You might be weighing your options on how to plan a vacation that your whole family will love. Kids have short attention spans sometimes and want instant gratification, so perhaps a cruise where there's always something going on and you have a finite amount of time in each port to get off the boat, do something fun and then get back on to get ready for the next stop.
Do Your Research on Ships
All cruise ships are different and offer things that other ships don't. Also, smaller ships don't have tons of options for entertainment (duh, right?). Make sure you look at what ships have and don't have and do some research on what other cruisers have said about it. You don't want to spend 5 days on a ship that only has cool stuff for adults to do and your kids want to kill themselves.
Scope Out the Foods
Almost everyone has a picky eater in their family. Sure, cruise ships have many different dining venues, but you're going to want to do your research here, too, even before you climb onboard. Make a list of what they have and match them up with what you know your kid(s) will eat. Who knows, maybe they will feel adventurous and try something new, but don't count on it. Once you get on the ship, take them around to all the different eateries and make sure you (and they) know where they can eat and how to get there. If the ship doesn't have enough variety to keep the kiddos happy, perhaps you need to find a new one.
What do your kids like to do? Does your chosen ship have the things that will keep them from hating life while stuck at sea? Many cruises have a teen dance club and kids-only activities they can do, but if you're spending time as a family, look for things that you will all like. The rule is: If the kids are happy, everyone's happy. Also, make sure that those activities they will enjoy won't cause you to go broke. There can be a lot of things on a ship that cost extra. If there are tons of activities, but they all cost extra, either you're going to have some bummed kids on your hands or you're going to be sad when you end up paying the bill at the end of the cruise.
Plan Each Day
With all the activities onboard, make sure you don't end up with those dreaded summer words "I'm bored," or "There's nothing to do!" You'll get a schedule of events each night for the next day. Have your family look it over, either that evening or at breakfast and schedule what you're going to do while at sea that day. That way they have an expectation of how they'll be spending their time and you won't have to deal with sulkers (for that, anyway).
Let Them Do Their Own Thing
Give your kids a bit of space and time away from you. You can probably both use it. There's no place for them to go, so eventually they'll show up for food or clothes or something. Allow them time to be on their own and make some new friends or hang out with their siblings without you. It'll give you time to hit the spa or have some romantic times.
Have Them Pack a Bag
Kids should always know how to pack a bag, but this will give them some practice in packing light, because there's not a huge amount of room in a cruise cabin. Give them a bag and tell them that's the limit of what they can bring. Maybe make a list of the things that must be in there, like swimsuit, sandals, three pair of shorts, etc.
Also, know that when you first board the ship, unless you have carry-ons that you're willing to drag around, your bags will be taken from you to your room and you may not see them for hours, so pack a must-have bag that includes everyone's swimsuits, sunscreen, games and whatever else you can't live without. Think of what you'd pack for the airplane, if it also had a pool.
A cruise can make for an amazing family vacation. Just make sure everyone is happy and they all know the rules. A ship that has WiFi can be a great benefit to your kids, so they know they can keep in touch with friends while they're away and not feel like they're cut off from the world. Of course, it's possible that they'll be having too much fun to jump on Facebook or tweet about how awesome their parents are, but you can't count on that. Even if they don't end up using their phone incessantly, you can use it to keep in touch with each other when you're apart and plan where to meet up or to check and send important emails throughout.
Consider uploading Voxer and you can send texts, photos or voice messages for free over a WiFi connection. This works easily on a WiFi-enabled ship, but also saves you tons of texting fees while out of the country. It's free, so your whole family and all your friends can download it easily.Have you ever been on a cruise with your kids? Would you do it again?