Teaching My Kids “Cruise Ship Manners”

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One of my favorite parts of our last cruise was getting our kids dressed up and enjoying the fine dining experience with them.

We worked with our kids for about 6-8 months to prepare them for this experience on the cruise. We started by renting the DVD “Look Mom, I have good Manners.” The kids actually enjoyed watching this interactive DVD, and it reinforced all things Mom and Dad had been telling them about table manners.

The DVD is available on Amazon.com and recommended by the Parent’s Choice Foundation.

Then, we had a couple of Fine Dining Practice Dinners here at home. I gave the kids a diagram of a proper place setting and had them set the table correctly for our fancy meal. I would make up menu’s and play the part of the waiter. They would practice their ordering manners, as well as their table manners, making sure to use the proper fork and to use their napkins.

Finally, we had a few “Cruise Ship” dinners out at our local cafe. The kids were on their best behavior as these were practice runs for our real cruise dinners. I knew we were on the right track when both our waitress and other diners came over to compliment the kids on their excellent behavior.

Finally, the date of our cruise arrived. The kids and I headed down to the dining room first thing to see what our table looked like. We thrilled to see we had a table for 4 in a far corner near the exit and by a window. This was a perfect spot incase we needed to address any behavior issues with the kids, or if they needed to use the restroom. I’m glad to report that the kids a excellent manners about 90% of the time. My 9 year old son struggled with a few things like properly cutting his meat or forgettting not to talk with his mouth full. He even got his tie mixed up with his napkin and accidently wiped his face with his tie and his napkin one time. My 7 year old daughter seemed to relish the waiters calling her “princess”. So, she had a little less difficulty embracing the spirit of fine dining. She too had a little trouble cutting her food, but this problem was quickly recognized by the attentive wait staff. Often the assistant maitre’de would come over and cut the kids meat for them.

Finally we made the rules with our kids when it came to dining:

  • They had to try at least one new food per day
  • They could order from the kids menu at breakfast and lunch, but only from the adult menu at dinner
  • If they didn’t like something, that was fine, they could try something else. (easily done on a cruise ship, but not so easy at a local restaurant)

The kids jumped in whole heartedly to this frame work. My son enjoyed trying new soups, even cold ones. Both kids tried and loved the escargot. They also both tried the frogs legs and commented “It tastes like chicken”.

In addition to dining manners, we also talked to the kids about how to interact with other adults with whom we were sharing the ship. I stressed to them that some adults on the ship would prefer that there be no kids around, so it was very important not to do anything that might disturb some of these adults who were trying to enjoy thier vacation. So we added a few more rules.

  • No running on a cruise ship
  • Take the stairs whenever possible and leave the elevator for those who have trouble with the stairs, especially during peak usuage times
  • Always hold the door and yield the right of way to an adult
  • Its OK to be friendly with other adults when Mom and Dad are around
  • Always say “Please, Thank You and Excuse Me” and be sure to use a pleasant tone

I really wanted my kids to enjoy thier vacation, but at the same time I wanted to stress to them the importance of being courteous to others who were also on their vacation.

I truely believe that cruising is one of the best family vacations. It can also be a wonderful time to “Raise The Bar” on what you expect from your children, and the fun and excitement of a different enviroment provides a great reason for the better behavior.