Taking your family on a cruise can be a rewarding experience for both adults and children. And from Australia we have some of the best cruise destinations to choose from, an array of quality cruise ships and cruise companies all with fantastic facilities and activities with affordable fares.
Some of the better known companies sailing from Australia include P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises and Holland America. Your cruise fares include accommodation and all meals on board the ship as well as access to many activities, shows, movies and more.
Sailing from the east coast of Australia the popular destinations include Pacific Islands like New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji or shorter trips to New Zealand and Queensland.
What you need to take
A carry-on bag with change of clothes and swimmers for your first day. The obvious things like sunscreen, toiletries, medication, a small first aid kit and a backpack (for shore excursions).
Clothes - mostly casual wear however you may need to dress up for certain events. Although the ships are mostly cashless you may need some cash when you visit other countries for day trips.
Most cruise lines provide beach towels, hair dryers, electricity adaptors, snorkels and flippers (for hire - but may be easier to bring your own).
Travelling With Children
Cruise ships offer fantastic facilities for children with Kid's Clubs, family dining and activities to ensure kids are always happy. P&O offers four different age specific kids clubs that are included in your fare and have arts and crafts, music and sports activities.
Very young children (less than 6 months and sometimes less than 12 months) are not permitted to travel on cruise ships. There are also restrictions on children sharing cabins without an adult present. There may be restrictions on certain areas of the ship for children - some they won't be allowed in at all and some they will need to be accompanied by a parent. Check with your cruise company as to what restrictions they impose in relation to children.
Cots are usually available on request for young kids. You may need to provide your own nappies, wipes and other baby essentials as well as a pram or stroller. Also baby food and baby formula is not provided on most cruise lines, however it can be stored for you. Again check with your cruise company.
Check your passport -for international cruises make sure it is valid for 6 months after the cruise return date. Some countries require visas - check with your travel agent or visit www.passports.gov.au for more information.
Visit your doctor to discuss vaccinations you may need along with any other medical considerations. For more information see www.smartraveller.gov.au. Let you cruise line know of any medical conditions, disabilities or dietary requirements you or your family may have.
Check what shore excursions are available on your cruise. Once you are on your cruise be prepared to book early to avoid missing out.
Check-in online - print boarding passes and luggage tags. You can do this up to 6 months in advance on some cruises.
Book any required flights and transfers. Don't leave this till last minute as it may end up costing you more.
If you are pregnant you need to tell your cruise line. You may need to complete a pregnancy form to be allowed to cruise. If you are past 24 weeks by the end of the cruise you will not be allowed to board (check with your cruise line).
Stock up on any medical supplies that you will need during your cruise.
Sort out your travel insurance.
Let your bank know if you will be using your credit card overseas.
Check luggage restrictions to ensure you meet the requirements.
Make sure you arrive for your cruise prior to the check-in time.
Book early - 8 months or more prior to sailing to get the lowest fares and the best cabins.
Or consider leaving it to the last minute to book - 2-6 weeks before sailing. This generally means that you will secure a cheaper deal however you run the risk of missing out completely if the cruise is fully booked.
Research you shore tours before you leave and book them early. Consider using local tour providers rather than the cruise ones or jump in a local taxi and ask to be shown the sights. If you are visiting a new destination you may want to sight-see rather than do a planned activity.
It is easier to remember where things are by deck number rather than deck name. When facing towards the front of the ship Port is on your left, starboard is on your right. Fore is towards the front, aft is towards the back. Rooms with even numbers are on the port side and odd numbers on the starboard side and are numbered from the front of the ship.
Some cruises have theme night parties so it's good to come prepared and pack some suitable clothing or costumes before you leave. An example is on board a Carnival ship there will be special evenings including a Mexican Fiesta Deck Party and 80s Rock 'n' Glow Deck Party & Caribbean/Island Theme Night in the dining room.
Plan to travel in the off season. Avoid holidays such as Christmas and New Year's, the middle of summer and school breaks to secure an off-season bargain.
Check for special deals like on-board credit, free meals, included Wi-Fi and other amenities when booking or comparing deals.
Generally all meals on board are included in your fare. Ships have a wide and varied selection of dining options to choose from. Feeding such a large number of people is a challenge and you may need to book in for different meal time sittings. Some cruise lines will offer the choice of traditional dining where you eat at the same time and table for every dinner, or flexible dining where you arrive when you want and get allocated to an available table. With the flexible dining option you may have to wait for a table during peak periods.
There is generally a dress code for dining on ships. The main restaurants will require smart casual clothing and for special formal nights suits and gowns are encouraged.
There will also be choices of upmarket restaurants on board which will not be included in your fare.
If you have any special dietary requirements make sure you contact the cruise line in advance to let them know of your needs.
Cabins, or staterooms, are similar to a small hotel room. There are a number of different room categories to pick from on a cruise ship and the room you pick will probably be based on how much you are willing to spend.
Inside rooms are usually the smallest rooms and have no views. Outside rooms are usually a similar size and have a window or porthole so you can see the ocean. Balcony rooms have a verandah so you can go outside and are generally bigger. Suites are a larger cabin, sometimes with separate living areas and usually on a higher deck. Naturally the price rises through each of the cabin types. Some cruises offer family rooms or interconnecting rooms.
When choosing your room take into account wher it is situated on the ship. Rooms near the pool area or entertainment areas may be noisier and the lower and more central you are in a ship the less roll and sway you will feel.
P&O Cruises is Australia's most established cruise brand, with the largest year-round fleet. Passengers can expect value for money, friendly staff and plenty to keep them occupied when sailing on the Pacific Pearl, Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Aria or Pacific Eden. The focus is generally on budget with some value deals available and the line caters well for families.
The P&O fleet transports over 100,000 passengers each year on their cruise holidays. The ships sail from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle.
Pacific Dawn - A part of the fleet since 2007, the Pacific Dawn is P&O Australia's longest-serving vessel. Has a capacity of 1,546 guests with 11 decks and a length of 245 metres.
Pacific Jewel - The Pacific Jewel entered service with P&O in 2009 and carries 1670 passengers with 11 guest decks and a length of 245 metres.
Pacific Pearl - Joined the fleet in 2010. Can carry 1596 guests with 11 guest decks and a length of 247 metres.
Pacific Aria - A new arrival to the P&O fleet in 2015. Capacity of 1260 guests and 9 guest decks.
Pacific Eden - The other new addition to the Pacific fleet in 2015. Has a capacity of 1260 guests and 9 guest decks.
Pacific Explorer - Joining the fleet in 2017 from Princess Cruises, the Pacific Explorer has fresh designs reflecting the best of modern Australia. Has a capacity of 1998 guests and 11 guest decks.
Onboard activities include fitness classes, cooking demonstrations, live bands, dancing, game shows, table tennis, casinos, cabaret shows, karaoke, deck parties, spa treatments, trivia quizzes, in-cabin movies, shuffleboard, bingo, dance classes, themed nights and parties, talent shows, enrichment lectures and port talks.
Turtle Cove is the place for the smaller members of the family. It includes a range of games, toys and activities for kids aged 2-6 years old, which are not only fun but educational too! Plus, when playing in Turtle Cove your kids will be well supervised by our experienced youth staff. From DUPLO play centre to arts and crafts, theme nights to talent shows - the hardest part of Turtle Cove is deciding what to do first. Please make sure your child is toilet trained, otherwise they won't be able to join in the fun at Turtle Cove.
For kids ages 7 -10 they can spend some time at the Shark Shack. It's the perfect place for them to make new friends and play with kids their own age. We have scavenger hunts, jewellery making, computer games, dance lessons, LEGO activities and theme nights - just to name a few. With so much to do at Shark Shack the kids will be fast asleep before their heads hit the pillow each night.
HQ is the ultimate chill zone for kids and teens aged 11-14. They can make new friends, play video games, check out movies and hang out with our incredible Youth Staff. Plus if that's not enough, there is a whole range of activities available. From singing their hearts out at karaoke sessions to commanding the spotlight at the talent show, filmmaking to playing in a rock and roll band - they'll be having so much fun at HQ you'll be begging them to come hang out with the family!
P&O has Duplo and Lego play zones and a bungee trampoline. Our much-loved mascots keep the kids entertained with the fun TC & Skipper's Island Adventure production show. Theres also Teen Jam where teens can band together and perform their jams for an audience and an onboard Time to Shine Talent Show!
Families can share quality time with a range of onboard activities suitable for the entire family. There are deck games including golf putting, table tennis, quoits and much more, Karaoke, laser tag suitable for all-ages (Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl) and board games like monopoly or scrabble.
P&O Edge Adventure Park is Australia's largest adventure park at sea. Have you ever wanted to, say, race down a zip line on the top deck of a cruise ship? At P&O Edge you can! With up to 19 exciting activities you can get really get your heart pumping. Reach the top with the funnel climb, don't look down when crossing the slackline or take a leap of faith on the flying fox. Plus experience new activities exclusive to Pacific Dawn like Walk The Plank, Crow's Nest Viewpoint and the Boulder Wall.
With nearly 50 years on the water, Princess is one of the most universally recognised cruise brands in the world. More than 1.7 million passengers a year get onboard. Princess offers cruises departing from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
There are five Princess ships that travel out of Australia and New Zealand:
Golden Princess - A passenger capacity of 2600, the culinary options are a big selling point, including the traditional-style Caneletto Dining Room and Sababtini's restaurant.
Dawn Princess - The Dawn will sail her last season with Princess and then join her new fleet as the P&O Pacific Explorer in May 2017.
Sun Princess - Based in Australia all year round, the Sun also takes in exotic destinations such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
Diamond Princess - A world-class art collection, gallery and auctions are all part of the Diamond package.
Sea Princess - Passenger reviews are always good for this well-established ship.
Princess sail to a number of Australian destinations, New Zealand and Pacific Islands of Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji and further afield to Tahiti and Hawaii.
Princess Cruises offer many on-board activities for all ages. For kids ages 3-12 there's Camp Discovery with the Treehouse centre for activities. The diverse kids cruise activities and programs offer every child what they need to spark curiosity, fuel creativity and inspire an active life. For teens there's the Beach House, a themed lounge for kids to socialise, parties, competitions, dance classes and movies. There are also family game nights, trivia, family movie nights, shows and dance parties.
Royal Caribbean Cruises
Royal Caribbean prides itself on delivering innovation and entertainment, while retaining the traditional elements of luxury travel on the ocean wave. All cabins have a private bathroom and flat-screen TV, with more than 40% of the ship offering passengers their own balcony.
The Royal Caribbean fleet out of Australia currently comprises five ships :
Radiance of the Seas
Voyager of the Seas
Explorer of the Seas
Legend of the Seas
Ovation of the Seas
Families can enjoy the Sports Zone and DreamWorks experience, while the adults expend energy on anything from rock walls and ice-skating rinks to the pools and fitness centres. Nightlife activities are also extensive, thanks to the casino, Broadway-inspired revues, acrobatics and numerous bars. Kids will have a blast at the complimentary, award-winning Adventure Ocean Youth Program. We separate kids and teens into age groups so that they can enjoy specialised programs made to expand their imaginations, in interactive, multi-room spaces designed just for them. It's an incredibly fun, totally edu-taining adventure. Family events and activities include festivals, poolside games, physical challenges, karaoke nights, theme nights and more.
Carnival Cruises, the world's largest brand with 25 ships, delivers a well-packaged cruise vacation. As part of the largest cruise line in the world, Carnival Cruises Australia is perfectly placed to offer cruisers a holiday with adventure, relaxation, fantastic food and plenty to do while providing great deals.
Cruising from Sydney, Carnival ships have fabulous itineraries, visiting destinations from New Caledonia and Fiji to Tasmania and Moreton Island. Children 2-5 ('Penguins'), 6-8 ('Sting Rays') and 9-11 ('Sharks') in the Kids Club program will enjoy over 200 different games and activities. Circle C and Club 02 cater for teenagers.
Carnival Spirit fast became a favourite with Australian cruisers and recently wowed customers again with its Fun Ship 2.0 refurbishment in 2015. Carnival Spirit is Carnival's first ship to be based outside the US, and home-ports year-round in Sydney, Australia. Cruises of 8 to 12 nights visit the Great Barrier Reef, and the South Pacific islands of Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. The ship has a capacity of just over 2000 passengers. It has four outdoor pools, 16 bars and lounges and award-winning kids programmes.
Carnival Legend has been deployed seasonally from Sydney since September 2014, and most of her cruises visit Pacific islands over 7 to 12 nights .
With fantastic facilities, great food and a wealth of things to do, Celebrity Cruises appeal to travellers of all ages. As part of the Royal Caribbean family, Celebrity cruises offer numerous itineraries. Celebrity delivers a north-American cruise experience at a modest price, with high levels of service and large staff.
Celebrity Solstice is based in Australia during the summer months. It caters for around 2850 passengers, with Penthouse Suites to small interior cabins at various price grades.
Celebrity's ships are more suited to sophisticated adult couples, families with older children, singles, and guests who appreciate stylish surroundings, no announcements, quality entertainment, and food/service that are extremely good.
Holland America Line is British-American owned, with head office in Seattle, and one of nine cruise line brands of Carnival Corporation. The line's vessels are easily recognisable thanks to their stately navy-coloured hulls and names ending in -dam.
There are two ships based in Australia across the summer months:
Maasdam: Although updated in 2011, it has retained its traditional sensibilities which mix well with contemporary elements.
Noordam: A member of Holland America's Vista class, this ship also strikes a good balance between old and new. The variety of educational activities and glamorous decor make her a great way to travel the South Pacific.
The South Pacific is the most popular cruise destination for Australians. There are some beautiful destinations within easy reach of Australia's east coast. Roundtrip cruises from Australia commonly include stops at popular ports including Isle of Pines, Champagne Bay, Mystery Island, Noumea, Luganville, Port Vila, Mare, Santo or Wala. Longer trips include Fiji with stops at Port Denarau, Suva and Lautoka.
Isle Of Pines, New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines is part of New Caledonia and is situated 50km south east of the mainland and 80 km's south-east of the capital Noumea. The island is characterized by tall narrow pine trees, perfect white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons. This island was once a convict settlement for political prisoners from Paris and later became an ordinary prison. The islands landscape consists of spectacular natural colours of white sand, green, blue water and lush green vegetation. The island is also beautiful under water as there are spectacular colourful corals and fish. Vao on the islands southern most tip is the only real village. The islands sole church dominates the village centre.
Lifou Isle, New Caledonia. Lifou has one of the most diverse landscapes in the South Pacific, from limestone caves to white beaches and coral reefs teeming with brightly coloured marine life.
Noumea, New Caledonia. Noumea is the capital city of the French territory of New Caledonia. It is situated on a peninsula in the south of New Caledonia's main island, Grande Terre. It is one of the most westernized cities in the Pacific islands, and while the city itself is not attractive, there are some beautiful beaches on its outskirts. Attractions in Noumea include a stroll along the Place des Cocotiers, the local produce market and the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, located 20mins from the city. The focal point of the city is Coconut Park with its attractive colonial houses and beautiful hibiscus and bougainvilleas. The marina is worth a visit and there are attractive beaches at Anse Vata, Baie des Citrons and at Pointe Magnin.
Mare, New Caledonia. The commune of Mare is made up of Mare Island and the much smaller Dudun Island, which lie among the Loyalty Islands, to the northeast of New Caledonia's mainland. The settlement of Tadin, on Mare Island, is the administrative centre of the commune of Mare.
The Vanuatu capital of Port Vila is the main destination for cruise ships. It is located on a beautiful harbour on the island of Efate. Apart from shopping and wandering around the town there are a number of shore tours available including helicopter tours, fishing, canoeing, a cultural village tour, and trips to Cascade Waterfalls and Hideaway Island.
Santo on the island of Espiritu Santo is the second largest town in Vanuatu. There are some excellent snorkelling tours available as well as village tours and a fire walking ceremony. There are markets in the town centre where you can buy fruit, flowers and handicrafts.
Champagne Bay is another stopover port for cruise ships and features one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is situated on the east coast of Espiritu Santo. Ships will dock off shore and transfer guests by tender to the beach. Shopping for handicrafts and trinkets is available for purchase from the stalls onshore.
Luganville is also located on Espiritu Santo and has some fantastic snorkel and dive spots, blue hole caves, white sand beaches as well as shops and boutiques selling local crafts.
Mystery Island is a small uninhabited island near the island of Aneityum. Ships will anchor off shore. Snorkelling is excellent and the clear water offers visibility up to 15 metres. Village trips to the nearby Aneityum Island are available.
A popular destination for cruise ships, Fiji offers a number of different experiences from the culture of Suva, the shopping in port Denarau, to the unspoilt beauty of a remote tropical island.
Suva is the capital of Fiji located in the southeast of Viti Levu. You can tour the city and see some of the Fijian architecture, the Museum of Fiji or experience traditional Fijian life at a local village. There are plenty of shore tours available including trips to Pacific Harbour and the Coral Coast, flying fox adventures, village tours, historic tours, fire walking ceremony and much more.
Port Denarau is the gateway to the Mamanuca island chain which includes Castaway Island, Plantation Island and Mana Island to name a few. Denarau Island is the home to many of Fiji's 5 star resorts. There is some excellent shopping available at the marina as well as dining options including the nearby resorts. Day cruises to the nearby islands are available.
Dravuni Island is an unspoilt island off the coast of Fiji and is a stop-over call for many cruise ships. There is a Fijian village to explore where you can buy souvenirs and see how the locals live.
There are a number of ports in New Zealand that cruise ships top at. These include Akoroa, Auckland, Bay of Islands, Napier, Picton, Port Chalmers, Tauranga and Wellington.
The list of Australian ports is extensive and includes the capital cities as well as some popular tourist spots. Some of the ports include Adelaide, Airlie Beach, Brisbane, Broome, Burnie, Busselton, Cairns, Cooktown, Darwin, Eden, Esperance, Exmouth, Fraser Island, Fremantle, Geraldton, Gladstone, Hamilton Island, Hobart, Kangaroo Island, Kuri Bay, Melbourne, Mooloolaba, Moreton Island, Mornington Peninsula, Newcastle, Port Arthur, Port Douglas, Port Lincoln, Portland, Robe, Sydney and Townsville.