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kitkat343

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  1. A Baltic cruise is amazing for kids. If you can afford it, please try to get a private tour in St. Petersburg for just your family to maximize your chances of being able to see as much as possible in this lovely city. I didn't know about it before I sailed, but Best Guides has an excellent reputation with families on the baltic board, and I also didn't know about a model railway village in St. Petersburg that is supposed to be excellent. You can find more information about what we did in the review in my signature line below (my son was younger though, at 3.5 when we sailed). Have a great trip!
  2. It was really easy to DIY this land tour for us. You actually can stay in the same hotel as the cruise tour for your ship (just post on the Alaska boards and they will tell you which hotels your cruise line uses.) We wound up totally accidentally staying in the HAL cruise tour hotel, and it was very nice (everything is overpriced in Alaska due to the short tourist season and costs of importing labor so as long as you don't expect luxury for a hotel priced at luxurious prices in the continental US you'll be fine there). I don't know if there were many children on the cruise tours; hopefully others can help with that.
  3. It is extremely kind of you to want to do this, but the logistics of those children’s ages might be a concern. Does your stepdaughter normally take her kids on vacations? Are you prepared to help with childcare if the kids clubs dont work out? The 2 year old concerns me. It can sometimes be hard for 2 year olds to participate in drop off programs. The kids club staff on Cunard was not impressive, and insisted they were too busy to help my 2 year old son with the 10 minute transition into the kids club one on one (which is a totally reasonable position in a busy kids club, but a problem when there are three kids total, and the other two are happily playing together). We wound up having to complain and also telling our older son he had to help his brother out at the start of camp sincethe counselors weren’t really doing their job. 2 is a tough age - that 2 year old had been in daycare since 4 months so we didn’t really expect difficulties, but we did get them. So you might want to talk to your stepdaughter to see what her thoughts are on this. She might be fine without a kids club, might be fine trying it and if it doesn’t work she’ll be happy to pick up the slack or she might want to wait a year to travel with the kids. But please don’t surprise her with a trip and make her spend her vacation chasing around a 2 year old if that isn’t something she wants to do on vacation. Some options to consider are that both Cunard and princess allow children under age 3 in kids club with adult supervision. Cunard and carnival have drop off programs at age 2, and some rc ships and the Norwegian escape have nurseries you can pay to attend.
  4. It’s an incredible trip for kids. Please go to my review to see some of the options for children (we brought our 3.5 year old). If you can afford it, please hire a private guide for at Petersburg for just your family. Because we were able to stop whenever my son got tired and feed him and give him a break, we saw all the major attractions in the 2 days we were in St. Petersburg. Also consider starting a private tour later on day on day one and earlier on day 2 to avoid massive lines at Russian immigration (the ship tours get priority disembarkation in St. Petersburg). In the hermitage, plan ahead what you want to see. It’s too large to try to cover everything, especially with little ones in tow. An an amazing air/sea hands on museum in Tallinn you can visit after the beautiful old town. Make Ke note of whether you are docking in Stockholm directly - nynashamn is not close, and you miss the beautiful archipelago. If possible, it’s best to sail on a ship that docks directly in Stockholm. Things i I didn’t know about ahead of time and aren’t in my review - best guides has a highly regarded children’s tour, there is a huge model train museum in St. Petersburg and you might be able to paint nesting dolls there as an excursion.
  5. We started cruising with our oldest when he was two. We don't have grandparents who would want to watch our kids (they would if we twisted their arms, but this seemed like a bad plan to make someone - even my parents - watch my kid when they genuinely feel that they raised their kids and now want to enjoy their retirement.) So we started taking our kids on cruises, and it turns out my kids loved it. The graco snug ride 35 is FAA approved. That means you have the legal right to put your child in it when you fly (you should print out the FAA regulations stating this, and make sure you have a sticker on the car seat or print out a copy of the manual stating that the car seat is FAA approved since we've run into some flight attendants who didn't know FAA regulations about car seats and insisted mid-flight that Jet blue doesn't allow the snug ride 35 since it's rear facing. Thankfully, the flight attendant realized that making me wake my sleeping 2 year old halfway though the flight to violate federal law would not be a good plan so she just criticized me for taking that car seat and went away). We also found private tours to be important to keeping our kids happy on vacation - we can stay longer at destinations they like and leave immediately when they get fussy. If you have your own car seat you can install it yourself and not worry on tours. Also, on the first breakfast go to the buffet and take boxed cereal, yogurt and fruit with you. You'll always immediately have a snack on hand in the room, and can take boxed cereals with you on tours so your kids will always have a snack and when they get whiny just give them cereal on tours.
  6. NCL allows unpotty trained children in the kids club (or at least they did recently.) You get a beeper, and are required to come and change diapers yourselves. You cannot leave a child who isn't potty trained behind on a port day and go off ship since someone always has to be there to change the child if necessary. Our 3.5 year old loved the NCL kids club. Alaska is a great cruise to do with children, with lots of nature to explore and animal attractions. But do note that a cruise tour in Alaska is logistically a little harder on kids - there is a long bus or train ride to Denali, and at Denali you spend hours riding a modified school bus over unpaved roads (which made me sick since I was pregnant with my first while we did Alaska). You choose how long you want to ride through Denali, but all of it involved bus rides. Do bear in mind that all excursions in Alaska will be very expensive. The helicopter to dogsled is very pricey, but a once in a lifetime excursion, but some kids are scared by it. There is no discount for children, but if you book directly through TEMSCO its a little cheaper than booking through the cruise line. If you choose to visit a dog sled camp, please make sure you do it in Skagway, not Juneau since the weather is a bit more stable in Skagway. Also, please try to book your helicopter tour in the morning, since helicopter tours are often cancelled due to inclement weather. If your helicopter is scheduled for the morning, you will have a better chance of it being rescheduled for the afternoon, instead of the tour being cancelled outright. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will be able to participate in this amazing activity due to the unpredictable Alaskan weather. The Bering Sea tour was amazing, but the minimum age is 5. Book directly through their site to save money off the NCL excursion price (we were on Princess and everyone just walked to this tour, so there was no advantage to booking through the cruise line) http://alaskacrabtour.com/FAQ.aspx The Mt. Roberts Traimway leads you to nice hiking trails and the kids would love the tram. NCL's free food was the worst of all the lines we've sailed (Carnival, HAL, Princess and Cunard) and the only line in which the food in the main dining room was unacceptable (if you try enough stuff at the buffet eventually you will find something good, particularly the meat carving stations). The specialty restaurants were quite good. There is no discount for children at specialty restaurants anymore (they used to be half price) so it is really expensive to take kids there if you order food for the kids off the main menu. However, It's free for kids to order off the kids menu at specialty dining. .
  7. They let my 3 year old cook, and it was completely free. But that was 4 years ago. The big issue for us (since my kid napped) is that the sea day hours are a disaster if your child naps. These are the hours according to their website, but it is new that they can change hours based upon the number of children on board.: Daily Program Hours Times may vary based on the number of children on board: Sea Days: 9 am–11:30 am, 1 pm–4 pm and 7 pm–11 pm Port Days: 8 am–4 pm and 7 pm–11 pm My kid napped from 2-4, so it was a nightmare since he would wake up and want to go to the kids club and it wouldn't be about to open for another 3 hours. Fortunately, your kids are older so they can go if they like it. IF the deal was good enough, I'd go and just bring enough backup activities in case the kids club doesn't work out. Have a great trip!
  8. Thanks for that. Bergen, Aselund, Flam and Geiranger would have been a lovely 7 day fjord cruise, but you didn't sign up for that, so it is understandable that this was quite disappointing over two weeks, with the omission of the other countries and the uncomfortable sailing conditions.
  9. Could someone who sailed on this cruise please help me out, as I was really confused by a NY Post article (note: the NY Post is really a terrible newspaper so they might have just completely screwed up in their article) Their article on this cruise included the following statement: "Some of the 2,000 passengers said the ship eventually stopped in the remote Norwegian villages of Flåm and Geiranger — far from the promised “mystical fjords.”" This quote is really confusing to me since I was under the impression that Flam and Geiranger are two of the most beautiful heritage fjords, and they were the highlight of my Norway cruise. Was the tourist infrastructure closed in those ports since the cruise visited in October? Could someone please list where the original cruise was supposed to visit and what stops were used to replace them (I do understand NCL had the right to substitute ports, but I'm wondering how much worse the substitute ports were, as I really loved my visits to both Geiranger and Flam.
  10. We sailed on the Ryndam, which is one of the oldest ships in the fleet. We also sailed on a one week segment of a 3 week cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale to Guatemala and Honduras, which is an itinerary that would rarely appeal to families (it was actually great for kids, but not popular with families. I think there might have been about 10 kids on board). The kids club staff was friendly, but there were much fewer kids club activities than on Princess (but again that could be due to the fact that the Ryndam traditionally sails itineraries that don't appeal to families and others have reported quite positive experiences with HAL kids club). It was mostly nice counselors who had my kid gluing stuff on paper plates, while the activities were much more interesting on Princess. Thankfully, my kid was happy though. But do check the kids club hours - they are open much less during sea days than Princess. The highlight for my son was making pancakes with the chef. HE really loved the kiddie cooking class. I'd be a little concerned if your cruise has a ton of sea days; otherwise they might be fine. I think it'll be a little less strong than Princess overall, but if you have a good price and a good itinerary I'd go for it (you might want to consider board games or videos as a backup if the kids club isn't a hit)
  11. A lot will depend on your children. Are your children flexible about things like bedtimes, and do they like to explore and see new things (as opposed to being happiest when they are in their regular routines?) There are some children who might struggle on a 7 day caribbean cruise, but those are children who generally struggle with vacations and being out of their routines. Most kids will really love this type of vacation. We've also never had anyone to watch our kids, so we started taking them on cruises with us starting at the age of 2 and I can honestly tell you that as long as your kids like to travel/like to do new things they will have a blast on a 7 day cruise. If you can afford it, it is really important to book private excursions for just your family so you can completely control the itinerary and return back to the ship if anyone gets overwhelmed. It's really important not to waste your kids' limited patience waiting for 40 people to load/unload on a bus. By taking strategic breaks, and feeding my son whenever he started to get tired/whiny on our private tour, my son managed to visit all of the major tourist destinations in St. Petersburg over two days at the age of 3.5. You should look at the ship excursions, and then search trip advisor or the location forums on cruise critic to try to find local vendors who can duplicate the ship excursions. Also, search trip advisor/destination forums for kids activities since there are sometimes some great kids activities that the ship excursions don't cover. Depending on your flexibility, you also might want to include at least the 10 year old in the planning - there might be an excursion or ship amenity they would love, which will help increase the chances of them being excited about the trip overall. Bring the kids to the open house at the kids club first night, so they become comfortable there. If they are anything like my children, they won't want to leave! If they aren't adventurous eaters, I'd recommend sticking to the kids menu (but if they are willing to try new foods the buffet is amazing for getting kids to try things you wouldn't imagine they'd like but you shouldn't fight with them over food if being on vacation itself is stressful for your kids.) My signature lines have reviews with more details about cruising with kids, but they won't be as useful as reviews for where you are visiting. You can search reviews on cruise critic of the destinations you are considering and limit it to people who listed family as a qualifier in their review submission. Have a great trip!
  12. They don’t need an age requirement or duct tape. Ncl should follow princess and only close the kids clubs for one hour at dinner on sea days instead of two hours (currently it’s closed 5-7). Then the parents can safely drop the kids off at the kids clubs as soon as they get fussy, and not interfere with anyone else’s enjoyment of the cruise. Parents absolutely should remove their misbehaving kids immediately irregardless of the time, but it’s a lot easier when you have the kids club to drop them off at. Also, that’s a really easy conversation to have with an antsy kid - honey, do you want to go to the kids club or do you want to stay here. And if they want to stay, they need to behave and if they can’t off they go to the kids club. And if they choose their club, then off we go immediately. Otherwise we’re walking around the ship, trying to kill time until the kids club reopens, which is much better than disturbing others but frustrating since the parents could be enjoying this time if the kids club is open.
  13. we'll need updates once you figure out who Robert is!
  14. Oh, I'm so sorry. I did know that for most of the cruise lines you need to call for more than 4 people but never thought about how hard that would be for some customers. Is there any chance you can contact the disability services office, and ask them to provide you with an email or forward your email to booking so you can try to book through email instead of speaking on the phone?
  15. They are fairly similar lines. Princess is our favorite cruise line so far. I sailed the Star, which is one of NCL's oldest ships. The staff on NCL was excellent, and there is a lot of great entertainment. I found the food in the free restaurants on NCL to be the worst of all the lines I've sailed (HAL, Princess, Cunard, and even Carnival were fine) but on NCL we needed specialty dining, and on the other lines the regular dining was fine. If you try enough stuff in the buffet, you will eventually find some good food there. If the itinerary and price of the cruises you are looking at are good, we'd absolutely recommend NCL (if you are picky about food like us, you need to factor in the cost of specialty dining, but many others have been happy with NCL's free food.) In general, we've found the major cruise lines to be more alike than different so you should feel free to try them all when the price/itinerary work for you.
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