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Petronillus

Requesting advice: Christmas cruising with an 8 yo boy

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DW and I are planning on a post-Christmas cruise that will include our daughter, her husband, and their 8-year-old son. It will be our son-in-law's first cruise, and our daughter's first in over 20 years. (Our SIL is a great guy, for whom vacation means golf clubs.)

I would looooove to sail HAL once again and accrue additional Mariners points, but I don't see it in the cards. We last sailed on the Koningsdam, the Caribbean in February. Great ship, but very little geared to the kids. The crowd was, frankly, geriatric. And several trips to visit Club Hal proved disappointing. I'm sure that a cruise during the Christmas school holidays will have a lot more school-age children on board, but I hesitate to count on that.

I want to select a cruise that will provide the fun amenities that appeal to kids but one that will also make for a good experience for the grown-ups.

What do you recommend?

Should we consider Carnival as a sister line to HAL in the CCL family of companies?

Should we (shudder!) look to one of the new 6000+ pax behemoths? 

I welcome all suggestions, having always found the HAL community on CC to be a great source of deep wisdom.

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I think it really depends on the kids.  We've cruised with HAL almost exclusively with the exception of Celebrity (equal to HAL) and Carnival (never again).  With Carnival, I couldn't hear my kids talk to me at the pool the music was so loud and it was so crowded.  My kids just like hanging out with us - swimming, shooting hoops or playing ping pong or tenis.  Our favourite time of day on HAL at the pool is about 4-7 when most are clearing out and preparing for dinner.  My kids never liked the kids clubs, they just preferred doing stuff together, which was fine by me on a family vacation.  Personally I wouldn't even consider one of those monstrous cruise ships.  

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Posted (edited)

if you want a cruise geared to kids, with many on board, choose Disney. We liked our cabin and the restaurants, but just too many kids for us.

Edited by catl331

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Only cruised with our grandkids once, youngest then was 9.  It was a 7-day Alaska cruise.  She liked Club HAL and did something every day with them, but not all day long.  Mostly the children wanted to go swimming!!  That were happy to do as much of the day as possible.  There weren't many children on that cruise so those who went to Club HAL had very good attention.  Our 3 grandkids had a great time just being on a ship, eating a variety of foods and snack, seeing new places, and being with us.  A Christmas cruise will have more children for sure.

 

If you are looking for tons of interactive events with many, many children go for a big ship and a different line, maybe RCL, NCL or Carnival (we've done a few Carnival and enjoyed them, but I wouldn't attempt them during Christmas break, they'd be overrun with children.).  If you want highly specialized children's cruising, go for Disney.  

 

Unless you can be more specific with your desires or concerns, we can only offer you generalities.  m--

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We took our kids and grandkids for a family cruise two years ago on Royal Caribbean. The g-kids, including an 8 yo boy, had a blast, as did their parents. As DW and I, both in our seventies, had only cruised Celebrity and HAL previously. We weren't really sure if it would be our cup of tea, but based our choice of RCI on what we believed the kids and g-kids would enjoy. While different, we actually enjoyed the Allure of the Seas too and wouldn't hesitate to book another family cruise aboard.

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We’ve been on several Holland America cruises with our kids starting when they were 10 and 6 to Alaska.  We’ve since been 3 Christmas cruises with them.  There are always plenty of kids during those cruises.  They loved the kids club when they were younger.  The last one we went on was Christmas 2017 and they were 13 and 9.  We all had a lot of fun, but there was less to do then the other cruises and definitely a lack of entertainment in the evenings. One night it was 8:30 and nothing to do except the bb Kong’s, which we didn’t want to do.  We decided Hal wasn’t for us because by 10:30 at night there was nothing to do.  We decided to try Royal Caribbean and did a 9 night on navigator of the seas.  It was great.  It’s bigger then Hal ships, but not one of the huge ones.  Lots of fun stuff to do on the ship like flowrider, mini golf, pools, rock climbing wall plus we all loved trivia, the games shows and shows.  Plus at 10:30 at.night there was lots still going on.  We are booked again for this Christmas on adventure of the seas over Christmas 

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I'm thinking you won't be happy with HAL for your 8-year-old. I agree that Disney should be your top choice. They have activities and venues for adults, too, so the whole family can enjoy the cruise.

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Some children enjoy the Club HAL offerings; some don't.  And, from what I have read on the message boards for other cruise lines, that opinion is true for most of them with Disney maybe being an exception.

 

I have been fortunate to sail on Christmas cruises aboard Prinsendam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Zaandam.  Club HAL programming on all of them and the Cub HAL staff did an excellent job from my perspective.  The children were never intrusive and their reactions to the Christmas morning program in the main showroom when Santa and his elves arrived has always been a major highlight of the Christmas cruises for me.  Surprisingly, even on Prinsendam, there were more children than I expected.

 

I visited the Club HAL facilities on Nieuw Statendam during my January cruises.  As a retired educator, I was impressed with the facility as well as with the programming offered.  

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Totally agree with most of the comments above!

 

We have sailed over the holiday season 2x with HAL and my kids loved it (I have posted before about it).

We have said a 18 night Panama Canal where there were around 100 kids on the Amsterdam and then also the Nieuw Amsterdam a 10 night Western and there were about 200 kids.

Club HAL was excellent; though my kids preferred the Amsterdam staff.

 

I always say if a kid is happy in a plain rectangle pool they will be fine.  If they need a slide, an entertainer and everything about them they will be bored.  

 

As a comparison we have also sailed Disney 2x and the entertainment and activities were great but my kids didn’t care for the clubs (massive kid overload!).

 

We went on RC’s Oasis and thought it was okay, but service wasn’t as good as HAL.  We also had a bad week as almost all the shows were cancelled multiple times.  There were a lot of kids!

 

This past Christmas we sailed MSC.  It was okay.  Not wow let’s book again but okay as it covered ports I wanted to see!  Entertainment was okay - however kids club for example was advertised LEGO theme - but they only had that theme for one day so that was disappointing to my LEGO lovers.  My FIL described the crowd on the ship as “less classy than HAL” - not sure if it was because it had a large international blend or what, but I do have to agree. 

 

After all that, we are sailing with HAL this holiday season and like you, optimistic that there will be some other kids on board, as we aren’t ready for the geriatric unit yet 😬.  We also travel as a multi generation family and the kids will be 7,9,11,13. 

 

I wouldn’t choose HAL for the kids unless it was a time kids are off school (except Alaska, however I am hoping there will be some kids on board when we go!) 

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Posted (edited)

Having done three Disney cruises with our son, I will tell you that in our experience, their kids club activities are very structured— the children are really sort of expected to participate with the other children in all activities. I’m sure this is done because of the high number of children on board— while this is fine for many children, it really wasn’t the best for our son, as sometimes he just wanted to be in the kids club and read or chill. You can expect large volumes of children and families on Disney cruises, but also the adults only areas are really well done, and are pretty mellow. The staterooms are very large for a standard room, and the split baths are super convenient.

 

Otherwise, we found ourselves back on HAL over Thanksgiving (over 200 children  on board) and our son thought the club was great. Yes the activities were structured, but the smaller size allowed him the opportunity to do more his own thing within reason. He really liked this. 

 

You know your grandchild’s personality— does he like large groups? Or is he content making his own fun? Club HAL is excellent. The Disney clubs are non stop fun. And, we will back on HAL for Thanksgiving 2019. 

Edited by Dulciana8

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27 minutes ago, Dulciana8 said:

And, we will back on HAL for Thanksgiving 2019. 

 

Thanks to everybody who has contributed so far! CC is such an astonishing source of information that rises to the level of wisdom. You have, as I hoped, given me so many avenues to explore.

To Dulciana8: I hadn't thought about Thanksgiving week. What itineraries have you tried? From the US are we pretty much limited to the Caribbean?

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I definitely agree with Dulciana8: it all depends on the personality of your grandson. Funnily enough, as a kid on Disney, I remember going to the kid's club once and never going back. I was quite a shy, introverted kid and preferred to make my own fun with my cousins. In the kid's club, you would be expected to play with the kids (who are all strangers) and participate in structured activities. For me, that just wasn't my thing as I took a long time to warm to new faces and I liked to be able to do my own thing, as not all of the activities appealed to me. If your grandson doesn't warm to new faces as easily and likes to be more independent, he probably won't like the kid's club and won't enjoy his time there.

 

Even though HAL doesn't gear to kids, if your grandson is more of an introvert, enjoys spending time with family, and would be perfectly happy to play at the pool, he might still have a blast on HAL. If your family doesn't particularly care for Disney, I wouldn't recommend the cruise as it is highly themed and you won't be able to avoid the mouse! 

 

If I were you, I would look into RCL's smaller classes of ships like the Independence of the Seas (or smaller!).  That ship has some fun amenities that he may enjoy like the ice-skating rink or rock-climbing wall, a good kid's program if he's interested, and also amenities for adults. Just in case he doesn't care for the kid's club, at least RCL has other options that may keep him entertained. 

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31 minutes ago, Petronillus said:

 

Thanks to everybody who has contributed so far! CC is such an astonishing source of information that rises to the level of wisdom. You have, as I hoped, given me so many avenues to explore.

To Dulciana8: I hadn't thought about Thanksgiving week. What itineraries have you tried? From the US are we pretty much limited to the Caribbean?

Hi there! We have only ever done Caribbean itineraries over Thanksgiving. Seven day and even five day hops (RCI has several of these over the holiday week that we have done in the past before our son was born), although I do prefer the longer— honestly I’ve never explored departing outside a US based port due to our personal travel constraints (work, now school for our son) at this time. 

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Posted (edited)

Since no one has mentioned Princess, I will.

 

Princess was my son's preferred line from about age 8-9 through teenage years. It was not as rambunctious as Carnival/RCL could be, but less sedate than HAL.  (For the record, we did try a HAL cruise but he did not like it and spent a good deal of time in our room on his Gameboy due to a not very enticing schedule of events in Club HAL.

 

Princess also has many more daytime and evening activities for adults including a wide variety of interactive trivia and "game show" take-offs. (On their newer ships they have a specialized lounge for this.)  When we last sailed on Princess, I was also wowed by the wide variety of live music, from Caribbean music by the pool to a relatively large orchestra that accompanied the production shows and many things in between (country western guitarist/singer; classical string trio; popular music cover band, etc.) This was for NYE cruise two years ago; I really think they go an extra mile for the holidays.

 

Princess tends to attract a lot of families on the holidays; it is one of the more multi-generational lines I've sailed on. It may have the right mix for your group.

Edited by cruisemom42

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We did the Holiday cruise out of San Diego a few years ago and the children that were on there seemed to have a good time. There were a coule hudred but rarely saw them except at meals. HAL seems to keep them busy.

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We just got off the Nieuw Statendam Sunday and because it was a holiday week there were about 350 kids onboard.  My 10 year old had a fabulous time. He went to the Club Hal here and there for about an hour each time and enjoyed the activities.  He enjoyed the shows, played bingo with us, participated in the trivia games, listened to music in the many venues, the pool and of course all the food. I found he was never bored and was on his electronic devices wayyy less than at home.  I am sure during the Christmas holiday there will be more than enough kids and activities to keep him happy.

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