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One of the best ways to enjoy traveling as a family is to take a cruise. Once you're on board, you can just sit back and enjoy the fun. But it doesn't hurt to intersperse that fun with a few educational opportunities for your kids, especially since almost everything about a cruise offers a teaching moment. Bonus: The kids don't think it's educational; they think it's fun!
Why a Cruise Ship Is an Ideal Out-of-School School
You may not have considered your vacation this way, but the environment of a cruise ship is ideal for learning new things. For all of the reasons listed below, kids just organically acquire knowledge on a cruise.
1. Unpack Once
You don't have to worry about moving yourself, your kids and your luggage from place to place. Instead, you have time to explore your surroundings with ease. This lack of stress helps your kids to be comfortable and open to new ideas and information.
2. Return to the Familiar Each Day
Having a place of familiarity to return to at the end of the day to relax and talk about all the new and exciting things they've encountered helps your children to retain that knowledge. It also means they'll be well-rested for the next day's new and exciting things.
3. Everything is New and Different
Everything about a ship is likely unfamiliar to your kids. They'll learn about "port" and "starboard," and experience the night sky in a new way. If you bring along a map, they can plot your voyage and learn about travel variables such as distance and weather.
4. Everyone's a Teacher
Cruise ship crews often come from many parts of the world, which gives your children the opportunity to meet and mingle with people from a great variety of cultural backgrounds. The other passengers likely come from unfamiliar places as well. Have your kids add each new country or city to their map so they'll become familiar with the names and locations.
5. Travel Etiquette
Cruises are excellent locations for teaching your children some rules of travel etiquette. Depending on their age, they may not have had the experience of ordering from a waiter or being courteous to unfamiliar adults.
6. Onboard Activities
Many cruise ships offer onboard learning experiences for kids while en route to your destination. Look for a Carnival cruise ship that offers the Seuss at Sea program. Your kids get to participate in a number of educational activities inspired by Dr. Seuss's books, including a special onboard character parade, interactive story time and arts and crafts activities.
What Kids Can Learn on Shore Excursions
Shore excursions are ideal teaching opportunities. They engage all the senses, which helps to impart a deeper understanding of new places and things. Whether you are cruising to Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean or the Bahamas, your kids will gain new knowledge of history, culture, nature and languages.
Every country has an interesting history, and many shore excursions take you right to the historically important landmarks. A visit to a museum can also teach a lot about a country's history. Your kids can learn how each country was populated and developed, and how these events shaped a society different from their own.
Learning about a region's culture goes hand in hand with learning about its history. Some of the most fun shore excursions for children are those that let them participate in or watch local customs such as parades, fiestas and markets.
Shore excursions also offer an excellent opportunity to introduce your kids to new foods. What they might not have tried at home may appear more appealing in an unfamiliar environment.
If you're cruising to Mexico or the Caribbean, your kids will encounter people who speak Spanish, and perhaps Dutch and French, depending on your ports of call. You might want to teach them a few basic words and phrases so they can interact with tour guides and locals. If they're studying one of these languages at school, this is a great opportunity for them to practice.
Each region offers singular geographical features, many of which are outstandingly beautiful. Excursions take you to the area's unique natural features, such as jungles, waterfalls, underground rivers and caves. Kids will enjoy exploring the ocean, and snorkeling is ideal for viewing underwater sea life.
These natural areas are inhabited by myriad species of plants and animals that are exciting to encounter for the first time. How better to teach about wildlife conservation than to introduce your kids to sea turtles or dolphins up close and personal?
One of the very best things you can do as a parent is to give your kids a love of travel. Travel makes us realize we live in a truly beautiful world, and it teaches us that, although not everyone in it is just like us, everyone and everything has worth. Take the excellent teaching opportunities offered by a cruise vacation to explore these worldly wonders with your children.