The number 1 travel trend for 2018 is multi-generational holidays, and family cruises are tipped to be an increasingly popular choice. In fact, ocean cruising is also right up there in the top 5 travel trends, according to the Virtuoso 2018 Australian Luxe Report.
(Passengers by the pool on Pacific Jewel. Courtesy Carnival Australia)
Once regarded as an activity for the rich or retired, cruising has totally transformed in recent years to become far more wide ranging, exciting and affordable. In its 2018 outlook, Cruise Lines International Association notes that people of all budget brackets are cruising now, and as well as an increase in multi-generational family cruises, they predict a trend towards ‘skip-gen’, where grandparents and grandchildren travel without mum and dad.
An interesting trend is in the demand for more experiential cruising, with passengers wanting more than ever to disembark and immerse themselves by visiting local villages, spotting wildlife and enjoying adventure activities. This is reflected in Cruise Critic’s observation that cruise lines are focusing on exploring single destinations in more depth.
While there’s a trend towards cruising Alaska and Antarctica, families still love the warmer options, such as the South Pacific and South East Asia. Cruise lines are also focusing on New Zealand as a multi-faceted destination ideal for family cruises, and Japan is increasing in popularity, although more so as a cultural rather than adventure / nature destination.
The rapidly growing interest in ocean cruising has been met by cruise companies competing to build bigger and better ships each year, with an acceleration in onboard and offshore activity options and cool technology.
Still amongst the leaders in large ship cruising for Australians are Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and P&O. Theirs are amongst the best cruise ships for kids, with endless activities for children and teens, as well as family-oriented shore excursions and a wide variety of itineraries.
Exclusive to Royal Caribbean is the Dreamworks Experience, with movie characters on board for fun activities, and the FlowRider - the only ocean based surf simulator. Other on board fun includes the water park, ice skating and rock climbing, plus a teen-only program with everything from pool parties to teen spa treatments.
There’s no better education than experience, and the best cruises for kids include engaging shore excursions, such as visiting traditional villages in Fiji and walking underwater in Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
Check Royal Caribbean’s New Zealand cruises too, which include a Lord of the Rings Middle Earth encounter. Royal Caribbean now has a one-way Australia-to-NZ cruise, and a new departure out of Melbourne to NZ, returning to Sydney.
The most recent addition to the Royal Caribbean fleet is Symphony of the Seas, now sailing out of Barcelona, and cruising the Caribbean later in the year. New on this ship is the two-storey Ultimate Family Suite, with private 3D cinema, air hockey table and balcony pool table.
In partnership with Discovery Communications, Princess Cruises is rolling out a new youth program and fresh children and teen centre designs. Check their website for updates before you book.
The cruise line is well known for its family cruises in Australia and around the world, and includes family activities as well as children or teen-only programming. This includes interactive onboard activities and shore excursions designed for all ages in collaboration with the Discovery Channel and local experts. Many excursions provide hands-on opportunities to enrich children’s understanding of the destinations visited, making these some of the best cruises for kids.
Among the onboard entertainment, a popular addition has been Voice of the Ocean, an interactive show modelled on the TV singing competition. There’s also a wide range of creative, scientific and sporting action for children, teen-oriented activities such as dance classes and parties, and even an exclusive club for 18-20s.
Princess Cruises has recently expanded its Alaska cruise program, which offers an adventure for all ages, including a visit to their new treehouse at their own Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, a lesson in gold panning, a visit from puppies learning to be sled dogs, and a full youth program.
There are itineraries to all corners of the globe with this cruise line, right down to two-day Australian ‘getaways’.
(Sapphire Princess in Sydney Harbour. Photo James Morgan. Courtesy Carnival Australia)
Princess Cruises’ sister brand, P&O Cruises, also offers short Sea Breaks of 3-4 nights. These are ideal for families who aren’t sure about spending a week or more onboard together! It’s an affordable way to get a taste of cruising as a family, before deciding to book something more adventurous.
The latest addition to P&O’s fleet is Pacific Explorer, formerly the Dawn Princess. This is an ideal choice for multi-generational family cruises, with lots of activity for kids, such as the waterpark and waterslides, as well as entertainment such as lawn bowls for the older generation. Quad rooms area available for additional family value.
(Sea Princess and Dawn Princess together. Photo Jan Shuttleworth. Courtesy Carnival Australia)
If you’re booking a couple of years ahead, watch out for the Golden Princess, which will be deployed from Princess Cruises in 2020, and promises to be one of the best cruise ships for kids.
P&O Cruises (Australia) claims to sail to more destinations in Australia and the South Pacific than any other cruise line. More recently, New Zealand, is becoming a popular choice for family cruises out of Australia too.
P&O’s Cruise Air options, in partnership with Virgin, now offer some great airfares to get you to and from your departure and return ports.
Small Ship Cruising
Small ship cruising, sometimes called expedition cruising or adventure cruising, is turning its attention to families as more are wanting hands-on experiences and engaging shore excursions. Blue Lagoon and Captain Cook Cruises sail the South Pacific, and there are others concentrating on destinations further afield.
Blue Lagoon is a boutique small ship cruising company historically dedicated to adults only, which has responded to popular demand and now offers special family cruises.
The Fiji Princess carries a maximum of 68 guests and promises a 2 to 1 passenger-to-staff ratio. While there are library games, DVDs and a splash pool on board, these are completely different cruises for kids than the big ship experience. It’s all about getting off the boat and experiencing the destinations, or getting into the ocean and lagoons in clear kayaks or on standup paddle boards.
Captain Cook Cruises is another small ship experience with some excellent Fiji family cruises. The MV Reef Endeavour holds 130 passengers and has pool and Captain’s Kids Club activities for 5-9 year olds. Your kids can snorkel (with tuition if needed) and visit island schools and villages for those transformational experiences.
Captain Cook will book pre- or post-cruise family-friendly accommodation for you on one of the islands if you would like this option.
Looking for more ideas?
Check this article for family holiday ideas in Australia.
Family cruising is growing, and cruise companies are doing a great job of giving parents, children and grandparents what they want. This means more destinations, better onboard entertainment, a wider choice of cruise styles, and some exciting shore excursions. ATAS travel agents have all the options at their fingertips. Book now for 2019!
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