I loved this. Thanks for doing the leg work.
Free shore excursions are a tremendous value. We’re a family of five, so we budget $500/port for shore excursions, so 50 ports is an additional $25,000 for us. I ❤️ the idea of saving that kind of money and will be looking into RSSC because of it.
Free pre-paid gratuities are another valuable bonus, as $15/day x 5 is $75 and can really add up on longer cruises of say, 50 nights = $3,750.
We almost always start with picking our must-see destinations: We prefer port-intensive vs. seas days, then look at budget, excursions, and finally, room choice.
For a family of five, not all ships or cruise lines will accommodate all of us in one room unless we buy a suite, but as you explained, the costs can essentially double. That’s a no-go for us. I’d rather do two cruises than pay double for one.
We’ve gotten adjoining cabins before, which provides another bathroom. When we put the kids in one room, to bed early, and still had a little time as a couple, that was amazing, but they ended up sneaking in and sleeping with us so often, it wasn’t really worth it. They were little, though. Often the other room simply stored our stuff, which is still significant because five people require a lot of luggage for longer cruises. And, as the children get older, they will inevitably value privacy more.
We wouldn’t even consider a balcony (yet), so that saves us some money. First, our children are at the climbing and rough-housing stage, and I don’t want to play defense on vacation. Second, when it comes to nap time, we need black-out level darkness. They’re beyond the nap stage, but on vacation, it’s different. We tend to be early to rise, first off the ship, then maximize a full day of exploration and touring, back to the boat for a swim, shower, and nap before a late dinner, and an occasional show, so naps restore us on sea days.
Some of the newer ships offer window seat rooms, which are like closed off balconies overlooking the sea or overlooking a key feature (like Central Park on Royal Caribbean, for example). We loved that setup too.
Our favorite room type so far — although I want to throw this out in advance, you have to book this cabin type exceptionally early, because there aren’t many, and they are highly desirable — is the oversized family bunk rooms. Much larger, usually at the front of the ship, on a high deck, with two-four big porthole windows, a parent bedroom with a king, a kid bedroom with a bunk bed, which the twins loved, and a sitting room with a sofa bed, where we put our little one, and a bathroom, this cabin was ideal.
One bathroom is a little bit challenging, particularly on sandy beach filled itineraries, but it’s not a deal-breaker, because I usually shower at the spa after spin class anyway. We would book this cabin style again in a heartbeat, but as I said, they are hard to come by.
Families, if you have any other hot cabin tips, please let me know.
One more thing, don’t discount Holland America. We’ve cruised with them, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival. Holland America had by far the best port presentations and cultural activities onboard. They have a heavy emphasis on learning and immersion, while the other three lines focus more on adventure and social activities — so completely different vibes.
I am bookmarking this and still budgeting for a world cruise. Like I said in this post, there’s nothing like waking up in a different destination every morning. It’s like Christmas every day, the best day ever, filled with wonderful gifts to unwrap.
And, for families, when the parents don’t have to navigate or manage meals, it preserves our energy for enjoying the trip, creating memories with the kids, and doing what we love too (working out, reading, lazing by the pool). Plus, Kids Club means date nights, and those are even hard to come by at home!