Tennyson and her aunt Sherri (the author) on the Celebrity Silhouette. (Photo: Sherri Eisenberg)
My 3-year-old niece Tennyson is, in a word, lucky. Since her aunt doesn’t have kids, and is sometimes invited to review family-friendly vacations, she gets to come along.
The good news: She is enthusiastic, articulate, opinionated, loves to travel, and has a great memory. The bad news: No matter how many times her mother reminds her how lucky she is, this is normal for her. We’re hoping she doesn’t get jaded. Fortunately, so far, she loves every minute of it … so much so that she gets her suitcases sometimes and says “I’m ready to go on a boat!” Aren’t we all, darling?
Here, my favorite little cruiser’s tips for your next sailing.
1. “It’s okay if you don’t like your dinner … they’ll bring you something else.”
Tennyson’s not a picky eater, but the one time she didn’t like something, the staff was quick to notice and bring her something else instead. It stuck with her: a cruise is special in that, well, Mommy won’t make you eat your vegetables — or your pasta or anything else — if you’re not a fan. That’s a big deal if you’re a toddler.
2. “You should hug the princesses when you see them … you don’t know if they’ll be around later.”
On a Disney Cruise Line sailing last year, Tennyson stood in line to meet the costumed princesses, her personal heroes, then freaked out a little when she got to the front. It was just too scary to hug a stranger, even if the stranger was dressed like Cinderella. She regretted it later … she was only 2-years-old at the time, and she insists now that next time she gets the opportunity she will be brave. She reminds me that we should all have the courage to try something new. (Though that does not mean I will be doing any of the ship’s rope courses anytime soon.)
Striking a pose. (Photo: Sherri Eisenberg)
3. “When you get onboard, eat something, then go right to the pool.”
Like a lot of kids, Tennyson loves pool time. She doesn’t care as much as, say, her aunt does that she gets a good lounge chair — she plans to spend her time running around and splashing. She wants the playtime to start as soon as possible on the first day, and so should we all. My advice: make sure your swimsuits and flip flops are in your carry-on luggage so you don’t have to wait until your suitcases are delivered to your cabin for your vacation to start.
4. “Not all boats are Mickey’s boats.”
Did I mention that Tennyson loved that Disney cruise? For her, it was the perfect combination of her interests — namely, the Princesses—and a beach vacation. Plus, it was her first introduction to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and she’s a big fan now. The takeaway: Anytime you can find a cruise that celebrates your hobbies, whether it’s a regular sailing or a theme cruise, you should go out of your way to pick that one. We learned that on a Celebrity cruise that mainly caters to empty nesters and retired couples. The Celebrity Silhouette was chic, and the staff and crew worked hard to cater to Tennyson. The cabin steward brought us a make-shift tub so she could take a bath in our shower, and a bartender prepared smoking frozen juice “mocktails” at the Molecular Bar that made her clap and jump up and down. But when my sister asked Tennyson how she was enjoying her vacation she turned to me and said “Aunt Sherri, this is not Mickey’s boat.” We had to laugh and shake out heads — her Mommy and I loved the elegance of the ship, but the complaint was duly noted.
5. “You should eat lots of treats.”
Tennyson loves kale and broccoli, but when she boards a cruise ship, she makes sure Mommy knows she also wants plenty of ice cream and cupcakes. To her, eating sweets is part of the vacation. It’s fun to watch her fully embrace the idea of a holiday as a time when the rules are relaxed but, for me, I’m happier when I disembark if I stick to my workouts and try not to eat dessert every night.
Indulging on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. (Photo: Sherri Eisenberg)
6. “Bring some of your own toys … you don’t know what they’ll have.”
Tennyson and her mom always pack some bedtime stories, some crayons and coloring books, and an iPad that’s fully loaded with her favorites. (Translation: It has “Frozen” on it, which she would watch on repeat if she could.) This stash keeps her happy on the plane — even if the flight’s delayed — and it gives her mom a back-up plan for when the playroom is closed. I try to do the same, though my stash is books, magazines, and an iPad full of favorite TV shows for binge watching at the airport.
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7. “You should try everything.”
Sure, lots of people have a YOLO philosophy, but I don’t know anyone who lives up to hers as much as my little niece. She walked by a karaoke bar on a Royal Caribbean cruise on Freedom of the Seas recently, and had to take her turn. (She went up on stage even after they told her they didn’t have anything from Frozen, mind you — a major blow.) During the ice skating show, she stood and danced and cheered the whole time. And, later, she walked past a bar after dinner that was playing one of her favorite songs — “All about that Base” and shouted “Meghan Trainer!” … then proceeded to turn what was previously a crowded champagne lounge into her own private dance stage, complete with a clapping cheering crowd. When it was over, she shouted requests to the DJ, who gave her the thumbs up and complied. Tennyson always seizes the moment to dance, sing, and shout — and, watching her, I find I’m more likely to now, too.
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