CHARTERING WITH YOUR FAMILY
Ed - February 2009
Generally, if the children are happy on vacation, the parents are happy also. The key to making sure this happens starts in the planning stages, when selecting the crew. The boat can be beautiful, but let's face it, on all but the largest boats, the crew is what makes the vacation and this can be even more important when it comes to younger or teenage children.
Our job is to listen to your requirements and then recommend the most suitable boat, as well as the crew we feel you would enjoy spending a vacation with. When we visit these boats, we therefore spend a lot of time talking to crews and trying to see the kinds of things THEY enjoy. One of the topics is always whether they like having children aboard. The automatic answer is normally yes, but then we talk about what a crew would do with the children to keep them entertained. It is generally easy to tell which crews the children would warm up to!
Some crews are naturals. Often a cook has worked as an au pair or in a day care center or school earlier in life. Sometimes the captain is really a kid at heart and is only too happy to dress up as a pirate or sneak ashore and set up a treasure hunt on an uninhabited island.
For teenagers, an enthusiastic crew can introduce children to the wonders of snorkeling or even diving, or wear them out on the waterskis or tube. They can appoint a budding boatman 'dinghy captain' and watch his confidence (and pride) grow as he carefully ferries everyone ashore, under the watchful eye of the skipper. Then there are the kids that don't want to do anything - just sunbathe on the foredeck and get great tans to show the other kids back home. It's amazing how a good crew can identify with all these kids, who often warm to them and create close friendships. To the kids, these crews probably live very different lives and the experiences they offer can be a big change from the daily life back home. There are often some very sad faces and a few tears when it's time to go.
The cruising ground is also important. A parent might like the idea of long sails and introducing the family to the joys of cruising, but most kids (and most non-seasoned sailors if they're honest) start to get bored after an hour or two. The Virgin Islands are of course ideal for family charters, because the area is sheltered, the distances are short, there are enough bays and beaches to visit without going to the same place twice, even on the longest charter, and there is so much to do ashore. There are also plenty of other people, which is often a negative for adults but can be a bonus for kids.
There are however plenty of other places. The Grenadines are beautiful and can be a good choice, particularly in the summer. Young kids generally love the beaches of the Caribbean, but taking a teenager to the Mediterranean can be a wonderful eye-opening experience. Here again, you need to pick the area and the boat carefully, and try to really think what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to introduce your children to different cultures, learn more about other countries or just have a great sailing holiday in a different place? Make sure your kids are on the same wavelength and are ready for what you want to show them. I remember when I took my 13 year old daughter to England and proudly showed her the sights of London, the thing she remembered most when we returned were the other kids' punk hairdos! It was still worth it!
While crews will go out of their way to entertain children, it is important to know that they are not baby-sitters. Most boats under 75 feet (50' for cats) run with a crew of 2 - a captain and cook. You will quickly see that they work very hard and it's just not possible to produce the meals and level of service they want to, as well as baby-sit the kids.
Some people are surprised that kids are almost always charged the same as adults. It is true that your 12 year old won't be drinking wine or vodka, and generally won't eat as much as an adult, but adult couples tend to entertain themselves and as you can see, a good crew will go above and beyond to entertain and keep your children occupied. Very often the cook will adapt the adult and kid's meals to accommodate both tastes. Occasionally this involves two separate dinners. We've heard more than one crew joke that kids should be more expensive! Seriously, they will work hard to make sure your kids have a wonderful experience, because they know as well as we do, that if the kids are happy, the parents probably will be too!
Tell us a little bit about your plans and we would be happy to suggest some suitable, family oriented boats and crews.
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