If your family vacations don’t end up feeling very relaxing — after all, shushing a screaming 3-year-old while fielding dirty looks from couples around the pool at your boutique hotel isn’t exactly a spa day — it’s time to switch it up and try a cruise. Cruise lines offer child care, freeing up parents to let loose and enjoy themselves. Three major cruise lines port in Galveston, meaning an epic vacation to Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean is just a hop, skip and a gangplank away.
BOOKING YOUR TRAVEL
You can book a cruise in one of three ways: through a travel agent, through the cruise line directly or through a third party like Expedia. Usually the most and least expensive accommodations sell out first, so if you’re picky and traveling during peak season (late March–July for the Caribbean and the Bahamas, November–May for Mexico), you’ll want to book at least six months out. If you’re hunting for a good deal, sales often pop up two to three months before the departure date.
On Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines, child care in the form of age-separated clubs is built in to the price. These group programs are available from early in the day until late at night, with plenty of activities to keep little cruisers entertained.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas sails from Galveston to Jamaica, Honduras, Mexico and more. Weeklong cruises depart every Sunday throughout the year.
WHY IT’S FAMILY-FRIENDLY: In between parades and themed activities with characters from Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar, families can ice skate, rock climb and mini golf. When the kids aren’t busy at the Adventure Ocean youth program, they can keep cool at Splashaway Bay, a self-supervised, kid-themed water park filled with water cannons, geysers and slides.
DON’T MISS: Surfing and boogie boarding on the FlowRider surf simulator for adventurers 58 inches and taller (adults included).
DISNEY CRUISE LINE
The Disney Wonder offers voyages out of Galveston from November– January. Choose a 4-night, 6-night or weeklong cruise to the western Caribbean, Bahamas or Puerto Rico.
WHY IT’S FAMILY-FRIENDLY: Families can lounge at three fresh- water pools: a shallow kids pool with a water slide, a Goofy-themed pool, and the adults-only Quiet Cove pool. Kids ages 3–12 are transported to Never Land inside the Peter Pan-themed Oceaneer Club, where they can enter the Captain’s Closet to dress up as their favorite princess, chat with real-life Disney characters and enjoy supervised pirate or Mouseketeer training.
DON’T MISS: The Pirates in the Caribbean deck party, where the whole family can spend a special night dancing with Disney characters and watching fireworks.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
Four- to eight-night cruises depart year-round from Galveston to locations including the Caribbean, Mexico, Florida and Belize.
WHY IT’S FAMILY-FRIENDLY: While parents sip cocktails pool- side, the younger set hangs out at age-tailored clubs. Kids ages 2 and older navigate indoor mazes and make Dr. Seuss-inspired crafts at Camp Ocean; tweens stay connect- ed in high-tech lounges; and teens hit the dance floor with their own DJ and soda bar. All ages (adults included) can catch some sun and a pickup foosball game on the top deck’s SportSquare.
DON’T MISS: Adrenaline- pumping water slides — anywhere from 235–455 feet long, depending on the ship — that will keep any complaints of boredom at bay.