Our Rules When We Cruise With Our Kids

I love to take cruises with my kids because it a great chance for the family to relax and spend quality time together.   I also think that as a responsible parent there should be very clear rules about how children should behave on a cruise ship.   Also kids and teens need to be aware of safety issues when cruising.  Every family is different and has different vacation experience expectations. The following my list of do’s and don’ts that I ask my family to follow.


1.  Dine together –

Often with our busy schedules at home families don’t get to dine together, which sociologists tell us can be one of the most important positive factors in a child’s life.     Cruise activities are usually scheduled so that breaks occur around dining times.   This gives kids and parents to enjoy meals together with out the worry of preparation or clean-up like you would have at home.   Try to resist the temptation to let the kids dine with their friends from the kids or teen program, and encourage them to dine with you in the main dining room. On a longer cruise it might be easier to allow them one or two nights with friends. However on shorter cruises, insist that the family dine together every night and set that expectation prior to embarkation.    If you have more than one child, you might want to let them each take a different night away from the formal dining room to allow you some one on one time with the other child, but make sure that the majority of your meals are attended by the whole family.

2. Go to the organized activities together

Cruise ships offer both kids program activities in which the parents can participate and grown-up activities in which the kids can participate.   We’ve done family bingo and talent shows with the kids and they have attended 50’s parties, trivia, comedy shows, and game shows with us.    These are some of our favorite cruise moments.

3. Do an independent activity together

Not everything passengers do on a cruise ship needs to be organized by the cruise line.   We have often found a nice spot in a card room to play a family board game or even enjoyed an in room movie together. We’ve enjoyed a nice relaxing breakfast on our balcony with our kids, or whale watching off the back of the ship.     We cherish this quality time together.

4. Follow the Dress Code

Requiring your kids to follow the dress codes and setting the good example of following it yourself, sets the right tone of social respect for success in life.   The dress codes are so relaxed now that it really quite easy to stay with-in the guidelines on most nights.   For boys on most cruises, khakis and a polo will work for casual nights.   Formal night options range from a rental tux to a thrift shop suit or tux.  Girls have lots of choices including khakis, dress pants, skirts or casual dresses for casual nights.    For formal nights any thing from a dressier dress to a formal gown will work.   If your daughter likes to dress up but you don’t want to spend a fortune on a formal dress, then places like e-Bay, discount stores, or thrift stores often have dresses that look fantastic for under $30.    If your kids really don’t want to dress up, and you don’t want to either, then most cruise ships have some sort of dining alternative where you would not have to abide by the evening dress code.   However, I really think that the experience of the whole family dressing up for dinner has intrinsic value itself.

5. Check in frequently

If the kids or teens are old enough to check them selves in and out of the youth program on their own, then develop a system for staying in touch with each other.    This can be as simple as keeping a sticky pad and pen in your state room.    Each child and parent should write a note stating the time and place they will be  so that others can easily find them.   On larger ships, I would recommend that teens and children not be allowed to set their own schedule, but rather the parents work out a schedule for the day and plan to meet them at specific times to take them to each activity.   The kids and teens programs publish a schedule of activities and the ship publishes a schedule of regular activities, so that a family could easily coordinate the times and places at which to meet.    For example “Youth Bingo from 2-3 followed by pool side Music from 3:15 to 4:00.   I’ll meet you at he cabin at 3:00 to change into swim suits and then we’ll go up to the pool deck together.”  If you child or teen has trouble keeping a schedule then put everything in writing and stick it in their pocket so that they can keep on schedule.

6.  Review and observe safety measures

Most cruise lines require youth to wear a safety band with their muster station printed on it.   In the event of an emergency the youth staff will bring all the kids to the muster station.    The ship conducts a muster drill on embarkation day, but I suggest that parents re-review the procedures with the children.  Perhaps you could even ask if the youth staff has their own muster drill with the kids and ask your kids to practice meeting you at the muster station.

7.  Enjoy the Kids and Teen Program

Cruise lines go out of their way to have engaging and fun kids program.   The idea is to keep the youth entertained so that the adults on board can enjoy their cruise experience as well.

8. Be polite and courteous

You’d be surprised about how many parents don’t teach their kids to say please and thank you.   Simple acts of kindness make a big impression on the others around you.   Be sure to teach your kids to be respectful and patient with older cruises.   I always tell my kids to hold the door for others and to always let someone go a head of them.


1. Don’t Run

It is just not safe to ever run on a cruise ship.   Not only are their slippery areas and narrow corridors, but there are also many people who don’t appreciate being run over when they are just trying to make their way through the cruise ship.   Running is rude, dangerous, and disrespectful on on a cruise ship unless you are jogging on the designated track.

2. Don’t play in the elevator

I encourage my kids to take the stairs as much as possible and not to crowd the elevators. Kids should never play in the elevators as there are often long waits just in regular traffic.

3. Don’t yell or scream

Use you inside voice.

4. Don’t hang out in an unorganized activity with other kids or teens.

While I encourage unorganized activities with family, this is a safety and nuisance issue when it is just kids hanging out. Just like you wouldn’t hang out in a dark alley at home, don’t go to a remote or unoccupied area of the ship. Also, I’ve heard of kids playing ball in the stairway and interrupting the flow of traffic. When kids or teens just hang out then can really be in the way of other passengers who are simply trying to make their way from one part of the ship to another.

5. Don’t wander open decks at night

This goes back to the issue that you wouldn’t hang out in a dark alley at home, so the same goes for the open decks at night.

6. Don’t go to anyone’s cabin

Kids and teens should know that this is another big “no-no”. Parents can always make an exception to this if they feel comfortable with their kids watching an in room movie or something similar with a friend, but just like you wouldn’t go to a hotel room with a stranger or over to a stranger’s house at home, going to someone’s cabin should be off limits.

7. Don’t wear roller skates or “Heelies”

Unless you are on the In-line skating track, this is another bad idea. Believe it or not I have seen kids zipping down a hall way in a “Heelie”, those shoes that have the wheels in the heels. It is simply too dangerous to others in narrow hall ways or open decks of a moving ship.

8.  Don’t utilize the adult pool or other adults only areas.

Many cruise lines have an area designated as adults only. Some cruisers want to be able to relax without children playing or splashing. It is respectful to follow those rules. Some cruise lines strictly enforce them and others make exceptions. Pay attention to the hours that solarium pools may be open to all ages and only visit them during those hours.

9. Don’t Climb on Rails or Furniture

This is an absolute safety rule and there should be no exceptions. Remind your kids how easy it would be fall, if they are climbing on furniture or rails. My kids have always been respectful of this realizing that it would be something they might not live to regret.

I know my “Don’t’s” sound a bit harsh, but truly a family cruise is delightful experience. Our cruises with our kids have been the best experiences of our lives. We have seen so much of the world and had fantastic quality family time together. Overall, if quality time with your family is important to you, a cruise can be the very best vacation option.