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A ‘How-To’ Guide for Cruising With Kids

HAL guest Patricia Sinay submitted this informative post for all those HAL cruisers with questions about cruising with children. Thanks, Patricia!

Why cruise with children?
This cruise, on board ms Oosterdam from April 9-16, along the Mexican Riviera was our second cruise. Both cruises have been with children and with Holland America Line. On our first cruise, we only had one child, our daughter who was 13 months. This time we went with another family and we thus traveled with 4 children between the ages of 2 and 5. Before our first cruise with Solimar, we were concerned that children would annoy the other passengers. As soon as we stepped on the ship, I knew this fear was unfounded. The crew and other guest were so welcoming of our baby. She was treated like a mini-celebrity with everyone calling out her name every time she walked into a room. In response, she would blow kisses and wave hello. Traveling is not new to us or our kids. Both kids’ passport pictures were taken before they were one.

The kids in Puerto Vallarta with ms Rotterdam in the background. From left: Solimar, Isabel, Marcos and Logan.

What we like about cruising with children is that:

● As a family you can visit different places without packing and unpacking
● There is some semblance of a schedule and routine
● The crew is so willing to meet all your needs
● The diversity of food allows our children to eat their favorites while still sampling new foods
● We are able to expose of children to diverse forms of entertainment: from classical violins to musicals

An advantage of cruising with kids from a port in your home town is that you don’t need to deal with airports and flights! Having said that, we would still recommend packing crayons, small toys, play dough, coloring books, books to read, etc. The old adage regarding packing, “pull out everything you want to take and then only pack half,” is applicable when cruising with children. The best way I found to pack for the kid was to select clothes in three categories play/pool; casual; and “formal.” Formal for the little boys really meant clean shorts/pants and button down shirt. The girls love to dress up so this wasn’t an issue.

On our first day (mind you this is a half-day on the ship), my son went through 3 outfits which got me very concerned that the two outfits per day we packed would not be enough. I still can’t explain how, but we actually brought clean clothes home for both kids! I want to reemphasize that kids are very welcomed for dinner in the formal dining room and thus you should not “skip” the experience because of them. This cruise we had the 5:15 seating and the kids joined us for every meal. During our last cruise, we had the 8:00 seating and for several of the nights so we fed Solimar early and had a crew member watch her in our cabin while we enjoyed a nice dinner. If you do chose to eat most of your meals in the Lido though you will be treated to the same great food and will not need to pack dressier clothes. Finally, there is laundry service on board the ship and if you do wash a few items in your room, like we did, they dry very quickly. So again, only pack 50 percent of what you originally select to bring!

The kids dressed for dinner. From left: Solimar (4); Isabel (5); Logan (2); and Marcos (2).

Solimar with a monkey in Las Caletas.

At Puerto Vallarta
Our cruise itinerary was originally Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. A few weeks before we left, we learned that instead of Mazatlan we would be staying overnight in Puerto Vallarta. Though we wish we could have seen Mazatlan, we were very thankful for the extra time to explore Puerto Vallarta. Being there two days allowed us to visit Las Caletas and Yelapas in Banderas Bay, as well as downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Las Caletas is its own tropical, beach hideaway, nestled in a secluded nature preserve on the southern shores of Banderas Bay. It was once the private home of film director John Houston. While there, we kayaked, snorkeled, hiked, played on the beach, ate a wonderful lunch, and interacted with parrots and monkeys. The only thing we would have liked was more time to do everything! Yelapas is a beautiful tiny village, which only recently got access to phones and electricity. While there, you can chose to do nothing on the beautiful beaches or you can take a short hike or horseback ride up to the tropical forest above the village to Yelapa’s 150-foot waterfall. It is easy to arrive there with a water taxi. The ride is about 45 minutes each way. For this reason, we encourage you to arrive early so you can do the hike as well as enjoy the beach and a good lunch before heading back to the ship.

During the evening between the two beach adventures, we took a bus to the malecon. It was a beautiful area to allow the kids to run around, explore the public art, and view artists making amazing sand castles. We had dinner in one of the restaurants recommended by our guidebook and took the local bus back. Taking the local bus was easy and very affordable – $3 for all 8 of us. The kids reminded us on the bus that sometimes the best things in life are adventures that are not expensive – yes, the kids voted the bus ride in Puerto Vallarta – the most fun thing we did on our trip!

In this photo the kids are taking a water taxi to Yelapa in Puerto Vallarta. From left: Isabel (5); Solimar (4); and Marcos (2).

My family at the waterfall in Yelapa.

  • Heidi

    Thanks for the post, Nicole! I will be traveling to Alaska with my 20 month old (and other family members) next month. I had the same concerns about bothering other passengers. My DD behaves well in public so I’m glad to hear we won’t be outcasts!

  • Ine

    So good to read you all enjoyed your cruise, very special to make a cruise with your kids.
    Also that you enjoyed Puerto vallarta, which still is a safe place to go and stay.
    Unfortunately many people stay around the dock and miss so much since there is plenty to see and do. And yes the busdrive can be an adventure.

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