June 24, 2019

Berlin’s Renaissance

Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate.

When the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, the rebirth of the city began. It took years to restore neglected monuments and bullet-riddled buildings to their former glory, before war and oppression tarnished historic landmarks. The city’s dark past is reflected in various memorials that have been erected near Brandenburg Gate, while today’s Berlin is filled with youthful optimism and social tolerance. It’s also filled with summertime tourists, who come to experience the remarkable post-Cold War transformation of Germany’s major city.

When cruise ships dock at Warnemünde on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, many passengers are drawn to Berlin, despite its distance (about 160 miles) from the cruise port. It takes about three hours by train to get from the port to Berlin, but with a bit of pre-planning you can pack a lot of sightseeing into a quick day visit to this interesting city.

Most cruise ships dock at the Warnemünde Cruise Centre, which is a five-minute walk to the town centre and local train station. The S-Bahn (inter-suburb train) from Warnemünde to Rostock makes eight stops before arriving at Rostock Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) where you change trains for Berlin. A single traveler ticket from Rostock to Berlin is about 90 euros (round-trip, 2nd class) and schedules are available at DB Rail . You arrive at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, which is near the Reichstag. Assuming you caught the early-morning train, you will have three or four hours to spend in Berlin before catching a train back to Rostock, and then to Warnemünde.

Map of Berlin from our book Northern Europe By Cruise Ship.

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof is located a short walk from the Government Quarter (see map) lying just across the River Spree. Here you will find several of Berlin’s best-known attractions, namely the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and Holocaust Memorial. Museum Island is also a short (15 minutes) walk away. Several other attractions are within walking distance of the Reichstag, but Berlin is a sprawling city and the City Circle hop on/hop off buses (painted yellow) are a good way to get from one attraction to another. Their stops are located throughout the city (from Alexander Platz on the east side to Charlottenburg Palace on the west side) and several popular stops in between such as Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie (number 10 on the map). One of the 14 stops on the circular route is conveniently located just outside Hauptbahnhof. The cost for a one-day pass is 15.50 euros (a two-hour river cruise can be included for a total cost of 28 euros) and an illustrated map is provided.

Berlin’s public buses #100 or #200 also drive past many of the tourist sights. For more information, visit Berlin Tourism’s website at: Berlin . Shore excursions offered by the cruise lines include guided tours and coach shuttles for independent sightseers.

To learn more about Berlin and other Baltic ports, see our book Northern Europe By Cruise Ship available in print or in ebook format at bookstores and online across North America.

Kids On-Board – making the most of a family cruise

Kids love cruise ships, and it’s not just for the food!

Going on a cruise vacation might not be your first thought for a family trip. But think about it: accommodation, buffet meals, tons of activities and multiple destinations all wrapped up in one package with the added bonus of only having to unpack once! This means convenience for parents and unlimited fun for kids, so it it unsurprising to see that family cruise vacations are on the rise and the industry in general is one of the fastest developing areas of the travel sector. Having said that, all parents will be aware that when kids are involved no vacation is ever straightforward and like any trip there needs to be a lot of forward planning and considerations made. Here are some tips to ensure that your little sailors are safe and happy on the high seas.

Pick your liner wisely

There are numerous family-friendly cruise liners out there now but doing a little research and seeing what each one has to offer could mean the difference between a good vacation and an amazing vacation for your little ones. One popular choice for families is Disney Cruise Lines who are famous for their large productions, roaming characters and magical wildlife experiences. Others include Norwegian Cruise Line, which takes a more educational approach, and Carnival Cruise Lines, which provides a summer camp experience at sea and highly regarded for their staff. Do be sure to check age restrictions too – even family-friendly ships tend not to allow babies under 12 weeks old to sail and many other liners have age restrictions of 6 months.


Cruise liners are very safe environments and accidents are rare. Having said that, it is still beneficial for your children to be made aware of the dangers of the sea, slippery decks and anything else you consider to be a potential risk. Children who are old enough may benefit from attending the muster drill and young children and toddlers should not be left unattended on balconies. Small babies may require different safety-wear/life jackets so ask a steward about this when you are on board. When it comes to supervising your older children on board the ship, some liners allow school age children to sign up for their own activities and roam the ship unsupervised. Many parents are happy to give their children a bit of freedom and allow them to take part in kids clubs while they relax.


Your choice of cabin will impact massively on your trip so it is important to find something that is cost effective, safe and practical for the whole family. Interior cabins are usually recommended for families with small children to keep them away from the balconies. Family suites are generally large, will have all you need and often come with extra services such as a butler but this comes at a cost. If you have older children it could be cheaper to book two adjoining cabins but again it is up to you to decide if your kids are responsible enough for this sort of freedom. Before booking, check that your cabin has all you need. Travel cots and high chairs are often available on request but baths do not come as standard in many cabins so if you need one for babies and smaller children do make sure you ask the question before you book.


If you have been on vacation with your little ones before you will already know how this works; aside from remembering tickets, passports and changing your currency you need to pack for every eventuality and include spares just in case! If you are travelling with babies or toddlers, a well-stocked changing bag is essential as you may be separated from your luggage on embarkation days. Also look into whether or not your ship has laundry services – if so, you don’t have to worry about packing too many spare clothes. Think about your destinations and any excursions you have planned and consider the varying conditions you could be travelling through – this could be the type of holiday where you’re packing sunscreen and sweaters together! Some important extras for the kids can include a cheap camera so they can document their journey, some sea bands to reduce the chance of their getting seasick and a pair of binoculars so they can spend time perusing the ocean and shorelines.

Schedules and routines

Any holiday is bound to disrupt your child’s routine and this can be upsetting, especially for young children. They may cope with the change better if you spend some time in the weeks before your trip telling them about where you’ll be going, showing them brochures and preparing them for the vacation. When on board try to keep bedtimes, nap times and mealtimes as near to they are at home as possible. Of course there will be a little flexibility but tired children are grumpy children. And don’t feel pressured to overdo it in terms of activities and excursions. Of course you’ll want to experience many of the things on offer but if you feel that the kids are becoming tired, then opt out of a stop-off and enjoy some leisure time on the ship. With everyone else onshore the kids will love having the facilities to themselves.

Missing your cruise ship in the Mediterranean

One way you don’t want to get back to your ship – by pilot boat.

One of the most discussed issues for cruise passengers is whether to take a ship-organized shore excursion at the ports of call or strike out on your own. This is not a simple issue, because each port is different and everyone has their own idea what they want to see and do while in port. My usual choice for visiting a city located some distance from the cruise port is to take a ship’s shuttle if available. This way I can explore the sights on my own without any worry about getting back to the ship. Cruise ships are very punctual about departing on time and will delay their departure only if one of their excursions hasn’t returned. Everyone else is responsible for returning to the ship on time.
I learned this lesson the hard way in Egypt, where my husband Bill and I spent the day touring Cairo independently, then nearly missed our ship docked in Alexandria. We arrived back at the port as the ship, having pulled away from the dock, was steaming out of the harbour. Amid frantic shouting and arm waving, we paid the crew of the pilot boat to take us out to our ship. As we pulled alongside the moving ship, a maintenance door several decks above us opened and a jacob’s ladder came tumbling down. I grabbed the ladder first and climbed up the side of the hull. Two crewmen at the top of the ladder eagerly helped me aboard where a waiting ship’s officer greeted me with the words, “I’ll need to see your cruise card.”

I was still a bit shaken by this near-miss when we decided to take the train from the port of Civitavecchia into Rome. We spent a full morning and early afternoon visiting famous sites and walking the streets of Rome before returning to Termini station to catch the train back to port. All seemed well until the train ground to a halt just outside the Vatican. As the minutes ticked by we waited nervously for the train to start moving again. Finally, after a 30-minute delay, Bill and I figured we had to do something. Some fellow cruise passengers were on the train and it was decided that we would all wait another ten minutes before getting off the train and hiring enough taxis to get us all back to the ship. Fortunately the train started moving a few minutes later and we arrived at the port with just minutes to spare.

Packing Tips for Your Dream Cruise

Packing for a vacation is an art. Especially if you’re off on a long cruise, you should have everything you could possibly need yet carry minimal luggage. To make sure you haven’t forgotten anything and to make unpacking easier, always begin by creating a list. This way, you don’t miss out on anything and there are fewer chances of you carrying extra baggage. You could do this the old-school way on a sheet of paper or download an app for your smartphone for simplified packing.


The first thing to put together before you head out for a cruise is a file with copies of all your documents. Your tickets are the most important, but also include proof of Identity, passports and visas (if any are required), medical insurance cards and a copy of your itinerary. A long cruise might give you the opportunity to spend the day on land at a port, so carry along your driver’s license.


A long cruise requires a variety of clothing. Pack two swimsuits, a minimal number of casual tops, shorts, skirts, and trousers that can all be paired with one another. Mix and match to give yourself a new look almost everyday. Accessories like scarves are lightweight, take up hardly any space and are excellent styling tools. Try not to carry clothes that require dry cleaning and remember that every cruise has an on-board laundry unit. Carry a good pair of walking shoes and a sunhat for all the time you will be spending at the various ports along the way. Also pack in a light jacket to keep you warm against the cool night breeze on deck. Try keeping your jewelry to a minimum and chose one pair of neutral shoes that will pair with all of your clothing.


While you might leave behind your laptop and tablets for short cruises, you might not be able to do without them on longer cruises. A camera with extra memory cards, batteries and charger is a cruise essential. You might not have enough plug points on your cruise, so remember to include a power strip or an extension cord. Check with the cruise about whether they have American or European sockets and carry along a plug converter if need be.

Medicines & Toiletries

Create a small first aid box with a limited stock of all your regular medicines. Carry the basic medicines against common ailments, band aids, muscle relaxants and pain relievers. Speak to your doctor before you leave and make sure you know the right dosage of any prescriptions drugs you might need.

Basic toiletries will be provided onboard but remember to carry along your moisturizers and creams. For women, a makeup mirror and a basic compact kit should be carried along as well. Your bathroom on the cruise might not have sufficient storage space, so think about carrying a small hanging organizer that hooks onto a door or hooks that can be suction-fixed onto the wall.

Just in Case

A lot can happen between all of the shuffling around–between boarding, departing, docking and exploring make sure that you are prepared. In the event that your favorite Oakley sunglasses get damaged, pack a pair of replacement lenses for a quick fix on-the-go.

Socializing and interacting with everyone you meet on your cruise may leave you exhausted and in need of some alone time. Instead of packing heavy hardbound books, load some good reads onto your e-book. A little light reading on the deck can put you at peace.

Protect yourself from the elements onshore by packing mosquito repellent to keep bugs away and an easy-fold umbrella to avoid sunburn during your time on land when the boat is docked.

Avoid Lost Luggage

The golden rule of packing for a vacation is not to carry anything you can’t bear to lose. Mark your luggage well and make sure your name and contact details are clearly visible on the off chance, your luggage gets mislaid.

Lastly, always carry the absolute essentials of your trip in your carry-on baggage so that no matter what happens, the basics are always with you.

Solo Passengers

Solo passengers can feel comfortable anywhere on a cruise ship.

Women have long paired up with female friends for companionship and security while travelling. Cruise ships provide a sociable and safe setting for single travellers, so the main reason to pair up is to avoid paying the dreaded single supplement.

A friend recently wrote to me about a fare she was quoted for a stateroom on a premium ship sailing a seven-day Alaska cruise from Vancouver. “I’ve been told that the cost of the cruise (about US$2,600) is the cost of the cabin and I’m having to pay the fare of a non-existent travelling companion! T’was ever thus as a single traveller, “ she added, “although it seems a reasonable amount to pay.”

A lot of solo passengers don’t mind paying the single supplement for a stateroom. Often they have no choice because the majority of cruise ships contain no single-occupancy staterooms. However, the British cruise lines P&O and Fred.Olsen Cruises do have some single staterooms on their ships, and this trend is starting to take off with North American-based cruise lines. For instance, the new megaships being launched by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Royal Caribbean International (RCI) feature a limited number of studio cabins. Other ships, such as Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and NCL’s Pride of America, have been retrofitted with a small number of single staterooms. These studio cabins tend to sell out quickly, so there appears to be a healthy demand for them.

Up until now, the growing family market has driven much of the increase in variety of staterooms in order to accommodate families and family groups. Ironically, the increased popularity of multi-generational travel could also spur cruise lines to install more single cabins that will accommodate, for instance, a grandmother travelling with adult children and grandchildren who prefers to have her own cabin rather than sharing with a member of the extended family.

The cruise lines responded to the needs of family travellers by providing expanded children’s facilities, flexible dining options, interconnecting staterooms and family suites. It seems inevitable they will respond to the growing demand for single cabins to appeal to solo passengers who desire their own cabin without paying for a phantom roommate.

Cunard and Southampton

Cunard has been operating ships out of Southampton for almost 100 years.

Southampton has been a port since at least Roman times. During the Middle Ages, it was particularly important for wool and wine trade, which finally dwindled away almost completely by the early 18th Century. After a brief period as a spa resort, the port sprang into new life with the coming of the railway; and by 1840 – the year Cunard service from Liverpool to Boston began – it was obvious Southampton’s future prosperity as a passenger shipping port was assured.

During the 19th Century, the docks at Southampton gradually expanded, and many shipping companies came to use the port regularly. Liverpool remained the Cunard port, although an occasional call at Southampton by a Cunarder was not unknown.

White Star Line had been using Southampton since 1907 and had an office there. Cunard made occasional calls before World War One; but after that Cunard found it politic to operate its express liner service from Southampton and, in 1919, an office was established at Maritime Chambers. Soon Cunard’s “Big Three,” Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria, were running from Southampton to New York via Cherbourg, with the first Cunarder to use the port being Aquitania. However, Mauretania inaugurated the new service on 18 November 1919.

The increased prosperity made the Southern Railway Company, who then owned the docks, consider plans for greatly enlarging them, and by the late 1920s the New Docks was under construction. News of the proposed new superliner, Queen Mary, prompted Southern Railway to include a giant dry dock in its plans – one large enough to accommodate Queen Mary. The New Docks was largely finished during the early 1930s, and on 26 July 1933, the dry dock was officially opened by King George V, whose name it bears.

Cunard Headquarters in the mid-1960’s.

The decision in 1965 to make Southampton the Head Office of Cunard meant that the premises at Maritime Chambers, used since 1919, were no longer adequate, so South Western House became the new home of Cunard. The former hotel building had been converted to provide office accommodation for the company. About 120 staff members and their families moved from Liverpool to Southampton, the existing staff of some 200 persons was retained and about 200 extra personnel were engaged, many locally.

On 4 July 1966 – 166 years to the day Britannia departed on the voyage that changed ocean travel forever – Cunard Managing Director Philip Bates with his fellow Directors watched the Cunard flag unfurl above South Western House.

When QE2 entered service in 1969, she was the first Cunard passenger ship to have Southampton on her stern.

Cunard remained at South Western House until 1996 before relocating to Mountbatten House at Grosvenor Square ,and then to Harbour Parade in 2009.

To see more great blogs about Cunard visit: We are Cunard blogs

Safety Tips for your next Cruise

European cruises, such as to Santorini, Greece, require bit more preparation time to ensure a safe trip.

North Americans love to take cruises. Twenty-four percent of the population has taken a cruise and although Alaska and Caribbean cruises remain as top destinations, Europe cruises continue to attract huge numbers of cruisers. Any type of travel comes with risks, though, and a cruise is no exception. Minimize the risks with the following four tips to stay safe during your cruise.

Buy Travel Insurance With Medical Coverage

Don’t risk getting sick or hurt without insurance while you’re on your trip. Do so, and you’ll either incur hefty medical bills for overseas treatment or try to tough it out until you get home, which could result in a more serious health issue. Contact your health insurance provider before you leave and ask what it covers and what it doesn’t. You may need travel insurance with medical coverage, which—depending on the level you buy—could include anything from replacement eyeglasses to an evacuation home, which the U.S. Department of State estimates could cost more than $10,000.

Keep Your Finances Secure

Credit cards and travelers checks are the most secure ways to pay when traveling abroad. Neither requires you to enter a pin number, which can be seen by a thief standing nearby and later used in an ATM scam. Both will be replaced by the issuer if lost or stolen.

Once you decide which cards to bring, contact the issuing companies to let them know your travel plans. That way, they will be ready to use when you need them and not be held up by a fraud alert triggered by a transaction in another country.

To keep thieves at bay when in port, gents should carry their cards, checks and any cash in a money belt or a secure (zipped) pocket; ladies should stow the same in a crossbody bag.

Make Copies of Your Passport and Other Important Documents

Head to the local copy shop and make at least two copies of your:

  • Passport ID page
  • Driver’s license
  • Travel itinerary with any hotel and airline confirmation receipts
  • Credit cards (front and back)
  • Travelers checks
  • Prescriptions

Also get backup passport photos taken. You will need them and the first three items on this list to get a replacement passport if the original is lost or stolen.

Keep the copies separate from the originals at all times. Leave the originals in the cabin safe, keep a set of copies in your bag or money belt and give another set to a friend or family member who would fax them to you if needed. And speaking of the cabin safe—use it for everything, including electronics, the previously mentioned docs, medications and jewelry.

Enroll in STEP

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs administers the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP. Enroll in it before you go. The bureau will send you travel updates and information about your destination country, and it will be better able to assist you in the event of an emergency, such as a lost or stolen passport or natural disaster.

Health Facilities on Cruise Ships Offering More

A massage at sea is a sublime, and very relaxing, experience as shown above on Carnival’s Magic.

While health and wellness are an important consideration for vacationers, a new survey shows Americans are reluctant to try new spa and fitness activities – 40 percent say they never try anything new, citing cost and availability as top barriers. However, staying fit on a cruise vacation has never been easier, according to Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise organization. Expansive cruise ship fitness centers rival those on land – with the bonus of ocean views – and world-class shipboard spas boast the latest and greatest in relaxation, beauty and wellness treatments.

“Consumers would have to visit numerous spas, fitness centers and personal care places to gain access to the same diversity of health and wellness services and facilities that are now being offered on cruise lines,” said MaryAnna Estomba Rousseau, editor in chief of Onboard Media. “Cruise lines have responded to wellness trends with everything from state-of-the-art fitness centers, personal trainers and workout classes, to thermal suites and spa treatments,” Estomba said.

With so much variety and many indoor and outdoor facilities available at no cost, and restaurant menus including low-cal options, cruise ships are a great place to start, continue and maintain a personal fitness routine.

Following are offerings from North American cruise line members of Cruise Lines International Association:

Disney Cruise Line. Senses Spa & Salon facilities include massage villas with private verandahs for couples. On cruises that call at Disney’s Castaway Cay, you can start your day with sunrise yoga and an organized morning 5k run.

Carnival Cruise Lines. In SportsSquare (on select ships) challenge yourself high above the sea on a SkyCourse ropes course. Warm up with ocean views on outdoor fitness and weight-lifting equipment or hit the jogging track. Guests in Cloud 9 Spa staterooms and suites (on select ships) receive complimentary access to spa facilities.

Cunard. At the two-deck Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Queen Mary 2, indulge in a huge variety of massages and other treatments or relax in the Aqua Therapy Centre. Try the Pilates Institute at Sea or burn off calories at dance classes. Canyon Ranch spa cuisine is a menu option.

Holland America Line. At the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, relax in a hydrotherapy pool (on select ships) or in a heated ceramic relaxation lounge. Or energize with such classes as Cardio Ki-Bo Circuit Training or Aquarobics in the pool. Book a spa suite or stateroom for special spa amenities.

Seabourn: All therapies at the line’s spas incorporate natural ingredients. Relax in water-focused relaxation areas when you’re not hitting the Technogym equipment or trying the low-impact Kinesis System. Guests in penthouse spa suites have 24-hour access to spa facilities. Everyone gets a complimentary mini-massage on deck.

Costa Cruises. The Samsara Spa includes some of the largest spa/fitness facilities at sea. In the Asian-themed spaces try an Ayurvedic massage or unwind in a thalassotherapy pool. Guests in spa suites and cabins can do a full destination spa experience including dining in a spa restaurant.

Princess Cruise Line. At the Lotus Spa, try a signature body wrap or head up to the adults-only outdoor enclave, The Sanctuary, for a massage in an open-air cabana. The exclusive Core.Balance.Strength.Fitness program puts you on a take-home wellness track. Make time for the complimentary Zumba classes on deck.

Norwegian Cruise Line. In the huge, two-deck Mandara Spa aboard the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway check out facilities that include a first-at-sea Salt Room. Get fit with unusual options such as Flywheel Sports cycling or Nexersys, where you workout against an avatar. On Breakaway, you can also take a class created by The Rockettes.

Celebrity Cruises. At the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, relax with a signature hot stone massage or luxuriate in the thalassotherapy pool. Try Zumba in many forms including Aqua Zumba. Book an AquaClass stateroom or suite for unlimited access to spa facilities and dining in the “clean cuisine” restaurant, Blu.

Oceania Cruises. Canyon Ranch SpaClub facilities include serene, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas. Fitness classes such as yoga and cycling are complimentary. Watch calories with Canyon Ranch spa selections and get take-home advice from fitness pros.

Crystal Cruises. Well-being includes Feng Shui-inspired spas where you can indulge in such treatments as a Japanese Silk Booster Facial. Get a workout with classes such as the Tour de Spin cycling program.

MSC Cruises. On the MSC Divina, the Asian-inspired Aurea Spa offers an oasis of calm, including a menu of 21 types of massage, from Shiatsu to Thai, and a juice and tea bar. Fitness classes include the first-at-sea option of Aqua Cycling.

For more information on cruise vacations the Cruise Line Industry Association has an excellent site to explore the various cruise lines: CLIA

Tips to stay healthy on a cruise

A cruise should be relaxing and with a little preparation it can be.

Cruise vacations are an excellent way to relax, enjoy beautiful scenery, eat delicious food and visit exotic places. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, a few unwanted microscopic passengers might make you a little green around the gills while away at sea. But don’t worry! A few simple precautions can help you stay healthy and happy on your upcoming cruise trip. Spend less time sick in bed and more time enjoying the good life out on deck with these simple tips and tricks.

Prevent Jet Lag

Jet lag is unavoidable when traveling far distances. Although not quite considered a sickness, jet lag can certainly make your cruise less enjoyable. Avoid this unpleasant experience by preparing your internal clock days before you set sail and try to get into the time pattern of your destination a few days before. The quickest way to do this is to set you clock to get up at your regular hour but in the time zone of your destination. Too late for adjustments? Avoid that tempting cup of coffee and wait until the locals go to bed to hit the hay. If you’re feeling really tired, a 20-minute power nap should help you stay awake until their bedtime.

Protect Yourself Against the Sun

Spending hours on the deck of cruise ship and sightseeing in some of the world’s sunniest countries will take a toll on your skin, hair and eyes. Protect yourself from the sun’s harsh rays by regularly applying sunscreen of at least 15 SPF, wearing a hat with a wide brim and using UV-absorbent shades. Avoiding a sunburn doesn’t have to be difficult or impractical. Use quick sunscreen spray, choose a hat that matches all your outfits and upgrade your pair of old sunglasses with 100 percent UV-protected replacement lenses.

Exercise and Eat Wisely

The amount of food available during a cruise can make your jeans feel snug fast. In fact, a poll by the Daily Mail found that cruisers gain a pound a day on average. Eating meals high in bad fats and carbs increases your chance of feeling bloated and lethargic. Choose meals high in protein for lasting energy you can burn off later. To stay lean and energized during your vacation, The Huffington Post advices eating only during regular meal times, using sightseeing and adrenaline-packed activities as an excuse to exercise and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum. With so much to do and see, you might even find you lose weight during your cruise!

Keep Seasickness at Bay

One of the most common health complaints of cruise ship passengers is seasickness, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Decrease queasiness by packing over-the-counter motion sickness medication, having a piece of ginger candy or selecting a calmer itinerary. Everyday Health reports that the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea tend to be calmer than other areas of the Atlantic. Opt for a large cruise ship and ask to stay in a cabin mid-ship near the water line to minimize swaying.

Remember Your Prescriptions

After all you’ve done to keep yourself healthy you don’t want to fall sick because you forgot your medications. Make sure to pack your medicine in its original container and bring a copy of your prescriptions. If you forget your medication or run out, a cruise ship doctor typically “can provide replacement for a few days and write a prescription so you can buy your medication at the next port of call,” says cruise ship physician, Dr. Gary Razon.

Kids and Cruise Ships

Pint-sized passengers enjoy cruising as much as adults.

Gone are the days when my husband and I would board a ship with our three-year-old son only to discover there was no playroom on board. That was back in the 1990s, when the premium cruise lines were just starting to embrace family travel. Not all ships had a playroom in those days or, if they did, it was often a windowless room tucked away on one of the lower decks.

How the times have changed. Today, nearly all of the large premium and contemporary ships have youth centres on board, usually located on an upper deck with floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious play areas with ball pits and computer games. Supervised activities are geared to specific age groups and outlined in a daily program.

Dining has become easier as well. Should the parents wish to dine alone, they can take their little ones to the casual, buffet-style lido for a simple kid-friendly meal, then drop them off at the youth centre while mom and dad go for dinner in the main dining room or at one of the specialty restaurants.

We’ve cruised with our kids on most of the major cruise lines and the onboard staff have always made us feel welcome and our children doted upon. To this day, the ship’s personnel are often the deciding factor in whether children will enjoy their time in the ship’s playroom.

The facilities and organized activities for young passengers will vary, so check with a cruisespecialist before deciding on a cruise line. Carnival and Disney are well known for their extensive children’s programs and activities, as are Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line. However, the premium brands of Celebrity, Holland America and Princess also cater to youngsters on most of their ships. HAL’s Indonesian staff adore little children, and the abundance of bath tubs in HAL staterooms are handy for bathing toddlers.

On Princess ships, the Italian love for children came through loud and clear for us when our maître d’ and his staff bent over backwards to accommodate our two small boys whenever they joined us for dessert in the dining room. “Children bring life to a ship,” he said with his warm Italian accent. And couples who bring their youngsters cruising will find this an ideal way to travel as a family.