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My "other" vote in your poll = shore excursion planning
Having been on 5 cruises with my family, one of my greatest concerns has always been about what we should do for shore excursions. Shore excursions can really add up if you aren't savvy and possibly not tap into the best fit for your family or budget.
The reason for this is shore excursion choices require carefully weighing your budget, excursion choices & value, plus finding the correct fit for your family activity wise and age appropriate wise for all concerned. Take an ill fitting excursion and you and your fellow ship mates are effected. Educated and thought out choices are best.
I always ask myself this question prior to each cruise/port of call -Should we take an excursion with the cruise ship or would we be better off planning excursions on our own?
We've only used the offered cruise line shore excursions about 1/3 of the time and had amazing experiences. We consider safety, time in port, what we what we want to see & do most, what are children would behave and enjoy most and what gets us the most bang for our dollar. To do this most effectively, we all read a lot about the places we are going to visit first and then come to an agreement as a family.
ps- my kids are now 10 & 12 and have always adored cruise vacations as they feel they get their freedom from us on the ship plus quality time exploring the ports together -the best of both worlds for all of us! I think the excursion they most enjoyed was last spring in Turkey - we hired a private driver& tour guide to take us to Ephesus and the surrounding area. It was pure paradise and we all learned so much together.
I picked other, We were not looking for the "best" kids facilities or concerned about dining options. We just wanted a ship with competitent counselors and expected the kids to dine with us and order from the adult menu. They weren't really little at the time,at 7 & 9, which made the options a bit easier.
My biggest concern was working with the kids to make sure that they behaved properly in public. I read too many stories here on CC about people who had their cruise turned upside down by unruly kids playing ball in the stair ways, running in the hall, cutting in the buffet, misbehaving at dinner . I wanted my kids to enjoy themselves but not ruin any one elses cruise.
I worked with the kids, they did very well. They actually liked having the bar set high and rising to meet it.