Luxury Cruising: Families Welcome – Youngsters and Teens Rock Aboard Crystal Cruises
By Penny McTaggart
Remember the song “It’s a Small World (After All)”? Well, in the big world of luxury cruising, high-end Crystal Cruises is singing the right song. Over the last five years the demand for multi-generational cruising has grown so much that both the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity experienced huge increases in the number of families occupying their spacious staterooms, suites and connecting staterooms. Crystal’s response was to add more child-friendly cuisine and a highly acclaimed program for children, ‘tweens and teens ages 3-17.
Lucky me and my junior critics (Nathan, 9 and Chloe, 6) boarded the Crystal Serenity for a 12-day trip from Barcelona to Venice. We had booked two connecting staterooms, one for the kids and one just for me. As anticipated, the rooms were beautifully appointed, generously sized and comfortable.
Nathan had done his research and told us what to expect when we saw Gaudi’s Segrada Familia in Barcelona, the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence, the Colosseum, Pantheon and Sistine Chapel in Rome and the beautiful floating city of Venice. I knew that Nathan would be into the excursions, but I have to admit that I was a little worried about Chloe who couldn’t have cared less about visiting historical sites and museums.
My qualms were quickly quelled when I took a look at the onboard facilities. The Fantasia playroom, with its supervised activities, was full of tables and chairs for board games or arts and crafts. There were giant padded cubes, Sony PlayStations, Xbox 360 kiosks and large-screen televisions. The experienced Junior Activities Directors had organized scavenger hunts, games of hide and seek, story-telling time, ice-cream socials, pajama parties, dress-up playtime, a mask parade, movies galore and even cookie baking lessons. For the “more-adult” Nathan, offerings included bridge tours, karaoke, Trivia contests, paddle tennis, water polo, shuffleboard, volleyball and, of course, can’t-live-without computers. Teenagers can participate in late night pool parties and a teen disco, their own Trivial Pursuit, teen karaoke, pizza parties, Computer University@Sea® and Twister popcorn parties.
Dining “tout famille” was surprisingly easy. Breakfast, with buffet or table service, pleased Chloe no end with a limitless variety of exotic, never-before tasted fruits, pancakes, waffles and her beloved oatmeal with all the “stuff”. Nathan, more-often-then-not, stuck to his tried and true: a slightly green banana, fresh OJ and cream cheese (and occasionally PB) schmeared on a toasted bagel. Lunch and dinner were usually eaten in the Crystal Dining Room or one of the specialty restaurants with the executive chefs preparing custom dishes comparable to those found on shoreside kids’ menus. The Trident Grill & Ice Cream Bar serves complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and sandwiches as well as ice cream, yogurt and cookies throughout the afternoon. One evening in Sorrento I was invited to join a couple who had heard about a great restaurant high up in the hills. I felt perfectly comfortable leaving Nathan to enjoy a burger with his newly found friends and left Chloe in the capable hands of the onboard sitting service. I just needed to arrange 24 hours in advance. Fees were $10 per hour per child. The same routine applied when Nathan and I would disembark for an excursion. When we returned, Chloe was always anxious to hear about our forays but only after showing us her latest creative output like her glittery princess tiara or giving Nathan a detailed rundown of the adventures of “Kung Fu Panda”.
Family travel is one of life’s most rewarding and memorable experiences. Thanks to Crystal Cruises’ well-developed and creative family program, parents, grandparents (or in my case, guardians) can say “Kids Ahoy!”.
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