I've found that there is something both exciting and daunting about booking a family holiday. Whilst it is undoubtedly great to get away for a week or two in the sun and spend some quality time together, there is so much more to consider when travelling with little ones.
Before having children our criteria were simple: somewhere hot, quiet, with lots of nice places to eat nearby and interesting places to visit. Our only constraint would be our budget, but with the option of travelling outside of school holidays, even this didn't pose much of a problem.
Needless to say, after the children came along, we had to learn the art of compromise! Fancy restaurants may not suit the kids every night, so let's just hope that the food at the buffet restaurant is at least edible! There needs to be entertainment of sorts for the kids (that's our peace and quiet shattered), and actually it had better not be too hot! As for visiting interesting places, well we have to be realistic about what we can cover with little ones in tow.
What have we ended up with? Usually an all-inclusive hotel, no more than a 2-3 hour plane ride away, most days spent 'relaxing' around the noisy kids' pool and watching the kids' disco in the evening.
So embarking on our first family cruise, I must admit, I was apprehensive. The reality was that we ALL had a fantastic time, and best of all, nobody had to compromise. If the kids wanted to play and have fun in the kids' club, we could go and relax in the solarium or spa, safe in the knowledge that they were being looked after (our kids were not old enough to sign themselves in and out of the club, so we were given a buzzer in case they needed us).
The following day we'd all be ashore experiencing the delights of whichever port we had arrived at: maybe wandering around Dubrovnik's Old Town, encircled with stone walls and steep narrow stairways, lined with quaint shops, the kids sampling authentic Croatian ice cream as recommended by our waiter the previous evening during dinner; or relaxing on a Greek beach whilst the kids paddle in the sea and make sand castles, followed by a nice stroll along the harbour and maybe a spot of lunch in a nearby tavern.
The restaurants on board offered yet more time for us to spend together without compromising on the quality of the food, and we even managed to sneak in a few romantic dinners alone, when the kids particularly wanted to participate in the events that they had scheduled in the kids' club.
Cruising really is a style of vacation that the entire family can enjoy. The range of activities on board allowed us the flexibility to entertain ourselves, whether merely relaxing in the sun reading a book or playing mini golf; or to take part in activities together, such as the Halloween scavenger hunt, the array of organised excursions, or just congregating for tea and cake by the pool. With cruising you really can have the best of both worlds and I have no hesitation in recommending it to families for an enjoyable and stress-free holiday.