Finding freedom and fun at sea
I’m the ultimate squeezed middle – a single dad caught between my 76-year-old father and two primary-school-age children. Granddad wants history and excursions from a holiday. The girls want white-knuckle water slides and pyjama parties at the kids’ club. No wonder I feel like a stiff drink.
But finally I hit on a possible solution: a cruise. No, really – happiness came in the form of a seven-night Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona with Norwegian Cruise Line. A ship like Norwegian Epic is large enough to offer a range of daytime activities, nightly shows and flexibility to eat informally when you want.
Better still, with Granddad busy at a lecture, and the girls dressing up at the Splash Academy kids’ club, I could sneak a few hours each morning for myself, escaping to the steam room, taking a yoga class, or simply sitting in the Jacuzzi on the adultsonly Spice Pool deck and watching that day’s port of call stretching to infinity.
Having our own space was key. After breakfast together, the older and younger generations would disperse, with me safe in the knowledge that they were safely and happily occupied. We would then reconvene for a buffet lunch and spend the afternoon on the sun deck, the girls splashing amid the Nemo statues in the pool, while my father read his book nearby. There was a ready supply of ice cream and cold drinks if any branch of the family was seen to be getting a bit hot and bothered.
Come evening, we either ate early and caught one of the nightly shows, such as a child-friendly magic show, or the girls joined the slumber-party film screening while Dad and I sampled one of the speciality restaurants, such as the Argentine steakhouse.
By the end of the week, the pressure-cooker environment of some family holidays had been dissipated by the freedom to develop our own interests. I may still be the piggy in the middle but, after a week in the sun, I was feeling decidedly less squeezed.
Five great multigeneration cruises
Who: Fred Olsen Cruises The new kids’ club, Little Skippers, across the fourship fleet offers family activities and child care with qualified hostesses, plus swimming classes. A 13-night Greenland, Iceland and Norway cruise costs from £1,799 per adult and £1,260 per child, based on four people sharing a cabin. An interior single room for an accompanying grandparent costs from £2,899pp (fredolsencruises.com).
Who: P&O Cruises The kids’ club offers five groups for different ages, includes children’s cookery classes, plus a range of dining options for all tastes.
Who: Crystal Cruises Adventure destinations like Alaska offer plenty of history, nature and wildlife to appeal to the whole family, including teens. A 10-day Klondike Adventure cruise costs from £4,741pp, including flights, based on two adults and two children sharing two separate deluxe rooms. A single cabin for an accompanying grandparent costs from £5,956, including flights (crystalcruises.co.uk).
Who: MSC Cruises MSC’s next-generation ship, Meraviglia, has modular cabins to accommodate a family of up to four, plus there’s a dedicated family area on board. A seven-night Mediterranean cruise costs from £799 per adult and £119 per child (2-11 years), based on four sharing an inside or balcony cabin. Accompanying grandparents pay £799pp, based on two sharing (msccruises.co.uk).
Who: Carnival Cruises Club 02 hosts nightly themed parties for 15 to 17year-olds seeking independence, plus shore excursions for teenagers. Carnival offers a six-night western Caribbean cruise from £605 per adult and £605 per child, based on four sharing an interior cabin. A single interior cabin for an accompanying grandparent costs from £1,279 (carnival.com).
In the safety of the kids’ club, above, children can make new friends – and adults can relax
Portugal cruise on Britannia for a family of four costs from £899 per adult and £629 per child, based on four sharing an inside cabin. A single inside cabin for an accompanying grandparent costs from £1,269 (pocruises.com).
Children’s cookery classes, left, are just one of the options on a cruise