Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Family-friendly travel?

Family-friendly travel? == Hobo MamaMy parents have been considering a cruise to Alaska, combined with an inland journey, for their 40th anniversary next year. We're invited along provided we pay our way, so I was researching prices today to see if we can or should try to save up enough for the excursion.

Whether we can afford it is still under debate, but prices aside, I was dismayed by some of the restrictions regarding families, infants, and small children that subtly or sometimes overtly suggest that a cruise is not a place for those with little ones.

The first thing that caught my eye maybe sounds the least crucial -- no children in diapers are allowed in the pools. And no children at all (I think the specific age depends on the line) are allowed in the hot tubs. Here I was thinking Mikko would enjoy his time aboard if only for all the dunking possibilities. Now I realize that at the moment we would be surrounded by tempting water with nary a drop to swim in.

Now, it's possible that Mikko will be potty trained by next year (he'll be 2 -- strange thought!), particularly since we practice a lackadaisical EC. Although if my experiences with Mikko so far have taught me anything, it's that he has his own mind and his own will, and I shouldn't plan for anything.

I was wondering if the no-pee rule was cruise-line specific, so I checked Disney's site, figuring they would be the most child-friendly. They were at least apologetic about it, but it turns out the regulation is cruise-industry-wide. Disney does offer a wading pool for the incontinent young. But one thing I like about swimming with Mikko (which we do every Friday at our local pool) is being submerged in the water myself, and then relaxing, all three of us, in the hot tub when we need to warm up.

Another rule that I had discovered when I was pregnant with Mikko is how much more restrictive cruise ships are than airlines when it comes to allowing pregnant women on board: ~24 weeks vs. ~35. Sam & I were contemplating a short Hawaiian jaunt, but I was already past my danger date, according to cruise-dom. I couldn't figure that out, since (a) it's not like a pregnancy is a ticking bomb and (b) it was Hawaii, USA, for goodness' sake! They have medical care there, as far as I can guess. (I don't know, because the cruise line wouldn't let me go to find out.)

I gave up the Hawaii idea, but my parents were first considering the Alaska voyage for this past summer -- I found out when researching that it would have been a no-go, because Mikko would have been under the 6-month age minimum. That also ticked me off -- wouldn't a smaller baby be a lot easier to cruise with than a toddler who's mad he can't go into the pool?

While I was on Disney's site, I went ahead and looked at what was available for little cruiselets. For the 3-years-and-up set, you can drop off your kids for activities until midnight, provided you don't mind the ratio of 1 minder to 15 tots. (Keep in mind that these are all strangers to you and your kids.) You get a pager to keep you on call while you go sit in the adults-only luxury of the hot tub and down frozen margaritas with Goofy. (I'm fantasizing here.)

I wondered what there was to do if you didn't want to drop off your kids all day every day, and it suggested taking them swimming.

Now, I've never been on a cruise, so I don't know how family-friendly they are or aren't in practice. I just get discouraged by the general attitude of American culture that pays lip service to "family values" blah blah blah but actually hates kids. There's such a fear of crying, and poop, and the horror of having someone be disruptive.

I was talking with my friend who's become a nun about how we feel so dissociated from the church service now because we spend the whole time in the cry room. She thought that was a shame, and that the church should be one of the most welcoming places for children, noisy or no, given Jesus' example. But, sad to say, it's not, or at least ours isn't. You have, a la the cruise ship, two choices: (1) Drop your kid off at the nursery for other people to watch and be separated as a family during this important time, or (2) Stubbornly insist on remaining together as a family unit and be punished by having your options slashed.

Or, of course, there's choice 3, which is sort of the message I'm getting from the cruise lines at least:

Stay home.


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