My husband and I (and our children, obviously) love a good holiday, but family cruises had never been part of our vacation thinking until recently.
I never did the travel thing before or after university, so I like to use the holidays we have now to visit new places. I’m also finding that as our children grow, my husband’s spirit of adventure grows too. Despite all of this though, we’ve always tended to rule out the idea of a cruise.
The idea of being cooped up on a boat for a week or 2, either being herded like cattle on day trips or slowly going stir crazy on board because of the lack of things to do, just didn’t appeal. A boat in the middle of a vast ocean also didn’t seem like the ideal place to put 2 young children.
But, I’m happy to report that we’ve just come back from our first family cruise and loved it. The fears I had which stopped us from booking one before were unfounded and we spent a fantastic 7 nights cruising around the Mediterranean.
Why we booked a family cruise
If it hadn’t been for my in-laws we wouldn’t have considered a family cruise. They were keen to have a big, relaxing family holiday and were sold on the idea of a cruise. They found one they really liked the sound of – Thomson’s Highlights of the Mediterranean – and roped in the rest of the family too. Not wanting to let them down by pulling out, my husband and I agreed to it.
I’ll be honest, we were nervous. We thought there wouldn’t be very much to do and that Olivia and William would quickly become bored.
I needn’t have worried though. It turns out that there was TONS to do.
Our cruise liner, the TUI Discovery, boasts facilities like 2 swimming pools, an open air cinema, climbing wall, mini-golf course and a Kids’ Club. There’s also a free ice cream machine if you can find it!
For adults, there are various bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and sun loungers to keep you busy.
What’s remarkable is that despite my reservations about being cooped up on a boat for a full 7 nights that’s more-or-less exactly what we did. We decided the shun all but one half-day excursion and spend the rest of our vacation taking it easy on board.
Our family cruise in pictures
We met our cruise liner in Palma, Majorca and looked forward to a relaxing day getting getting acquainted with the ship. Unfortunately, we had a slight panic when Olivia’s suitcase went missing so we dashed into Palma to buy her some holiday essentials in case it didn’t turn up. My husband also forgot his swimming trunks so we were able to pick some more up for him too.
By the time we got back to the ship Olivia’s suitcase had been delivered safely to our room (phew!) and we were able to start investigating the ship.
We even discovered a peeping tom of sorts!
Later that evening, the TUI Discovery left Palma and set sail.
Our first full day was spent at sea before we reached our first destination.
The first stop on our cruise was Ajaccio in Corsica. There were options to enjoy excursions off the ship at each port, but for various reasons we decided to enjoy the facilities on board the Discovery.
After Corsica, the Discovery travelled to Civitavecchia in Italy where most people departed for day trips to Rome and then went onto Livorno.
We decided not to do a Rome excursion because of the heat and also because Olivia and William are not at an age where they would appreciate the history or architecture of the city. Figuring that virtually everyone else would be getting off the ship (they did), we thought we’d enjoy the Discovery’s facilities.
Our one excursion of the holiday was at Livorno. It’s a relatively short coach ride from Pisa so we took advantage of a half-day trip to see the city’s famous leaning tower.
It was amazing to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but the sun was out in force that afternoon. It was so nice to get back to the ship and take a dip in one of its swimming pools!
From Italy, the TUI Discovery sailed to St Raphael in France before heading back to Palma.
I have to admit that it was an incredible experience and I’m glad to have been proven wrong about cruises. We didn’t get a hint of ‘cabin fever’ and I couldn’t believe we ended up staying on the boat as much as we did.
As an example of just how much there is to do on board the TUI Discovery, this is what we got up to during our stay:
- Swimming in the 2 separate swimming pools (one indoor, one outdoor and both filled with saltwater)
- Dipping our toes in the outdoor whirlpools
- Running around the outdoor jogging track
- Using the climbing wall
- Playing a few rounds of mini golf course
- Practising our table ten on the outdoor ping pong tables
- Taking advantage of the Kids’ Club
- Taking in a film at the open air cinema
- Watching a show at one of the entertainment venues
- Playing computer games in the ‘Game Zone’.
- Getting a massage at the beauty salon
- Lounging around on one of the many sun loungers.
I was particularly impressed by the ship’s Kids’ Club. James and I had never used anything like this on previous holidays so we were unsure what it would involve or whether Olivia and William would like it. We needn’t have worried: they really enjoyed spending time there and sometimes didn’t want to come away. They spent a number of afternoons there doing fun things like arts and crafts. They even got to visit the bridge and meet the captain!
From my point of view as a parent, the Kids’ Club was very secure. You sign your children in and out and they are kept away from the main doors so there’s no need to worry about them running out. It also gave me and James some valuable time to ourselves.
The mini golf was a major highlight for Olivia and William. Both of them enjoyed practising their putting and it’s a fun way to spend an hour or so. The table ten and swimming pools were also a big hit with them both.
Unfortunately, the swimming pools were a let-down for me. No-one warned us that the pools would be filled with saltwater and I found that, after a while, the water would make my eyes sting so badly I could hardly see. At least I know for next time.
Will there be a next time? I wouldn’t bet against it.