Back on a Cruise – Part 1

A year ago, Rainer Jenss traveled around the world with his wife and two sons and blogged about his experience here on Intelligent Travel.  We’re proud to announce that Rainer’s Jenss Family Travels was selected as one of the Top 25 Family Travel Blogs by Today he writes to us about his family’s latest adventure–a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

“Good to have you back onboard with us,” announced J. T. Watters, the cruise director of the ms Oosterdam, as I joined dozens of other Mariner Society members in raising our champagne glasses.  It had been more than 30 years since I was last on a Holland America ship and, given my invitation to this exclusive reception, apparently the cruise line hadn’t forgotten that fact.

I was 13 years old on that first voyage, an impressionable age and a time in my life when I was just starting to explore my own way.  My oldest son was the same age last year when he went on his first cruise with his grandparents on the Queen Mary 2.  That experience jump-started his fascination with ocean liners and certainly influenced our decision to take our first family cruise on a large ship during the boys’ recent spring break.  So it was with little wonder that I found myself quite nostalgic as we set sail out of San Diego toward the Mexican Riviera.

It didn’t take long to realize why cruising has become so popular with families. For starters, Holland America offers a “Club HAL” kids program for kids (3-7), tweens (8-12), and teens (13-17) on all their cruises, which pretty much guarantees your children will always have something to do.  Given that there were over 300 kids on our particular trip, there was no shortage of other kids for our children to meet.

There’s also no shortage of food, which is often one of cruising’s biggest draws for parents. If you have young children who typically make dining out a challenge, parents have the option of feeding them early at the buffet restaurant and then sending them off to the kids club, so mom and dad can have a relaxing dinner over a bottle of wine.  Because our kids are a little older and can manage to read a menu and order on their own, my wife and I were able to steal away and take advantage of a special Le Cirque dinner being offered one night in their premiere dinning room, the Pinnacle Grill.

But make no mistake, we were not looking to escape from our kids during the week-long vacation.  Just the opposite.  I was looking forward to reliving some of the experiences I remember so fondly and sharing them with the boys:  Playing shuffleboard on the top deck in the ocean breeze, trying our luck at Jackpot Bingo, taking part in a ping-pong tournament, and going to the Vista Lounge to enjoy comedians, illusionists, and a finalist of America’s Got Talent. All terrific fun.  Plus we got to enjoy some new activities that cruises just didn’t offer when I was a child: basketball games, yoga class, and cooking demonstrations.

Going on a cruise has surely changed a great deal since the late 1970s. Back then, the ship was mainly a place to unwind, eat, and drink while being transported from one port to the next.  Now there are so many choices, you almost feel guilty if you lounge on a deck chair and read a book. Ships transport you to new places to see, and for us, it was the Mexican Riviera. More on that soon.

Follow Rainer on Twitter at @JenssTravel.

Photo by Tyler Jenss




  1. Faraz
    United States
    May 17, 2011, 10:39 am

    Cruising certainly has changed a lot..for the better! There are so many ships of varying sizes – really is something for everyone (families, singles, couples, seniors, etc.).

    Look fwd to reading your Part 2.