Caribbean Cruise on Holland America Line
Sailing aboard Holland America’s ms Volendam, my family and I discovered some wonderful islands in the Caribbean. As my husband worked onboard as an officer, my young son Oliver and I had the opportunity to sail with him for months at at time and explore new islands everyday. Because of these long times onboard, I became a bit of an expert on finding fun things to do with kids on the ship as well as at each port of call. Families will love cruising the Caribbean because of the beautiful sandy beaches, warm calm water, laid-back island culture, and endless recreational activities. As for the onboard experience, children will be entertained with a variety of activities and events. The most extraordinary thing about the Caribbean cruise is sailing on the turquoise blue sea, stunning!
Families Should Know:
- When choosing your cruise, research the islands and excursions beforehand to find the best itinerary for your family. Both the Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises are wonderful, so you really can’t go wrong. But there may be something in particular that stands out.
- Holland America is known as a traditional cruise line. Not as glitzy as some of the other lines, Holland America caters to the more refined passenger who loves sailing. The passengers are more mature, but the company is starting to lure more families aboard with offering more kid activities and services. Plus, families prefer an older crowd, to a rowdy party crowd.
- Plan to board the ship later in the afternoon. You’ll be excited and will want to get there early, but you’ll only be waiting. Remember the ship has unloaded passengers from the last cruise and will have to clean, and get ready for your cruise. If you go early, you ‘ll have to wait on cabin assignments, and will have to wait in the public areas – with kids, this can be a hectic and tiring time.
- The seas may be a bit rough at times, especially the Eastern cruise. If you have any choice on cabins, go for a lower level, mid-ship cabin. These will not be as rocky. If you do experience seasickness, eat a green apple, and drink ginger ale. The ship’s medical department will also have plenty of motion sickness pills on hand. Another trick is to sit on an outside deck, mid-ship and look to the horizon. The fresh air will definitely help.
- Shore excursions offered by the ship are a good way to explore parts of the island you might not normally see. Ask the agent onboard about any excursions you’re interested in and let them know the ages of your children. Some excursions may seem kid-friendly, but in fact are not. Ask detailed questions about the excursion.
- If you are not planning on an excursion during port days, usually it’s an easy walk into the town for shopping and restaurants. Cabs are readily available to take you to the beach, or other attraction. Ask for an island tour as well, most drivers will be happy to show you around their island. Be sure to work out a price ahead of time.
- Port days are good days to take your children to the ships pool. Plan to go when the ship arrives when most people are rushing to go ashore. You can enjoy a leisurely hour or so with your family before going ashore.
- Be sure to check the departure time before getting off the ship. Plan to be back a little early if possible. You do not want to be late. The ship will leave you! Always carry the number of the port agent with you (given out at each port), in case any emergency arises and you can’t get back to the ship on time. They will make arrangements for you to meet up with the ship at the next port.
- Club Hal is a youth program offered on Holland America. They have daily activities for kids 3-17. You can drop off your children and be given a pager on sea days. Kids love the fun activities planned be they energetic club staff – arts and crafts, games, movies, sports, and the ice cream break. It may be difficult getting your children to leave!
- Some ports will require you to board a tender (small boat) to get ashore. This is a really fun experience for children, but a bit intimidating for some of the younger ones. Be extremely careful while boarding, especially if the sea is rough. Strollers are fine to take on the tender, and you’ll have plenty of help getting on.
(every port has fun activities, these are a few highlights from our favorite islands)
Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas – Paradise! Our family’s favorite port. You’ll find the most beautiful beach and kid-friendly swimming. Reserve a cabana and enjoy the beach activities. You can sail on a catamaran, discover sea life from a glass bottom boat, kayak, snorkel, and ride horses in the surf.
The Virgin Gorda excursion at Road Town, Tortola (British Virgin Islands) - After a 40 minute cruise, you’ll board an open air bus for a short drive to the Baths for swimming and snorkeling among mammoth boulders, caves and beautiful palm trees. This experience is like no other!
Barbados Turtle Encounter in Bridgetown, Barbados is a great way for kids to experience these amazing creatures up close in crystal blue waters at”Turtle Bay”. Be sure to bring your underwater camera. After the encounter, enjoy the beach activities or relax and have a bite to eat.
Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands is known for its world-class snorkeling! If your kids are old enough, this is the place to take them. Discover old ruins and untouched reefs.
One of my favorite islands is St. Maarten, or St. Martin. half French, half Dutch, this cosmopolitan island is full of attractions. Besides beach and sea activities, the island offers art galleries, cultural sights and amazing restaurants. Kids will love the Butterfly Farm on the French side. You’ll be able to walk among hundreds of butterflies from all around the world.
The Atlantis Submarine Underwater Adventure & Shipwreck Exploration in Oranjestad, Aruba is fun for all ages. At 130 feet, you’ll discover exotic marine life, beautiful colored fish and coral fields.