HollandAmerica1For vacationing families with older children, one of the strengths of  Holland America Line‘s 2012 Southern Caribbean and West Indies itineraries, is that small children make up a small portion of the overall capacity of cruisers so if a family with older children is looking for a thoroughly relaxing yet exciting cruise getaway, these longer itineraries are perfect.

While Club HAL, Holland America Line’s children’s program is nothing less than excelllent, you will find less younger children sailing on longer itneraries such as that of the Maasdam. In fact on our sailing, there were less than three dozen small children, under 12 on the entire ship.

With endless excelllent daily activities to choose from and lots of “at sea” days, we enjoyed taking in live shows together, movies, dance classes, visiting the casino, indulging in spa treatments, enjoying high teas, cooking classes, and even a high- tech computer class, which is a sure hit with tweens and teens.

HollandAmerica9Techie Fun for Tweens and Teens

Holland America Line offers many special activities and classes unique to its line and they have recently added a very popular new Microsoft Digital Workshop, quickly becoming the most popular activity on their ships.

“We are thrilled that passengers of Holland America Line are finding value in the Microsoft Digital Workshops,”said Chip Wood, group manager, Consumer Segment Marketing, Microsoft Corporation. “Providing guests with a comfortable environment where they can learn how to create, edit, and share digital memories is a fun, and unique way for Windows to enhance the cruise experience.”

These complimentary “techspert” led workshops enable all levels of photographers to take better photos, make movies, edit and create scrapbooks, and share digital memories through emails, blogs, and social networking. Cruisers of all ages find the classes offer a wonderful opportunity to learn together and perfect skills. This is an exceptional opportunity for family fun and learning for a homeschooling clan like ours.

HollandAmerica8Outstanding Dining for All

Excellent dining is a Holland America forte where specialties like Chicken Satay, Chili-rubbed Tuna Brochette, Oatmeal encrusted flounder, and Chocolate Decadence Cake are common fare. At the Pinnacle Grill, offerings like Lobster Bisque, Dungeness Crab Cakes, Broiled King Salmon, Surf and Turf, Land and Sea, Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, Filet Steak Diane, Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake, Pinnacle Crème Brule, Velvet soufflés, and cheesecakes are nightly enticements in a wonderful upscale setting perfect again for tweens, teens and adults, but perhaps not so perfect for younger cruisers.

HollandAmerica2Shore Excursions That Cannot Be Rivaled

Although Holland America Line, the world’s leading premiere cruise line, sails to all seven continents and more than 320 ports of call, the various Caribbean itineraries are favorites for families sailing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. These exciting sailings thrill vacationing famiilies with so many wonderful shore excursions options. If you are adventurous like we tend to be, you will be delighted with the choices. We found the choices and experiences to be the very best of any cruise line we have ever sailed with.

A shore excursion-road trip to see the green monkeys in St. Kitts was nothing less than spectacular; the Champagne snorkeling in Dominica was wondrous, and the bioluminescent kayaking with dinoflagellates in Puerto Rico may be one of the most memorable and exciting shore excursions anywhere.

Families love shopping and golfing in places like Barbados, Half Moon Cay, and St. Maarten. The combination of exotic wildlife, excellent shopping, pristine and safe beaches, and astounding history make these itineraries a wonder for all ages where families can find something memorable and enjoyable to encounter at each and every port with such a vast array of diverse options. Whether you zip line through a jungle together or wade in the warm West Indies oceans, satisfaction is certain with these wonderful tropical and exotic shore excursions.

HollandAmerica3We were thrilled to snorkel where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed in a geo thermal champagne snorkel spot. And the best and most mind boggling shore excursion any of us had ever experienced was seeing each other aglow from the phenomenon of night kayaking through trillions of dinoflagellates ablaze in the Laguna Grande of Puerto Rico— both provided us thrilling memories of a lifetime.

Coming or Going, Family Lodging

On the road trip to or from your sailing from Ft. Lauderdale, stay at the family-friendly, newly remodeled Westin Ft. Lauderdalewith its gorgeous three-acre lagoon where hospitality, service and outstanding food are a refreshing every day occurrence and the amenities cater to families beautifully. We loved the relaxing atmosphere, gorgeous pool, and outstanding food which was just what we needed to decompress and get geared for our luxurious sailing the next day.

Cruising is the ultimate family vacation experience with activities, sights, and experiences that cater to everyone in the family and Holland America has the corner on pleasing each and every vacationing family for a cruise that’s unforgettable.

Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of Roadtripsforcouples.com, an online travel magazine. Carmel co-hosts a travel radio show every Sunday at noon on KJAY 1430 AM in Sacramento. Her family travel column can be read in California Kids Magazine at: www.valcomnews.com You can follow her on Twitter: @roadtriplover or Facebook. Carmel is also the Executive Director of Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, a non-profit that trains and places Autism Service Dogs. You can read her service dog blog at: www.pawsitivesolutions.org. 

While Holland America Line graciously hosted me and my guests on this press sailing, the opinions/experiences expressed here are entirely my own and are not paid or endorsed by Holland America or any other entity.