The key to getting families on their first cruise, by Giles Hawke

The key to getting families on their first cruise, by Giles Hawke

What do children like? Pizza, ice cream, splashing around in water, fun, freedom, comfort, security, other children, new experiences, being treated as individuals, climbing on things, making things, being stimulated, being active … The list is pretty long

What do children not like? Being bored!

It’s worth every travel agent thinking about what families need from a holiday and what children specifically require. We all know that happy children equal happy parents and, on holiday, this is truer than ever.

However, the preconceptions of what life will be like on board a ship often prevent parents from choosing a cruise as a holiday option. They might think that their children won’t have enough to do or that they will be too noisy for the other guests – but nothing could be further from the truth. Cruise ships that welcome families on board are massive floating resorts with space for everyone. Children are actively welcomed rather than just tolerated.

A cruise fulfils all of the “what do children like” criteria and certainly deals with the “I’m bored” factor. The important aspect for a travel agent is being able to explain why a cruise will suit them and overcome the misconceptions about cruising as a family holiday. I cannot think of a single family who I have ever spoken to who have said “we went on a cruise but it wasn’t really right for our children”.

On cruise ships, children are actively welcomed rather than just tolerated

In fact, the opposite is true in every instance and many families almost regret taking their children on their first cruise because no other holiday then lives up to that experience! There is so much on offer for children to do that parents run the risk of only seeing their children at bedtime, and even then (with the older ones) they may be in bed before their children!

READ: Cruise Adviser’s Family cruise guide

There are children’s clubs for all age groups on most mainstream cruise lines and these are centred on fun, activity and have a varied and complete schedule of things going on for every day of a cruise. The food on cruise ships offers such a range that even the fussiest of eaters are guaranteed to find something to suit them, from the huge range of choices in the main restaurant, the mouthwatering temptations from the well-stocked buffet areas to the pizza, burger, gelato and sandwich kiosks that most family-centred ships also have as supplementary dining options.

Prepaid drinks packages mean that children can grab a soft drink, juice or water whenever they want, without incurring massive additional expense and many cruise lines offer special family shore excursions which suit children perfectly. Why not suggest that they get off the ship in port for a day and visit a water or theme park for instance?

The challenge is getting the parents over the first hurdle and making them see what a fantastic, great value holiday a cruise is. Travel agents are essential in this process for helping customers make the leap, and once they’ve done it they will be back time after time with the children leading the charge for the holiday selection!

  • Giles Hawke is executive director at MSC Cruises and vice chair of Clia UK & Ireland

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