Since most kids tend to graze all day long, ask if snacks and/or lunch are available on longer shore excursions. If not, consider tucking a single-service cereal box or fruit in your backpack to head off temper tantrums later on. And, of course, bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat or visor for outdoor activities, as well as an extra sweater in case you need it when the sun sets.
"Teens only" shore excursions are an up-and-coming trend, and they're a great way to let your teen enjoy a day in port with his or her peers while you pursue more adult-friendly activities or cater your tours to younger siblings. If you opt for this route, be sure to ask about the ratio of kids to adults and how many of the ship's staff members accompany the outing.
Involve your kids in the decision. Narrow down the choices to a few appropriately priced excursions per port, and then let the family discuss them as a group. If your kids take ownership in the decision, they're likely to be more excited about the trip and have a better time.
Once you have decided on your shore excursions, book them immediately upon boarding or, better yet, online before you go. And, keep in mind that itineraries can change -- especially in hurricane season -- so be prepared with plan B.
Consider a private guide. Sometimes it's simply better to customize your day to the wishes and schedules of your family, rather than to force them to fit into an organized tour's plan for the day. Why? With a private guide, you can easily stop when you need to (for a snack or bathroom break, or if a passing playground or beach looks particularly inviting) and tailor a tour to your kids with shorter visits to museums or monuments, earlier lunch stops or even a visit to an off-the-beaten-path but family-friendly attraction.
Some cruise lines offer private cars and drivers through their excursions programs, or you can research guides on your own. Consider splitting the cost of a guide and a van with another family, and always ask if the guide speaks fluent English, whether car seats are available (if needed) and how payment is to be made (cash versus credit, up-front versus after the tour). Popular independent guides tend to get booked up months in advance.
For the more information on planning a cruise, visit Cruise Critic's cruise planning section for tips and advice.
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