Karla Courtney reveals the top cruise lines for seafaring family fun.
For the wow factor: Disney
When it comes to luxury family cruising, Disney offers a unique experience that includes plush staterooms, impressive shows and the best water play you’ll find at sea. Disney Fantasy, currently visiting Caribbean destinations, is the newest and most popular ship in the fleet. The destination: Explore the land of Frozen on board Disney Magic on a Norwegian Fjords cruise, leaving from Dover, England, in May 2016.
For a river cruise: Uniworld
Uniworld offers select cruises with both onboard and offshore family programs, kids’ menus and a 50 per cent discount for children under the age of 18. (The minimum travel age is four.) The destination: Germany is magical at Christmas, especially with its festive markets. The Classic Christmas Markets cruise, scheduled for December 2016 on board the River Duchess, travels from Frankfurt to Nuremberg and includes family experiences such as “Christmas with Dinosaurs” at the Senckenberg Museum and a visit to the Nuremberg Toy Museum.
Carnival Australia and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) both run excellent kids’ club programs with age-appropriate, supervised group activities for children two to 17 on Carnival and three to 17 on NCL. Both lines offer late-night babysitting services for an additional fee. NCL also runs daily playtimes for kids aged six months to three years. Carnival Spirit is one of only two ships in the Carnival fleet to call Australia home and boasts the country’s largest water park at sea. Norwegian Pearl is NCL’s most popular family ship and has a bowling alley and multipurpose sports court. It primarily travels in the Caribbean, Central America and the west coast of North America between LA and Alaska.
For kids of all ages: Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean has a large fleet of innovative ships that offer a wide range of activities, from rock climbing to indoor “skydiving”. The huge Voyager of the Seas – touring Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific – had an $80-million refit in 2014 and now has a surf simulator, ice-skating rink and minigolf course. An exclusive arrangement with DreamWorks means there are loads of free films playing in your cabin and movie theatres, as well as movie characters wandering the ship, posing for photo ops.
For a cultural experience: Heritage Line Mekong Delta Cruise
The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is truly the country’s breadbasket – experience the culture, commerce and canals on the Heritage Line Mekong Cruise which travels through this exciting river region all the way up to the world’s largest temple, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The ship is small and there aren’t many activities for young ones onboard, but the crew is very accommodating and most days are packed with a series of short, well-planned day trips that are suitable for kids and included in the cruise price.
For something Mediterranean: P&O Cruises
For a no-fuss way to get a taste of the Mediterranean hop onboard a two-week cruise that departs and returns to Southampton, UK, visiting popular ports like Barcelona, Nice and Rome. A selection of child-friendly shore tours are available at all ports – all shore tours must be booked in advance and are an additional fee on top of the cruise. While onboard, P&O Cruises offers excellent kids clubs, which can accommodate children from two to 17 with free supervision until 10pm.
For the best cruise itineraries around the world, head to Qantas Cruises.