Home cruise Tip #43: Kids Cruise Free in Europe 2008 / 2009

Tip #43: Kids Cruise Free in Europe 2008 / 2009

by Shelly Rivoli

I won’t lie to you, I still flinch each time I try to price travel to Europe for our family of four now… particularly because I can still look back on our foray into France as newlyweds when Tim and I managed to spend 9 days in Paris for $1644 USD, total. Yep, that was airfare for both of us, 2-star hotels (one of course on the Rue de Rivoli), all meals, Metro and RER tickets, museums, and even a couple of tacky souvenirs. Of course, we went in February (not a fountain was running and the gardens weren’t much to see), but who can beat a Valentine’s Day walk along the Seine and rain-drizzled kisses on the steps of Sacre Coeur?

Now we might count ourselves lucky to both fly roundtrip to Europe for that price–and then there are the kids’ tickets. At least the kisses are gratis.

To those of you hoping to plan a family vacation to Europe in the next year, you might just consider working a cruise into your visit, especially when you consider this: MSC Cruises, an Italian, family-owned cruise line that is not widely known in the US, is letting children 17 years and younger cruise free when they sail with two paying adults.

When you can book the adults at 50% or more off the brochure price, and have two children (even teenagers!) cruising and dining with you FREE, you may actually manage to shelter and feed your family for a week onboard for less than you could on land with current exchange rates (and you won’t have to live on a diet of jambon crudité). Not to mention, that includes transportation between multiple destinations, with no re-packing required. But where can you go on a cruise in Europe?

Here are just a couple of the eye-catching “kids-FREE” itineraries I’ve noted:

7 days RT from Venice, with stops in Bari, Italy; Rhodes, Greece; Athens; Argostoli, Greece; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

8 days RT from Barcelona, with stops in: Genoa, Italy; Malaga, Spain; Cadiz, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Gibraltar, UK Ter.; and Alicante, Spain.

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen this offer widely advertised–or even mentioned on many cruise websites, even when I go through the motions of of pricing qualifying MSC cruises (read MSC’s explanation of the offer here). Rest assured you can get this deal, however, and on all MSC Mediterranean cruises departing now through 2009–even during peak seasons and school vacations (though the discount you can get on your adult price will vary).

The best site I’ve found for navigating to and through these kids-FREE cruises online–and comparing available discounts and dates–is www.vacationstogo.com. You will have to sign up for their Fast Deals email, but if you’re considering cruising at all, I recommend this site as a resource–and no I don’t get a kick-back for your click-through, darn it.) To see for yourself, follow these steps:

– Click the orange “Find a Deal” button
– Choose the region: Mediterranean
– Choose the month (plus one if you like)
– Choose the cruise line: MSC Cruises
– Click “Show me the deals”

You’ll see a list of all the departure dates during the month(s) along with some other basic details–including “Kids Free” for each of these cruises. Click the FastDeals number to see the specific itinerary and category discounted prices for each departure.

Since MSC is an Italian, family-owned cruise line, you can bet you’ll still be surrounded by other cultures and languages, even as you cruise–which is of course at least half the reason for venturing overseas. Paid babysitting and free supervised activities are also available for potty-trained children 3 years and older on most of these cruises.

For more help picking and planning a cruise with babies and small children, be sure to check out Part 7 of Travels with Baby.

Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
PUBLISHER’S DISCOUNT – Get 15% off Travels with Baby & qualify for FREE Super Saver shipping when you buy from “Travels with Baby Books”

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Dave January 30, 2009 - 12:33 am

Well my wife and I took our first cruise last fall it was the 7 day Barcelona through malta ,Italy and France and back to Barcelona it is definately the way to get a taste of everything but especially in Rome we felt we need more time and would like a Cruise leaving Rome and going through greece.turkey and Egypt we are definately hooked on cruising th elast cruise was our honeymoon but this time I would like to include my Daughter cheaply if possible I checked MSC but they don’t seem to have the Itinerary the fits my daughter is 15 going on 30 or 16 actually in oct The search will continue
and Traci who thinks a port a Day is good I must say it was exausting for us a day at sea in between would have made it easier nuff said happy cruising all it is the way to tour!!!

helan December 5, 2008 - 3:51 am

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Shelly Rivoli, author September 15, 2008 - 3:03 am

Kristy – We were never cruisers ourselves, and still wouldn’t call ourselves “total converts,” but there is definitely something to be said for the right cruise at the right time. When you’re pregnant or have a small child in tow (or both!), it doesn’t necessarily rid you of an inborn appetite for exotic travel. A cruise with stops that truly excite you can be a great way to get your fix without worrying 24/7 about the food safety issues that are an even more serious issue for toddlers and pregnant travelers. Your hub might be more open to trying it if you can frame it as a part of an overall trip, one where you may have a land-stay on either or both ends of the trip somewhere he’s excited to see (hopefully your port of embarkation or return, or try catching a cheap flight with a Euro airline or train to a spot nearby). And remind him that part of the importance of the vacation is to feel like you’ve had a vacation. Rather than spending a week in a rented apartment where you’re still obliged to buy groceries, cook, and clean up after yourselves, it’s pretty nice to travel between exciting ports (even differing countries) with your toddler in your own floating home, just walking off with your daypack and carrier to spend the day exploring, then returning each evening to the same cabin and familiar bed for your child, and just showing up for your meals rather than hunting them down on foreign streets or shopping and cooking (though this can sometimes be part of the fun). Also, you might tell him he’ll get his turn in the ship’s sauna and steam room, too, and you’ll be infinitely happier after having yours. Finally, try to pick a cruise / cruise line where you’ll still be surrounded by foreigners and will have plenty of opportunities to practice your language skills and make pen pals. Good luck!

Kristy Hall September 14, 2008 - 11:39 pm


I’ve been contemplating a cruise with my 19 month old that would include Greece and Egypt but I can’t get my husband to consider cruises (for all the normal reasons independent travelers snear at cruises). Any tips to help get that door open? Neither of us has been on a cruise but I think it might be a good way for us to visit Egypt.

Shelly Rivoli, author September 12, 2008 - 12:47 am

Just be aware that all those helpfully organized tours off the boat will be an additional fee for each of you (often not for those under 2 years riding on a lap) and that fee will be charged in Euros.

When considering an itinerary, you might want to check the port info at cruising.org to find out which places you might be more able to do your own thing (or check online for tour operators in the area that may meet you in port and take you where you want to go privately–possibly for the same cost as the group excursion, in a few cases) and where you’ll need to splurge on an organized tour.

At some stops, like at bigger cities, you may be able to pay around 5 Euros to take a shuttle to the town center and back when you’re done sightseeing. A few places (Savona, a few Greek Islands, etc.) you can even roll your stroller right off the ship and be happy exploring right where you’ve landed.

Traci September 11, 2008 - 8:38 pm

My husband has a collegue who is a big fan of cruises and his family has cruised all over the world. He was telling us of all these awesome Euro cruises. We’re looking forward to trying it, because although the cruise thing isn’t typically for me, I think the ones where there is a stop every day so you can see so many different cities sound fantastic. Like a traveling hotel. I don’t want to be trapped on a boat, I want to see the sights off the boat.

And I also like the idea that the ports they stop in are tourist friendly, and there are already a lot of activities and sight seeing routes preplanned by the cruise line. It would really make planning the trip a lot easier because you don’t have to do all that research ahead of time yourself just to make sure you are safe.

On another note- When we go to paris, we rent an appartment. It’s cheaper than a hotel in most cases and you can make meals at home instead of always eating out. And it really enhanced our trip, making us feel like authentic residents (if only for 10 days).

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