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Transatlantic Cruise – with Children!

Many people often think about their first cruise, particularly their first cruise with children, and succumb to the idea that they need a short cruise of just three or four days as that first experience. Others will venture out and tackle a seven-night cruise. But what about 14 nights onboard the ship with two children under the age of six years old as their first cruise? Is it even a notion to consider for more than two seconds? Absolutely! A longer cruise is an excellent way to get the most per mile out of one’s journey! But don’t just stop at one!

We are those parents. You know, the ones that love to travel, see the benefit of using the world as an amazing classroom for our children, and don’t mind placing them on a 13-hour nonstop flight with us as we did for a trip to Japan. However, what might make us a little outside the bell curve of normalcy would be that we started the longer trips with our children when our oldest had just celebrated her fifth birthday and our youngest was a mere 15 months old. Let that sink in for a moment: for those who do the World Health Organization’s recommendation of extended breastfeeding until two years old, yes, that is still during that timeframe. And diapers. And strollers. And carseats. And naps. So were we crazy? According to some, YES! But according to us, certainly not! So what are the key points that made this not only work, but create such a fond memory that we opted to cross the Atlantic on a 14-night cruise two more times, with that third crossing occurring at age eight (celebrating her birthday pre-cruise in Barcelona)? Read on!

Family-Friendly Transportation

Choosing our first cruise for our family to be family-friendly, we decided on a Disney cruise. We had read the reviews, loved the opportunity to visit Spain, so why not? Cashing in frequent flyer miles earned on our credit cards, we flew to Barcelona for almost free, incorporating a two-night stopover in New York City to

help break the trip up. The leg from New York City to Barcelona was overnight, so we were able to all catch some rest on the redeye flight before landing the following morning. A quick run through customs and claiming our luggage for the 3 nights in Barcelona followed by the 14-night cruise, we were able to board the public Aerobus by 10am

for a ride to Placa de Catalunya.

We utilized various modes of transportation, including the public metro (subway), public bus, walking with a baby carrier when we knew we would be in tight places, and sometimes utilizing the stroller, ensuring we allowed for naps as needed. While we may have had the only children around, we were able to handle it quite easily – even after that overnight flight!

Family-Friendly Accommodations

Many hotels in Europe my opt to sleep only two persons, or have minimum age levels, but with enough searching or a reputable travel agent, they can be accommodated. For our first trip, we stuck to a hotel in walking distance to Placa de Catalunya and Las Ramblas, but for our next two transatlantic crossings that involved Barcelona, we chose apartments that provided a washing machine and either a dryer or clothes lines. This played into our packing strategy of knowing what to wash and when, especially when we would add on other destinations pre- or post-cruise giving us a full five weeks away from home for a specific trip. For our first transatlantic crossing, we kept it to a total of 20 nights, while our next two crossings were five weeks each.

Going With the Flow

Getting the most per mile out of a trip does not mean running everyone ragged; it means getting the most out of what you can but balancing it in all aspects!

We would always make sure if a child was tired, we let them sleep if it was an option, or if a child needed some play time, we would seek out a local park. While we always try to avoid chain restaurants when traveling, with kids, it can sometimes provide a little bit

of familiarity to see a logo of a restaurant they

see back home even if you do not eat there. Besides, for us adults who may have eaten at a chain restaurant more growing up, it is neat to see the differences from one country to another. As our children grow up into the pre-teen years, we will accommodate as well, like we have on the Panama Canal cruise… another 15-night journey you will see in a future blog post as well as a 23-night transpacific cruise coming soon!

Family-Friendly Cruise Line

After reading reviews, we chose Disney Cruise Line for our first transatlantic crossing, as well as the following two, as it seemed perfect for the ages of our children.

While every cruise line offers several crossings both eastbound and westbound, we chose to use Disney at the younger ages. Now that our children are older, we are not hesitant to consider other cruise lines based on itinerary, dates, and pricing. However, for three crossings (two westbound and one eastbound), Disney fit the bill. The characters onboard made us feel like we were at DisneyWorld without the lines, the kids’ clubs provided fun and learning opportunities (along with a night for adults as well!), and they also offer onboard laundry facilities for a nominal fee. Once again, that played into our packing strategy along with packing cubes and planning out the wardrobe in advance in accordance with the cruise calendar.

Family-Friendly Staterooms

But not to forget about the actual cruise, the cruise ships are made for lengthy crossings as well! In fact, we enjoyed a room on deck 2 with a window so much that

we had it again a few years later! Our children were able to safely watch the waves,

dolphins and skies without any worries from us parents. A sofa bed, bunk bed, or even pack-and-play could be provided for children, and choosing that stateroom wisely to know which ones may be three feet longer than the rest within the same category helps as well (a great reason to choose a knowledgable cruise specialist).

Family-Friendly Dining

If there is anything about a cruise, it is the fact that there is no shortage of food. Rarely does one disembark a cruise and step on the scale to exclaim they lost weight! Cruises provide a variety of food options and venues, including dietary restrictions such as sugar-free, gluten-free, low sodium, and more! Even the pickiest of eaters can always find something to eat, and the dining room is great at anticipating the needs of children. I think

my youngest was stuck on fruit, milk, and corn-on-the-cob during her age of her first cruise at 15 months old, so those three things were always waiting for us at the dinner table on arrival so we would not have to wait for meals to arrive to feed her. In fact, a few nights she even slept in her stroller next to the table after dinner while we ate, or we would run her to Flounder’s Nursery so we could enjoy a longer dining experience (while the older daughter headed off to Kids’ Club for the evening). Score!! Unexpected date night!

Of course, when in port and needing to try out the local gelato, it is important to enjoy it to the fullest. A little mess has never hurt anyone!

And speaking of Date Night…

Making time to have that alone time with your spouse or significant other is crucial. We all know tight living spaces with children can make us go a little cuckoo, so carve out that time for some one-on-one time with that special someone! In our case, it may be while one kid is napping on the lounge chairs of the promenade deck and we are watching the coast of Africa go by.

Getting the most per mile out of a long cruise, particularly a transatlantic crossing with children, needs to have a fine balance of each and every person in your family, so don’t forget to concentrate on your sweetie!

Relaxing on a Cruise

Another important aspect of a family-friendly cruise line is the opportunity for relaxation – for everyone in the family! Whether it is enjoying the multiple days of watching the ocean go buy without a single other sight on the horizon, or relaxing with a glass of wine by the pool while the kids are at kids’ club running around (or napping in the stroller next to you), being able to relax is imperative on any family vacation. A cruise allowed us to have a variety of options yet not walk a mile between our spot at a moment in time to the room should a little one be getting fussy for a nap. Five minutes, max!

Sunrises and Sunsets

Taking time to enjoy an amazing sunset is another imperative item to add to your mental to-do list. When going westbound, you are gaining an hour each day and getting to have those 25 hour days, so you must watch the clock! The cruise lines

are great at posting sunrise and sunset times on the ship’s navigational channels on your television screen inside your stateroom. Whether it is strolling the promenade deck after dinner or waking up for an early morning walk, it is so peaceful to see those sunrises and sunsets, or playing a game with your family to see who can spot the sun kissing the ocean first! In fact, as seen in the image below, you can incorporate geography into watching that sunset by asking your children which country is on the right and which country is on the left as you are passing through the Strait of Gibraltar to head out into the Atlantic Ocean!

Reminding them that you were just in Europe (on the right) and rounding the northern coast of Africa (on the left) will help put it into perspective for them, allowing for another educational moment onboard. How often is it children are able to see two different continents while standing in one place? While it is great to see Africa from on land in Gibraltar, it is awesome seeing Africa on one side of the ship and Europe on the other!

Learning about our Oceans

During any cruise, the ship’s navigational channel provides a plethora of information. All guests are able to track the ship’s current position, distance to next port (as well as distance from last port), and see the images of the nearby land and waters.

I always love watching the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as we cross it, wondering what stories the mountains underneath us have to tell. Talking about the crustal plates below the ocean floor, and then even incorporating a post-cruise visit later to see the separation of North America and Europe above ground in Iceland brings learning to life! The educational components are another way to get the most per mile on any journey, and in particular on a lengthy cruise such as a transatlantic crossing… even when you have children with you!

Learning about our Ports

Often times, a transatlantic cruise will stop in ports you would not have normally planned to vacation at. Taking those opportunities to learn about other cultures,

visit local churches, and experience previous modes of transportation at a port of call help one get the most per mile out of a vacation experience, especially a longer cruise. Whether it is a guided shore excursion, or on your own, children absorb the local culture and pick up on things we miss as adults!

Having Fun

Most importantly, remember that a transatlantic cruise with children is all about having fun as a family as well in getting the most per mile out of your vacation!

Be sure to let your hair down and ride that waterslide with them, attend a princess tea, and try your hand at trivia! Being on a cruise ship, your stateroom is never more more than five minutes’ away if you need to change clothes or run back to grab your camera. Isn’t life about having fun?

As Captain Mickey Says

“See ya real soon!” for another blog post coming soon on how to get the most per mile out of whatever you are wishing to do!

Possible Curriculum Correlations in Texas:

(7) Earth and space. The student knows that the natural world includes rocks, soil, and water that can be observed in cycles, patterns, and systems. The student is expected to:

(A) observe, compare, describe, and sort components of soil by size, texture, and color;

(B) identify and describe a variety of natural sources of water, including streams, lakes, and oceans;

(10) Earth and space. The student understands the structure of Earth, the rock cycle, and plate tectonics. The student is expected to:

(A) build a model to illustrate the structural layers of Earth, including the inner core, outer core, mantle, crust, asthenosphere, and lithosphere;

(B) classify rocks as metamorphic, igneous, or sedimentary by the processes of their formation;

(C) identify the major tectonic plates, including Eurasian, African, Indo-Australian, Pacific, North American, and South American; and

(D) describe how plate tectonics causes major geological events such as ocean basins, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building.

(10) Solid Earth. The student knows that plate tectonics is the global mechanism for major geologic processes and that heat transfer, governed by the principles of thermodynamics, is the driving force. The student is expected to:

(A) investigate how new conceptual interpretations of data and innovative geophysical technologies led to the current theory of plate tectonics;

(B) describe how heat and rock composition affect density within Earth’s interior and how density influences the development and motion of Earth’s tectonic plates;

(C) explain how plate tectonics accounts for geologic processes and features, including sea floor spreading, ocean ridges and rift valleys, subduction zones, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, hot spots, and hydrothermal vents;

(D) calculate the motion history of tectonic plates using equations relating rate, time, and distance to predict future motions, locations, and resulting geologic features;

(E) distinguish the location, type, and relative motion of convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries using evidence from the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes; and

(F) evaluate the role of plate tectonics with respect to long-term global changes in Earth’s subsystems such as continental buildup, glaciation, sea level fluctuations, mass extinctions, and climate change.

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