As we disembarked our Royal Caribbean International cruise ship at our first port of call in Messina, Sicily, our 16-year-old son asked a question we weren’t expecting: “It’s Tuesday today, right?”
His question reminded me of a 1969 movie If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium, whose title makes light of the whirlwind nature of European bus tour schedules. Even though our RCCL ship made port stops in several different countries in a relatively short time, we found that travelling by cruise ship turned what would otherwise have been a whirlwind trip into a comfortable endeavor.
Cruising is an easy way to show kids many different cultures and sites in a short amount of time. Since you only have to unpack once, you save much of the hassle and time that goes with flying or driving to various destinations and checking into different hotels each night. You explore sites together at different ports of call and spend evenings and travel days relaxing and playing at your floating resort.
A generation ago, family travel was an untapped market in the cruise industry, but even the most luxurious cruise ships being built today have plenty of family-friendly amenities. Our family enjoyed many of the amenities on Navigator of the Seas including the teen clubs, a disco, mini-golf, inline skating, a basketball court, a video gaming centre, a fitness centre, playgrounds, pools with waterslides, an ice rink, and a rock climbing wall. A specially trained entertainment crew planned activities and onboard entertainment specifically for kids and teens and kept ours so busy they didn’t even have time to ask: “Are we there yet?”
Our only problem seemed to be the fact that our teenagers couldn’t quite remember what day it actually was.
On an epic journey visiting several countries and historical sites in a short amount of time with people of different ages and interests, it isn’t surprising that each individual had different highlights. Here’s what our family enjoyed most about experiencing Europe by cruise ship.
Great Value: When you consider that all your food, non-alcoholic drinks, entertainment, accommodations and transportation are included, cruising can be an inexpensive way to see Europe. A 7-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas in an ocean view cabin this July will start at about $1100 per person including all taxes and fees. (www.royalcaribbean.com) This does not include the cost of airfare.
Food: Our kids loved unlimited free soft ice-cream cones, pizza, and burgers onboard. They also liked trying some of the finer foods in the dining room (but they don’t always admit that).
Rome: Visiting the Vatican Museum and seeing the roof of the Sistine Chapel and standing inside the Roman Colosseum.
Messina, Sicily: Enjoying fresh-made cannoli while watching and listening to the bell tower performance in the main square of town.
Athens, Greece: Realizing that the Acropolis is as beautiful in real life as it is in photographs.
Ephesus, Turkey: Seeing the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean and the remains of the city where the Gospel of John may have been written and St. Paul is said to have been imprisoned.
Kusadasi, Turkey: Shopping in the markets and purchasing a “genuine fake watch.”
Crete, Greece: Relaxing on a sandy beach alongside the beautiful blue Mediterranean Ocean.
Cruise Passenger Safety Tips:
The cruise line industry has long claimed that cruising is one of the safest holidays you can take, but recent serious incidents involving two Costa ships have caused travellers to put that assertion under closer scrutiny. The industry has responded by emphasizing their continued commitment to make cruise vacations even safer and more enjoyable for travellers around the world. “Safety is the cruise industry’s number one priority and nothing is more important,” said Lanie Morgenstern, spokeswoman for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). “This is reflected in our outstanding safety record, which compares very favorably with any other comparable sector.”
It is in the best interest of the cruise line industry to ensure that cruise holidays are safe, but individual passengers must also use common sense and do what they would do at home to ensure their own personal health and safety.
l Actively participate and pay full attention during the ship’s muster drills – evacuation procedures vary by cruise line.
l Make a plan with those you are sailing with in case of emergency.
l Inform the ship’s staff of any special requirements or allergies you may have.
l Avoid participation in risky behaviors such as excessive consumption of alcohol, accepting drinks from strangers, or admitting strangers into your cabin.
l Report any safety concerns or suspicious activity to ship security.
l Leave your valuables at home and use the safe in your cabin to hold money and documents. If you win big at the casino or purchase an expensive piece of jewelry, make use of the main ship safe.
lDon’t flash your money around – onboard or on shore. This can make you a target for crime.
l Book all cruise vacations through a trusted travel professional who can assist you in travel planning and help if there is a problem with your trip.
l Purchase medical, cancellation and interruption insurance.
l Keep a photocopy of your passport, credit card info, insurance info and driver’s license at home or with friends/family where it can be accessed if needed.
l Stick with friends both onboard and on shore. If you are travelling alone, consider taking the group shore excursions offered on the ship.
Did you know? – You can check out your ship’s sanitization report card on the CDC website before you book your trip at: www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.