Travel Giant Arthur Frommer Disdainful of Caribbean Family Cruising

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!

Artist rendering of the Aqua Park on the Norwegian Epic, debuting this summer.

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?

13 Comments on "Travel Giant Arthur Frommer Disdainful of Caribbean Family Cruising"

  1. Here, here, Kara!

    Lately it seems that there is a rash of arrogance in travel writing/blogging. A “my type of travel is better than your type of travel.”

    I enjoy a wide variety of travel, from glitzy Las Vegas to cultural trips with museums, art, and history, from beaches where I do nothing but relax, to urban sightseeing. And while that may not appeal to someone else, that doesn’t validate the arrogance that my choices are “wrong” because some else doesn’t like them.

    For the record, I’m not a camper, I leave a bigger carbon footprint that I probably should (and I’ll change that bit by bit, but I won’t give up some travel choices), I prefer luxury to roughing it, and I grow weary with theme parks. BUT — people love those forms of travel, and I love reading what people love. It just doesn’t mean I have to love it, too.

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this issue!

  2. What a great response to the Frommer article! I love the Frommer’s Guides, as evidenced by my bookshelves stuffed with them! However, I do think they got this one wrong. I agree with the Vacation Gals’ stance that there is no wrong way to travel with children. My site (TravelMamas.com) is all about how to travel with children…and stay sane! If your family would feel most content on a Caribbean cruise, go for it! Some vacations are more about learning and exploration, while others focus more on relaxing and having fun. I believe both are good for the soul!

    My family adored our Disney Cruise to the Mediterranean a couple of years ago – we explored Pompeii, Roman ruins, and museums galore. But we also had a blast splashing in the pools aboard the ship and we enjoyed a couple of playful beach days too. We hope to someday take another Disney Cruise – in the Caribbean! I look forward to exploring the Mayan ruins and visiting ecological parks with my children. And, I look forward to visiting Disney’s Castaway Cay island!

    It’s all about balance…and keeping everyone in the family happy (and sane)!

  3. Well said, Kara. A couple of years ago, I was against this kind of cruising. But as I’ve been writing and interfacing with more families, I’ve realized that many are really afraid to try a family vacation at all. Cruising is pretty foolproof. And I think it’s a step forward for families to just get away together…then perhaps think of something even more daring and “cultural” in the future.

    I join you in saying no family vacation can possibly be all bad, regardless of where you choose to take it.

    Lisa

  4. Family vacation is about family fun. We get work and education at least 9 months out of the year. A few days a year of thrill rides and wave pool splashing (especially priced inclusively) won’t keep any kid out of the Ivy Leagues.

    For the record, we’ve never been on a cruise of any type, but 2009’s vacation destinations included Disney World (parents’ choice) and the Dana House Museum in Woodstock, Vermont (6-year old daughter’s choice – the brochure advertised an interesting period toy collection).

    We’ve never had a dull vacation, or a spiritually unfulfilling one. Remembering the whole family’s needs and limits helps us to enjoy ourselves and readies us to return to the workaday world.

  5. Thanks, ladies, for chiming in. You added marvelous points.

    Mary Jo – Yes, this post is also in reference to some “my travel is better than yours” that I’ve seen in social-media circles lately, which is so unfortunate. And we’re cut from same cloth — if forced to choose, I’d pick luxury over roughing it!

    Colleen – You said it SO well: “Some vacations are more about learning and exploration, while others focus more on relaxing and having fun. I believe both are good for the soul!”

    Lisa – Like you, large-ship cruising hadn’t been on my radar for a long time (to wit: I’ve never done it!), but other families do speak so highly of cruising, so there must be something to like. Great description from you: “foolproof.”

    And Mary, brilliant: “A few days a year of thrill rides and wave pool splashing (especially priced inclusively) wonโ€™t keep any kid out of the Ivy Leagues.”

    Thanks again!

  6. “Sometimes families just want to get away from the daily grind โ€” from carpools, computers and commitments.” …Hear, hear! That’s the best thing I’ve read on a family travel blog in a long time.

  7. Kudoes to Kara for standing up to the big guns! I completely agree that a family vacation is a time to make memories and enjoy one another’s company. It’s not “the what” or “the where”, but “the who” that counts on a family vacation.
    Keep up the great work! I love reading it!

  8. (I misspelled Kudos! OOPS)

  9. TwinCitiesGal | January 5, 2010 at 8:51 am | Reply

    I’m all for travel being educational – but my family also likes to seek out energy-burning activities for the kids (water slides, climbing walls, beach cruisers, etc.) when traveling, then we hit the educational aspects. Our kids benefit from both.

  10. I would like to send Frommer on one of those cruises with my children and without the bells and whistles.

    He’s change his tune VERY quickly.

  11. It’s about the difference between ‘travel’ and a ‘vacation.’ Vacation reward work and escape daily life. Travel can be fun, but it more quest, education, or exploratory in nature.

  12. hello! ๐Ÿ˜› i’m at work at the moment, hence i do not have very much time to write… however! I truly liked reading the post. It was a bunch of really good stuff. thank you! Best regards, Letterman

  13. Hi, enjoyed alot reading your article. Like the cruising Italy, Greece and Turkey, I would say fantastic for families or couples.

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