My family and I (mom, dad and three boys: 10, 7 and 5) will be "first-timers" in April. We'll be on the Celebrity Century, transatlantic from Florida to Barcelona.
Can anyone give us information on transatlantic cruising? What to expect, what's available for kids... Any info will be appreciated!
Your itinerary looks wonderful!
>> MV Century has a children's center and a youth center with professional staff who run daytime and evening programs broken out by age groups. You are cruising at a time when there probably will not be many children aboard because most schools are in session. I saw perhaps a couple dozen children of various ages aboard MV Galaxy during the tranatlantic cruise last November and aboard GTS Millennium in October of 2004, though, so your children probably will find some new friends. The good news is that the number of children will be quite manageable for the youth staff. Most children seem to enjoy the organized programs immensely, so Mom and Dad can relax in the knowledge that their children are in good hands and have a real vacation.
BTW, Celebrity's program for minors officially is divided into three basic age groups defined by the age of the youngsters as of embarkation day. The children's program is ages 3-7, the youth program is ages 8-12, and the teen program is ages 13-17. On salings during school vacations, which typically have hundreds of minors, this division tends to be pretty strict but the staff further subdivides each age group according to numbers and natural gaps in the ages of the participants. On cruises that have relatively few minors, however, they may deviate from the normal breakdown according to the actual ages of the children. It's obviously better to group a couple seven-year-olds with a couple eight-year-olds than with a couple four-year-olds, and, likewise, to group a couple thirteen-year-olds with a couple twelve-year-olds rather than with a couple seventeen-year-olds.
>> On days at sea, you'll find more activities for adults than you can possibly attend. On itineraries that spend several days at sea, cruise lines arrange a lot more shipboard activities than would be possible on a cruise that has many ports of call. This typically includes two or three guest lecturers, each of whom will present a series of lectures on various subjects of interest. On Celebrity Cruises, British ship historian John Maxtone-Graham consistently draws raves for his series of lectures on the history of passenger liners and modern cruise ships. He was aboard both of my transatlantic cruises, though there's no guarantee that he will be one of the presenters on your cruise. You may also find a guest chef presenting cooking demonstrations, a person teaching classes in various crafts, etc. Celebrity Cruises also presents a wine and food pairing seminar during each cruise. If you play bridge or would like to learn the game, there's usually a lesson each morning at sea and tournament play each afternoon at sea. Of course, all of this is optional. You can also work out in the fitness center, get a massage or other treatment at the spa, swim in the ship's pools, sunbathe, or find a quiet spot, either in a lounge or on deck, and curl up with a good book from the ship's library. There are also matinee showongs of current movies in the ship's cinema when the ship is at sea.
Here, I should mention that the longes on the ship's promenades have a certain magical property. If you sit in one of them, you probably will find that all the cares of the world will fade into oblivion and any efforts to read are likely to prove futile, and that you will lose all sense of the passage of time. You may even enter into an altered state of consciousness. If you decide to give these lounges a try, be sure to do so on the shady promenade! The lounges on the sunny promenade tend to make for the "lobster" look, and much discomfort.
>> As far as meals are concerned, Celebrity seems to do a good job of catering to children. For breakfast and lunch, there's a buffet area with many choices in addition to the main dining oom. For breakfast, there's also a waffle bar and an egg/omelette station in or near the buffet area (ask a member of the crew if you can't find them). For lunch, there's also a pizza and pasta bar and a grill by the pool that serves decent burgers, hot dogs, sausages, etc. I seriously recommend that you plan to eat dinner in the dining room most evenings, as the dining room does cater very well to children. There's a children's menu in the dining room, but children also may order any of the selections on the regular menu. There's also an alternative menu for adults that's always available, though Celebrity does not advertise the fact. You can order shrimp cocktail, a garden salad with your choice of vegetables, plain pasta with tomato sauce, a grilled chicken breast, a grilled sirloin steak, etc., even if they are not on the menu. You probably will get just about anything, within reason, if you simply ask for it.
The youth staff usually organize a couple dinner meals in the youth center for that age group during the cruise, but probably not for the younger group.
>> Celebrity's evening shows are suitable for all ages, and your children undoubtedly will enjoy them. The children's, youth, and teen centers also offer evening activities for various age groups. There are also several lounges throughout the ship that have various entertainers (pianist/singer, guitarist/singer, etc.), karioke, and other activities throughout the evening. There's also live music for dancing in the "Rendez-Vous Square" area.
>> Your sons should conform to the published standards for formal, informal, and casual evenings, as prescribed in the daily program. You probably will have three formal evenings, three informal evenings, and six casual evenings -- and formal DOES mean FORMAL on Celebrity. If your boys don't have dark business suits, ask about a "cruise package" at a local tuxedo shop. You might inquire of the staff of the youth center and the children's center what is normal for evening activities there, especially on formal and informal nights. I honestly don't know whether the youngsters usually change out of their formalwear before going there for evening activities or whether they have "dress-up" evening activities.
>> Be sure to book shore excursoins for the whole family in your ports of call, as they will be fantastic educational experiences for your children. The excursions in Lisbon and perhaps also in Cadiz probably will last most of the day and include lunch because there's a lot to see and to do in these ports.
If you are looking for packing guidelines, I recently posted my packing list for a two-week cruise and an adaptation thereof for women on the "packing" board n reply to a querry about how to pack for a cruise of that duration.
Again, welcome to the world of cruising, and have a wonderful vacation!