A tall woman approached me in the restroom after the show. "How old is your daughter?" she asked, pointing to Chloe.
"Eleven," I told her.
She continued, "I was wondering how she liked the cruise. We didn't bring our kids this time, and I wondered what was a good age to bring them."
"My kids love to go on cruises," I said. "It doesn't cost much more to bring them, and they have a blast."
I got to thinking about it, after we returned to our stateroom and I was lying in bed, ready for sleep. Sure, there were a few disadvantages to bringing our kids on the cruise; the biggest one being loss of privacy. But, in general, I believe that taking your kids on a cruise is a great way to spend a family vacation.
So, here's my 10 reasons to bring your kids on a cruise, written on the final day of a five-day cruise on Celebrity Cruise Lines sailing ship Zenith, our longest cruise ever with the kids.
What hasn't destroyed us has made us stronger, and if we could survive close quarters with a couple of quarreling siblings, than perhaps you could, too. To paraphrase an old comedian (was it George Burns?), take my children, please.
1. It's cost-effective. My number one reason to bring kids on a cruise is that it's cheaper than you think. A family of four or five can book one stateroom and pay greatly reduced rates for their children staying with them. The price includes all their meals, most of their activities and entertainment as well. Taking the kids to Orlando for a long weekend may cost much more.
2. You don't have to argue about who wants to eat what for every meal. On a cruise, your kids can eat pretty much what they want, when they want for breakfast and lunch and select from a varied menu or a children's menu at night. A three or four course meal is offered even for the youngest of children. It's encouraged my children to try new foods, understanding that if they try something they don't like, they can replace it with something they do. Especially at the breakfast and lunch buffet, it allows them to try their meal-balancing skills. It also means they can have dessert at breakfast, lunch and dinner. So the deal we make is that we take the stairs instead of the elevator, to make up for the desserts.
3. You can enjoy Broadway quality entertainment at no additional cost, every evening. During this cruise, we had front row seats to three singing and dancing variety shows, performed by a troupe of some of the most talented men and women from around the country. One night's program featured all 60s music, another show offered music from Broadway hits, like Hairspray and Wicked, the third night offered a variety. All three shows were high-energy, exciting performances wonderfully danced and sung by a team of pros. The costumes, choreography and performance were first rate.
Another evening offered an illusionist, and the final evening offered a comedian that brought the house down. The kids loved the shows, and we did, too.
4. On a cruise ship, you and your family get a chance to meet people from around the country. Seated at our dinner table each evening were Robert and Carolyn and their 11-year-old daughter, Anissa, who are from a small town in Kansas and own a family chicken restaurant. Their town, Girard, boasts about 3,000 folks and has one elementary school. Also at dinner was Kat, a single woman from Detroit. We compared tornadoes (Kansas), ice storms (Detroit) and hurricanes on the first night. Anissa's favorite thing on board was the Bingo, and she finally won, on the day before we left.
5. Your kids also meet many people from around the world working on the cruise ship. Our table servers, Samson and Cosmo, were from India. Samson also showed the kids little "magic tricks," like how to fold a napkin into a swan. In the kids' program, from 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. each day, they held scavenger hunts, played board games and had a talent show. They were able to meet kids and counselors from all over and make new friends. It is a great opportunity for children to experience getting to know others in a controlled atmosphere.
6. You get to see your kids all dressed up or semi-dressed up. The dining room rules prohibit T-shirts, shorts and blue jeans at night.
7. You have the chance to get some nice portraits of you and your family all dressed up, pictures with both mom and dad in them for a change.
8. Your children get to deal with other kids for some of the time, allowing their personalities to shine through on their own, without your prompting. This could be a good or bad thing.
9. No Game Boy, Xbox or computer games at their disposal. My kids choose to leave their Game Boys in the car and although there was some down time in the little arcade, for the most part, we were computer and video game free for five days.
10. Your kids learn new skills, like napkin folding, magic tricks and card games, and you get to learn about things like matching wine to food, carving vegetables and packing lighter for the next trip.
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week in the Hometown News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.