Cruising With Kids: Small Ship vs Megaship
Kid’s clubs, waterparks and cartoon character parades all seem very attractive, but is a megaship the best choice for your family holiday?
At first glance, it may seem like a huge ship — packed full of climbing walls, surf simulators, multiple dining options and an ice-skating rink — would make the perfect family cruising experience. And, yes, there is a time and place for these state-of-the-art megaships. But, if it is quality time you are after you might want to think outside the box on this one.
Boutique small ship cruising not only means that the smaller vessel can reach destinations that a megaship can’t, it also means you won’t spend half your day trying to locate various members of your family who are scattered all over the boat. With a more limited choice of activities, there is also a chance you might actually get your kids to all join in and do something together for the day. If quality time together is high up on your family cruise wishlist, a small ship could be for you. Plus, with limited attractions on the ship (and normally limited wifi) to keep kids entertained you won’t have to work too hard to wrangle them off the ship in the mornings to explore the new destinations you visit and experience the nature, wildlife and culture as a family.
Steering Away From Kids Club
Things to bear in mind about small ship cruising with kids, is that they are not set up for families. There is no babysitting service, no playrooms, and the ship may limit the age of children it allows for safety reasons. So, if you envisioned yourself laying by the adult-only pool sipping a fruity cocktail while your kids were entertained elsewhere — perhaps a megaship is more up your street.
As the boutique cruise ship itself isn’t going to offer much in the way of excitement for the kids (they are not often impressed by luxury cabins and an extensive wine list) the itinerary you choose is all important with small ship cruising. With limited activities onboard, don’t choose a cruise with several sea days. Make sure the ports of call are regular, lengthy, and offer exciting opportunities; from fascinating wildlife to exhilarating activities or interactive cultural experiences. There are some great family-friendly itineraries out there, so do your homework.
If you are looking for a small ship cruise close to home, check out the Blue Lagoons Fiji Princess. Usually an adults-only experience, the ship is opened up to families during the Australian and New Zealand school holidays. The good news is children under five cruise for free when sharing a cabin with two siblings or their parents (triple share cabin) and Blue Lagoons offer a child rate for two children (aged five to thirteen) sharing a cabin, or one child and one adult sharing a cabin.
Run by a team of friendly Fijian locals, your cruise aboard the Fiji Princess will be unforgettable. As with most cruise packages your meals are included, but the Fiji Princess team really go the extra mile with morning tea, afternoon tea and canapes laid on as well. The captain and crew will accompany you on the shore excursions (also included in the price) offering local knowledge and interesting stories about each island. Rather than huge ports, each stop entails parking the boat in a tranquil bay and taking the smaller tenders to the shore.
Exploring the remote islands of Fiji, swimming from deserted beaches and visiting local villages are just some of the unique experiences you can expect whilst on board. Each morning usually starts with snorkelling at a pristine local spot. You are pretty much guaranteed to be the only people there, and with just thirty cabins onboard the Fiji Princess, the group of snorkellers is never large. If your kids have developed an intense interest in sharks and other underwater creatures, this is the ideal cruise for your family, as swimming with the reef sharks is included as part of your cruise. The ship itself doesn't offer specific kid's facilities but does have a small salt-water swimming pool which they fill up when the weather allows. When moored up on the beach there are also paddle boards and kayaks available for guests to use free of charge.
Blue Lagoons offer a three, four, or seven-day itinerary through the Fijian islands, and given that there are regular flights to Fiji from Australia, this cruise is perfect for even a short family vaycay.
If you want to venture further afield for a longer trip consider the Celebrity Xpedition itineraries in the Galapagos Islands to retrace the steps of Charles Darwin and discover exotic species. Or perhaps take in some history on a Ponant cruise through the Mediterranean.
So on your next big adventure, it might pay to think 'small'.
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Hero image: Carnival Cruises. Article images: writer's own.