I thought I would take this opportunity to blog about our first holiday abroad with B. We decided to wait until he was 1 before we took him out of the country, mainly because the amount of equipment you'd have to take (formula, sterilisers etc etc).
After researching different holidays, your typical package one, booking flights and accommodation separately, city breaks etc, we decided on a cruise, on a ship leaving from the UK, so there would be no long flight with a small child on your knee!
Me and my OH have been on cruises before. Our first was our honeymoon and after that we got a bit hooked on them. It was a completely different holiday experience, waited on hand and foot, ships the size of 3 football pitches filled with shops, bars, cafes, swimming pools. spas and theatres. Everything you could ever want. We picked the same company that we had always used before, P&O and chose their most 'family friendly' ship Ventura.
Arriving on departure day, we drove down to Southampton and to the cruise terminal, where you are greeted, and your car and luggage are taken off you and you check in. B was very interested in his new surroundings, lots of new people and other small children! We checked in, then had a bit of a wait to get through security (airport style). At this point B was getting very restless and frustrated. He had had a quick nap in the car, but was still tired. I was beginning to think was this what the whole holiday would be like.
We eventually got on board and went to our cabin. We had chosen a quiet deck at the back of the ship, with a balcony, to hopefully enjoy the views and the weather when we got to where we were going! The room was pretty much the same as usual. Huge bed, tv, walk in wardrobe, fridge, dressing table, but this time we also had a cot, for B. We unpacked and began to explore the ship. First port of call (haha) was the kids club. Having never used any child care facilities on board, we were keen to see what was available. There was a room for the under 2's, filled with loads of toys, a table to sit and draw, plenty of books to read, a little play kitchen, a train track and lots of lay musical instruments. The unders 2's have to be supervised by the parents during the day here, but at night, the night nursery is available and we liked this A LOT. It meant we could drop a sleepy B off and enjoy a drink and dinner one our own whilst he slept under the watchful eye of the staff.
Once we set sale the entertainment gets under way. There was a children's entertainer call 'Bobs your uncle' who did magic shows for the kids. He would always come and chat to B if he ever saw us around. Another great feature was they did a special children's Noddy Tea every evening, so the kids could all eat on their own and food especially prepared for the, (it was rather yummy!!).
We had 3 days at sea before we reach our first port, Madeira. After that we had about 3 ports around the Canary Islands. The weather was glorious! We took B to the beach and built sand castles, went to long walks around the little towns we stopped in, did some shopping and found some great parks to play in.
After the Canary Islands we had another sea day before the next port in southern Spain. By this time B was being recognised by a lot of the other passengers and staff, and he was trying to communicate with them. He knew what 'bye' meant and would wave at you. Also if anyone got out of the lifts he would wave at them - so cute, everyone loved him!
We had another 2 stops in Lisbon and Cadiz before the journey home. We docked with another P&O ship, which was rare in Lisbon.
By the time we got home 2 weeks later, I was exhausted. It was a completely different type of holiday. Up at 6ish most mornings with an 'excited' B, eating breakfast by 8, having playtime, activities, lunch, then a nap, then more activities, then dinner, the bed. We were constantly on the go, but I enjoyed it no end. On previous cruises I would spend hours sat on a sun lounger reading a book, but this cruise was different. We made the most of all the facilities on board. I took B swimming for the first time and he loved it. He got to experience so many different things and see so many different places, he is a lucky one year old!
We are already thinking about the next cruise, different ship, maybe up to the fjords, or Iceland (in the summer months of course) and by this time B will be 2 so we can make the most of the kids clubs by then!
Cruises are now definitely family holidays. Families are made to feel welcome and special on board and every need is catered for. We had no problems with getting milk for B or finding him a high chair for a meal. All included in what we had paid. Yes granted that cruises aren't cheap, and there are cheaper holidays out there, but we enjoy them so much not to give them up. We save up for them, I never put a holiday on a credit card! We shop at discount supermarkets and only have one car which means we can afford to take these kind of holidays and I'm not going to feel guilty about that.