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Originally published Saturday, March 8, 2014 at 7:04 PM

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How to get the best out of family cruise

Tips on organizing a family cruise, from cabin choice to shore excursions.

The Dallas Morning News

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Considering a family cruise? Here are some things to consider:

Booking your cruise: With so many ships and itineraries vying for your attention, choosing the right sailing for your family can be daunting. A travel agent who specializes in cruising can help make sense of the options and assist in choosing an itinerary that best matches your family’s interests and budget. Booking early can mean early-bird discounts, a wider choice of cabins and, possibly, onboard ship credits. Last-minute bookings, approximately 60 days before sailing, can also mean savings if the ship isn’t filling up.

Choosing your cabin: Take the time to sort through cabin configurations. Options typically include family cabins for four with bunks or pullout sofas, adjoining rooms or mini suites. If traveling with older kids, you can save by reserving one room with a balcony and a second, interior cabin across the hall. Larger suites come with express boarding options, multiple bathrooms, butler service and other onboard perks.

Shore excursions: The cost of shore excursions can add up when traveling with a large family. Consider exploring on your own, spending a relaxing day on the beach if you’re on a Caribbean cruise, or a quiet shipboard day.

For excursions, booking a private tour will mean more flexibility and enable you to spend time doing what most interests your family. But if a particular shore excursion looks just right, reserve early — some fill up fast.

Onboard fun: Elaborate kids clubs, climbing walls, wave pools, zip lines, outdoor theaters, karaoke, skating rinks and water parks are just some of the enticements for kids. Teens have their own hangouts that include dance clubs, computer and video arcade centers and coffeehouse-style meeting spots. Baby-sitting is also available on most ships.

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