A cruising family holiday has all the right ingredients for fun

Imagine a holiday where someone else cleans your bathroom and makes your bed – twice a day - for two weeks. A holiday where every meal is prepared for you, every dish taken away. Need I mention the free on-site childcare?

On a cruise holiday, the service is just half the story.

Imagine being gently rocked to sleep while your ship sails to your next  international destination. When you arrive the next day, all you need is a handbag and photo ID.

An all-inclusive family escape you wan't regret taking.
An all-inclusive family escape you wan't regret taking. Photo: Amber Robinson

Yep, there's no doubt about it, cruising makes for the most relaxed family holiday ever.

For our inaugural family cruise, we sampled a 14-night itinerary with Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas looping from Sydney to the North Island of New Zealand, then around the South Pacific.

I'd never cruised for longer than 7 days and was worried I'd struggle to keep us all occupied. It turns there was so much to do, I'd have happily stayed  a few more nights. For those who've never cruised before, or never with Royal Caribbean, here's the run down:

The Ship

It's big. In fact, the Voyager of the Seas was the largest in the world when it was launched in 1999. It can hold 3114 guests, but thankfully, there are so many things to do that not everyone is in the same place at the same time.

For starters, it has an actual ice rink inside the ship. After watching the fabulous Ice show, my son and I thought we'd try a few moves ourselves. Turns out ice skating – and ice - is harder than you think.

Another innovative feature of the ship is the Royal Promenade in the centre, on deck 5. It's a real-life street-scape with shops, cafés and bars and is a great place to pull up a chair and watch the action.


Outside you'll find everything from rock-climbing to putt-putt golf. Of course there's multiple hot tubs, swimming pools and hundreds of deck chairs for a spot of sun tanning and dolphin spotting.

Despite the crowds, it's not too hard to find a quiet spot or two, if, like me you like to balance out an action-packed itinerary with a few hours rest and relaxation. Quieter spots include the adults-only pool, gym, library and lower outside decks.

Cabins range in size but are all well-designed so you can pack your stuff away, stow your suitcase under the bed and make the most of the space. The bathrooms are cleverly designed with decent size showers  and many handy compartments. There's also a flat screen TV and mini bar – just like in a hotel. We prefer an oceanview room when travelling with kids, that way you have a view without the worry of a balcony. If money is no object, then the suites look pretty fantastic!

The food

Apparently, the average cruiser puts on 2.6 kg while per cruise holiday. I'm not surprised. On Voyager the dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a full a-la carte menus and silver service (included in ticket price). Menus change daily, and all food is fresh and of restaurant quality. Think a fresh seafood entrée, followed by New York Strip steak for mains, topped off with strawberry pavlova for dessert. Yes, that's all included in the cruise cost. Kids are not forgotten either with a three-course children's menu, including favourites such as fruit salad, spaghetti bolognaise and ice-cream.

Our kids loved Ernesto, our dinner waiter, who had a pocket full of magic tricks. Formal nights gave everyone a chance to frock-up, practice their table manners and pose for professional photos.

It's a good idea to book the Dreamworks Breakfast package through the concierge early in your trip. Your children will have an exclusive meet and greet with characters like Alex and Gloria from the Madagascar, with a special menu to add to the occasion. My kids loved it!

Some nights of course, especially after a shore day, we were all starving and exhausted and an early dinner was in order. We loved the option of the Windjammer buffet restaurant, which has a staggering variety of hot and cold dishes, as well as some truly impressive watermelon carvings.

Speciality dining options are available on Voyager, with new options coming after her revitalisation. A memorable meal for us was dinner on deck 11 at Johnny Rockets as we sailed out of Sydney harbour. Burgers and milkshakes with the best view in the world!

Activities and entertainment

Cruises cater for a huge age range, from toddlers to senior citizens. It's the cruise director's job to program activities for everyone.

On any given day you might find bingo in the theatre, a shopping event on the Promenade and a belly flop competition in the main pool.

Every night, there's always a headline show event as well as a variety of musical acts at venues around the ship. They're all included in your ticket price, so there's no excuse not to get dressed up and head "out" for the night. The Ice show in particular is a must-see:  take the whole family!

To keep track of what's going on, all passengers receive a copy of the Cruise Compass every evening. It tells you every single thing you need to know for the following day, from shore excursions to restaurant opening times, shopping sales and scheduled activities. There's one just for kids too – more on that later.

Kids club

Only those with children will know the true magic of the phrase 'KID S CLUB!' On a holiday brochure. The Adventure Ocean program on Royal Caribbean is award winning and a key feature of the onboard experience. Divided in to age categories with age appropriate activities, Adventure Ocean offers multiple, free sessions throughout the day and night. My daughter LOVED it and begged to go almost every session. While the younger age group (2-5) focuses on craft and games, the older age group is active with ball sports. Teens have their hang-out area, and are pretty much given free reign of the ship. Kids receive their own Cruise Compass so they can plan for the following day's activities. If like me, you have children who liked to be prepared for the day ahead (and ask millions of questions), this makes for great dinner table conversation.

Destinations and shore tours

More than any other form of transport, cruising is much more about the journey than the destination. Nevertheless, Voyager itineraries out of Sydney visit some incredible destinations too. During our 14 day cruise, we enjoyed 5 shore days around New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Highlights for our family included snorkelling on Amadee island off New Caledonia; exploring the Botanic gardens and Te Papa museum in Wellington, and driving from Tuaranga to view the geysers at Rotarua.

Shore tours can be arranged on board, although it's a good idea to choose what you want to do before boarding as some tours fill up fast. The benefits of choosing a tour via the ship are priority departure in the morning, quality assurance and the peace of mind that if your tour is delayed the ship will wait for you!

Many of the ports are very close to town, so it's also easy to wander off and have a look on your own without a formal tour if that's more your style. You can even book your children in to an all-day kids club session so you can enjoy an action-packed shore trip at an adult pace.

Would we go back?

There's no doubt we'd cruise again, it's just such an easy and enjoyable way to travel. Voyager of the Seas is currently Royal Caribbean's biggest ship on the Australian route (along with sister ship Explorer) and with its revitalisation in progress, will have even more to offer families over the 2014/2015 season. With so much to do on board, combined with great food and service, you can't go wrong.

Disclaimer: The writer was a guest of Royal Caribbean Cruises.