A number of cruise lines are putting considerable effort and expertise into attracting the family cruising audience.

Extravagant water slides, age-specific spaces, the latest gaming technology, entertainment that speaks to the heart and hands-on educational adventures are being used to ensure children of all ages have the time of their lives, while parents, freed from their children’s demands, can take time off to relax.

In the Spirit

Heading Down Under for the first time this October, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Spirit is not only catering to families, it’s catering specifically to Australian families. Before arriving on our shores, the ship will be fitted with Australian power outlets, prices will be in AU$, regional food, wines and coffee will be on the menu and there’ll even be an outdoor BBQ for sausage sandwiches.

Carnival hopes that the ship’s most significant attraction will be its new Green Thunder waterslide. Hyped to the max in extensive TV advertising campaigns, it’s claimed to be the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea. What’s more, it is surrounded by a world of watery adventures – Twister Waterslide, SplashZone and mini racing slides – at WaterWorks, the ship’s water playground.

The ship also has three dedicated kids clubs, supervised by Youth Staff, that provide toys, arts, crafts and pool parties, so parents can escape to the spa or adult-only Serenity deck, where a cocktail bar and music offer grown-up entertainment. Late-night babysitting facilities also allows a little moonlit love-boat romance.

Natural Wonders

Paul Gauguin Cruises have once again called upon the expertise of oceanographer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau and his Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program to keep its younger visitors busy. This winter, his program introduces young travellers to the natural wonders of French Polynesia.

Encompassing diving among coral reefs, experiencing Polynesian culture, hiking along rainforest trails and visiting ancient Polynesian temples, this hands-on educational adventure will communicate the wonders of tectonic plates, forest and marine ecology and culture through the stimulation of body and mind.  Meanwhile, parents have the option of joining their children or enjoying some time out.

Kids Travel Free on MSC!

Not only do children under 11 travel free on MSC Cruises (and kids 11-18 at reduced rates) the cruise line has revitalised its kids club and now has four programs tailored to specific age groups: Mini Club for 3- to 6-year-olds, Junior Club for 7- to 11-year-olds, Y-Team for 12- to 14-year-olds, and MSC Generation Teen Club for 15- to 17-year-olds.

Hours of operation have been extended, with the Mini and Junior clubs now operating between 9am and 11pm; teen areas are equipped with Xbox Kinetics and Nintendo Wiis; kids who love to write and draw can contribute to the new kids’ newspaper; and pagers and beepers are now available to rent for passengers who have children aged three to five, or who have medical conditions or special needs.

The Disney Effect

Disney Cruise Line keeps drawing on its not insignificant resources to generate entertainment, recreation and dining options that create the maximum emotional impact.  As Jim Urry, Vice Precedent of Entertainment and Port Adventures, said recently, “Everything has an emotional connection.”

Disney Cruise Line’s entertainment, for example (think ‘Disney’s Believe’ musical), goes straight for the tear ducts with highly sentimental storylines; kids who see their drawings come to life in the new ‘Animation Magic’ show in Animators Palate Restaurant are described by the line as “experiencing the emotion of accomplishment”; and the dress-up fun of pirate night is filled with special moments (and photo opportunities) designed to generate families ties.

Holidaying families beware. Cruise Lines are looking for you.