I’ve got a bone to pick with Arthur Frommer. I love his guidebooks — Frommer’s Hawaii with Kids was our bible on Kauai a couple years ago — and I read Budget Travel magazine faithfully. But I have a real problem with the disdain (disgust even) toward Caribbean mega-ship cruising that he showed in this recent blog post.
Frommer claims that kids are much more enriched after cruising the Mediterranean, with ports of call in Italy, Turkey and Greece, than they are after cruising the Caribbean, where they might visit “artificial beaches” and experience “ziplines and rock-climbing walls … electronic games … Las Vegas-style stageshows presented in enormous auditoriums.” He writes of Caribbean cruising, “It is an experience of constant competitions in the children’s area, overseen by young supervisors, a memory of water chutes hurtling them into pools, and of ping pong and mini-golf.”
What the heck is wrong with ping pong and mini-golf on a family vacation? Sounds great to me!
I agree that cultural and historic visits to Istanbul, Athens and Rome are overall more culturally stimulating than ports of call on “Castaway Cay.” Sure, kids likely learn educational lessons that will last them a lifetime when they cruise Europe. But, for Frommer to write off all Caribbean cruising as if it’s not beneficial to traveling families is simply irresponsible.
Frommer is entitled to his opinion — but he’s a big name in the travel industry. Why does he need to use his blog to make families feel bad about choosing a Caribbean cruise?
I contend that vacations don’t always need to be about education and culture. Sometimes families just want to get away from the daily grind — from carpools, computers and commitments. Obviously, cruising on mega-ships with waterslides, climbing walls, kids’ clubs and endless buffets appeals to families who just want to kick back, relax and just enjoy incredible amenities on vacation.
Plus, who says kids can’t learn from trips to the Caribbean? Shore excursions here might include tours of ancient Mayan archaeological sites and visits to ecological preserves. A snorkeling trip with a great guide can yield plenty of information about area marine life … and can teach some environmental lessons about treating the world’s precious coral reefs with care.
Frommer contends that the airfare and cruise costs for a Mediterranean cruise is “only marginally lower” than a Caribbean cruise. To that I cry a huge “foul”! I found a 7-night Mediterranean cruise (aboard MSC in April) for $770 — not a bad price. But I also found a 7-night Caribbean cruise aboard Norwegian out of Miami in April for just $550. And airfare for a family of four to Miami is likely cheaper than flights to Italy; for families who live in the Southeast already, the total costs for a Caribbean cruise is less expensive because they can drive to a departure port.
Now, I’ve never even been on a large-ship cruise, so honestly, I can’t defend Caribbean cruising from a firsthand perspective. But I can defend the personal decisions families make when they plan much-anticipated family vacation. Here at The Vacation Gals we believe there is no wrong way to travel with children. We’ve always said that even a one-night getaway to a hotel down the street is beneficial for families who want to spend quality time together away from the distractions of everyday life.
For some families, travel is round-the-world, year-long trips. For others it’s weekends spent camping. For you, it might be Disney, but for me it’s all about National Parks. My kids absolutely love indoor waterparks and all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, while I adore them for the “package pricing” and included activities. But I also know some moms who would sooner poke their eyes out with a fork than spend a week at an all-inclusive property with their kids.
It’s called “to each is own,” Mr. Frommer. For some of your readers (and customers), a Caribbean cruise may be just what they crave for family bonding. For many, a 5-day Caribbean cruise is affordable and fits into limited vacation time, while a 7-day European cruise (with associated overseas travel days, airfare and jet lag) is not. I don’t think you should begrudge families for their vacation choices. After all, it’s traveling families who support your guidebooks and related websites.
To all of you traveling families out there — make your vacation choices with pride. And have fun! Because isn’t that what a family vacation is all about?