It can be challenging traveling with kids as a single parent. You are responsible for absolutely everything, pretty much every minute of each day. Planning the logistics of getting from point A to point B can be inherently stressful. And, if you have multiple kids, you have the challenge of identifying activities that will appeal to kids in different agent groups or who have different temperaments.
Plus, you have to pay for it all. Expenses for hotels, flights, meals, and activities add up very quickly.
But, taking a cruise as a single parent can address those challenges. We already think highly of family cruising (it’s in our name!). But, for single parents, we think that a family cruise can be an ideal option.
Keep reading to discover why a single parent cruise may answer all of your vacation dreams and tips on making the most of it!
Here’s Why A Single Parents Cruise Should Be A Top Vacation Option
Getting on a ship with their kids for a week or more may sound intimidating to many single parents, but a single-parents cruise is one of the best ways to travel with children. But a single parents’ cruise is one of the best and safest ways to celebrate the summer (or any other season) with the whole family. Here’s everything single parents should know about booking a family cruise.
All Vacation Necessities are Included
Budgeting for an ordinary vacation with kids often means leaving room for many planned and unexpected expenses for meals, snacks, drinks, souvenirs, entertainment, and lodging. But on a cruise, all the essential expenses are paid for with the cruise fare. Although you will have many opportunities to spend on extra add-ons, you don’t have to do so to have a good time!
There are options for every meal, snack, or treat you may want that nave no additional charge. The cruise ship will have daily activities included in the cruise fare. You can find options such as laser tag, water slides, splash parks, bumper cars, magic shows, movies, and more already included in what paid.
There are also fun standbys like the pool, hot tub, mini-golf, and lawn-type games. No need to stress about your vacation budget because it’s all included in the fare.
Sure, there are opportunities to pay more for souvenirs, alcohol, excursions, and photo opportunities. But it’s much easier to keep costs under control on a cruise with kids than on a traditional vacation.
Freedom & Flexibility
A single parent on a typical vacation with kids is constantly trying to come up with a way to please everyone at once because the whole family has to be in the same place at the same time. But on a cruise, single parents and their kids have more freedom to do what they want.
One of the biggest challenges of traveling as a single parent with kids is that you are responsible for planning everything for everybody.
With a cruise, you have an array of pre-planned options. If you want everything to be pre-planned, that’s already arranged. But, you can modify, adjust and schedule as much or as little as you want. Each day you will receive a schedule of all the activities planned for the day. Choose what you want, or do your own thing.
Cruise lines that cater to families will have ships with built-in childcare. While the options for babies may be somewhat limited (but still available), if your kids are over the age of three, you have access to daily childcare at various points throughout the day, from morning into the evening. This allows you to plan many family activities, but it also allows you to plan adult time and/or me-time.
Whether you want to spend some quality time in the cruise ship spa or experience some adult nightlife at a comedy club, hang out listening (or dancing) to your favorite style of music, or try your luck at the casino – you can do any or all of those things knowing that your kiddos are having their own good time in the kids’ club.
Kids’ clubs and other onboard activities provide supervised fun for kids of all ages, so single parents can spend one-on-one time with one kid while the other(s) are entertained by cruise staff and characters. Parents can even enjoy a little bit of quiet time on their own instead of stressing about where the kids are every minute.
And kids, especially little ones, have a way of throwing a wrench in the best-laid plans. On a regular vacation, a cranky toddler can ruin a whole day, but it’s no big deal on a cruise. If the youngest child needs a nap, the older one(s) can go off exploring independently while their parent enjoys a quiet afternoon reading in the room with the little one.
Everybody wins, even when things get chaotic.
More Vacation in Less Time
A single parent on a family vacation usually has to choose just one destination per vacation and find as many things to do in that one place as possible. But a cruise allows single-parent families to see more destinations and sights in one trip.
For example, a single parent can take their kids to several destinations within the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, and/or various parts of Mexico in just a few short days. The cruise ship takes care of the transportation and the lodging so that families can experience more on one trip. Plus, you have some options for international travel even if your kids don’t have passports.
Even the days traveling between destinations (aka “sea days”) are more enjoyable on a cruise than on land because there’s so much to do onboard. The cruise ship is a vacation destination in itself.
Choosing Your Single Parents Cruise
Choosing the wrong cruise line for single-parent cruises can make the entire experience miserable for the parent and kids alike. But the right cruise line can make a family cruise feel as relaxing as a solo one. Here’s what every single parent needs to know about choosing the right cruise line.
Cruise Lines and Onboard Activities
Some cruise lines are more kid-friendly than others. Some cruise lines are known to attract a more mature clientele, in part because they have fewer kid-focused activities and amenities onboard. Indeed, there are now options for adults who want to sail without any kids on board at all.
Single parents cruising with kids will want to avoid these cruise lines (unless they’re having a special kid-friendly event, like Uniworld’s multigenerational river cruise events.
On the other hand, cruise lines like Disney, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival are explicitly family-friendly (to varying degrees). They have as many (and sometimes more) onboard events and activities for their younger guests as they do for the adults, which means single parents and their kids will have more to do on days at sea.
Also, with the wide range of family-friendly cruise lines comes a nice range of budgets. Parents will pay a premium for the Disney name — always. Carnival in general tends to be very budget-friendly. And Royal Caribbean (and MSC) often run promotions where kids sail free or at a significant discount.
Destinations and Itineraries
Single parents and their kids can travel to exotic destinations on a single parents’ cruise that would otherwise be impossible to get to on an ordinary vacation. But not all destinations are as family-friendly as others.
The Caribbean, the Bahamas, Mexico, and other destinations in and around the Gulf of Mexico are jam-packed with history, culture, and tropical fun in the sun. But you’re not limited to the traditional Caribbean cruise. If you’re more adventurous, and your budget allows, you can travel to almost every part of the world by cruise ship. Europe, Australia & South Pacific, and Asia all have dozens of ports on cruise itineraries every year (when there’s not a pandemic issue).
Our Top Tips for A Single Parents Cruise
As with any vacation, there are a lot of factors that are outside a single parent’s control. But there are some things any single parent cruising with kids can do to help make things run as smoothly as possible.
Choose the Right Cabin
Each cruise ship will have a range of accommodations available at various price points. Everything from a smallish inside cabin without windows to luxury suites. If you are budget conscious and plan to spend most time outside your stateroom, an inside cabin can be an excellent choice.
But, if you have a child who still naps, consider a balcony room if you can afford it. That provides more options to enjoy yourself even when you can’t leave the room.
Plan Ahead for Meals
Most family-friendly cruises offer several dining options, but waiting until the last minute to plan can still spell disaster, particularly for single parents traveling alone with their children. Limited seating availability means venues can fill up quickly, so planning ahead is essential.
Two adults cruising alone might steer clear of the standard group dining experience, but single parents cruising with young children might want to schedule an early reservation every night as the default choice.
On the other hand, the buffet is always a great option for picky eaters, so if the little ones don’t enjoy the standard meal, there’s a variety of quick and easy backup choices available, even late at night. Just plan ahead so that it’s not your only option.
Think Differently for Excursions
In every port, you will have various options for shore excursions – whether sponsored by the cruise line or an independent excursion you organize yourself. But, just because a shore excursion allows kids doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s genuinely kid-friendly. Some excursions involve hours of travel for a short event, while others may involve lots of walking with few breaks.
Single parents should read the excursion details carefully before booking to know what they’re getting into, especially if traveling with multiple children or even just one young child.
And, not every port call requires a formal excursion. For some ports, you can find fun, casual activities just steps from the cruise terminal. Check out our posts on Cozumel beaches and Nassau beaches for examples. Sometimes the best choice is a bucket of dollar store beach toys and a short walk (or taxi) from the ship. With a little advanced research, single parents cruising with kids can plan their own onshore family adventures.
Depending on the port, you may even want to stay on the ship. Many fun activities will still be open and will be far less crowded.
Go with the Flow
Traveling with kids on a single parents’ cruise requires a lot of flexibility. Sometimes the little one will need a nap while the older kid (or parent) wants to go exploring. Single parents can avoid frustration and stress by accepting that things are not always going to go according to plan.
Having a list of crowd-pleasing backup options, like dinner at the buffet, a morning poolside, or even a couple of hours of screen time in the cabin, makes it easy to go with the flow when the kids just won’t or can’t cooperate.
It can be tempting to jam as many activities into each day as possible, but for a single parent cruising with kids, that would be a huge mistake. Leave plenty of time in between activities for coordinated bathroom breaks, snacks, and naps instead of trying to drag cranky kids (or yourself) to yet another scheduled activity.
Cruising as a single parent can be a great way to take a vacation. You’ll have the opportunity to relax and enjoy time with your kids without worrying about all the details of traveling. Plus, you’ll get to explore new places and make fun family memories together.
Founder & Crew Chief