Cruise review – a single parent’s guide to cruising!
…a cruise should be a no-brainer for families
particularly single parent families…
Everyone loves a holiday – but a single parent family holiday can often leave that single parent feeling just as stressed and exhausted as ever!
After all, there is still all the organising, packing, travelling, unpacking and then – well, the kids don’t stop eating, making clothes dirty, or needing to be entertained, now do they? So although the kids are looked after, poor old mum or dad is not – and this is where cruise holidays come in…
My single-parent family recently took a South Pacific cruise. This wasn’t our first cruise, and it certainly won’t be our last. Why? Well when you think about it, a cruise should be a no-brainer for families, particularly single parent families. And here’s why…
Cruises make great holiday financial sense
For starters, cruises are a good value for money. Once you look past the initial outlay, almost everything is included in your ticket cost.
Before committing to a cruise, if you have the luxury of time up your sleeve it can be useful to do some online research. Keep an eye on each cruise companies website, and sign-up to their newsletters. In particular, watch their ticket prices for a few months before you go. That way, you should be able to snap up a dip in prices, an advertised sale or limited-offer bargain from an online promotion, or a Sunday newspaper travel section sales ad. You could save hundreds of dollars – or score a free upgrade to a balcony room!
As mentioned, most cruise holiday costs are factored in to your ticket purchase – accommodation, meals, (non-alcoholic) drinks, entertainment, housekeeping, etc. So once you’re paid up and on-board, you can pick and choose any extras you’d like to splash out on, but your essentials are taken care of. If you have the self-restraint to resist the extras thrown into your path every day, this makes for a very budget-able holiday that is not going to leave you with unexpected credit card bills!
Cruises give you a much-needed break from housework
For single parents, the attraction of no cooking, washing up or making the beds cannot be understated – no, really – that blissful break from domestic chores alone is probably enough to seal the holiday deal for many a single mum or dad!
No matter what kind of cabin your budget allows for, your friendly cabin attendant will make the beds, tidy up, clean the bathroom and stock up your towels. He/she will also turn your beds down at night – and if you’re lucky (usually every second night), they’ll leave a cute cruise tradition in your cabin for you – a novelty rolled-towel animal sculputure!
So all you really need to do is get up in the morning, organise the kids and then decide where you want to eat – and what fun things you all want to do that day – ahhh!
No one has ever starved to death on a cruise
Most cruise ships have several restaurants, including all-you-can-eat buffet-types and a la carte dining. Throw in some casual cafes dotted around the ship with unlimited snacks, and often access to free room service and you have a no-cooking, no-washing-up and no-worries parent dream – bon apetite!
Cruises have free child care
One of the great aspects of cruising is that you can spend as much (or as little!) time with the kids as you want. Baby care centres and kids clubs usually run three sessions daily, including an evening session, that you and the kids can pick-and-choose from. Older children can sign themselves in and out, and dedicated teen “hang-out” areas are also available to keep the older kids occupied – they can wander in and out as they please until a teen curfew (usually) kicks in around midnight.
If the kids are happily installed in a club, this could be the perfect time to spoil yourself with a guilt-free pamper session at the beauty spa ($$) – or even a self-indulgent swim that doesn’t involve holding up a flailing toddler, or constant child-surveillance! Close your eyes, kick back and breeeathe!
Single parents can re-join the adult human race in the evenings
In the evenings, on-board shows are the traditional entertainment choice, and are a fun part of the cruise experience. Slightly daggy musicals and comedians abound, but these abbreviated Broadway-type extravaganzas are family-friendly (if the kids want to join you for the early session), and short enough to not become boring.
As mentioned, kids club/child-minding sessions also run in the evening, so you actually have the option of getting out there with the other adult humans – and let’s face it, this is usually a rarity for single parents!
Here is the perfect opportunity to embarrass yourself in a Karaoke bar, or perhaps bust some moves in one of the night clubs or piano lounges. Alcoholic drinks are an extra cost, however drink prices are reasonable – around normal on-land bar prices.
Cruises keep everyone entertained
When you are not island-hopping, there’s no need to worry if the kids (or yourself!) are going to get bored whilst on the ship. If you are the organised type, there are daily schedules delivered to your room every night to help you plan the following day, with more to do than you could ever possibly cover!
Depending on your ships facilities, you can choose from exhausting the kids with non-stop swimming, water-sliding, rock climbing, game arcades, mini-golf – even ice skating on some of the larger ships.
Chill-out in the afternoon and get the family together for some fun team-trivia, a talent show, or perhaps try your luck at bingo ($$).
If you’re a fitness fanatic, or worried about all those delectable deserts you’re giving-in to every night, you’ll find an exercise track to haul yourself around for a brisk walk or jog – or get yourself to the onboard gym – after all – the more you work-out, the more guilt-free deserts you can consume!
Two ships passing in the night? Cruise Romances
If you’re hoping for romance on the high-seas, or perhaps just a fleeting holiday romance, cruising is probably not the ideal holiday choice – at least for single parents.
Apart from the obviously advertised “party”-type cruises, mainstream cruising still carries a bit of a “staid” or “old persons holiday” stigma, and to a certain degree, that’s true – there is a good percentage of over-50s cruising the high-seas. That said, the balance is made up of younger people and families – mostly couple families. This makes for a nice social dynamic but perhaps doesn’t really encourage a large “singles” – or should we say – single parent crowd. Singles events are usually held during cruises, but are not a big feature.
So for single parents, if you are looking for love, cruises are perhaps a less-likely place to find a potential partner – but then again, never say never!
Extras to budget for
Cruise ships make a good slice of their profit on on-board spending – so prepare to be bombarded with constant sales-pitches.
Art auctions, Bingo games ($$), a busy casino, a beauty spa – every day there is a “special sale” aimed at whatever your shop-aholic weakness might just happen to be!
Ship photographers snap pics of everyone, everywhere onboard and where the ship stops at too – it’s a strong person that can resist a photo of their grinning child in front of a cheesily-dressed fake-pirate on a tropical isle gangway! You’re looking at anywhere from $15-$30 per pic, or you can buy a photo package for more pics for your money.
There are a few well-stocked on-board shops full of kitschy-souvenirs and different product sales each night, crowded with people non-sense-ically buying cheap watches and sunglasses that they probably don’t need. Duty-Free luxury goods and cosmetics can offer some good bargains – once the ship leaves land, you’re in Duty-Free waters!
And as if all-you-can eat and (included) 3-course dinner restaurants weren’t enough, there are specialty restaurants (extra cost) dotted throughout the ship, not to mention pay-cafes with the “good coffee”.
But these of course are all optional, and easily avoided if you don’t want to hike up the on-board account shock at the end of the holiday!
Tips – many cruise lines pre-charge you for tips (Aussies are notoriously bad tippers), however some don’t, or you still may want to give a little cash bonus on top to a favourite waiter or your cabin attendant, so you may want to remember to keep some extra cash for this purpose too.
Cruising is proving itself to be a good single-parent option in the competitive single parent holiday stakes.
If you do your pre-cruise planning well in both price and cruise line, you should end up with a good-value holiday where the focus is on family, and some valuable parent me-time on the side – and that’s got to be a single parent plus. Bon Voyage!
Are you a single parent that has been on a cruise? Did you love it, or hate it? Tell us below!