You can now sail to over 800 destinations across the globe
When you’re ready for a family getaway, deciding on where to go and what to do can be frazzling.
Do you relax on a tropical beach?
Enjoy world-class entertainment?
Explore faraway places?
Or kick back and enjoy 24-hour pampering by attentive staff?
The good news is….
You can do all of the above!
With all-inclusive cruises, families can experience all of these luxuries and more, without the hassle of planning activities, budgeting for dining expenses and booking hotels.
The best part is that the right family cruise will pack a punch of fun and give the kids something to talk about for years to come.
A cruise is an excellent choice for families because it wraps entertainment, accommodation and dining into a singular price, so often your only additional spend is on shore excursions and retail purchases.
Cruising is also a convenient ways for families to plan around their busy schedules. Whether a lengthy holiday is in order or there’s only time for a short getaway, there’s a cruise to fit every need.
To help parents and grandparents pick the best cruise for their family’s needs, we’ve put together a list of the Top Five Family Cruises of 2017 (in no particular order).
Most of these cruise lines feature specialised cabins for multiple occupants, family-friendly dining, and kids clubs for child-friendly excitement your little ones will love – all in a safe environment that offers adults their own selection of thrilling activities, as well.
Surprisingly, most passengers remark that they hardly see their children on cruises, because they’re off having so much fun.
Not to worry, though – all cruise ship carers are highly qualified and caring, in our experience, and will take great care of your little ones.
When it comes to family-friendly cruises, Royal Caribbean outranks most other lines and has received dozens of awards, including Best Cruise Line for Families, Best Cruise Line for the Money and World’s Leading Cruise Brand. With a focus on children’s programs, families with kids aged six months to 17 years will go bananas for all the exciting activities Royal Caribbean has to offer.
A kaleidoscope of fun awaits onboard each ship thanks to Royal Caribbean’s Dreamworks Animation partnership – the company behind films like Madagascar, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda. The cruise line offers the Dreamworks Experience on ten of its ships, where enthusiastic young guests enjoy surprise visits from their favourite characters during special mealtimes, entertaining live shows, fun-tabulous character parades, movies in the onboard cinema and more.
When it comes to Kids Clubs, Royal Caribbean doesn’t disappoint. Children aged 3 to 11 are welcomed to take part in scientific exploration, sports tournaments, dancing, talent shows and video games – just to name a few. Teens have a similarly spectacular experience with teen-only hangouts, movie nights, karaoke and more. Inside the Late Night Party Zone, kids of all ages can dance the night away.
Have a tot and in need of a little adult time? Babysitting services are available day and night, with the complimentary Royal Babies program focused on children under 36 months.
For fun the whole family can get involved in, activities including live shows, ice-skating and zipline adventures are available. Royal also offer “Anytime Dining” to accommodate hungry little passengers who prefer to eat earlier or at times outside of the regular offering.
For families looking to travel in style, the Quantum Class cabins exude luxury with ocean views and sleek modern decor. These spacious cabins feature suites with separate living and sleeping areas, and include options for lofts, whirlpools and private concierge service.
Royal Caribbean is also set to begin offering four-bedroom family suites for large groups that enjoy traveling together. Bring the grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles for a world-class holiday you won’t forget.
When it comes to sightseeing near and far, there’s very little that Royal Caribbean doesn’t offer. Those wishing to stay close to home can sail through Aussie waters, stopping in ports that include Brisbane, Sydney, Darwin, and Airlie Beach. For passengers with a few more days to cruise, Malaysia, Singapore, New Caledonia and or Fiji are all destinations worth exploring.
Of course, Royal Caribbean offers worldwide cruises, meaning travellers aren’t limited in what they can see or do. Visit the Americas, Asia, or even the Mediterranean – all in a week’s time. No matter which exotic destination you choose, each cruise includes excursions that are fun for the whole family.
Our pick: Royal Caribbean’s new Ovation of the Seas ship is the ultimate family cruise experience. Australia’s newest megaliner includes 18 restaurants and unparalleled fun with skydiving and surf simulators, Circus School, dodgem cars, acrobatics and more!
Four separate itineraries depart from Sydney in January 2017, each with key stops that include the highlights of New Zealand, beautiful Tasmania, the eastern coast of Australia and exotic Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
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Norwegian is based out of Florida and has made a name for itself among family cruise regulars. Now partnered with Nickelodeon, Norwegian Cruise Lines is an excellent option for those travelling with children. Interactive games, character meals, and onboard youth programs give everyone a reason to smile when they choose Norwegian.
Recently, enhancements include the Norwegian Edge – a $400 million investment that has created new entertainment venues, refurbished dining and lounge areas, new libraries and, best of all, upgraded family areas. Also included are a brand new water park and kids clubs.
You’ll find Nickelodeon-partnered activities onboard the Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Jewel, and Norwegian Gem. Activities live game shows, character dining, and dance parties.
For children aged 3 to 17, the Kids Club is available all day and even into the night. Ages 3 to 12 enjoy their own “Splash Club,” where they can swim, play sports or take part in theme nights like a jungle safari or popular circus-themed “Big Top at Sea.”
Older children can also join in on the action. Entourage is a teen’s paradise, where video games, movies, music, dancing, and hangouts with new friends are just a few of the fun things they’ll love.
For whole-family excitement, try the multi-story water slides, relaxing hot tubs or exhilarating rock climbing walls. For live entertainment enthusiasts, The Norwegian Getaway is a favourite for its illusionist shows and Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy performance. Traveling with a finicky foodie? Casual buffets and 24-hour room service are sure to please even the pickiest eaters.
A range of cabins are available to families, including interconnecting staterooms plus two- and three-bedroom villas that accommodate up to eight passengers, making them ideal for extended families. Grandparents can cruise with their children and grandchildren for one low rate, including all meals and most entertainment.
“The Haven” is an entire deck of the ship offering several suites, ranging up to four bedrooms. The Haven boasts a private pool and courtyard available for use only by passengers staying in tis dedicated area. Along with ample space, passengers who choose The Haven are treated to priority boarding, complimentary air transfers and 24-hour butler service. You will find ‘The Haven’ onboard Breakaway, Epic, Escape, Gem, Getaway, Jade, Jewel, Pearl.
The Norwegian Star begins cruising Oz in 2017. Holiday-goers can look forward to embarking from Sydney with stops in Melbourne, Tasmania, and New Zealand. On the other hand, Norwegian also offers plenty of worldwide destinations filled with heaps of fun activities for both children and adults, alike.
The cruise line offers two private islands for guests to explore without the massive crowds that can spoil so many tourist attractions. Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye in Belize are spell-bindingly serene. Diving, snorkelling and beachcombing are always safe, unforgettable experiences in these ports of call.
Our pick: Norwegian has recently announced a the development of a new eco-friendly island and resort in the Caribbean, with direct access to Belize. The resort boasts a 14,000 square metre pool, five dining and bar outlets and a shopping village. A number of cruises will have access to the island from November 2016, including the Western Caribbean from Miami cruise onboard Norwegian Getaway.
The ‘Pride of America’ is a weekly cruise around the Hawaiian Islands that is definitely worth considering. The ship has recently been refurbished so you can expect newly designed spaces and venues plus refreshed décor in all staterooms. An art gallery and photo studio also feature!
New to cruising? First-time cruisers and those traveling on a smaller budget gravitate to P&O for affordable fun and long-lasting memories. The cruise line caters well to families and offers a range of cruises that depart from Australia and journey around the Pacific Islands, striking balance between proximity to home and exploring other countries and cultures.
P&O is building a brand new cruise ship and when it is finished in 2019 it will be the largest cruise ship to call Australia home.
P&O offers kids clubs that suit every age and taste, while parents appreciate the various kids play zones where they can accompany their children aged six months to 2 years. With features including a dedicated Lego room, bungee trampoline and brand new laser tag facility, P&O knows what kids love. They can even become the stars of a karaoke teen jam with real instruments and coaching from the crew.
Dubbed “the coolest place on the ship,” HQ+ is the place to be for teens aged 15 through 17. Equipped with all the best video game consoles, a movie area, and even a camera station where they can produce their own movies, HQ+ is the perfect getaway from little ones and adults in a semi-private area.
Although cruise ships are often derided for small cabins, P&O makes up for this by offering connecting rooms at all levels. Whether you prefer to stay in an interior room or opt for a balcony view, an interconnecting option is always available. Most of the four berth (quad) rooms and some of the three berth (triple) rooms contain two single lower beds and one or two upper bunk beds.
For grandparents looking to spoil their families, suites, mini-suites, and penthouses are available with larger rooms. In these ultra-luxe cabins, you’ll find a separate dining area, private balcony, complimentary laundry service and other amenities.
P&O’s most popular packages are the 7-10 day South Pacific cruises. Destinations include Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and New Zealand.
Shorter cruises are also available, ideal for travellers looking for a quick getaway. A four-night cruise departing from Brisbane might include kayaking, golfing, a treasure hunt, and a Great Barrier Reef experience at Hamilton Island.
Our pick: The ‘Discover Vanuatu’ cruise departing 22 June for 9nts . A great way to explore Vanuatu, New Caledonia and The Isle of Pines on a budget.
The Disney name is synonymous with family fun. When Disney decided to take on the high seas, they completely revolutionised family-friendly holidays. With activities ranging from a four-story water slide to rockin’ deck parties and Broadway-calibre performances, Disney offers a little bit of everything for families around the globe.
Though Disney is relatively new to family cruising, the business giant has made a big splash. Not only has the company received top honours from the likes of US News and The World Report, but Travel + Leisure has also presented Disney with its top award for seven years in a row: World’s Best Mega Ship Ocean Cruise Line.
Each of Disney’s four ships is overflowing with imaginative fun for kids and thrilling entertainment for the entire family. Enjoy freshwater pools and water slides, themed deck parties, thrilling arcades, original musicals, your favourite Disney character experiences, and award-winning dining.
It goes without saying that its six different “Youth Clubs” get an A+. For very small children, the onboard nursery caters to babies and toddlers at an additional charge.
The Oceaneer Club is a play place for children aged three to 12. Here, kids can sing, dance and play to their hearts content alongside Mickey Mouse and Captain America. For education-conscious parents, be sure to have your child visit The Oceaneer Lab, which focuses on learning and exploration through scientific experiments and interaction with technology.
At the Edge and Vibe clubs, older kids enjoy cool spaces offering video games, movies or simple time away from their parents and siblings.
Disney cruise lines make holiday travel fun in every way. Although their main focus is on fun, comfort is a close second. Inside living quarters, staterooms on board the Disney Fantasy range from cosy interior cabins to family-friendly verandah rooms.
The Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom sleeps up to five, along with a sleeper sofa and pull-down bunk. Amenities include a private verandah with childproof locks, individual climate control, and a split bath to make personal time more accessible to every member of the family.
Because Disney specialises in Caribbean travel, visitors enjoy gorgeous tropical ports in Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Once docked, guests have a number of family-friendly day trips at their disposal. Snorkel or catch a few rays on the beach, play on a world-class golf course or enjoy a scenic horseback ride while sightseeing. No matter what your tastes may be, new experiences await at every turn.
The premier port of call on Disney cruises is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private Bahamian island. Here, you’ll have no other tourists to contend with when deciding to go parasailing, fishing, or simply exploring the island. Castaway Cay even offers a port adventure strictly for teens. Sorry, mum: no parents allowed.
Our pick: The Disney Fantasy has everything a family could ever dream of and beyond. The ship offers more activities than could possibly be experienced in a traditional holiday on land, alongside delicious cuisine and a fantastic selection of staterooms. Fantasy cruisers return year after year, opting for a new adventure each time.
Disney Fantasy departs from Port Canaveral, Florida; an ideal choice when paired with a quick trip to Orlando’s Disney World.
Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival is a popular choice for Families departing from Australia. In addition to the wide variety of amenities offered, an affordable price tag sweetens the deal even more. All-inclusive packages are available for both short getaways and longer family holidays, to boot.
Carnival offers something for everyone: Kids clubs for younger passengers, dance clubs for older teens, and plenty of adult-only activities. Repeat travellers enjoy perks including lower travel costs, early boarding and onboard amenities available only to exclusive Carnival Club members.
Carnival ships focus on everyone in the family. Most ships have multiple pools, slides, sports courts, and fitness centers – there’s never a shortage of exercise or physical activity. Throughout the day, families can play fun-filled trivia games, Name That Tune, or take part in ship-wide scavenger hunts everyone will enjoy.
Kids are rewarded for going on a Carnival cruise with their own “Camp Carnival.” Divided into age groups ranging from 2 to 11, kids can spend the entire day at camp while mum, dad and the grandparents enjoy activities on and off the ship. At the end of each excursion, Camp Carnival puts on a talent show, allowing children to showcase their favourite songs and show off some groovy dance moves.
For musical stylings just for grown-ups, Carnival LIVE is always a hit. Each year, Carnival unveils new, world-class musical acts that perform on stage at no additional charge. Throughout 2016, Carnival will sail with Trace Adkins, Journey, and 1970s supergroup KC and the Sunshine Band.
When it comes to the selection of staterooms on board Carnival ships, families are met with a wide range of choices. A favourite is the Ocean Suite, which seats up to four guests, features a private balcony, includes a lavatory with whirlpool and allows for VIP boarding.
Larger groups can select balcony suites that connect for easy transition from one room to the next. With so much fun to be had outside, you won’t want to spend much time in your cabin.
Carnival sets sail from numerous locations around the globe, with departures from ports all over the United States, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The line also offers select cruises in the Mediterranean, which are touted far and wide.
Holiday-goers who prefer to stay close to home can cruise on the Carnival Spirit, departing from Sydney. Carnival Legend will also sails from Australia from October to April. Ports of call may include Mystery Island and Isle of Pines, both of which come highly recommended.
Our pick: The ‘Pacific Islands’ cruise departing Sydney 25 April for 10 nights. A great way to discover Lifou Isle, Mystery Island, Mare and Noumea.
Although items such as prams and capsules are allowed on board, you’ll want to keep these as compact as possible, since doors are slim. Apart from this minor inconvenience, cruise Ships do provide portable cots and highchairs and are highly accessible: there are elevators, ramps, and plenty of wide open public spaces to make getting around easy. It may be a bit of a task if there are tender ports, but cruise staff is always willing to assist with this.
If you’re pregnant, be sure to find out if the ship will take you on as a passenger. Generally, cruise lines do not like expectant mothers on board after 24 weeks of gestation.
Cruise expenses can start to rack up fairly quickly, saving money wherever you can is always optimal.
A Certified Cruise Master and Director of The Cruise Gallery. Kirsty's own travel highlights are as broad as her experience - including New Year’s Eve in Times Square, elephant trekking in India and soaking up the sun in Jamaica!View all author posts
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The Cruise Gallery is a specialist cruising division of Meridian Travel, an award-winning boutique agency based in Melbourne.
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