You feel the benefits of a cruise from day one: instead of packing ourselves into a cramped no-frills aeroplane, leaving much of what we needed behind at home, we motored casually into the Kent port of Dover with our bulging carload of stuff. Our floating 'home', Holland America's Eurodam sat majestically on the water, a glistening white tower against a pure blue sky. It was an awesome sight that was not lost on our kids or even we jaded adults.
To those who think cruises are people who are richer than you, and perhaps a tad older too, or for those who worry that the kids might get seasick or fall over the side, we say: Think again! Like many other family cruises, our eight-day cruise to the Norwegian fjords and Scottish Highlands made for a fantastic family break.
After depositing our car in the secure port car-park, our luggage was whisked away, reappearing in our stateroom as if by magic. 'Stateroom' is the right word - I've stayed in few landlubbing hotel rooms that are as well appointed, I thought, as I noted the bathtub, the choice of hairdryers (for blowing and straightening!) and the extra-wide bed.
Meanwhile, shouts of approval came from our private balcony with its outdoor furniture and high glass safety guard - there was no danger of kids, or even merry adults, toppling over that.
The ship is a veritable seafaring city, with a population of 2,100 but without the busy roads, dirt, danger and hassle. There are two deck-level swimming pools, one partially undercover and lit to look as if the sun is always shining. The numerous restaurants offer a raft of gastronomic experiences, from Thai delicacies to surf 'n' turf, or there's a running buffet serving virtually round-the-clock for peckish or picky kids and greedy grown-ups. There are also a spa, hot tubs, shops and more besides. Welcome to the pleasure dome!
Most kids are happy to spend 'sea days' at one of the pools while you lounge nearby, or else exploring the thrills of life on a liner. But there are also free all-day kids' clubs (ages 3-7, 8-12 and 13-17) and a babysitting service at extra cost in the evening, though it's more than okay for the kids to eat with you (early dinners are in fact part of the culture because many guests like to go on to a show).
'Land days' could almost be an incidental when there's so much fun to be had at sea, but it is very uplifting to step straight off the gang-plank into the heart of the Norwegian fjords, where you might visit a picturebook village with brightly painted wooden houses or take an organized tour to the snow-capped mountains looming over the shore. Weather can be changeable here, so do take waterproofs and sweaters as well as warm weather gear.
There are two things we particularly loved about Holland America cruising. The first is that it's a cashless environment, with most onboard facilities included in your pride. It's so relaxing not having to tell your child that, no, she can't have two puddings. The second is that it's a safe environment - kids with wanderlust can only go so far (the ship is about half a kilometre end-to-end, and if they get lost, they have to be somewhere on it). And, no, they can't fall over the side - I checked and double-checked.
Another thing that was a real joy on our cruise was to see kids, parents and grandparents having fun together - a cruise, it seems, is the perfect multi-generational experience.
Read more about family cruise holidays including hand-picked family-friendly cruise firms and expert tips. Editor's note: This eight-day fjords and Highlands trip with UK departures is no longer available at the time of writing, but similiar cruises depart from Copenhagen.