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5 Myths About Family Cruises – Debunked

Watch out for these common misconceptions, from lackluster cuisine to cramped cabins and more.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Myths About Family Cruises

Smiling mother and daughter traveling on big cruise ship.

New innovations and onboard entertainment offerings are redefining the family cruising concept, and many widespread beliefs have become outdated.(iStockPhoto)

Many families love cruising thanks to excellent vacation values that include accommodations, meals and activities bundled into one fixed rate, versatile onboard activities and the chance to explore diverse destinations. Yet, there are still families who shy from cruising for a variety of reasons – from slow Wi-Fi connections and limited dining options to cramped stateroom categories that can't accommodate larger groups. However, with today's cruise lines catering to diverse tastes, ages and price points, now is a smart time to reconsider how you think about cruising, and find a ship and itinerary that caters to you and your travel companions. Here are five myths about setting sail as a family – some of which may have been true in the past, but are no longer the norm.

Myth: Cruises aren't ideal for large families.

It used to be that staterooms on cruise ships were designed for two to four guests. Fortunately, as larger families have continued to set sail, family cruises have become a top choice for multigenerational vacations and major cruise lines have taken notice, adding family suites and lounges. On Royal Caribbean International's Quantum-class ships, for example, Royal Family Suites can sleep up to eight people in two bedrooms. Or, consider setting sail with Carnival Cruise Lines. Designed with families in mind, Family Harbor staterooms on the new Carnival Vista offer kid-friendly features, such as access to a family concierge and child-size bathrobes. Plus, Carnival's family-friendly ships offer enticing onboard amenities, such as complimentary late-night babysitting service and soft-serve ice cream in the family lounge.

Myth: Wi-Fi speeds are abysmal on cruise ships.

While cruise ships do rely on satellite signals for high-speed Internet, slow Wi-Fi is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Royal Caribbean offers Voom, high-speed Internet access, which the company touts as the "fastest Internet at sea" on all of their ships. Starting at $9.99 per day for one device (with a pre-cruise discount promotion), the line offers various packages to meet the photo-sharing and Web-surfing needs of passengers. While nearly all ships charge for onboard Wi-Fi, if you just want to be able to text family members while on the ship, Princess Cruises offers a free Princess@Sea Messenger mobile-friendly service, so you can stay in touch with family members, whether they're inside the spa or at the kids club. Many lines also offer free mobile apps with access to daily onboard activities.

Myth: The food is subpar on cruise ships.

Gone are the days of wilted lettuce and picked-over vegetables in the buffet line. These days, every major cruise line offers alternative dining experiences aboard its ships, including steakhouses. On Norwegian Cruise Line's newer ships, such as Getaway and Epic, guests can choose from Japanese cuisine, French fare and even an upscale Brazilian steakhouse.

Carnival also has a fine dining option, The Chef's Table, which includes a private dinner and Champagne reception, as well as a galley tour. Many cruise lines have also partnered with celebrity chefs and now offer an array of gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well as dishes for those with special dietary needs.

Myth: Cruise vacations are too expensive.

Cruise lines offer huge benefits to those traveling as part of a large group. On Norwegian, two passengers can cruise for free when 14 passengers and seven cabins are booked. That translates to significant savings and may be ideal for those planning a family reunion or a multigenerational vacation. Oftentimes, families can score onboard credits for large group bookings, too.

A number of lines also offer "kids cruise free" promotions. On MSC Cruises, kids 12 and under can sail for free when they share a cabin with their parents. You'll also want to look for reduced rates and offers that allow third and fourth passengers to cruise for free or at a 50 percent discount, which a number of mainstream cruise lines offer frequently.

Myth: Picky kids won't find much to eat on a cruise ship.

While every child has a different palate, with the diverse array of meal options available on cruise ships these days, even the pickiest of eaters will find a tasty meal. And kid-friendly buffets are becoming more then norm. Norwegian, for example, has a small buffet of kid-friendly favorites, like chicken nuggets. Some lines even offer character breakfasts. Of course, Disney Cruise Line features character breakfasts with meet-and-greets, but other lines, like Royal Caribbean, do as well. Royal Caribbean's DreamWorks Character Breakfast (on select ships, including Anthem of the Seats, Quantum of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and more) allows children to meet Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and more beloved characters. To ensure availability and the best rates, book your trip well in advance.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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