While there have been incidents of crime at sea, most families feel that cruising is a safe and secure experience for their kids. Many parents actually give their kids a bit more freedom to explore on their own while the ship is at sea, especially older grade schoolers and teens; after all, the cruise line controls access to the ship, and uniformed staff are almost always right around the corner.
Nonetheless, parents certainly should discuss safety issues with their child before giving them too much freedom. Obviously, they should know basics like not climbing on railings and how to respond if the ship’s emergency signal sounds — all children younger than teenagers have to wear an identification bracelet during the cruise that lists their muster station, so youth counselors can quickly identify where kids need to go to meet their parents. In any event, kids should also be ready to approach the ship’s staff if they need help, recognizing them by their uniforms and name tags. Also, children should know that they can use the house phones where they can call the front desk or your cabin in the event of a personal emergency. Regardless of your child’s age and gender, there are a few other issues that should be discussed as well as a some groundrules that should be observed.
Most children probably already understand this, but it bears repeating: They should never go into anyone’s cabin without parental approval, and on the elevators, which are kid magnets, they should have a strategy if someone makes them feel uncomfortable. As a family, you all should walk the route from the cabin to the youth room and other key locations together so that it’s all familiar and nobody gets lost. The lower decks where the crew resides are off limits to all guests, and children should know this.
The youth programs require that children are signed in and out of their youth programs, and while the age varies from line to line, children under 9 or 8 years must be picked up and signed out by a parent, often with a photo ID. Older than that to early teens, the parental sign-out policy is customized at the start of the cruise. Communication is key. Everybody should be clear about what time they will meet up again, and where. Parents should encourage children to leave notes in the cabin describing their plans; walkie-talkie radios can be quite useful with teens who are allowed to move about as they wish.
While you may allow children some free rein on the ship, they should not stray from parental supervision during port visits. The only exception would be a shore excursion for kids, supervised by ship staff, with the children understanding that they cannot separate from the group. Adults, who should also know how to respond, can be targets anywhere tourists flock; let’s not tempt the would-be criminals with our children. Instead, use the port visits to explore and to experience a new place ports together, as a family.
Travel agents! – there are more great port of call reviews and cruise news over on Avid Cruiser. Ralph has spent a lifetime aboard cruiseships and shares his intimate knowledge with you on Avid Cruiser and its sister site River Cruiser Adviser.