Is a cruise really the best family holiday you’ll ever have? Bolsover Cruise Club’s Sam Ward set sail on Britannia for a week in Spain to find out.
A combination of anxiety and excitement kicked in as we drove into the dock gates in Southampton and saw Britannia in front of us. Thoughts were floating around our heads (pardon the pun) … ‘Oh my goodness, where do I drive to? What do we do with our cases? Where do we even go to get on the ship? Hold the kids tight, we’re going to lose them, it’s that big!’
Our thoughts were put instantly at ease when we were met by the lovely members of staff from Cruise & Passengers Services, who advised us to place our ticket in the front window of our car and drive over to the guys in the yellow jackets who would take our cases. They then took our car key and directed us to the departures lounge, but not before letting us know what happens upon our return when it comes to collecting the car.
Heading into the departures lounge, we were greeted by the lovely check-in staff who advised us where to queue and what we needed as we did so. It was a very smooth operation with our two small girls aged 3 and 6, who at the time were very hot and sweaty after a long journey down to Southampton, the words ‘are we nearly there yet?’ repeated at least a hundred times along the way. They were just itching to kick their sandals off and run around.
As we went through security, the staff made it a fun experience for the girls, who at the time were excited at seeing the ‘big checkout tills’. While security is all fun and games in their eyes, for the adults it really is the time when you wish you’d just not bothered putting your watch, belt and strappiest sandals on that morning! That being said, getting through security was so stress-free and the staff made it a very smooth, organised process even with two young girls.
Stepping aboard we were immediately wowed by the delights of the Atrium and the staff giving us all a warm welcome. I don’t know about you but trying to get a fun family photo with nice smiles tends to be an impossible task for us, so I was hugely impressed to find that this had even been thought of by having lots of props for them to hold and play with. It made getting the first family snap of the holiday a quick and enjoyable experience rather than a mission.
First on our to-do list was checking out the kid’s club, followed by the pool areas. Let’s face it, these are the main priorities in a kid’s mind, or it certainly is for my two! Oh, and is there ice-cream? I think the first day of any type of holiday is always flustered trying to find your feet and to see how your week is going to pan out with a family. I can certainly say with confidence that cruising took a lot of this stress away.
Within ten minutes, we had registered the kids and were given details of procedures in place if anything was to happen whilst on-board, such as medical emergencies and what the qualified play leaders would do with the children in those situations. To be honest, half of the points they made hadn’t even crossed our minds, so it was very reassuring and certainly put our minds at rest that they would be well taken care of.
With the technicalities explained, our eldest daughter was in there no questions asked. Once she had seen the soft play area, PlayStation, all the arts and crafts, dressing up box – the whole shebang – she knew as well as we did that there was plenty to keep her entertained! We were also quietly thrilled that such great kid’s facilities meant that that we’d be able to drink a cocktail or two (or even three!) without our daughter wanting to take the first sip of each one!
It wasn’t all plain sailing; our youngest wasn’t convinced by these strange people in orange t-shirts to begin with. ‘Why are they being so happy with me? Why do they want to play with me?’ It took a few stays for her to feel secure and comfortable, but after a few dips of the fingers in the paint, glitter and face paints, she was well and truly settled. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your kids’ little faces, so filled with joy and excitement at the amazing entertainment that lies ahead of them on holiday.
With the kid’s club and pool area passing our inspection with flying colours, our attention turned to eating. Where would be best to eat as a family, with none of the fuss or added dramas that will be familiar to anyone with kids? Having cruised as a couple, we knew that the best place to find something to suit all our appetites was the buffet restaurant on deck 16 by the pool areas. There was something for all of us to choose from here and the kids loved looking at how many things they could get away with eating. The desserts looked amazing too, proving to be the perfect incentive for getting the girls to eat up if they wanted a sweet treat afterwards!
Staying by the pool, we had the option of the ‘Grab and Go’ fridge which had a great selection of baguettes, sandwiches and salads. Freshly-made pizzas, chips, burgers and hot-dogs were on offer too and it was such a weight off our shoulders to know that we didn’t have to venture far to grab the kids’ food.
At dinner time, they even had a section of the buffet restaurant closed off just for the ‘Kid’s Tea’ which includes all the favourites such as chicken nuggets, smiley faces, beans, pasta, sausages…you name it, Britannia had it!
The kid’s club is open most days from 9am until midnight, closing for just an hour at lunch and an hour at dinner, meaning we were able to go for a meal in Britannia’s main restaurant as a couple in the evenings. We managed to push the boat out and dine in one of the ship’s speciality restaurants too, and – wait for it – even watched a show in peace without the interruptions of the little ones needing toilet breaks. It really was the most relaxing, stress-free holiday a family could have hoped for.
Thoughts did cross our minds along the lines of ‘gosh are we bad parents, as we’ve not spent a full day with the kids on this cruise?’ but they soon disappear when you see them come away from their final day at the kid’s club with arms full of all the lovely creations that they’ve made (more stuff to store in the attic!) Plus, it was such a joy seeing them know so many of the other kids walking around the ship. Our cruise wasn’t just a family holiday, it was a chance to recharge the adults’ batteries and to let the kids do all the creative and fun activities they just absolutely love to do, every day!
Cruising really does cover every eventuality and I’d recommend to families in a heartbeat.