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Family cruise proves to be all wet

Planning to go on a cruise with your family? Writer Lain Ehmann shares her experience and some tips so you can make your journey to sea a worthwhile adventure!

A memorable adventure
It sounded like a good idea at the time. Our family of four -- two parents, an almost-four-year-old, and a one-year-old -- would join another family with similar statistics for a four-day cruise on the Disney Magic. It was Disney -- what could possibly go wrong?

Let me count the ways. An impending hurricane that diverted us from Nassau to Charleston, South Carolina. Rough seas, resulting in a seasick husband. A case of the stomach flu that wound its way through our friends' cabin. Two cases of pinkeye -- both for my husband. I think we had one meal together the whole trip.

The fault doesn't lie with the cruise line. Disney did an admirable job of making the 2,000 people aboard the Magic feel like they were on an enchanted journey. But when travelers are getting ill in the hallways -- and when 2,000 people are confined to a small, enclosed space for several days -- bad things can happen.

Looking back on the trip, I'm thankful for one thing: That we didn't opt for the seven-day cruise.

Based on our experiences, here's a list of tips for future families of cruisers:

1. Get the biggest cabin you can afford, and opt for the balcony. The fresh air will do wonders for seasickness, and will help ensure that any bugs you do pick up will be vented out.

2. Think about seasickness BEFORE you walk up the gangplank. I didn't even think we'd have a problem ... haha! In retrospect, I'd recommend checking with your doctor for anti-nausea medication, buying acupressure wristbands and putting them on the second you get on board and stocking up on Dramamine, Pepto-Bismal and peppermint gum.

If your boat is pitching like ours was, there's a good chance the on-board pharmacy might sell out. And if you get re-routed away from international seas and have to drop anchor in the good ole' US of A, the shops can't open at all, due to customs laws.

3. Read all your cruise information carefully before you depart. Most cruise lines (like Disney) will not reimburse you in any way if your ship must be re-routed -- even if you're given Charleston instead of Nassau. If you paid extra for vacation insurance, it likely won't cover such a change, either.

4. Pack some colder weather clothes, too, even if you're headed for the tropics. We had packed for 90-degree days on the beach -- not 60-degree days walking in Charleston. We didn't have comfortable shoes, and we ended up wearing the same long pants several days in a row.

5. Plan some cold-weather activities. This can be as simple as a deck of cards or a good book. The pools were closed much of the time on our cruise, even when the weather was nice, due to the rough seas.

6. Keep your sense of humor. I admit, I wasn't the happy-go-lucky traveler I often am. I was mad, bored, sick and frustrated. I would have had a much better time if I'd somehow managed to find the humor in the situation.

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