Should you cruise without the kids? Jennifer Vandekreeke, Vice President Carnival Cruise Line Australia, recently set sail on her first childless cruise & was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child… so the saying goes. And if you’ve ever been on holiday with teenagers, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
As typical Gen X parents, our kids take up an incredible amount of time and headspace. Even when we’re on holiday, our kids’ needs and wants take priority. Which is why all of our beach house rentals have to have a skate park in close proximity.
So, it was with excitement and a bit of trepidation that my husband and I decided to go on a four-day Carnival Cruise without our 13-year-old twins. Yes, we were going on a Honeyboom, which is what Carnival has termed a couple’s holiday when you leave the kids at home.
What was going to replace all the time and energy we spend coordinating Saturday sport logistics, and ensuring there’s a healthy dinner on the table? How would we decide what to do every day when every decision generally starts with “what do the twins want to do?” Well, we were about to find out.
After a lovely sail away party spent on the top deck of Carnival Spirit with a cocktail in hand, I woke up on the first sea day in my usual ‘Mummy checklist mode’. Did I have everything sorted for Chase’s regatta this weekend? Did I need to pick up something for Phoebe’s school project today? It took a moment for it to register – my checklist for today only contained things I wanted to do. So, I started a new checklist with a wonderful sleep-in as item number one, as I rolled over and went back to sleep.
A bit later, my husband Robin and I wandered up to the coffee shop on the Adult Only Serenity deck for our caffeine fix. Happily ensconced on a comfy outdoor sofa with our morning cup of coffee and tea, we watched the sun sparkling on the waves, looked at each other and just smiled. We had the whole day to ourselves and we could do whatever we wanted. And just like that, the day flowed, with no specific plan.
I got a lovely massage in the spa, Robin went to the gym, we ate when we wanted to and even made reservations at Nouveau – the elegant restaurant my kids flatly refuse to eat in. “Too fancy,” says my son and “too slow,” says my daughter. Guess what Goldilocks, for Robin and I that restaurant is “just right”. Beautiful food and delicious wine accompanied by impeccable service and a sunset view. The sunset was so nice we even went out and had our picture taken.
As we made plans for our day ashore, it took us longer than expected to decide what to do. But once we adjusted to a reality where we take priority, a day at the beach seemed like the right thing to do. We lounged on the sand with friends, went for a dip and ate a very late lunch accompanied by a few drinks. By the end of day two, we found ourselves acting like a couple of 25-year-olds, instead of a couple of 25 years. There were lots of spontaneous hugs, kisses and snuggles as we revelled in our new-found freedom to just be a couple again.
Sailing back to Sydney on the last afternoon, we decided to test out one of the hammocks on the Serenity deck. Can I just say, very few things in the world are as conducive to a nice heart-to-heart than swinging on a hammock in a warm ocean breeze. My husband and I are not ones for deep conversation, we’re all about getting things done. But, in a world where you don’t need to get anything done, you have the time and the headspace for real conversations. The kind we used to have before half our time was taken up with our offspring and the other half by work and whatever needs fixing in the house or garden. So, we talked about our goals for this year and our dreams for the future.
As we talked, I realised for the first time ever that being an empty nester no longer seems like such a scary prospect. We’ve got a few years to go, but there are lots of wonderful things that can replace the mind-space and time that is currently being occupied raising happy, responsible, respectful teenagers. And much of it involves hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company.
On the last night, as we dined dressed in our 80s gear (Madonna and the Pool Boy in full effect), I asked Robin what he considered to be his highlight from the cruise. After a moment he answered, “spending time with you”. I smiled from ear to ear.
I have officially become a Honeyboomer and it’s a pretty great place to be. So, next time you’re thinking about a holiday, I highly recommend leaving the kiddos behind. You just might become a convert too.
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Do you prefer cruising with or without the kids?
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