With your kids, your partner or your parents in town, it can be tough to make sure everyone is having the best time ever on a weekend getaway. Well, we've got good news: On a 3- or 4-day cruise, there's something for everyone, from heart-pumping thrills to lounging on untouched beaches. While the kids build castles out of glistening white sand, the adults can taste the delicious staples of local cuisine. It's time to embark on an unforgettable journey that the whole family will be talking about for decades. And to help you make the most of your epic family weekend adventure, here are some tips for how to survive — and plan for — your upcoming expedition with the whole family.
Whether you start your cruise in Miami, Florida, or Galveston, Texas, be sure to book some local activities ahead of time to kick off your adventure in the best way. Make the most of your port of departure by planning to arrive the day before your cruise. Take the kids to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier for a night full of rides and carnival food. If you're departing from Miami, buy tickets to the Perez Art Museum in advance, so you can make the family-friendly contemporary art exhibits part of your weekend fun. Even though the greatest adventures are yet to come, your family will start making memories before they even step foot on the ship.
It can be stressful to find activities for the kids and their friends as you try to relax on your weekend getaway. By booking things in advance, you give your kids the adventure of a lifetime and yourself the chance to lounge stress-free after you depart. Choose a Bahamas cruise and plan an excursion to Perfect Day at CocoCay, where the kids can conquer the tallest waterslide in North America, while you can sip on rum cocktails at the swim-up bar. Then, plan to float down the lazy river with the whole family at Atlantis resort on Nassau Island. With activities booked and an itinerary planned in advance, you'll be able to take in the beautiful sights in peace, while the kids have the best weekend ever.
Adventures abound no matter where you choose to cruise but picking the right vacation destination can help make the whole family happy. If you're looking for a Bahamian paradise, where you can show the kids the stunning beauty of the Caribbean, choose the 3- or 4-night Bahamas cruise. You'll depart from Miami, Florida through CocoCay to Nassau and back, hitting the highlights of The Bahamas. If you're hoping to find a private paradise, this cruise is the right one for your family. To experience even more of what the Caribbean has to offer, head out on a Western Caribbean cruise, where you'll dip your toes in the white-sand beaches of Nassau before soaring over the world's longest over water zip line in Labadee, Haiti. With beauty behind every corner, you can't do your family wrong with either option.
While you may spend your getaway days chasing your kids around the ship deck or across a Mexican beach, you can always find some peace and quiet on a weekend cruise. Check the children into Adventure Ocean for a few hours during the day while you're at sea, and make your way to the adults-only pool to sip on some cocktails. Or head to the fitness center for a seaside workout. With your kids splashing around in the on-deck surf simulator, while you and your spouse enjoy the ocean breeze flowing through your hair, you'll all be having the time of your lives.
As soon as you step off the boat, it's time for an adventure that everyone will enjoy. Start the day with beach-side Bahamian conch salad, with local-caught shellfish served refreshingly with citrus and cilantro. Finish off by shopping for artisanal items at the huge Festival Place in Nassau. If you're enjoying time in Key West, take a stroll down Duval Street before diving into a piece of Key Lime Pie. Or if you find yourself in Cozumel, Mexico, head to Tulum to teach the kids about the Mayan ruins. And when the whole family needs a break, take a stroll to nearby Akumal Beach, or relax by the pool when you arrive back at the ship. There really is something for everyone in each travel destination.
Part of cruising through the Western Caribbean is experiencing the local culture and learning about its centuries-old history. Help the kids learn about the past by making historical exploration fun for everyone. Climb the steps of the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico, and listen to local pirate tales in Nassau, The Bahamas. Between the stone artifacts of centuries past and the stories of intrigue and adventure, your little explorers will learn a ton while having a blast. A little imagination can go a long way.
Devouring different kinds of food is one of the best parts of traveling, no matter where your destination is. Be sure to research your ports of call ahead of time to find the best local spots and delicious regional food. In Nassau, try the fried shellfish specialty "cracked conch" or pigeon peas and rice, a Bahamian staple flavored with tomatoes, thyme and a hint of bacon. In Labadee, Haiti, tuck into the traditional fried pork dish griot or the hearty wheat porridge labouyi ble. Creating a foodie wish list ahead of time is a good way to ensure that there's something tasty for everyone to enjoy no matter where you go. So, whether you're chowing down on a plate of conch fritters in Key West or testing your spice limit with some cochinita pibil — slow-roasted pork with fiery spices and bright citrus — in the Yucatan, you can rely on the universal rule: Local is better.
You may be planning your family weekend getaway last-minute — so whatever you do, don't forget your sunscreen! Whether you'll be playing with the kids on the white sandy beaches of Costa Maya or exploring the Cozumel ruins with your partner, you definitely don't want the beating sun to put a damper on your trip. Preparing ahead of time for the sun by bringing sunscreen and weather-appropriate clothing is a must, no matter where you choose to cruise.
Each excursion you choose is designed with safety in mind, and if you book your activities ahead of time, you'll know which activities the kiddos can participate in with you. So it's time to spend your days getting in touch with your thrill-seeking side with the whole family and go ziplining in Labadee, conquer the tallest waterslide in North America at Perfect Day at CocoCay*, or go snorkeling beneath the waves and through the colorful coral in Cozumel. Before each shore excursion, skilled professionals will show you the proper way to adventure, so you can live the wild life without worrying about safety.
While your cruise ship has boundless deck space and activities, your room should be tailored to the size of your family. So make sure your last-minute weekend cruise is the best it can be by booking a room with enough space for everyone. If you're traveling with your kids, their cousins or their friends, book adjoining rooms so adults and teenagers can hit the hay when they want to without disturbing anyone — a detail everyone will appreciate. And if you have a really large group, look into a suite so everyone can stay together while also having some privacy.
There are countless things to do on a 3-day or 4-day cruise, but that doesn't mean you have to do everything. Sometimes taking a deep breath by the pool is exactly what you need. All members of the family can enjoy nightly entertainment, world-class dining venues, on-deck watersports and rock-climbing vacation adventures. But don't be afraid to split up at sea for a few hours so each family member can take in the activity of their choice — and so the adults can grab a beverage by the pool. As the kids ice-skate at the ship's rink, mom feasts on carne asada at the Mexican restaurant, and you head to the spa for a bit of luxury, the whole family will be having the experience they've dreamed of. Book a reservation in advance to one of the ship's specialty restaurants to share stories of the day's adventures while you dine on world-class fare. The important thing is taking it all in without overloading your schedule.
Just because the cruise has to come to an end doesn't mean that you can't relive your new adventure over and over again. Spend your 3- or 4-day cruise stocking up on memories with the whole gang. Snap photos, take videos and enjoy the time you have with your group, making memories and keepsakes for the whole family. Strike a pose in front of the massive Mayan ruins in Tulum, grab the goggles — and an underwater camera — and snap some colorful photos while snorkeling in Costa Maya. There are no shortage of moments to capture when you're cruising. If you're not the best family cameraperson, take advantage of the ship's professional photographers, who will capture moments you'll remember for the rest of your life.
Family vacations can be an absolute blast for each member of the family when you set sail into the gorgeous green waters of the Caribbean. Whether you plan ahead of time or book a last-minute cruise right before launch, you're bound to have an unforgettable adventure with the whole group. From taking on adrenaline-pumping activities to relaxing on the beach while listening to the waves crash around you, you'll bring the family on amazing explorations in beautiful destinations. And by keeping these tips in mind, you'll be able to lounge like royalty while the rest of the family lets loose.