How are Cruises Educational? Here’s 5 Lessons Kids Can Learn on a Cruise

image of a cruise ship at port in the Caribbean

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You likely already know how much fun family cruises can be, but you may be wondering how are cruises educational for kids? There are so many opportunities for learning on a cruise that cruising has become one of our favorite ways to travel as a homeschooling family!

I didn’t go on my first cruise until I was well into my experience as a parent. Before my husband and I had our two (awesome) kids, we spent most of our time working and, if we got a chance to go on a vacation, it was typically by plane or car. The thought of cruising seemed overwhelming. What if we got seasick? What if we felt claustrophobic being “stuck” on a (giant) ship in the middle of the ocean? What if we were bored?

Luckily, we got over those silly fears. We took our first family cruise a few years ago and have been hooked ever since! (pun intended)

For the record…those fears? These MotionCalm tablets help me with any seasickness, cruise ships are so big it’s near impossible to feel claustrophobic, and there are plenty of activities to stay busy (and entertained) while cruising.

I grew up living about an hour or so from Ocean City, NJ. We’d visit the beach during the summer and would even stop by during the cool weather just to see the ocean. There’s just something about the water that makes me feel calm and eases any anxieties I may have. It’s my happy place.

Being that my kids also spent a portion of their childhood living in New Jersey, they, too, grew to look forward to time spent by the water.

Because of our love of the ocean, it’s really no surprise that cruising has become one of our favorite ways to travel. Not only do my family and I get to spend quality time together, but, as a homeschooling parent, I definitely appreciate the educational value that comes with being on a cruise.

There are so many opportunities for learning on a cruise. Today, I’m sharing my top 5 lessons kids can learn while cruising and, even better, I’ve got a free set of Cruise Ship printables to help with your next homeschool cruise.

5 important lessons kids can learn on a cruise ship (free printables)

Before Cruising with Kids

Homeschooling parents are able to organize and plan an activity down to a tee, right? Well, planning a homeschool cruise is no different.

Just as we’d plan for a successful field trip or co-op lesson, we’re going to plan for an upcoming cruise and any related lessons. My free Cruise Ship printable set can help the kids prepare for, and remember, their cruise with resources such as:

  • a Cruise Ship Word Search
  • a list of 20 Cruise Ship Vocabulary Words
  • 5 Cruise Ship Writing Prompts covering Descriptive Writing, Persuasive Writing, Narrative Writing, Informational Writing, and Reflective Writing #yourewelcome
  • a fun Cruise Ship Scavenger Hunt

Created with upper elementary-age kids in mind, the cruise ship activity packet is filled with fun & educational activities to help the kids learn about the world of cruising, how a cruise ship runs, the experiences, and more.

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To make your cruise ship preparations even more well-rounded, you may consider including some reading activities and a documentary or two! You could include activities sharing information like:

  • the port you’ll be departing from
  • the ports you’ll be visiting
  • the excursions you’re planning on doing

Before taking a cruise, my kids and I will always watch YouTube videos from some of our favorite cruise vloggers. A quick search will result in video walk-throughs of the ships (this can help ease any anxieties with unfamiliar places), suggestions for things to do in each port, tips of things you “must” bring, and more. Some of our favorite cruising vloggers are:

In addition, you may also want to check out the YouTube channels for the specific cruise lines. Some of the most popular are:

My family has also enjoyed watching these cruise ship-related documentaries:

Elizabeth Dukart and sons in front of two Royal Caribbean ships while at Perfect Day at CocoCay
Don’t be afraid to bring the kids on a cruise as a sole adult. My husband doesn’t always have vacation time available, so I’ve taken the boys by myself! Here we are at Perfect Day at CocoCay during a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas ship.

Learning on a Cruise

The bags are packed, the kids are prepped, and you’re on your way to drop the dog off at the dog sitter’s house…a cruise is in your near future! While you may be making a pit stop or two along the way, there are a number of lifelong lessons the kids can learn during your family cruise! How are cruises educational? Here’s how:

Marine Biology & Oceanography

Raising a little marine biologist? Or, maybe the kids are interested in learning about marine life and ocean ecosystems? What better place to learn about this than while taking a cruise. Cruise itineraries will often include informal educational opportunities for passengers to learn, so be sure to check the schedule of events!

While on the ship, spending time looking into the ocean can result in learning, too! On our very first cruise, we were lucky enough to look out into the ocean to see three dolphins jumping up and down in the water. What a majestic site they were!

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You may have an opportunity to go on a excursion during your port visits, too! Cruise ships will often host their own excursions, but you can also book experiences yourself through tour providers like Viator.

If you happen to be departing from either Fort Lauderdale, Florida or Miami, Florida, definitely look into taking an excursion to the Florida Everglades. My boys and I had the best time seeing the creatures of the everglades up close while on our airboat tour. It was so cool and such a memorable experience.

a child learning on a cruise ship by using binoculars to look out to sea

Culture

While I do love the ocean, one of my top reasons for cruising with kids is that we get to experience the cultures of the world! Not only are their cultural enrichment activities while onboard the ship (check your schedule of events for the entire ship AND the onboard childcare option), but just stepping off the ship at the various ports will afford you the (quite literally) immersive cultural experience.

Families can take advantage of onboard cultural enrichment activities like language lessons, cooking demonstrations, dance lessons (I’ve seen salsa lessons in event schedules!), and arts & crafts workshops. Some ships even offer sushi-making classes!

While onboard, the kids (and you!) can also engage with staff members and fellow passengers. Ask questions about where people are from, what they like about where they life, etc.

going on a cruise with kids free printable activities

Navigation & Geography

While on a cruise ship, kids can also learn about navigation, geography, and map reading. Stateroom televisions will often have a channel dedicated the navigation of the ship, so the kids can observe the charts, navigational tools, learn about longitude and latitude, and track the ship’s route through the sea.

Many cruises also offer the option to take a “behind the scenes tour” of the ship. This may or may not be an additional cost, but is typically filled with educational value. When we took a recent behind the scenes tour, we got to learn about the inner workings of the ship – laundry, kitchen, food storage, theater – and also got to visit the engine control room and the captain’s bridge. It was so cool! (book these tours ASAP as they tend to reach capacity quickly)

In addition, cruise ships are often decorated with a nautical theme. Explore the ship to search for sculpture, artwork, certificates, and more related to maritime history, famous explorers, and geography.

view of the ocean from onboard a cruise ship

Safety & Emergency Preparedness

After boarding a cruise ship, the first order is business is to visit the Muster Station. Cruise ships have come a long way in the last 100 years and now (thankfully) have a number of safety procedures set in place to keep their crew and guests as safe as possible.

Take some time to walk around the ship to identify & locate lifeboats, safety equipment, and emergency exits. If your cruise line has an app (in this day and age, they likely do), you should be able to explore the safety portion. This section often includes a recording of the emergency horn sequence (7 short, 1 long “honks” on Royal Caribbean), directions for wearing life jackets and more.

While going through the onboard safety precautions, you should also discuss a plan for safety while visiting ports. To be blunt, some ports are safer than others. Definitely read up on safety alerts for the locations you’re planning on visiting and plan accordingly.

Did you know some countries don’t allow civilians to wear camouflage clothing? True story! Please do your research! (Camo is also not allowed for passport photos!)

Teamwork & Cooperation

Depending on the time of year you’ll be traveling, there may be a number of other kids on board for your kids to play with! (off season tends to have fewer kids on board while times of school holidays and vacations have plenty) Whether your child is an only child or has siblings, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice teamwork & cooperation through a number of group activities, games, and even conversation.

The kids section of the ship will often host puzzle challenges, scavenger hunts, and team building exercises, so encourage the kids to participate. You know, because there are so few opportunities for homeschoolers to socialize. #sarcasm

On one of our prior cruises, we stopped at the port of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. We took a walking tour of the city to see the sights – it was absolutely amazing. Puerto Rico is definitely on my list of places I must visit again, if only for the delicious food!

Anyways, while on the tour, the kids got to fly kites on the hill by El Morro and got to play “Red Light, Green Light” with the tour guide and the other kids on the tour. The tour guide spoke Spanish, my kids spoke English, and the other kids spoke French. Through teamwork and cooperation, everyone got along wonderfully!

Learning on a Cruise Ship Free Printables

After your Cruise

There are so many things to learn about while on a cruise without even touching on the specific educational opportunities available at each port. If you’ve been wondering to yourself “how are cruises educational?” I hope this article has helped to clarify things a bit for you. Maybe they can help you to convince your spouse (or yourself!) to take the plunge and go on a cruise with the kids.

While cruising, be sure to have the kids fill out their free cruise ship printables and their cruise journal so they can look back on their experience in the future. Having the opportunity to participate in educational travel, cruising or not, is something to be treasured. It’s super important to record the moments and the memories for the future.

I’m always here to chat about all things homeschooling and educational travel. If you happen to look around the site and don’t see the answer to your homeschooling question, send me an email or leave a comment below! I’m happy to help!

Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with your family,

- Elizabeth (and the kids. and the husband. even the dog.)
That Homeschool Family in Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.

Elizabeth Dukart is a proud Georgia-based born and raised Jersey Girl, wife, and mom of 2 human boys & 1 canine boy.

Created in 2021, Elizabeth owns and publishes That Homeschool Family: a free resource for homeschooling parents and beyond! A seasoned blogger, Elizabeth previously published a popular location-specific family resource blog, but decided to “Pivot!” her blogging focus after she started homeschooling her two boys in 2020. In addition to this blog, you can follow Elizabeth’s homeschooling and family adventures on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She can also be found in her Facebook Group: That Homeschool Family Hangout.

When she’s not busy taking over the world or homeschooling, Elizabeth can be found listening to music (especially The Beatles & Harry Styles!), being silly with her boys, watching movies with family, shopping, or traveling!

Have a question or want to work with Elizabeth? Send her an email!

five lessons kids can learn on a cruise ship

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