When my wife and I were presented with the opportunity to take our then five-year-old son on a one-week luxury cruise to the Galápagos, we hesitated before making our decision. We had concerns about the travel time from Toronto to Ecuador, and about our son’s comportment in a small luxury cruise ship environment, but our biggest concern was what others would think — i.e. “Why are you taking a five-year-old to the Galápagos? He’ll never remember the trip!”
Of course, those concerns were fleeting, and we made the decision to take the trip, the first of many, and now we have a 10-year-old who loves Expedition cruising, can name most of the flags of the world, and whose dream destination is Japan (because he loved it so much the first time we visited).
All the planning has been done for you, so you can focus on being together, in the moment, learning something new, or laughing at getting caught in the rain, using charades to order a meal in a foreign country, or just getting lost (for a little while).
The key to that first trip, and the reason we all had such a great time, was the shared experience. It’s time for families to connect and bond. All the planning has been done for you, so you can focus on being together, in the moment, learning something new, or laughing at getting caught in the rain, using charades to order a meal in a foreign country, or just getting lost (for a little while). When you travel on an Expedition cruise with your children, many of the stresses of travel are non-issues — driving, navigation, meal prep, clean-up, laundry — and you can be there when your child wants to listen to the on-board geologist talk about earthquakes in Japan.
An Expedition cruise focuses on the natural and cultural aspects of a destination, rather than the typical amenities and entertainment of a large cruise ship. Expedition cruises often use smaller ships that can access places bigger ships can’t, such as islands, fjords, glaciers, and wildlife habitats. And there are additional opportunities for active and immersive experiences, such as hiking, kayaking, Zodiac tours, wildlife viewing, and cultural interactions. What child doesn’t want to have those sorts of experiences with their parents?
Adventure is the key. Just going ashore may require special clothing, and often requires boarding a Zodiac. The Expedition team plays a key role, and although they are not there to entertain the children, kids love to latch onto the guides as they take you on a walk, show you a glacier, or describe how orcas hunt seals.
Not all expedition cruises, however, are suitable for all ages or families, so you’ll want to gauge the suitability of each activity or tour and decide what’s right for your child. We took an Expedition cruise around Japan, and when we arrived in Hiroshima, the tours were focused on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima near the end of WWII, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I had visited the museum before, and we decided that the subject matter was too weighty for a 6-year-old. That day my son and I were the only two guests who remained on the ship, and we each had a hot tub to ourselves, and we explored the ship on our own. It was fantastic!
Here are 6Tips to help you choose and plan the best expedition cruise for your family.
Expedition cruising can be a great way to travel with children, as it can spark their curiosity, imagination, and appreciation for nature and different cultures. If you’re looking for a family vacation that is adventurous, educational, and fun, and you want to explore remote and amazing destinations with your kids, and create memories that will last a lifetime, consider an expedition cruise.