Award-winning author and writer Jeanette Hurt was cruising the Baltic on Prinsendam with her entire family to watch her parents renew their vows. Enjoy her farewell words and her husband (and professional photographer) Kyle Edwards’ photos. You can also follow her on Twitter @JHurtAuthor or www.jeanettehurt.com.
A lot of people told us we were crazy to take a 3-year-old on a 14-day cruise on the Baltic Sea. After all, it’s not a Disney cruise, and the average age of a cruiser hovers closer to 60 than 6. We thought our son would love it, and we were right. But we prepared for our trip.
Here are some thoughts on going on a grown-up cruise with a preschooler:
Pack for your child. We packed an entire (heavy!) backpack with toys and books, and we downloaded a bunch of games, books and Chuggington videos on my husband’s Kindle Fire. Though we try very much to limit our son’s screen time, the Kindle was a lifesaver during my parents’ vows renewal and four-course, sit-down dinners.
Speaking of sit-down dinners, you don’t have to dine in the main, La Fontaine dining room for every dinner. We supped several times there, but QJ really preferred the Lido buffet – he could order whatever he wanted, and it was fast.m Plus, he could run around on the deck after he finished his meal if we were still eating.
Pack your swimsuit. The swimming pool on the Prinsendam is heated, and it’s usually not crowded. QJ played with a couple of nice Dutch boys, who shared their water toys with him.
Participate in the fun. QJ got to play – and win pins – in several of the ship’s bags tournaments, and he also loved playing croquet.
Take snacks on any excursions. You never know when your child might need a nibble, and if you run out of pre-packed snacks, get a box or two of Cheerio’s or some crackers from the Lido.
Leftover Cheerio’s and crackers are also great to feed birds. QJ loved petting a Polish kitty, but he was absolutely delighted to feed some Russian pigeons at Catherine’s Palace and some baby ducks at a Norwegian park.
Stroll and then park. We also took a stroller, and when we didn’t have any planned excursions, we walked – a lot. Copenhagen was the most difficult to navigate, as its sidewalks have cobblestones. But it also had a lot of parks.
In fact, for QJ, Copenhagen was one of his favorite destinations. Just a few blocks away, up the shoreline from the famed Little Mermaid statue, is a gorgeous park that features boat-like climbing structures. After cruising, QJ loved pretending to be the captain or, in some cases, the boat.
And nearby that park is St. Alban’s Church. It’s a darling, little, historical church, but we spent 20 minutes not taking in its beauty, but rather playing with blocks in the kiddie area in the back of the church.
Speaking of kiddie stuff and parks, we went to a lot of parks. Oslo’s famed sculpture park has an awesome playground. Ditto to Klaipeda’s sculpture garden. And we went to this amazing Lithuanian bistro just blocks away from that sculpture park. In fact, we chose that bistro because it was the only one on the square that had a little toy house and some blocks for kids to play with. QJ played with a little Lithuanian girl, and he had just a blast.
Planned excursions were less interesting for QJ, as he didn’t like all the talking, but even on planned excursions, we made sure he had a chance to run around and explore things as much as he could. At the Kashubian Museum, for example, he got to go down a slide in back of the museum. We also made sure to sign up on the one excursion we knew he’d love – the steam engine ride in Germany.
While we didn’t get to see all the museums or churches or nightlife that we previously have enjoyed on trips to Europe, we had a wonderful trip, and our son couldn’t have enjoyed it more. In fact, the day after we returned home, he asked me “Mama, when are we going back to the boat?” Someday, we’ll have to go back to the boat – but next time, it will take us to Alaska or perhaps the Panama Canal.