Are we there yet? Cruising with Kids

Family holidays are no longer driving long distances with kids in the back of the car infuriatingly asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” This is only during a domestic road trip, imagine travelling further afield, to Europe or the US for instance, the complaining will be even worse. Not only do you have to keep them quiet for 24 hours on a plane there and back; they need constant entertainment the entire time you are away.

Cruise ships have come to the party! Kids clubs make a family holiday enjoyable for kids and parents alike. Each day of the cruise your children will be occupied and having a blast for little or no cost depending on the age of your child. Instead of, “are we there yet?” it is, “I’m not leaving, we have not finished making our movie”, or “the dance party has not finished!”

Most cruise ships offer a Kids Club and age appropriate activities for all children to enjoy. Kids clubs are not just for the little ones, there are teen areas for the older kids to hang, without feeling like being in childcare. Kids clubs have been described as an incredibly fun and totally edu-taining adventure. Careful you may not see the kids for the whole holiday.

We are going to look at three of the most common cruise lines that offer family holidays. The three are P&O Australia, Carnival Australia and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. These all offer kids clubs but there are some differences that you should know before booking the cruise. These three cruise lines inform us that all their staff are trained and experience child care professionals. This is to ensure the safety of your children as well as enjoying their time in the clubs.

All cruise lines require the kids to be toilet trained and nappy free to attend the club. All clubs are broken into age groups so all age groups do not feel overwhelmed by older or younger children.

Royal Caribbean’s – Adventure Ocean Kids Club

The four ships in Australia from Royal Caribbean are; Ovation, Explorer, Voyager and Radiance of the Seas.

  • All four have the Adventure Ocean kids club for ages 3-17yrs old
  • Only Ovation and Radiance of the Seas also have a dedicated nursery for those from 6-36 months. The cost is $6USd per hour during the day and $8USD per hour at night.
  • You can also pre-order huggies nappies, baby wipes and cream, along with Gerber organic baby food.
  • Babysitting available in cabin for an hourly rate for children 1 yrs and above.

The four age groups for Royal Caribbean are:

  • Aquanauts (3-5 yrs) – The highlight activity is the pirate party parade for the kids. Parents can have the comfort of a pager to be alerted if the little one is upset.
  • Explorers (6-8 yrs) – This age groups highlight activity is the dance and ice cream party, both at the same time, and adventure theatre.
  • Voyagers (9-11 yrs) – These guys do some awesome things such as the hilarious talent show and the very competitive sports tournament.
  • Teens (12 – 14 yrs) –There is a range of organised team activities for this age group. Most popular are the scavenger hunts, arcade challenges and rock climbing competitions. They also have time in the evening for the moonlight cinema and pool parties.
  • Teens (15 – 17 yrs) – This is more like a chill zone than organised activities. Those that want it can attend the teen spa, pool party and teen dinners.

Don’t forget for the whole family is Family time dining. The whole family go to dinner together, kids are served first so they don’t miss out on any of the fun! Parents are left to enjoy the rest of their dinner at leisure, DATE NIGHT! On Ovation of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas make sure you check out one of the Dreamworks shows. Have your photo taken with Shrek, dance with Melman the Giraffe, or share some ninja moves with Po the Kung Fu Panda.

 

Carnival Cruise Lines – Camp Ocean Kids Club

The three ships in Australian waters are the Carnival Spirit, Legend and Splendour has a minimum age of 2 years.

Carnival also has their own take on the kids club:

  • Penguin Colony (2-5 yrs) – They have activities like an ocean themed take on musical chairs with musical icebergs.
  • Stingrays (6-8 yrs) – These kids attend the pirate game night in their favourite pirate outfit and feed their artistic side with sea salt art.
  • Sharks (9-11 yrs) – They create a giant ocean mural and play a very competitive game of ocean soccer and ocean volleyball.
  • Nightowl (2-11 yrs) – For a small fee the kids can have a late night play with friends while you have some parent time.
  • Circle C (12 – 14 yrs) – They are still at an age where the dance parties are fun and inclusive, there is also outdoor movies for the kids.
  • Club O2 (15 – 17 yrs) – These guys have their own non-alcoholic bar. Dance floor and laze about area. Some ships and destinations have teen shore excursions as well.

For the family there is the Dr Seuss Character parade.

Photo from carnival

P&O Australia – Kids Club

P&O does not have a specific name for their kids club but all the ships in Australia have the club on board. The minimum age on the Pacific Dawn, Explorer, Aria, Eden and Jewel have a minimum age for the kids club of 2 yrs.

  • P&O do not have a pre-booked baby food or nappy service. They can store formula and baby food for you.
  • There is no in room child minding service or one on one supervision available on board.
  • There is group child minding for ages 2 – 12 yrs in Turtle Cove from 10.30pm to 1 am.
  • Kids club is not guaranteed but is first come first served.

P&O Kids Club

  • Turtle Cove (2-6 yrs) – The little ones can play with the Duplo play centre, create arts and crafts and theme nights.
  • Shark Shack (7-10 yrs) – The kids will make you a keepsake jewellery item, search for gold in the scavenger hunt and build on their dance skills with the dance lessons.
  • HQ (11 – 14 yrs) – Budding filmmakers and actors will enjoy the club learning how to make films and the talent show.
  • HQ+ (15-17 yrs) – This amazing zone is very private from the stresses of little brothers and sisters or those worrisome parents. This is a hangout place with movie making and other activities for the older teen.

For the family there is the Nickelodeon movie nights in the youth centre or zap the kids at laser tag.

If the kids are being entertained this allows the parents to have a holiday as well. Many parents will say my kids will not go to the kids club, give a try if it is not for them it has cost you nothing.

 

Let’s talk Gratuities

The idea of paying someone for the service we expect is foreign to Australians. This practice is very common and expected in most parts of the world. Cruises are no exception; crew members expect a gratuity payment for their service. The reason for this expectation is they are paid a minimal monthly wage from the cruise line. Some crew work more than 10hours each day of your cruise to ensure that it is an extraordinary experience for you.

As someone who has worked on a cruise line I would not have survived, or even worked, without a gratuity income. My wage from the cruise line was $500 per month for working 6 days a week and up to 12hours a day. Don’t get me wrong it was a wonderful experience, but I would not work for 72 hours a week for a weekly pay of $125 (which is about $1.75 an hour.) How many of us would?

So why should we as Australians pay gratuities on a cruise?

Most cruise lines in Australia incorporate the gratuities within the fare. They do this for two main reasons:

  1. This is to ensure the crew members are financially rewarded for the amazing cruise experience they provide. If no one paid gratuities, the cruise line would find it difficult to entice the best crew members to work on ships visiting Australia. Crew members will take contracts on ships where they can receive an income based on the service they provide.
    Lack of quality crew members became an issue for the cruise lines prior to gratuities being incorporated in the cruise fare.
  2. To keep cruising an affordable holiday option for most Australians. Without this affordability the cruise market in Australia would reduce, and Australians would not have the choice of cruise line and ships that currently visit our waters. A thriving market has meant that the Australian cruising public are enjoying new ships visiting our waters, ships such as the Majestic Princess, Ovation of the Seas and the Viking Sun.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, Silverseas, Seabourn, Carnival Australia and P&O Australia are just a few cruise lines who include gratuities in your fare. Everyone is a winner! The crew are happy, which filters to a better experience for you, the guest. It also ensures you do not have to worry about tipping. Let’s be honest, it is not in our culture and we can find it daunting.

Princess Cruise Lines has the gratuities included in the fare if the cruise starts and ends in Australian ports.

When you ask your cabin steward to deliver breakfast to your cabin, or bring you a second helping of your favourite desert, think to yourself, would I do that for $1.75 an hour?

You may be able to find a low price for your cruise by purchasing through a non-Australian website; however you will be charged gratuities on board the ship. The standard gratuity is from US$13.00pp per day. You will need to factor this in when looking for that extra low price on a foreign cruise website. Are you really getting a good deal from these websites?

When you are comparing price, also check your vulnerability. Are you covered for insolvency when booking on a foreign website?  If they are not an AFTA or ATAS Australian Accredited Agent, how safe is your money?

Let’s talk Drink Packages!

At Cruise Offers we are often asked about drink packages aboard the ships. The questions are:

1. Which cruise lines have drinks packages?
2. And, are these drinks packages really worth the money?

When we talk drink packages we are talking here about the alcohol packages, because what is a cruise for, if not sitting back and enjoying a cocktail or two as the world sails by. Here we are going to discuss the four most common cruise lines in Australia; P&O, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Princess Cruise Lines.

Buy a Drinks Package – Yes or No? The approximate cost of the package for each cruise line is below. The price is per person for each day of your cruise. The package allows for unlimited (*Subject to the responsible service of alcohol) drinks for any drink of $14 or less including gratuities. This means you would need to drink at a minimum of 5 drinks per day for each day of the cruise. Most cruises include days ashore in port.

So you need to ask am I going to drink about 5 drinks each day including port days?

Below is a list of the cruise lines and their drinks packages:

P&O Australia – Included in the Value Plus Fare or for sale via Cruise Personaliser on cruises 7 nights or longer. The drinks package is approximately $69 per person per day.

Carnival Cruise Lines – No drinks packages available for purchase.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines – Purchased via Cruise Personaliser prior to cruise in Australian dollars or on board in US dollars. The costs is somewhere between $60AUD-$90AUD per person per day approximately.

Princess Cruise Lines – In the process of changing their process. They can be purchased via the Cruise Personaliser for $87AUD per person per day on cruises of 7 nights duration or longer.

Each cruise line has their own set of rules and offers around drink packages, hopefully this has helped clear some of the confusion.