Lori has been in the cruise industry for over 28 years and has a wealth of information and insight into cruising. Her blog will share stories about ships, cruiselines, ports and why you should use a professional travel agent.
What an AMAZING sight this must have been! Viking River Cruises christened TEN new Longships this week, all at the same time! Yes, that means 10 Godmothers, 10 bottles of champagne cracked over the hulls of the ships, 10 companies of staff members on each ship...what an incredible sight this must have been!
All ten ships were not at the same place, however. Four of the ship were in Amsterdam, in front of a crowd of about 700, and 6 were via satellite from Neptun shipyard in Germany. But still...10 NEW ships in the Viking River Cruises fleet! That brings their total ship count to 35...not bad for a company that began in 1997.
The challenge with Viking River Cruises is remembering the names of their ships. These new Longships are no exception: Viking Aegir, Viking Atla, Viking Bragi, Viking Embla, Viking Forsetti, Viking Jarl, Viking Rinda, Viking Skadi, Viking Tor and Viking Var. Try saying that out loud! All ten ships are identical, with 190 passengers in 95 staterooms. There are two Explorer Suites, which are the largest suites on any river cruise, and have a 270 degree view, and seven two-room verandah suites, with full verandahs in their living room, and a French Balcony in the bedroom. There are also 39 Verandah Suites, with full verandahs, and 22 French Balcony Staterooms. But, if you are going to go on a river cruise, go for the FULL verandah! Can't you just imagine having breakfast on your verandah, overlooking some quaint village on the Danube, Elbe or Rhine River? Sign me UP!
The ships run partially on solar panels, and there's even an onboard herb-garden so the chefs can have fresh herbs for their cuisine. Guests can dine indoors, or outdoors now that the ships are equipped with retractable floor to ceiling glass doors that can be positioned to take advantage of the weather. There's even new energy-efficient hybrid engines that have been built to "reduce vibrations for a remarkably smooth ride." (Thank you to ETN Global Industry News for the above information.)
Next year, Viking River Cruises plans to break their own record by christening TWELVE new Longships! That's 22 NEW ships in the Viking River fleet! There's never been a better time to try a river cruise in Europe...anyone want to join me? LET'S GO!
I'm always asked what families with young children need to bring on a cruise ship. That's a great question that bears answering...hopefully these tips will help you if you are sailing with your young family.
Infants and Toddlers
Travelling with infants and toddlers can be cumbersome, just because of the sheer amount of equipment you need to bring. But, a cruise is perhaps the best way to travel with these little ones because once you are on the ship, everything is right there in your stateroom. Here is a list of things to bring:
Small collapsable stroller
Pack and Play - If your child is used to sleeping in one, this can be a great alternative to a crib. Some ships have them, some don't, so it's important that your travel agent finds out if you are assured of a crib in your stateroom. If not, the Pack and Play works wonderfully.
Baby Carrier - To carry your child around while leaving both hands free. This is great if you are going places where a stroller might not fit or may be cumbersome.
Special 'lovies' that help your child relax in a strange place. - Don't leave these home with the thought that you don't want to lose them. Very often these 'lovies' are the only things that calm your child down, and if you leave them at home, you are likely to have a melt-down of epic proportions!
A few favorite toys
Pacifiers -if needed
Blankets - Especially if they have some favorite ones. These will help the transition from sleeping at home to sleeping in a new place.
Bottles and/or sippy cups- Bring several. Also a bottle brush if needed.
Formula - If used. Bring enough for twice the length you will be gone
Bottled Water - You can purchase this onboard, but it can be as high as $35 for 24 bottles (Disney Cruise Line). I have been able to bring my own case of water on at embarkation. Carry the baby onboard, and wheel the case of water in your stroller! Chances are you will need more than one case, but at least the first case will be reasonably priced for you.
Diapers, Diaper wipes and Diaper Rash Cream - Bring enough for 4 days longer than the length of the cruise, just in case.
Ziploc bags - Both sizes -To store dirty diapers prior to disposing of them, as well as holding dirty clothes, and a myriad of other uses.
Baby Food - The ship may have some baby food, but it might not be the type or brand you use. Bring enough on to last for each meal.
Spoons - Baby sized spoons may not be found on the ship - bring your own just in case.
Cheerios, Baby Cereal and snack foods - If your baby loves Cheerios, or other snack foods, bring some on just in case the ship does not have what you are looking for. Chances are they will have Cheerios, but don't count on it. Snack foods are important for those times you are in the stateroom and your child may get hungry. Room service may not have anything appropriate for your little one, so you will want something they are familiar with, and will fill their little tummies. Make sure you order some fresh fruit for your room for those off times...or, you can get some yourself at the breakfast buffet.
Two to Three changes of clothes per day - There are laundry facilities onboard some of the ships, but you never know when your child might have one of those days where the poop goes up out of the diaper and halfway up their back! Be prepared at all times with extra outfits. Besides, who wants to spend their days at sea doing laundry? And, for those ships without laundry facilities, the ship's laundry service is very expensive and they will not have the special detergent you like to use for your baby. Changes are you will probably have to do laundry at least once during your trip, but you want to give yourself as many different choices as possible.
You also have to be prepared for different weather temperatures. Chances are you are packing for warm weather if you are in the Caribbean, or cold weather if you are packing for Alaska, but the weather can change and give you the opposite of what you are expecting. Be prepared for ALL types of weather. Layering is a great way to get the most out of your clothes.
Make sure you bring outfits, onesies, socks, shoes, bibs, sweaters, sweatshirts, toddler underwear if pottie trained, diaper covers, and any other items your child may need.
Swimsuits or swim-pants and floaties(if needed)
Thermometer - avoid mercury based thermometers. You will want some type of thermometer to give you an idea of your child's temperature in case they feel warm, or have symptoms of cold or flu. The ship's medical center may have some equipment, but they will require you to pay for a medical visit which can be quite costly. This way you will be able to give yourself peace of mind in the comfort of your stateroom, without upsetting your child.
Children's Tylenol or other fever-reducing medicine - Make sure you have the appropriate type of fever reducing medicine for the age and weight of your child. You will also need some sort of measuring device, whether it's a dosing cup that comes with the medicine, or a teaspoon specifically made for little ones.
Any medicines your child may need - You cannot bring too much. Be prepared for any eventuality. Only you know your child, and know what medicines they have taken in the past, or may need during your week away. Follow your instinct.
Chew toy if teething - If your child is teething, you will want anything that might alleviate their pain, whether it's a chew-toy that gets cold when frozen, or drops that you put directly on their gums. You won't have a freezer in your stateroom, but you can request buckets of ice each morning that you can put the toy in to get it cold enough. You may have a small fridge in your stateroom that can also work for you.
A well-stocked diaper bag - This should go everywhere with you, even when you are on the ship walking about. A good diaper bag should have achanging mat and plenty of pockets for everything you may need. You would hate to have to go all the way back to your stateroom just to change a diaper, or change an outfit because they spilled.
Bath Items - including baby soap, baby powder, hooded towel,anything you may need to make bathtime easier. If you only have a shower in your stateroom, you may look into a baby bath-tub purchased locally once you arrive at your embarkation port, if they have a store such as Target or Wal-Mart. Make sure to ask your travel agent what your bathroom configuration is and whether or not you have a tub.
Collapsable Clothes Hamper - I usually find these at CVS, Walgreens, or other similar type stores. These hampers are completely flat, and pop up to hold a fair amount of dirty clothes. I keep this in the closet.
Older children may not require as much 'gear,' but they are equally as important when thinking about what to bring.
2 Outfits per day - This is a minimum. Keep in mind kids change several times a day when on a cruise. Perhaps they dress to go to breakfast, then run back to the stateroom to change for swimming, then after swimming, dress again to go to kid's club, and then change once again for dinner. Make sure you have an appropriate outfit for each day for dinner. Some ships require that no jeans or shorts be worn in the dining room, so a good pair of khaki's with a polo shirt for boys, and a sun dress for girls usually does the trick. Remind kids that they can wear things more than once before tossing in the dirty clothes hamper!
Two to three swimsuits, coverup, flip flops
Nightgown or PJ's - one for every three days - There may be a slumber party in kid's club, so make sure to have appropriate cute PJ's for this fun event
Socks and Underwear - bring enough for the length of the cruise, plus an extra three days. Accidents happen!
Formal night wear - for a seven day cruise there are minimum of two formal nights
Sweatshirt or Jacket
Shoes - Don't forget shoes for formal night! Plus sneakers for walking around in port, flip flops, and sandals.
Snacks - see above. Yes, there is a lot of food on a ship, but sometimes kids want something familiar while relaxing in the cabin watching a movie, or in the middle of the night.
Hand-held gaming devices, portable means of entertainment -These are especially helpful if you have flights involved in your travel plans. I'm sure the kids won't let you forget these!
'Lovies' - Even big kids have stuffed animals or blankets that they are attached to. This is NOT the time to try and break your child from these...again, chances are, you will have a meltdown if you forget these all important items.
Blow-up toys such as inner-tubs, floaties, beach balls - (If you are going to a warm destination and there will be swimming.) This is optional, but fun to have!
Over the door shoe holder - This item has hooks to go over a door, and has several pockets usually used to hold pairs of shoes. I use this to gather all the little things that find their way on the desk, or bathroom counter. I usually hang it outside the bathroom door. The pockets hold things like brushes, combs, contact lens cases, different bottles of liquid (like mouthwash), extra toothpaste, camera, extra photo cards, makeup, ipods, the list goes on. Anything that can fit in a small pocket and clutters up the counter. If you can find one with clear pockets, even better! This has become invaluable when I cruise, and keeps me nice and organized!
So, hopefully you are now ready to cruise with your children! Did I forget anything? Please let me know! You can never be too prepared when you travel!