The 411 on Family Cruising

Thanks to Traveling Mom, I got the chance to explore the wide world of cruising. And trust me, these days, while the best known cruise lines attract millions of vacationers, there are several luxury liners that are giving families all over the world the experience of a lifetime. So get ready for the 411 on the travel opportunities awaiting you on the open sea…
wind_surf032.jpg1. Luxury Cruising with Windstar: While I’m a cruising veteran (I’ve hit Celebrity, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL to name a few), even lifetime cruisers like me can be introduced to something new and exciting. That’s why, I was excited to meet the reps from Windstar, a cruise line offering a one of a kind luxury experience with top of the line food, incredible service, gorgeous staterooms, watersports and ports of call like Costa Rica, Barbados, Rome, Barcelona, Nice, and many more. The Windstar ships are much smaller and can accommodate approximately 300 guests (can anyone say, Role Mommy Retreat?) Plus, if you’re expecting, the Windstar also offers “Babymoon” getaways – the chance to set out on one last romantic adventure before your new arrival.
2. MSC SPLENDIDA - Fireworks at Christening.jpgKids Sail Free on MSC! While I had never heard of MSC cruises, I discovered this cruise liner is a hidden gem that offers top of the line sailings to the Caribbean, Bermuda and Europe. Since they are owned by a family from Italy, they are committed to high end service and offer Italian style dining options on all their ships. Plus, they have special group rates if you’re booking eight staterooms or more; a Balinese spa and private butler if you’re traveling with more than 100 guests, and theme weeks like All-Star Baseball cruising. Plus, they’ve got great gaming options for the kids too including miniature golf, swimming, tennis, basketball, volleyball, an Internet Cafe, and an outdoor cinema!
co_magica_atrium.jpg3. Costa Cruises – If my kids were meeting with the reps from Costa Cruises, they would have had them at playstations. For me it was the gorgeous staterooms, a menu that’s to-die for, and destinations that are definitely on my must-visit list- the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and now…cruises that leave out of New York and hit New England and Quebec! While Costa Cruises is best known as a European luxury liner, they cater to families from dozens of countries and they say, when you put two kids in front of a playstation, those language barriers instantly disappear. Oh and did I mention the incredibly reasonable prices?
4. Cruising to Europe is Less Expensive According to Bob Sharak, Executive Vice President and CMO of the Cruise Line International Association, traveling to destinations like Italy, France and Spain is actually less expensive than booking hotels in those cities. While you still may go for pasta in Rome, the rest of your food is taken care of onboard, plus you can arrange all your land excursions on the ship and then return in the evenings to dine, dance, and relax!
Swiss Sapphire in Maastrich.jpg5. Prone to Seasickness? Try a Riverboat Cruise! While most ships these days are like floating hotels (you barely feel like you’re actually at sea), if you’re afraid you might lose the midnight buffet aboard a rocking cruise ship, there are patches or bands for cruisers with weak stomachs. Or, according to Bob Sharak, why not try the latest travel option….Riverboat Cruising! Today, there are boats that can literally take you through the rivers of Europe and dock right on land. Which means, the moment they set down that anchor, you can walk off the ship, hit a bistro, shop or go sightseeing.
For more information on cruising with your family, check out this video!

The 411 on Family Cruising from Beth Feldman on Vimeo.

In Jennie’s Kitchen

Beat the Lunchbox Blues by Jennifer Perillo
mail.jpegFor some friends around the country, school starts in just two weeks. Thankfully, here in New York City, we’ve got a month left of summer vacation, but I’m already thinking about the challenges lunchtime presents come September. Is my daughter eating everything I pack? Did I send enough food for her hearty appetite? Is it a balanced meal? Lunch can be so much more than a sandwich. A sturdy thermos is a treasure chest waiting to be filled with pastas, burritos and even kid-size pizza pockets. Bean-based dips also make a nutritious meal when you throw in some cut up veggies and whole grain pita. Add a piece of fruit and you’ve got all the food groups covered.
Mango Hummus
Makes about 2 cups
This hummus has a sweet, tropical kick kids will love.
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup diced mango
1 clove garlic, sliced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Add chickpeas, mango and garlic to the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture forms a thick paste. Season with pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and process until hummus is smooth and creamy about two minutes.
Recipe and photo by Jennifer Perillo
For more quick cooking ideas and to see step-by-step photos of this recipe, visit Jennifer at her blog In Jennie’s Kitchen.