Cruise vacations on a luxury ship appeal to a variety of travelers of all ages and stages of life. But for those who recently catapulted their teens from home (finally)—-or who have opted to leave younger children home with a relative or babysitter—-they may be seeking an adult cruise buffered from gaggles of kids or teens around them. It's understandable that they may be less tolerant of the constant cries or giggles of someone else's small children, and less forgiving of the enthusiastic antics of older ones. They've been there, done that.
One of my favorite online sites for cruise information, CruiseCritic.com, recently suggested some tips to help travelers steer clear of kids on their next cruise. While not foolproof, they greatly increase the odds of achieving an adult cruise experience.
1) Check the calendar
As you might expect, families tend to travel when school's out. This means that kids are likely to be on board during the summer months, long holiday weekends, Christmas, Easter and President's Day week. During Spring Break, college kids may appear in large numbers, especially on large fun ships.
Since school calendars differ from district to district, you may need to do a bit of homework to figure out a childfree time to travel. Of course, when school is in session, some parents still take their kids out of school but the numbers are likely to be small. Another benefit of traveling "off-season" is that fares are usually favorable.
One more tip about timing: Longer cruises (10 days and longer) tend to attract fewer kids as well.
2) Go small and upscale
Smaller, more upscale luxury lines (e.g. Seabourn Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises and Compagnie du Ponant) tend to attract a more mature, well-heeled clientele. They're unlikely to appeal to families with kids because they typically offer few, if any, child-friendly amenities: No discos, video arcades, or rock-climbing walls here. When kids happen to make their way up the gangplank, they're typically traveling with a nanny or very doting parents.
A special caution: Beware of ships with a kids-under-18 sail-free policy.
3) Consider barge and river cruises
With itineraries often focused on history, culture, fine cuisine, and viniculture, these smaller vessels also tend to skew to older, well-educated, experienced travelers. These travelers have already visited the large cities of Europe and now are interested in exploring its hidden gems. European Waterways offers an impressive range of barge and riverboat itineraries. Some companies like Grand Circle Travel cater exclusively to travelers over-50.
4) Find a ship within a ship
Although a childfree experience isn't guaranteed, several lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and MSC Cruises have areas of the ship set aside that are smaller, more intimate, and more adult, somewhat akin to a stay on the concierge floor of a larger hotel.
On several NCL ships, the area with these suites is called The Haven. The suites surround a courtyard that includes an exclusive pool, sundeck, hot tub, fitness room, and more. On MSC ships, the area called the Yacht Club Suites offer 24-hour butler and concierge service, Italian- designed suites, and an exclusive dining room, lounge, pool, and spa.
5) Book with an adult-only cruise line
One more option: In the newly published, Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2013 (also available on Kindle), cruise authority Douglas Ward points out that cruise lines such as P&O Cruises and Saga Cruises operate adult-only ships. The minimum age for passengers depends on the specific ship.
"Kid-Free vacays [vacations] are the ONLY way for me to go! God bless them all - - but I didn't have children for a reason and I certainly don't want to spend my very hard-earned time off surrounded by them!" said a poster on Cruise Critic.
Even writing this article made me feel a bit like a Grinch but one of the beauties of cruising is its broad appeal and ability to deliver a range of products for every type of traveler.
Previous stories on Life Goes Strong to help you plan a cruise:
- Choosing a Cruise: Finding the Right-Size Cruise for You
- Cruising Solo: Finding the Perfect Cruise for Singles Over-40
- Planning a Cruise in 2012: Five Trends Making Waves
See more of Dr. Levine's travel writing at More Time To Travel.