What it’s really like to cruise with grandkids

As our cruise ship left Tilbury in England there were four passengers on board with very mixed emotions. Two teenage girls (13 and 15) full of excitement but with absolutely no idea what to expect, and two 70-year-old grandparents wondering if we had made the biggest mistake of their lives.

cruising with teens

The teens on the cruise ship. Picture: Wendy Fernandes.

We booked 15 days cruising with seven sea days.

What were we all going to do? How would the girls survive without Wi-Fi? They normally have their phones superglued to their hands unless they are eating.

We oldies on the other hand view cruising as a great relaxation and have our kindles loaded with books.

So off we sail.

“Dinner at 6pm girls. No you can’t wear board shorts and have your midriff showing.”

We left them to unpack, then explored the ship together. The swimming pool looked small, the theatre big like something out of the west end. How many lifts? Why is there no deck 13? Which way is the back (aft) and which the front (fore)?

Dinner was a great success. They were more dressed up and made-up than we were. Three courses and a lovely waiter.

“Tomorrow it’s Amsterdam so we need to be up at 8am,” we say. No word of protest but “can we please skip breakfast?”

Wendy Fernandez.

Ella and Roberta in Amsterdam. Picture: Wendy Fernandes.

And so the pattern of shore days was set. Up and disembark early. See the sights. A quick trip to Starbucks (“just to check our messages”) take photos and find somewhere back near the ship to do Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Next three days were sea days. So now what?

The girls found us in the lounge at about 12pm, which was just as well as if they weren’t in their cabin we had no idea where they might be.

We quickly learnt to be in one of two places and let them find us if they wanted. As the days went by that was less and less often.

Dinner at 6pm was always sacrosanct and a great way to catch up on the day. We also always went to the evening shows together and much to our surprise the girls loved them. Talks by guest speakers were a no-no and having tried a couple of the activities laid on by the entertainment crew these were deemed to be for “young kids”.

Wendy Fernandez.

Spain from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. Picture: Wendy Fernandes.

One of our worst fears before we went on the cruise was that there would not be enough other teenagers. That fear was unfounded.

Certain areas of the ship were out of bounds to unaccompanied children (casino and bars) and so we began to relax. We purposely didn’t activate the girls’ ships cards so they couldn’t make any purchases and insisted on their coming to our cabin to say goodnight at 10pm. Despite listening carefully for the opening and shutting of cabin doors we never heard anything. But we did have a knock on our cabin door one night at 11pm to be faced with a very embarrassed young man holding one of our granddaughters’ hoodies having got the wrong door. Best not to ask we decided, and anyway we had been chatting to his parents in the bar earlier.

The itinerary was ideal – Amsterdam, Gibraltar, 3 Canary Islands, Madeira and finally Lisbon. As far as teenagers are concerned anywhere new is exciting and days at sea are not a problem to them as that is their free time to spend with their new friends.

From a Grandparents perspective, it’s a great way to spend time with your grandchildren in a safe environment with the ability to have time to yourself as well.

Visiting the statue of Ronaldo. Picture: Wendy Fernandes

It’s not a cheap option of course, but when you factor in all meals being provided plus entertainment and, doing as we did, our own shore excursions (not the exorbitant ones offered by the Cruise lines) it’s not bad value. You need to make sure it’s school or college holidays in the country of embarkation to ensure there are enough other young people. Our cruise was advertised as multi-generational.

We asked our two teenagers for their opinion about the cruise. They said they loved it and “when can we go again?”

They found meeting up with other teenagers easy. They really enjoyed visiting different ports and the good food. They liked that dinner was served but lunch was a help yourself buffet. Breakfast didn’t feature in their experience. The only negative was that there was very little organised entertainment for teenagers compared to under 12’s and over 18’s.

As for planning for a cruise with grandchildren, we found it a good idea to ask them to do a bit of research about ports of call so they could contribute to the day’s planning. We took card games (never opened) and bought them a new book each. Otherwise, we just went with the flow.

I think I can safely say a good time was had by all.

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