The annual family holiday is a highlight for most households with cruises becoming the popular choice for Aussie families looking for adventure, ease and safety. Many modern ships are even catering to this growing need for more kid and family friendly cruises, now offering kids clubs, activities and entertainment, plus rooms designed for families.
However, while cruising is becoming an increasingly family affair, don’t be fooled into thinking kids will be content on every vessel. No parent wants a bored and whining kid when they’re trying to relax and enjoy the holiday. So to make things a little easier we’ve gathered the five best cruises for kids and families, all of which are RACV’S travel partners.
Carnival Cruise Line
Highlight: Outdoor activities onboard
This US-based cruise line goes the extra mile to make its vessels kid and family friendly. One of the top features of Carnival Cruise Line is its kids' clubs, which are broken up by age. There are over two hundred activities for kids to take part in, from arts and crafts to karaoke competitions, so your kids are sure to stay entertained for the whole trip. Older teens (15-17 years old) can hang out in their own ‘teen club’ where they can watch movies, listen to music and play sport. Plus, there are lots of child-friendly late-night activities and babysitting options.
For those times when you want to bond as a family over some great activities, you are not short of choice onboard. Carnival is known for its fantastic water parks which include waterslides, splash zones and giant tipping buckets. There are also dry activities like mini golf, giant board games and family-friendly shows like magic and comedy.
- Family accommodation: Carnival ships have plenty of family suites plus connecting cabins of varying configurations.
Best for: Fun kids clubs to keep them busy
Part of the Royal Caribbean brand, Celebrity Cruises are made for families looking for fun and entertainment. All but one of Celebrity’s vessels offer kids facilities and entertainment such as kids clubs and great onboard activities for both kids and families. Kids clubs are age-specific and include activities like treasure hunts, relay races, ice cream sundae making sessions and karaoke. There is also a Fun Factory where kids can play video games, watch movies, and enjoy hands-on activities like arts and crafts arts and story time. For all those older kids, Club X is the ultimate hangout place for teens, featuring social activities, gaming consoles, sports activities and late-night dances.
There are also lots of the activities that the whole family can enjoy. Verse each other in a game of basketball or ping-pong or even play pool volleyball against the ship officers.
- Family accommodation: Celebrity’s well-designed family staterooms provide abundant space and privacy for families.
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Best for: Fun for the whole family
Norwegian Cruise Line is jam-packed full of kid’s activities that will put all of their energy to good use. Age-specific kid’s clubs run every activity you could think of, from treasure hunts and circus school to dodgeball and scavenger hunts. You’ll be lucky if you can drag them away. Most boats also boast an excellent aqua park with scream-worthy slides and pools plus a whole bunch of interactive pool games. If you’re looking for some more family-centred activities, there are game shows, pizza-making classes and plenty of sports like basketball and tennis for you to enjoy.
Parents looking for a little “me time” away from the kids can indulge in some holiday drinks at one of the ship’s bars or pamper themselves at the spa onboard while the kids are taken care of by a babysitter.
- Family accommodation: Norwegian Cruise Lines offer staterooms that can fit families of five plus there are connecting cabins and suites.
Best for: Unique onboard activities
P&O Cruises goes out of its way to make sure its cruises are the perfect holiday for both kids and adults. However, it has put a cap on the number of kids on each vessel as to ensure 'not only are they treated like VIPs, but the adult guests are as well'. P&O has age-specific kids clubs from ages 2-17 each with different activities and classes to suit.
It’s the onboard activities that are sure to get you excited though. Lego has partnered with P&O to produce giant murals in the kids’ clubs on select ships. These creative installations allow kids to transform every surface into a Lego opportunity. There are also Racing car simulators on select vessels and teenagers in the HQ (11-14 years old) and HQ+ (15-17 years old) clubs can also test their stop-motion production skills in an onboard move making program (which uses the same technology behind ‘Wallace and Gromit’). Kids can design their own puppets and come up with a storyline and script before filming it all.
- Family accommodation: Cabin configurations include quad-quad, twin-quad or twin-twin bedding to suit different family sizes.
Best for: Educational kids club activities
Royal Caribbean’s kids’ programs are what makes this cruise line so popular with families of all ages. It’s Adventure Ocean program goes above and beyond to not only keep kids entertained but also teach them something new. The programs feature science labs where fun experiments take place and theatres where youngsters rehearse before putting on mini-productions for their families. There is also a plethora of classes and games for kids of all ages; from finger-painting for the little ones to pool parties for the bigger kids.
As well as this, Royal Caribbean offers group babysitting, in-cabin sitters at sea and childcare drop-off facilities for toddlers, for those occasions when parents want some time for themselves. Even the accommodation and dining option cater to families, in fact, you can even organise to have your kids picked up after they've finished eating so you can enjoy the rest of your meal in leisure
- Family accommodation: Royal Caribbean has some of the biggest family cabins available, with multiple configurations, plus suites and staterooms suitable for bigger families.
How to prepare for your cruise
Before you and your family set sail on a cruise there are a few things you’ll need to take care of:
- Make sure you’ve packed all the essentials including your travel documentation,
- Check out your shore excursions and book if you can,
- Take out travel insurance, and
- Notify your bank that you’ll be travelling overseas.
Why do I need travel insurance?
Whether you are cruising through the Pacific or exploring Australia’s coastline, travel insurance is an essential part of your family cruise. It protects your possessions on board, provides cancellation cover if the unexpected happens and covers emergency and medical expenses – and we all know kids will be kids. Most importantly though, it gives you peace of mind, so that you can enjoy your trip without worrying about the ‘what ifs’.
Wherever your next cruise adventure takes you, be sure to pack travel insurance. RACV offers a great range of premium domestic and international travel insurance policies to suit every family, offering you the security and insurance cover you need wherever you are heading. Discover the policy that’s right for your next cruise, now.