Family Cruising is a fun-filled holiday that everyone will enjoy, no matter the age. Cruising with children can seem daunting, but with the latest generation of cruise ships specifically geared towards families, there really isn’t anything to worry about. The children’s facilities on these family cruising ships surpass those that you would find at any land-based resort and with waterslides, rock-climbing walls and world-class entertainment shows, so it’s not hard to understand why many people are cruising with children. What’s more, most cruise ships accept children from the age of two years and some even accept children as young as 6 months.
With family cruising there are organised activities to suit all ages, supervised by fully-trained professionals. From toddlers through to teenagers, kids often get their own dedicated play areas and swimming pools, and can take advantage of exciting features such as rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, surf simulators, sports courts, mini-golf courses, games rooms and video arcades. Many of the larger cruise lines also offer babysitting services. In addition, some cruise lines even organise children’s shore excursions to keep them amused whilst in port ensuring cruising with children is hassle-free for you and fun for them.
Many cruise ships have connecting rooms, making them perfect for family cruising whilst some cruise lines offer spacious Family Suites. If you want a connecting room or a Family Suite as you are cruising with children, simply request one at the time of booking with your Travel Agent. Cots can also be requested.
During family cruising, the trend towards relaxed dining on the big resort ships means families can eat what they like when they like, and with meals included in the cruise fare, parents aren’t also constantly paying for snacks. Most restaurants have special kids’ menus and high chairs. Some cruise lines even offer beverage cards for non-alcoholic drinks so if you are cruising with children it means they can have drinks at any time during their cruise.
The safety of your children is always of paramount importance to the cruise lines with staff specially trained to ensure this. When leaving children in the care of supervisors, parents must always complete a sign-in, sign-out form.
Most cruise lines will welcome and cater for children; however, some are more geared to families than others and choosing the right cruise line, is extremely important, so here are some details on the more family-friendly cruise lines.
The Royal Caribbean features its top of the line vessels such as Rhapsody of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas & Voyager of the Seas. It has a wide range of extremely impressive family activities that provide entertainment and appeal to adults and children alike; there are indoor rock climbing gyms, spacious ice-skating rinks, crafts and activities halls, areas for rollerblading, and miniature golf courses. There are also kid pools, zip-lines, and hot tubs. This is truly a haven for you and your young ones.
Children are divided into three categories so as to allow them to mingle with children who are of the same age. Kids aged 3-5 are placed in the Aquanauts division; those who are in between 6 and 8 belong to the Explorers, and; those who belong to the 9-11 age groups are placed in the Voyagers’ group. Those who are 12 years old and up are given the chance to participate in karaoke contests, parties, and other activities. On the other hand, children who are below 36 months old are addressed as the Royal Tots. There are babysitting programs available so that parents are also given the chance to enjoy their cruise without having to tend to their tots or infants all the time. (additional charges may apply).
The Royal Caribbean have a summer season, which is October – April.
Cruising from Sydney Year Round The Carnival Spirit is one big, floating family playground! Kids big and small will love Carnival Waterworks with a twister slide and Splash Park with a giant tipping bucket waterfall. Carnival Thrill Slide has a 22 metre drop and might just be the world’s steepest slide at sea!
The clip below shows the Carnival Spirit’s Green Thunder waterslide. Only for the big kids!
If the kids fancy a break from water action, they can putt away at mini golf, make a new friend at the Build-A-Bear program or play a game of touch footy on the sports court.
There’s a range of age-appropriate activities on offer at the Youth Club with Camp Carnival for ages 2 to 5 and 6 to 11, Club 02TM for ages 15 to 17 and Camp Carnival Night Owls which feature children’s parties, late-night activities and babysitting services.
Watch out for the new ship Carnival Legend, arriving Sydney in September 2014, also cruising to the Pacific Islands over our summer months.
Pacific Pearl (P&O Cruises)
Cruising from Sydney throughout the year, Pacific Pearl offers an affordable and fun way to cruise. Pacific Pearl cruises are ideal for singles of all ages, young couples, and families, with extensive child and teenager conveniences, including indoor and outdoor play areas and plenty of open deck space, two large pools and a wading pool. The super liner’s 11 decks provide a variety of entertainment including a bar, a casino, Internet café, restaurants, cinema, spa, and atrium lobby shops.
Children aged 3 to 6 years old will be able to take part in arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, talent shows and more with the Turtle Cove, while 7 to 10 year olds will be kept entertained all day long at the Shark Shack. For 11 to 17 year olds, offering sports competitions, pizza parties, talent shows, mocktail parties and hip-hop classes.
During summer, many other cruise lines visit and operate cruises from Sydney as well – Holland America, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises to name a few.
Do’s & Don’ts of Cruising
- Don’t expect your cabin to have a bathtub. Unless you have a suite or higher cabin type.
- Do check the minimum age requirements for your cruise line. Many cruise lines require infants be at least 6 months old prior your sail date. Even more important to remember is that most cruise lines don’t allow pregnant women to cruise if they are past their 24th week.
- Don’t expect your kid to be able to swim on the ship if your baby isn’t potty-trained. Most cruise lines don’t allow “swimmy nappies” in the on-board pools. A few have kid areas that involve fountain-type water areas, but for sanitary reasons if your baby can’t use the potty by himself, he can’t use the pool on your ship. Never fear, though — your water baby is free to enjoy the swimming at the beach in your port of call.
- Do pack your beach bag like you would your nappy bag. If your child uses a certain formula, baby food, or is in nappies, make sure to pack plenty for your trip. Most cruise lines do carry these types of items for purchase on board, but don’t expect them to have the exact size and/or brand that you prefer. Like anything related to your kids, if they are picky about it, you need to make sure you bring it yourself.
- Don’t expect your baby’s trip to be free. Their fare is usually cheaper, but hardly ever free. Depending on the cruise line and the age of your child, you may only have to pay port taxes and fees. Cruise lines recognize that your small child probably won’t eat a lot or enjoy the dancing and drinks at the club, but usually every person aboard the ship has to pay the local government the dock fees and taxes. Also, the staff onboard the ship expects to get paid the same amount for all PEOPLE aboard the ship, regardless how small those people are. In most cases, the crew will go out of their way to help out with your small kids, so they might be MORE deserving of tips than they would from an adult. Of course gratuities are always optional for all cruise lines, but just like waiters and waitresses, tips are the majority of how the crew is compensated.
- Don’t expect the ship to provide babysitters and programs for your very small children. Not all cruise lines have programs for very young/non-potty-trained children. Sometimes cruise lines (like Carnival and Royal Caribbean) provide times for families with kids under 2 years old to enjoy some of the children’s activities, but you may not have the option of dropping your child off.
- Do enjoy the time as a family, and don’t push the schedule too far out of whack. Everyone will enjoy the trip more if you have a somewhat well-rested children
- Don’t be scared of the balconies/railing. Maybe no one else worries about this kind of stuff, but in my mind I had a picture of balconies (in our room and around the ship) with dangerously wide railings. Needless to say, cruise lines have made sure their ships are VERY safe for kids of all ages. In most cases the balconies in the rooms are plexiglass or have a wall that is too tall for anyone (adult or kid) to accidentally fall over.