For parents, a cruise with the family is an exciting prospect – to be able to introduce the kids to new cultures and experiences they can tell to their friends at school? An important factor that must be considered is how to keep them occupied through the entire cruise. There are few things worse than the kids constantly tugging at your pants complaining that they are bored, right?
Family activities are an aspect of the overall cruise experience which have benefited from considerable investment in recent years, with kids having seemingly more to choose from than ever before, and in some cases, activities for parents to also participate in with their little ones.
Let’s take a look at some of the options out there for toddlers to pre-teens, all aimed at ensuring Mum and Dad get some quiet time for themselves.
Of course, for specific activities and more detailed information tuned to your specific voyage, keep an eye on your daily program once onboard.
Carnival Cruise Line – Camp Carnival and Camp Ocean
Overseen by trained and experienced supervisors, Camp Carnival and Camp Ocean caters to kids aged from 2-11. Well aware that activities of interest for a two-year-old are starkly different to those knocking on the door of teenage-hood, the program is divided up into three age-based sections catering to 2-5, 6-8 and 9-11. The youngest have plenty of building blocks to satisfy their creative imaginations, with other activities including hula-hooping, arts and crafts, oversized and interactive board games, while plenty of drawing, colouring and painting is also on tap. As well, every now and then, the music starts and an impromptu dance party ensues. The ‘Seuss At Sea’ program provides a selection of activities both exclusively for kids and for the whole family involving some of the famous characters from the Dr Seuss children’s boo’s, which kids can meet and interact with in person. Many activities are included in the cruise fare, while some specialist activities incur a surcharge.
P&O Cruises – Turtle Cove and Shark Shack
Australia’s oldest cruise line offers plenty for the youngest cruisers. Turtle Cove is expressly aimed at children aged 2-6 with a wide variety of toys and educational games at their disposal, all under the carefully trained watch of a team of youth staff. LEGO is a popular item, however for the youngest in Turtle Cove, playtime comes with the larger DUPLO pieces, with the smaller bricks reserved for slightly older children in the Shark Shack program. During select school holiday sailings, passengers may find onboard Australia’s only officially recognized LEGO Professional (for such a job really does exist) Ryan McNaught hanging out in the Kids Club. McNaught runs special building sessions to share his passion with kids, offering handy building hints and showcasing some of his largest and most impressive personal LEGO projects such as a recreation of the Sydney Opera House. Shark Shack is aimed at the 7-10 age range and aims to foster new friendships and teamwork skills with activities such as scavenger hunts in specific parts of the ship, dance lessons, games and themed parties. A wide variety of activities are included in cruise fares, with some optional extras available at a fee.
Norwegian Cruise Line – Splash Academy
If the budget stretches far enough to be able to leave Australia for a cruise to shores farther afield, plenty of options exist on the international cruise lines. If cruising the Americas or Europe, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Splash Academy caters to children aged 3-12. Included in the cruise fare, the Academy is divided up into three subcategories creatively titled “Turtles”, “Seals” and “Dolphins,” all overseen by trained staff. A fourth category known as “Guppies” is available for children aged between 6 months and 3 years, however activities require the supervision or involvement of the child’s travelling parent or guardian. Different activities are available to each group, ranging from arts & crafts, treasure hunts, circus sessions, sports, team building challenges and more. In addition, if parents have their eyes on a particular shore excursion or wish to wander ashore safe in the knowledge their children are being looked after, a Group Sitting service is offered on port days for children aged 3-12 for an additional charge.
Royal Caribbean International – Adventure Ocean
For inquisitive minds eager to make a mess and learn about exciting new things in a fun environment, Royal Caribbean offers three separate programs for children aged 3-11. Under the Adventure Ocean brand, subcategories include Aquanauts (3-5), Explorers (6-8) and Voyagers (9-11). The youngest cruisers can have fun with bubbling potions, stomp around as their favourite dinosaur and dress up as pirates. Science goes cool for those in the Explorers club as they play with Space Mud and learn about astronomy, with plenty of dancing and ice-cream at night. Those in the eldest category can participate in talent shows, hunt for items around the ship and play sports. Interactions with Dreamworks characters from movies such as Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda also take place from time to time. A Late Night Party Zone supplement allows kids to continue the fun later into the night, however an hourly fee applies past 10pm for those with too much energy.
Princess Cruises – Youth Centre
Two subcategories are offered on Princess Cruises, with the “Princess Pelicans” club for toilet-trained kids 3-7 years of age, while older kids 8-12 can enjoy the cool Shockwaves group. All under the careful watch of trained supervisors, younger attendees can enjoy activities such as dance parties, cartoons, pizza activities, theme nights, fun fairs and art projects. Those in the older category can enjoy a more mature, yet fun selection of distractions such as movies, video games, karaoke and talent shows, cooking lessons, sports tournaments and more. In partnership with the California Science Centre, kids can enjoy fun scientific experiments such as building rollercoasters, whale watching and dissecting squid. Children under the age of three can participate in the Princess Pelicans program with parental participation and supervision.