Cruising is attracting more Aussie families than ever, thanks to its great value, with dining, entertainment and childcare included in fares.

The diversity of onboard activities means parents and kids, as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles can do things together or separately.

Supervised activities and events are held in age-specific kids clubs and teens clubs, allowing them to make new friends and learn new skills in art, craft and dancing. They can also play in the pools, whizz down waterslides and eat unlimited food. Big ships have amenities such as basketball courts, table tennis, minigolf and video games. Live entertainment, from comedy to karaoke, is presented in various venues. There’s no excuse for anyone to be bored.

River cruise lines have great options for families
River cruise lines have great options for families

Any size of family can be accommodated on a cruise ship. Two adults and two children (or one parent and three children) can book a quad room or two double cabins with an interconnecting door. Spacious family suites fit five, six or more people. The cheapest category is an inside cabin with no windows, while more expensive options have balconies, multiple bedrooms and living areas. Every cabin has an ensuite bathroom stocked with towels and toiletries, ample storage and televisions loaded with movies.

Off the ship, families can explore new places and cultures. The most popular family destination is the South Pacific, where a different island is visited every day. At the beach, try stand-up paddle-boarding or snorkelling with turtles in a marine reserve, or go on an excursion to local markets, caves or waterfalls. Queensland and New Zealand are other family-friendly itineraries.

Many of the cruise lines have shore excursions that accommodate children
Many of the cruise lines have shore excursions that accommodate children

Best cruise lines for families:

Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line (coming soon) are the main choices for Australian families.

Royal Caribbean is known for its entertainment and high-adrenaline activities such as rock climbing, indoor skydiving, roller-skating, dodgem cars, and a wave pool for surfing.

Carnival’s fleet has waterslides, poolside movies and Dr Seuss-themed entertainment and a casino. P&O has racing car simulators and classes to make puppets or learn to make stop-motion movies. The company has also partnered with Lego for creative activities. Norwegian organises dodgeball and scavenger hunts, pizza-making classes and a circus school.

Celebrity Cruises also has kids facilities and Club X for teenagers. Princess is best for multi-generational families who like to spend their holidays together.

Princess offers to take the kids backstage
Princess offers to take the kids backstage

Cruising family

Dan Russell, general manager and director of Clean Cruising, adores the chance to get on a cruise ship with his wife and kids.

Russell says it’s tough to beat the huge variety of activities a cruise ship offers, with something for everyone.

“What I love about cruising is the sheer variety of options that every new day onboard can offer. Days at sea allow guests to choose their own adventure, whether it’s being involved in the countless activities or simply taking it easy with a book or by the pool – or both! 

“Family holidays with teenage kids see us ticking off a long list of fun activities onboard. Either way, I work up a good appetite for all the terrific food to try onboard!”

As far as the best cruise he’s ever taken with his family, it was a repositioning cruise on Radiance of the Seas that went from Auckland to the jaw-dropping volcanic scenery of Tahiti.

“In 2012 my family took a repositioning cruise aboard Radiance of the Seas. From Auckland, we had four days of deep blue seas and clear skies before small green dots slowly appeared on the horizon.

“Watching the lush, volcanic peaks of Tahiti materialize as we sailed closer was a sight all the guests onboard won’t forget. There’s still plenty of destinations on the bucket-list, but after losing three years to the pandemic, I’m not fussy where we go as long as I’m cruising with family and friends.”