Cruise holidays offer something for groups of all ages, so no wonder so many families are choosing to sail together. Sara Macefield has the lowdown on the growing trend for multigenerational cruising
Taking a cruise isn’t just about crossing the world’s oceans and rivers – it’s crossing the generational divide, too, as more grandparents join children and grandchildren for family holidays at sea.
Cruise lines may have earned their stripes when it comes to catering for parents and their kids, but now multigenerational groups have woken up to the appeal of taking trips on ships for big family gatherings, and it’s easy to see why.
Where else can so many different ages explore a host of interesting places in one trip, and enjoy extraordinary, unforgettable experiences together, stress-free? And where else can three, or even four, generations find the right balance of contrasting activities, entertainment and restaurants all in one place to keep everyone happy?
“Cruising as a multigenerational group brings benefits as families can choose to do as much or as little together as they wish,” explains Nick Wilkinson, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Vice-President and MD, UK & Ireland. “Quite simply, there is something for everyone, all on the same ship.”
From fun-filled ship water parks guaranteed to keep youngsters in splashing heaven to adventurous activities on shore for parents looking for an adrenaline kick, and engaging outings for grandparents craving cultural immersion, cruises offer opportunities on every level.
And, as the choice of new ships widens with an ever-growing range of facilities, so does their appeal to diverse family groups.
Of course, cruising with several generations doesn’t have to mean spending all your time together. In fact, cruises are particularly good for multigenerational groups due to the range of activities you can do apart as well as together, says Celebrity Cruises UK & Ireland Vice-President and MD Jo Rzymowska.
“Adults can enjoy well-earned pampering in the spa, dine in speciality restaurants or simply relax in a cabana on the top deck, safe in the knowledge that the kids are being well looked after in the children’s clubs with other youngsters of their own age,” she says.
Families with older children often choose to go their own separate ways during the day, then meeting up as a group for dinner to share details of their adventures.
Choosing the right cruise for everyone
Like most aspects of choosing the perfect cruise holiday, it all comes down to picking the right ship and cruise line for you and your family.
The bigger the vessel, the wider the choice of onboard attractions for each generation to enjoy and the more geared up they are for younger guests, with kids clubs, children’s play areas, buffet restaurants, family-friendly entertainment and shore excursions.
There’s also a bigger selection of accommodation – ranging from inter-connecting cabins to extensive suites with two or three bedrooms and general living area.
Nick Wilkinson says NCL’s Haven suite complexes prove popular with multigenerational groups who book villas or suites and can then benefit from the Haven’s other facilities, such as the private pool, restaurant and deck area.
“In the Haven, they can enjoy the luxury of a small ship experience, but within the confines of a larger ship and the features that come with resort-style cruising like world-class
entertainment, multi-faceted dining and all the activities and clubs that take care of everyone’s needs,” he says.
NCL is famous for its “Freestyle” flexible style of cruising that lends itself to families who don’t want to be tied down to set dining times, but Wilkinson stresses that NCL’s cruises are also all-inclusive – with drinks and gratuity charges included in the upfront price – making it simpler for families to budget in advance and relax on the cruise without worrying about the onboard bill.
However, even cruise lines that don’t include such items in the fare offer drinks packages and children’s “soda cards” for an extra charge. And, of course, there is ample free food, free water and soft drink dispensers.
Cruising from the UK is another plus as the absence of airport hassles and ease of sailing away from home shores make it ideal for family groups with elderly grandparents and/or very young grandchildren.
With so many advantages to cruising as an extended family group, the positives definitely outweigh any negatives. But you may want to consider that limited time in ports and the cost of excursions for large groups may mean it can be more cost-effective to arrange your own small group tour.
Another tip is to get everyone involved in planning the cruise so that they all feel as though it’s their holiday. Let the kids choose group activities, take it in turns to choose
the restaurants and excursions, and make sure you all have time to yourselves, too.
Family cruises for all budgets
If you want to cruise with several generations but are not keen on larger ships, then upscale lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises also cater for family groups with older children and deeper pockets.
At the other end of the market, former adult-only value brand Cruise & Maritime Voyages offered its first multigenerational cruises last summer and they proved so successful it is repeating them this year.
Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson) has always been popular with families but the line’s new, larger ships boasting more facilities has given it added scope to cater for multigenerational groups.
The likes of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and CMV, which generally attract an older clientele, tend to find that demand for family groups is led by regular customers wanting to bring children and grandchildren on board.
Such has been the growth in multigenerational cruises, global cruising body the Cruise Lines International Association has already marked this sector out as one to watch, and predicts it will continue to increase in popularity. But it also forecasts this year will see the rise of “skip-generation” trips where grandparents take grandchildren away without the parents.
Either way, multigenerational cruising is clearly here to stay, as confirmed by P&O Cruises Senior Vice-President Paul Ludlow.
“We continue to see a rise in interest across all demographics and age ranges, including millennials and Generation Xers,” he says. “Today cruising is the new cool and we offer something for all generations.”