Cruises for kids: why they love life onboard
Think about the whole idea of cruises for a minute. Everything’s done for you. Everyone’s dedicated entirely to entertaining you. Transport’s organised to gorgeous places where you’re lovingly guided around. No one takes money for anything. And when socks aren’t being worked off to keep you happy, you’re plied with food, drinks and treats. Sound familiar? It should to most parents because that’s exactly what a child’s life is like. So it’s no surprise to find that cruises are the rising star in the family holiday heavens now. They are (unintentionally or not) made for kids.
1/7 Waterparks, theme parks, playparks
Vast stretches of ocean aren’t that interesting to the average child and cruise companies know that only too well. So you won’t find a family-friendly holiday without at least one spectacular top-deck waterpark – if not several. The competition to be the biggest and best is only matched by the drive to pack in as much variety as possible. Norwegian Cruises are known for their highly decorated hulls and fantastic Aquaparks: extreme chutes and slides for older children and gentle splash around fun for under fives. They’re also the company for adventure parks populated with huge rock climbing walls, bungee trampolines, zip-lines, eye wateringly tall parcour circuits and a walk-the-plank (and come back again) experience for young mutineers.
2/7 Disney to DreamWorks themed cruises
Themed cruises are bigger than ever and investing millions in brand rights is enough incentive for companies to flood family holidays with all-singing-all-dancing experiences. Disney have everything from Jedi Warrior classes to Princess Tea Parties on board. Kids can have breakfast with their favourite characters, troupe around the ship with the cast of Frozen and take in a musical extravaganza at least once a night – and quite a few afternoons too. DreamWorks provide Royal Caribbean’s celebrities, so Shrek turning up at the table along with a couple of penguins and possibly Kung-Fu Panda is all part of the package.
3/7 Food kids love, when they like, where they like
Dinner at the Captain’s Table and gourmet restaurants are still very much part of cruise world. But kids aren’t expected to sit down and behave beautifully in the company of grown ups – unless they want to. Food trucks, bake-your-own-pizza and all-day buffets are more appealing alternatives. Most cruises have supervised high-teas just for kids – good news for parents who want an occasional off-duty evening. And any spare space is filled with cute ice-cream stalls, juice bars, on-board shopping malls, brand name concessions like Starbucks or Dog House and a seemingly endless parade of tea parties, birthday parties and character breakfasts.
4/7 Kid’s clubs from toddlers to teenagers
Happy kids mean happy, relaxed parents. Cruise companies know this better than anyone, and that reflects in amazing fun for young passengers. SeaPlex from Royal Caribbean is more like a kid’s town than a club with everything from a full-size basketball court to roller rinks, floating DJs, food stalls, dodgems and even its own circus school. Norwegian Cruises have put a lot of energy into entertaining teens and Entourage is the result: think cool hang-out with a grown-up vibe and no grown ups to ruin it. The company also has Splash Academy, the ocean’s biggest play-zone for under eights, plus a choice of supervised activities and play areas for toddlers. And parents with P&O can enjoy being selfish now and again thanks to the company’s superb Night Nurseries for toddlers and babies over six months.
5/7 Big, bigger, biggest on-board attractions
The battle to awe your kids with the mightiest on-board attractions is endless for cruise companies these days. Ultimate Abyss claims to be the biggest dry slide at sea and with a vertical drop of 30m, it’s hard to argue. But Disney’s AquaDuck is strong competition and might edge out in front for the under 10s thanks to two-person rafts and a 300m round-ship ride. Simulators are big too and young passengers can try everything from skydiving to Formula 1 racing and surfing on board several cruise ships. There are land-sea marina experiences with floating docks, power boat launches and jet-ski experiences. And the biggest liner setting sail, Harmony of the Seas, now has a London Eye style viewing pod raised on a hydraulic arm to 92m above sea level for 360˚ocean views.
6/7 Fun learning experiences just for kids
Skill-cruises are nothing new, passengers have been learning about everything from wine tasting to French cooking on board ships for decades. But a new generation of learning experiences dedicated to the youngest voyagers is now an integral part of cruise life too. Kids can take their pick from basketball coaching, ice skating tuition, trapeze classes, art lessons or swim schools. Motivated, friendly and confidence boosting pretty much describes the professionals taking care of the teaching. And, depending on the cruise, several skill-building activities are included in the price of your holiday.
7/7 UK school holiday centred cruises from P&O
P&O Cruises are the first to offer a range of family holidays specifically designed around UK school terms which don’t treat you like a captive audience in terms of costs. The company has five ships sailing out of Southampton – a big plus if you want to visit the southern hemisphere without long-haul flights. They don’t have the shiny, big on-board attractions of Disney or Royal Caribbean, but great kids clubs and a focus on personal attention works well for younger children. They also operate a number of shorter, European cruises for families, a perfect introduction for first-timers and a good way to find out whether travelling is really better than arriving with kids.