More than one million Australians holidayed at sea last year and cruise lines are answering the strong trend for extended families to cruise together with ever more exciting entertainment and fun. Not only are the mega-liners getting bigger (Royal Caribbean’s new high-tech, 4,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas makes her Australian debut next summer), so is the array of amazing activities to fill your sea days.
Think Broadway-quality shows, fireworks at sea, themed deck parties with live music and dancing, surfing, waterslides, flying foxes, Titanic bow photo moments, bumper cars, character-breakfasts, Segway rides, laser tag, funnel climbing and even indoor skydiving.
While the South Pacific and New Zealand itineraries remain the most popular destinations for Aussie families, new ports opening up in our own backyard, like the Whitsundays, the South Coast of New South Wales and Fremantle in Western Australia, mean we are also seeing Australia by ship more and more.
And when you need a break from all the family fun, free kids' clubs come to the rescue so mum and dad can head to the spa or relax by the adults-only pool with a well-earned cocktail. All that remains is to choose the ship that’s right for your family.
P&O to the South Pacific
P&O’s Edge Adventure Park offers 20 climbing, swinging, jumping and racing activities with a variety of adrenaline ratings so the whole family can get their hearts pumping. Think high rope swings, laser tag, slack lines, Segway obstacle courses, zip-lines across the deck, funnel abseils, cargo net climbs and more.
On Pacific Dawn, you can even ‘walk the plank’ off the side of the ship, get a sky-high crow’s nest vista or take on a boulder wall. Then there are video arcades with racing car simulators, LEGO play zones, a bungee trampoline, Broadshorts film making and Teen Jam, where kids can get a band together and perform their latest hits. And all this before you’ve even booked a shore excursion.
P&O’s South Pacific cruise itineraries are filled with family-friendly shore tours in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Western Samoa. Pack your togs and go reef snorkelling, fishing, cycling, horseriding, jet boating and helicopter sightseeing, or hit water parks, thermal mud pools and cultural tours.
Cruises aboard Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl and their two new additions, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, all offer interconnecting cabins, kids' clubs and family-friendly dining options.
MS Pride of America to the Hawaiian Islands
See the Hawaiian Islands in style aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s only US-flagged ship, the MS Pride of America. Built in 2005 and refurbished in 2013, the multi-award-winning ship has multi-room suites, interconnecting staterooms, family mini-suites and two-bedroom family suites located near the kids' club area.
As you sail the famous islands, you will see the fiery lava flow of Kilauea Volcano, the dramatic Napali Coast and, hopefully, whales. The Kumu Cultural Center on board will get you up to speed with Hawaiian heritage as you island-hop from one stunning location to the next.
Nineteen dining options – including China Town, Lone Star Steakhouse and Little Italy – is heaven for parents of pint-sized fussy eaters. Even the littlest cruisers from the age of three have Splash Academy, where there are juggling lessons, a paddling pool, soft play area, computers, movie room and a jungle gym.
For older kids, Blast Off Video Arcade boasts more than 50 machines with activities ranging from dodgeball to cupcake-decorating classes, hula lessons to basketball, beach volleyball and outdoor chess. Pride of America also boasts longer port stays than some other lines, including up to 30 hours in Maui, giving you plenty of time to explore what takes your fancy.
MSC to the Mediterranean
Expose your children to the cultural cornucopia of the Mediterranean and do it for nothing. Yes, MSC offers F.O.C. (free of charge) for up to two kids under 13 in selected cabins when sharing with two adults. Port charges do apply and some other conditions may apply, but mostly everything is included as if the kids are full fare-paying passengers.
MSC Cruises is a privately owned company offering Italian-themed hospitality (so there’s lots of pizza and pasta). Its extensive Mediterranean itineraries mean you can take the family to ports of call in Spain, Italy, France, Greece and the Greek islands, Turkey, Croatia, the Canary Islands and Morocco.
Children receive a dedicated welcome at the Kids Corner in the port terminal, security bracelets are issued when you board, and beepers or walkie-talkie-style phones can be hired for you to keep in touch with them while they are running around on board.
MSC’s kids clubs start with the Mini Club Babycare Service catering for littlies aged one to three. For older kids, there are sports tournaments (football, basketball, dodgeball, shuffleboard and table soccer), aqua parks, dance contests, trivia, karaoke, social network games and Wii/Xbox/PS3 games and challenges.
Teens can get into themed parties, flash-mobs, talent shows and hair and beauty treatments at Kicks Spa. There are plenty of whole-family and supervised activities, entertainment and social events too. Children under 12 receive a discount up to 30 per cent off the adult price of shore excursions, although some conditions apply.
Disney Cruises in the Bahamas and Europe
The company with the most child-focused brand on Earth goes overboard with exceptional quality entertainment on board their designed-for-families cruises. Disney Dream’s 'imagineers' sprinkle fairy dust on every corner of the ship on its three-night rotation from Port Canaveral in Florida to Nassau in the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
A popular add-on to holidays at nearby Walt Disney World in Orlando, there is more fun than you can wave a wand at, including an AquaDuck water ride around the entire ship, Broadway-quality stage shows, treasure hunts complete with talking artworks, mega-deck parties, flash mob-style dance classes, and the only fireworks show at sea anywhere in the world.
At dinner, watch as Disney characters they know and love call out your children’s names from big screens, see them join in Hollywood-quality family game-shows and children's karaoke nights, and dress up for pantomime with dancing under the stars. Walkie-talkies are provided with each family cabin, which are modern and well equipped with genius storage ideas, two bathrooms, Disney movies and twinkling stars on the ceiling above bunk beds.
Kids' clubs – with high-tech, innovative entertainment facilities for babies right up to teens – mean adults can escape to child-free dining rooms and adults-only chill zones. Disney Magic also offers Frozen-themed cruises around the Norwegian fjords, taking fans to the home of Anna, Elsa and Olaf while offering exceptional themed entertainment around the storyline of the movie.
For the latest deals on family cruises, speak to a Flight Centre Travel Expert today. Call 131 600, or visit your local Flight Centre store.