4: Set a curfew to be back in the cabin – just like you would at home!
For the safety of your children – and the sanity of the rest of the passengers – you shouldn’t be letting your children be out roaming the ship at night. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been disturbed by kids running up and down the halls, laughing and pouncing like elephants, until the wee hours of the morning. Who does that? I get it: you’re on vacation. Rules may be a little more flexible and there are lots of great activities for the teens that go until 1:00 am. But make sure your teens know to be respectful to the other passengers and to be back in the cabin immediately after the party is over. And, of course, keep your Buddy near.
Tip #5. No horseplay.
Just like running down the halls at night, when a group of kids or teens get together, they tend to get silly. And they tend to be more daring and may even dare one another to do things that just aren’t safe on a ship. On an 18-deck ship with open balconies a hundred feet above the sea and multi-story atriums, and pools unattended by lifeguards, daredevils can find themselves in danger. Impress on your kids that horseplay is not allowed. No climbing on railings (or furniture near railings) or from one balcony to the next, no leaning out windows or over the edge of the ship, no diving into pools and no racing across slippery pool decks or down steep flights of stairs. Parents and grandparents can help by modeling good behavior.
Tip #6: Adult areas are off limits without parental supervision.
That means bars, discos, the casino and, especially crew-only areas. If the teen lounge isn't happening enough, insist that your teens find one of the other public, high-visibility areas for fun.
Tip #7: Stay sober.
Okay, while some cruise lines may allow kids 18 or older to drink, COME ON! Is that the behavior you want to encourage in your teenager? Just don’t. And stay sober yourself! You not only set the example for your children but you’re not as apt to be safety-conscious if you’re loopy or nursing a hang-over!
Alcohol consumption by minors frequently leads to a whole host of problems. But if parents plan to turn a blind eye to underage drinking onboard (or think their kids might break the rules and acquire booze on the sly), they should at least make sure their teens know not to overdo it and to have a sober friend watching out for them.
Corollary rule: One parent should be sober at all times as well. The last thing kids need is two parents unable to make smart decisions or assist them if they're in trouble.
This list is fairly strict, and we can see parents thinking: How in the world will I get my independent kids to mind these rules? The answer is simple. If they break even one rule, they will suffer the most horrible punishment imaginable: the next 24 hours spent entirely by their parents' sides.
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