Anyone ever surprised the kiddos for Christmas w a cruise?

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Keller tx
136 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
If so, I need help. Considering a scavenger hunt with small things to open along the way. Just so they don't feel like they had no presents to open.
Info: We have 5 children... We are cruising on 1/10 out of Galveston to Cozumel.
Being that we have 5 kids we can't give much more than the actual cruise. So any ideas, experiences or input appreciated.

Timonium, Maryland
3,943 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
Ask them? Say would you rather have presents to unwrap or a cruise for christmas. My boys would say "No"- they like to be home for the holidays, have presents to unwrap and hang out with their friends. Your kids might be different.

If you and hubby want to do a cruise- then by all means do one and buy them things that they will be able to use on the cruise- snorkling equiptment, excursion tickets, travel books. Kids will always appreciate a cruise IMO but it may not be what they want for Christmas.
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Joined Apr 2005
Originally posted by Pjsgal
If so, I need help. Considering a scavenger hunt with small things to open along the way. Just so they don't feel like they had no presents to open.
Info: We have 5 children... We are cruising on 1/10 out of Galveston to Cozumel.
Being that we have 5 kids we can't give much more than the actual cruise. So any ideas, experiences or input appreciated.

Flip flops, sunglasses, swim suits, disposable cameras, lanyards, suntan lotion, puzzle books, books, itunes cards, draw string back pack, ties, dresses, shorts, etc...things they could use on a cruise.
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Originally posted by Pjsgal
If so, I need help. Considering a scavenger hunt with small things to open along the way. Just so they don't feel like they had no presents to open.
Info: We have 5 children... We are cruising on 1/10 out of Galveston to Cozumel.
Being that we have 5 kids we can't give much more than the actual cruise. So any ideas, experiences or input appreciated.

I would give them little items for the cruise.

A bucket and shovel, sun glasses, goggles, etc.

You can do this very inexpensively.

Keller tx
136 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
They will be home for Christmas. We already are going on a cruise in Feb.... But they are a lil jealous of that is why we decided a cruise for their gift. They won't be disappointed with the cruise. But I still want gifts to open to lead up to the cruise.
28 Posts
Joined Apr 2012
We are cruising Feb 3rd and decided we will throw in a few cruise related presents in with their Christmas presents - Snorkels, goggles etc. I don't think it will be fair them them to expect a 'normal' Christmas and get a cruise instead, but my wife has already started finding sales of items for the cruise so we won't be spending too much extra. Since we switched to a Cash only Christmas (meaning we won't go into debt buying gifts, only spend budgeted cash) the gifts have been scaled back over the last few years so all 4 of them are used to half of the living room not being covered in presents on Christmas morning. You know your kids more than anyone else so just go with your instincts and it will all turn out good whatever you decide to do.

Happy Cruising!
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North Carolina
58 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
I think everyone's kids' are different on the expectations at Christmas thing. I haven't given a cruise for Christmas, but I have given a Disney trip. I gave each kid (two boys, so not as much effort!) a small Disney stuffed animal, and they also got to unwrap a rather large felt countdown calendar. For each day until the vacation, they'd pull out a slip of paper with a bit of trivia or trip detail. I only had one kid that could read when I did this, so there was no fighting over who got to read the paper though

Were they disappointed Christmas morning? Eh. It was not the most excited reaction I've ever seen. But I kind of expected that. "Santa" had still brought some stuff, so they still had toys. And extended family made up for the lack of fun things to unwrap later in the day. That said, in the days AFTER Christmas, that calendar became an object of obsession and they are still asking me when I'm going to do another one.

If your kids are itching for a cruise with you, they will love however you package the details! I do love dragging out the excitement and building it up though. It is so much fun!
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When my girl was 8, we went on a cruise during Hanukkah, Christmas and NY. I did bring some little gifts that I stashed throughout my luggage with the intent of giving them to her, but after a couple, she seemed to be absorbed in the cruise. She did get a beanie baby from "Santa" during the Christmas Day party for the kids.

Five years later, we were on the same cruise (Hanukkah fell before the cruise) and she didn't seem concerned about the lack of gifts. We're trying to put together a cruise for this or next year and her concern is more making sure she has some activities (so maybe we'll have to bring a DVD player -- even though she knows there's plenty of movies onboard -- or better yet, a laptop, and if she gets her Xmas wish, some Internet time; she already said she wants to bring one of her study guides for the AP class she's taking). She'll also be involved with planning the ports as she was last time.

I would definitely get the kids onboard with the cruise, and have some small cruise-related gifts with you. If you're flying, you'll have to wait to wrap them after the flight.
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172 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Every year instead of doing many big presents for Christmas we do the 12 Days of Christmas. We do small presents every day - ranging from books, DVDs, candy, lottery tickets, etc. This way there is no expectation for a ton of big gifts and also you stretch the excitement fir a longer period of time. So maybe you can do something like that and they still get little gifts plus the cruise.
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Joined Apr 2007
We are not doing a surprise, but we are taking our 2 girls, 4 & 6 in Jan. They both know this is our Xmas gift to them-my older daughter def gets it-she actually said its like a lot of little presents in one huge present-I was so happy to hear this come out of her mouth. My little one def doesn't get it. But Santa will bring a few small things (mainly trip related) and I think they'll both be happy with that.

I am making them both age approrpriate activity books themed from our ports of call-Tampa, Belize, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Roatan. You can find free printables on line (coloring pages of flags/port themed pages, word seaches, etc). They''ll be getting activity bags with crayons/markers/travel toys/etc.

Xmas breakfast I am doing a "theme". We will have blue napkins tied with rope & a "life saver"-saw it on Pinterest. And then a "mexican" breakfast casserole-the reason we are going on this cruise is to see my Mom's husband, she passed away 3 years ago and he moved back to Playa Del Carmen. He will be meeting us in Cozumel for the day. He hasn't seen my girls since they were 4 months old and 3 years old. He was hit by a bus after he moved back there and hasn't been able to come back here-so it is a big deal for all of us!

I am looking forward to a toned down Xmas and hope that we can continue to try to focus on things other than gifts! I am looking forward to focusing on more family traditions, crafts, baking, cooking, doing nice things for others and hope that the kids take that on as what the holidays are about.

Okay that is my long 2 cents BTW-I so wanted to suprise them-I just couldn't keep a secret-it was too much for me-what an awesome surprise though!!!
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Joined Aug 2011
Originally posted by kerrilee1121

I am making them both age approrpriate activity books themed from our ports of call-Tampa, Belize, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Roatan. You can find free printables on line (coloring pages of flags/port themed pages, word seaches, etc). They''ll be getting activity bags with crayons/markers/travel toys/etc.

I did this for my 5 yo niece on our wedding cruise -- I put the coloring pages in a binder with some new crayons, markers, and blank colored paper for drawing, and it went over very well.
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Keller tx
136 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Thanks do much for all the ideas. I'm horrible w surprises. But the honey is keeping me tight lipped!!! We are getting married on our cruise in Feb. and we felt really guilty having the kids get on the ship for the wedding and then having to get off and never having cruised. Hence the reason we decided on a cruise for them prior.
1,758 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
My plan to surprise our "kid" and their partners is to have a puzzle made out of a cruise ship. Will likely give it to them on Christmas Eve so it will explain why there are not many presents for them under the tree. They will have to co-operate to get the whole picture!

Snow bunny
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I gave my daughters and their families a cruise for Christmas a few years ago. I gave each of my granddaughters an envelope with a picture and a riddle. For the Norwegian Spirit, it said, "What spirit weighs more than an ounce?", for the Port Canaveral stop, and a visit to Disney, it said " What Kingdom doesn't have a king?" etc. They could not guess, so I gave each of my daughters an envelope with the booking info. At first they thought I was going on another cruise, then I told them, look at the tickets. When they realized we were all going, bedlam broke loose. We had the best time, a memory was so much better than the things on their lists. They had a ball. We've did it again this year.
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We're giving our girls our Epic trip in February for Christmas this year. I booked it in February 2011 so it's a LONG time coming! I plan on giving them some things they'll take on the ship - new sunglasses, bathing suits and suntan lotion. I'm also going to give them clues (they've sailed this ship before). I can't wait to surprise them!
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For our kids first cruise we gave it to them at Christmas (we sailed at spring break) and had them open a clue scavenger hunt around the house. The last clue was a cruise ship ornament on the tree and a note with the name and sailing info. We are going on another cruise this December (2 days after Christmas) and we told them about it on June 25th (half Christmas). We wrapped up the cruise info and had them open boxes down to it. They know that the cruise is their Christmas present from us so they won't be opening a lot on Christmas morning. They will still have some small things from Santa (what we can sneak in the luggage) and presents from extended family so they will still have some to open.
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A few years ago we gave our children a cruise for Christmas and like you we didn't want to spend a lot of money for additional gifts but wanted to make the gifting fun for the kids. We gave them gifts that were to be opened in a certain order and they had to guess what their gift was. In order, we gave them sunglasses, two pieces of paper with the date on one and state room number on the other, disposable cameras, carry on bags with wheels, small plastic ship and last was t-shirts from the cruise company that we were sailing with. I bought the shirts on ebay so didn't cost a lot. Cost was minimum and my children had a lot of fun.
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Grandeur of the Sea
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we are planning a cruise over spring break as our kid's main Christmas gift this year. We dont' have all the details worked out yet but are planning on buying them each a piece of luggage (we visited family last year and they complained cause they didn't have good luggage), we also are buying sunglasses, swimsuits and beach towels on clearance. My plan is to make a post card for each destination (there are four kids and four destinations) and include it in the luggage. They may figure out that we are going somewhere warm but they will NEVER figure out a cruise until the end...we have talked about the hubby and I going for our anniversary next October and how there is no way we would take them cause it is way too expensive. They are going to flip!!
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Hi! We surprised our girls with a short 3 night cruise that left the day after Christmas one year - helped that we were spending Christmas with my family in Florida. We did a scavenger hunt too and they absolutely loved it! We all followed them all over the house and had as much fun as they did watching them figure it out! I don't remember everything I wrapped up but my parents gave them new luggage, so that was one of the gifts, I also remember cheap personalized luggage tugs were one, snorkel gear was one, and their new passports (which they'd forgotten about taking the picture for and hadn't seen yet) were wrapped up near the end - that's when they started to really get excited!

We're actually doing it again this Christmas, but for a 7 day cruise over their spring break. We know they'll catch on much more quickly this time, so we're just wrapping up a map of the Caribbean and giving them a couple of things they'll want for the cruise, like new swimsuits, flip flops, etc. Like you, we aren't giving them much else, so hoping the three month wait won't be too disappointing on Christmas day.