Holiday cruises should be filled with festive cheer and family fun. However, many families have reported aggressive behaviour towards their kids on cruise ships this year.

Reports have been aplenty in cruise communities online of parents who have felt their kids have been treated aggressively or demeaningly by other passengers. 

Kirsten Smith went on a December cruise with Royal Caribbean and described the treatment towards her “very polite” two-year-old child as a very mixed bag. Furthermore, as an experienced cruiser, Ms Smith felt this treatment to be a new phenomenon onboard.

What happened onboard

“It was 50/50 for us. Either people were fantastic or disgusting. It’s our 15th cruise and my daughter’s fourth. Never have we ever experienced this before.

“People were being rude toward our two-year-old. They gave her filthy looks when she would be polite and say hi to them.

“She’s very polite, has great manners. And whilst we had a couple of tantrums, she’s a very well-behaved kid and just wants to have fun. We were told by one woman to ‘put our child on a leash’ when she was walking back to our room minding her own business.”

Ms Smith said she also noticed this behaviour directed towards other kids on the cruise ship, something she was baffled by given the supposed family nature of the cruise.

“There were altercations against parents over getting milk in the buffet at breakfast. People were yelling at parents telling them children shouldn’t be allowed on cruises. There were even children being spoken down to at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony because children were excited. Mind you, it’s a kid’s event.”

More positively, Ms Smith said the staff were nothing short of incredible to her child, and guest services were receptive when she brought the issue to them.

The general sentiment of cruisers appeared to be that they had no issues with children on cruises and many even felt adults are generally the larger problem.

However, this hasn’t stopped the reported behaviour from creating nerves in those with cruises booked and some other cruisers from casting blame on lacklustre parenting. 

Kids on cruise

Parents left nervous for cruises ahead 

Reports of such behaviour have left some parents nervous to take their children on cruises. Especially those with children with certain disabilities or conditions. 

Fran Neilson wrote: “I hope adults are more understanding for our cruise departing this Friday. We have one child, he will be looking for friends and things to amuse himself.

“He is nine and is autistic and has ADHD. He can get loud, fidgety, dysregulated and emotional – not at the same time luckily. So He isn’t the best at just sitting quietly at meal times so not looking forward to the looks, stares or nasty comments that may come at those times.

“We have put off doing our first cruise for so long. Fingers crossed we have patient and compassionate fellow cruisers.”

Blaming the parenting?

Some cruisers have pointed the finger towards parenting ‘falling short’. 

For example, Caroline Hale reported seeing what she viewed as inappropriate behaviour from children in the main dining room.

“One morning at breakfast in the dining room there was a three or four-year-old climbing all over the chairs and in the window well. When his pancakes arrived he had a major meltdown over the presence of berries on his pancakes. Mum was with him.

“Seemingly unbothered by his gymnastic and then apologised for berrygate – saying it was all her fault. All the while this kid is dropping the ‘F Bomb’ about it. Whilst this particular kid may have had other issues, the parenting fell short.”

The rise of no-kid cruises 

Kids on cruise ships

These complaints arrive at a time when the Australian cruise landscape has just been bolstered with the arrival of Virgin Voyages, a cruise line that doesn’t allow children.

Similarly, cruise lines such as Viking Cruises have a significant presence in Australia and also do not allow children. 

But Disney Cruises has arrived with families with children offering.