We are thinking about cruising on the Spirit in May of 2007 with our 2 kids (5 & 3 yrs), and I wondered how the kids programs were on the ship? Are there lots of activities to do for young children?
How is the kids menu? My son is very picky.
Are the railings on the ship enclosed (so that no little ones can squeeze through)?
We were planning an inside room as this is the only category that will accomodate 4 people, How cramped is it?
For Parents of young children who have cruised before - How crazy are you at the end of the trip?
As you can see, I am very nervous about cruising with them. Any responses will be greatly appreciated!
We cruised the NCL Spirit in March with our 3 and 5 year old and to be very honest, it has some of the best kids facilities at sea in my opinion and we have sailed on Carnival and RCCL. The staff is wonderful, the kid's facilities are exceptional. They have the tubes that the kids can climb through (like at Mc Donalds playland) a ball pit that is cleaned daily, an outdoor play area, a waterpark area called Buccaneer Bay complete with waterslides, a kid's hot tub and wading pool. I never had any concerns with the railings or my kid's safety.
One hint from someone who has been there and done that... we would take the kids to the buffet for dinner around 6:00 and they have an area called kid's corner with kid food like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, fries, etc.. and we would let them go to the kid's club at 7:00. Then d/h and I would have a nice quiet, romantic dinner together at one of the speciality restaurants. we even did the murder mystery dinner. We got try a different place each night and it was wonderful.
The other thing we did was to eat breakfast and lunch in Windows. We could sit down while they would take our order and serve us and that way we weren't fighting the crowds grabbing food and drinks from the buffet for the kids and ourselves (they did not have trays in March at the buffet by the way, big pet peeve of mine, because by the time I get done making several trips back and forth with everyone's food I tell them to go ahead and eat so it is hot and they are generally close to being finished when I finally sit down with my meal) The kids could have just about anything they wanted and the staff tried very hard to accomodate any of their requests. Since my son is about the pickiest eater on earth.
I love cruising with my two children. We have taken them on four cruises in the past year and a half or so and have a fifth one planned for March. I think it is the most cost effective way to take a quality vacation for folks like us with small children. Everyone gets what they want out of the experience. The kids get to be kids and do things geared toward their ages. The parents get to go out on a hot date together everynight if they choose and have some grown-up activities if they want, Then we all get to come together and share our experiences as a family. The other thing I like is that the kids clubs are open for a few hours at a time and they close from 12p.m.-2p.m. and 5p.m.-7p.m. and then if you want to have a few cocktails, listen to the band, or catch a show after dinner they have a late night slumber party for a fee where the kids can hang out (sleep) while you have a fun and guilt free evening.
Be aware that you have to sign up for sitting on port days (for a fee, which is different than most cruise lines) the day before if you intend to leave the kids on the ship while you explore. Otherwise plan something for the whole family and have a blast.
The longest we have cruised with the kids is 13 days and truthfully we could have stayed for another couple of weeks with no problem.
For the most part the only quad cabins available on the Spirit are insides. They are pretty small, however they utilize their space well and we never lacked for storage space.
The main thing that helped maintain everyone's sanity was to be sure that the kids got plenty of rest and if they were cranky or whiney take them back to the cabin or a nap, no matter how much they protest. I even took a few naps with them which did wonders for my mood too.
I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how well you and your kids do.
My dh and I have taken out two boys on several cruises now and we are about to go again in November. We did an NCL cruise last November and the boys loved it (they were 6 and 8). During the lunch and dinner breaks, they would beg us to take them back to the kids' program because they had so much fun there.
As for food, we also often took them to the buffet between 5pm and 7pm so that they could choose exactly what they wanted to eat and then we would enjoy a calm dinner on our own after they were back in the program. If you do take your children to the dining rooms for dinner, keep a couple of things in mind. The service is formal service so your table will be served only one course at a time. That means that if one person orders an appetizer, you will all sit and watch that person eat their appetizer. Once that dish is cleared away, the salads will be served. And so on, until the main course arrives. Usually, the kids only order a main course so they are sitting watching Dad eat his appetizer (or three!). In the meantime, they are getting more hungry and rather bored. You can ask your waiter to bring their main courses earlier in the service and the waiter will do just that. The menu has a lot of wonderful foods on it but there are also always the standy chicken breast, baked potato and so on. NCL also had a kids' menu with mac and cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and burgers so you should be able to find something that they like. And if you want something on the menu but you want it altered (ie. no sauce, sauce on the side) just ask. We have always found the staff ready to do anything they can to satisfy your requests (that is why Dad always gets three appetizers and two main courses!).