Posted July 13th, 2017, 10:53 PM
I recommend going in to a "cruise specialist," a TA who is knowledgeable about cruise vacations. Ask friends, family members, co-workers for recommendations (you'll be surprised at how many people have cruising experience).
A good TA can advise you on which ships will be a good fit for your family, based on desired itinerary, month you want to go, budget...
But be aware that the summer is prime hurricane time for the Caribbean, so many cruiselines go elsewhere during this time (eg. many have ships in Alaska during the summer...which, if you were willing to travel to the west coast, and didn't necessarily want a beach vacation, would be an excellent choice for many families). Not a worry as if you do book a cruise during the summer and a hurricane is possible, the captain will change the itinerary.
I'm the one in this family who tends to get motion sickness (I can't read in a moving vehicle without getting sick, but not a problem for my daughter and hubby). So I bring along a lot of ginger, as I find candied ginger works best for me as some OTC make me drowsy. Our last three cruises were the Hawaiian ones between LA and Hawaii, which tend to get rough seas, so we aim for mid-ship cabins, either inside or oceanview. One thing to know about motion sickness remedies is that what works for one person might not for another. If you are on prescription medication, ask your doctor for recommendations (if you are on blood thinners, you want to avoid ginger). Some people do well with the patches, while others do not. I suggest trying a few different ones before your cruise on land and see what doesn't give you side effects and take whatever works with you (more than one....just in case one doesn't work on the water).
As for kid programs, the 18-year-old won't be allowed in the teen center. The 13-year-old will be in a teen program. But at that age, many teens eschew the established program. On our last two cruises, my daughter was 13 & 15. She went to the teen center on the first night and met the other teens. She found two girls her age that she ended up paling around with on sea days (and we had about 10 sea days). The teens on that cruise had started a facebook group page before the cruise and apparently some kept posting after the cruise. One of her new friends, she kept in touch with, and two years later we had booked the same cruise (same time of year, ship, itinerary) and it turned out this girl's family did too. So they made plans to meet up at the teen center, and they added another girl and three boys who were the same year, and they would hang out, seeing MUTS while in the pool or hot tub, paying ping pong, etc. I don't think they went to the Remix room very much, if at all, as, according to our girl, the activities were lame.
As for booking, it's standard to put down a deposit at the time of booking, and then pay the rest at final payment time. Just make sure to note down that last date, and touch base with your TA a few days before that to make sure the payment is made in time (so your booking doesn't get cancelled). You should get an receipt emailed to you both times. And I think most cruiselines have a section on their websites that allow you to keep tabs on your booking info (Princess calls it the cruise personalizer, not sure about other lines).
My other advice: always get to your departure city at least a day ahead unless you live within a short drive there. We live an hour's drive from the port of Los Angeles, so we feel confident about leaving around 9 or 10 to get to the port the same day. Any other port, we go at least a day ahead.
Also, don't try to plan out every day of the cruise...or try to keep every day filled with activities. Especially when you're in port.
Patty the Cruisin' Chick (may all your cruises be smooth sailin')
Hoping for another trip to the land of Aloha!
Carnival Jubilee - Mex. Riv.; Sensation - W. Caribb.; Holiday (2Xs) - Baja; Paradise - E Caribb; Ecstasy - Baja; Star Princess - Mex. Riv.; Sapphire Princess - Alaska; Island Princess - Hawaii; Golden Princess - Hawaii (one of the best cruises ever!!!!); another Golden Princess -- Hawaii
Read about my most recent cruise at http://www.sites.google.com/site/holidayalohaii/home