Ever dreamt of a holiday where you just sit back and do nothing? With no painfully long travel days sitting in a plane or car, lugging the kids and your cases about? Well, look no further, as a cruise is a one-stop-shop for Holiday fun. The moment you step aboard you no longer have to lift a finger. Everything is done for you from the food, kids club, activity planning and even making your bed! You simply unpack once and relax in style as you drift along to each destination. Waking up fresh each day, you are ready to explore in a new far away land – It’s a fabulous concept and one that is hugely popular with many families.
We’ve just experienced our first cruise on board the amazing Carnival Spirit and boy was it fun! We escaped the chills of winter for 10 days, floating around the most amazing tropical islands in the South Pacific.
As first time cruisers we were unsure how we would fare at sea, so we took the time to do a little research before we left, and we’re glad we did. We’ve compiled all our top tips and also an insight into our trip for you below.
Choose a family friendly cruise
You definitely want to make sure you choose a family friendly cruise ship with facilities and activities on board that appeal to all ages of your tribe… and of course, one with a KIDS CLUB! Our mini blondies could not get enough of Camp Ocean (Carnivals fleet wide FREE kids club) which provides marine-themed activities and programs all day and into the night for children aged between 2 to 11. There was also another section for the older teens to hang out in too. So they cater for everyone.
Don’t skimp on room choice
There are loads of room options available when cruising – these are all called ‘Staterooms’. Of course price points come into play here but as first time cruisers we would suggest considering a balcony room as they are usually more spacious than Inside Rooms (which have no windows) and Oceanview Rooms (which have a small window that can’t open).
For us, having the option to retreat back to our room for some quiet time was something we needed each day. We had plenty of room, and could enjoy some fresh air, read a book or even watch the sunset with a cold drink. We’re definitely outdoorsy kinda people, so I think if we’d had a room with no window or balcony we definitely would’ve had a case of ‘cabin fever’ (pun intended!).
Another thing to consider is the location of the stateroom on board the ship. If you’re worried about how you’ll feel at sea with the rocking of the ship, the cabins located mid-ship are great as there’s less movement here, so try to select them when booking.
Tip: You can find loads of room tour videos on YouTube which is a great way to help you choose what’s best for you and your family. Also – If you are unsure how you will go being on a boat for so long, or if seasickness will be an issue, consider booking a cruise with more port days so you will have more opportunities to get off the ship and explore as well as feel more independent.
Avoid motion sickness and other illnesses
Even if you think it won’t be an issue we suggest discussing motion sickness prevention options with your doctor or pharmacist. Consider bringing along some Travel Calm and Kids Kwells and make sure you have enough for everyone (not just one packet!). The ship will also sell these onboard but it is also the first thing to sell out of if you do get some rocky swells. Other sea sickness prevention options we researched include wrist bands, eating green apples, ginger biscuits and using/smelling essential oils.
It’s also a good idea to be strict on washing hands often and using antibacterial gel. Our boat had a dispenser as you entered most restaurants which we used religiously and we also had a small bottle in our bags. When travelling we always purchase travel insurance and take a few other precautions which we share in this Safety Travel Tips post.
Boarding Day Tips:
Be prepared for some queues
The first day of your cruise can involve a little waiting around as you check-in and go through the security points and border patrol. Make sure you can manage your carry on luggage yourself as you’ll be stuck with it until you are able to access your cabin.
Pack your carry-on bag wisely
As soon as your tribe set eyes on the waterslides and pool, (or the spa in our case) they WILL want to get in and start having fun! As you may have to wait a few hours before you can access your room and your bags it’s a good idea to pack your swimmers and anything else you think you may need in your carry-on. (Don’t worry about towels as they are provided.)
On day one, before you sail there is a muster drill which will provide you with important information in case of an emergency. This can take a little while as everyone finds their muster station so be prepared for a little bit of standing around with the kids (if it’s cold take a jacket or a hat if it’s hot etc).
Check out the Kids Club
Don’t forget to check out the kids club and sign them up. Better to sign up on day one, even if you’re not sure your kids will want to go, but if they are anything like our mini Blondies you won’t be able to keep them away.
Book your shore tours
Some tours have limited space and sell out, so you may want to book early (if you haven’t already pre-booked).
When travelling with kids we recommend booking any tours at the start of the day when everyone is fresh. This also gives you more time on shore to relax or if you still have day sleepers return to the boat for a nap.
Food glorious food
Everyone is hungry on day one so it will most likely be busy in all the dining areas. You may want to try some of the other specialty restaurants on board for your first meal as they can be quieter. For dinner they often have some great first night specials. You will have to pay extra for these specialty restaurants though.
Take the time to meet your cabin steward and dinner wait staff, they are all super friendly and fun and they will be looking after you for the duration of the cruise, so if you ever need anything simply ask!
Tip: Don’t Take the lift on embarkment day as it is super busy with luggage deliveries… and better still, you should opt for the stairs anyway, it’s the perfect way to keep active and burn off all that yummy food and drink!
Download the Carnival Hub app
Carnival has a great app that you can download before your cruise. It has a fun countdown feature and then once you are onboard it shares all the activities and food options that are available each day. There is also a fun chat option so you can message/chat to other travel buddies on board.
There are a few Internet package options onboard that you can purchase. We found this was great to keep in touch with family and friends back home.
Key Items to Pack –
Along with all your lovely cruise clothes – hats, swimmers, dinner outfits etc, here’s a few other key items you should consider:
- Lanyard – We didn’t get the ‘lanyard memo’ but EVERYONE uses them onboard to hold your keycard. Everyone receives a plastic keycard/room key when they board which is connected to your credit card so purchases are streamlined, no cash is exchanged on board. You also need your keycard scanned when you hop on and off the ship – even the kids, so a lanyard makes it a lot easier to use. You can also purchase these onboard.
- Day Pack – For all shore excursions you will need a day pack for your swimmers, water and money etc. Speaking of Money if you are going ashore you’ll want to make sure you have small change to pay for items like coconuts, ice creams and souvenirs etc. Try to avoid large notes as most of the locals won’t have the change to offer you. We had a change machine on our ship where we could get some smaller $$$. (Each country we visited accepted Australian Dollars too).
- Beach bag – We also had a small beach bag for going to the pool deck. This was great to carry suncream and goggles etc for the kids, and my book!
- Water bottle – Bring your own re-useable water bottle to fill up at the water stations or alternatively you can purchase a plastic bottle to reuse throughout your trip.
- First Aid Kit – We like to travel with a mini first aid kit at all times. For this trip we had the usual kids Panadol, Nurofen, bandaids, suncream etc, as well as sea sickness tabs.
- iPad/Tablet – As much as we try to limit screen time, especially when we are travelling to amazing locations, there are times when the kids need some down time. We found the TV shows and movie channels on the ship didn’t suit our aged kids so by having a few preloaded kids movies on a tablet they were able to watch something and rest when it suited us.
- Snorkelling Gear – If you plan to go snorkelling on your shore excursion you may want to bring along your own gear. We love our free diving and snorkelling so this was a no brainer for us. If you are not sure or don’t own any you can always hire some. The pool noodles were all free to use too.
Theme night outfits
These are all great fun but don’t stress if you don’t have all the outfits for each theme.
Our favourite thing about our cruise was all the island hopping and exploring we could do. As an adventurous family we were busting to get off the boat and explore the glowing waters that surrounded us as we peered out off our balcony each day. We definitely made the most of our time in each port.
On Marè Island in New Caledonia, we went on the Eni Cultural Discovery village tour. This tour had us meeting the locals and trying some traditional food made with coconut milk and yams and of course fresh fruit and coconuts! We then had some time to enjoy the glorious turquoise water, it was divine!
In Port Villa, Vanuatu we went on the Melé Cascades Waterfall Tour. We travelled here for our honeymoon back in 2011 so we were super excited to return with our mini Blondies. It’s a pretty walk, not too long and ends in the most stunning waterfall. We packed reef shoes for this which we highly recommend. We also asked the bus driver to drop us off in town after the tour so we could explore some more and enjoy the markets, and of course we purchased more fresh coconuts!
On Mystery Island, Vanuatu – we enjoyed a glass bottom boat tour with the kids and then relaxed for the rest of the day on the beach. You can wander the island, watch some cultural dancing and purchase food or souvenirs etc, or simply chill out, snorkel off the beach, find hermit crabs and pretend you are shipwrecked in paradise (we did it all!) all while gazing in awe at that electric blue water!
On Lifoú Island, New Caledonia – we went on the Forest and Secret Grotto tour which had us walking through the rainforest, learning how the locals catch the famous Coconut Crabs and we also adventured underground into an enchanting Grotto cave.
In the afternoon we also had a special pass to snorkel at the unique Jinek Bay Marine Park, this was definitely one of the most impressive snorkels we have ever experienced. The coral gardens and sea life were sensational, the kids loved it and we even found Nemo. Armed with some fresh coconuts and locally made donuts to keep the kids happy, we stayed as long as we could and were the last to leave.
Phew – That’s a lot of information but there is no doubt your cruising holiday will be an exciting adventure wherever you sail to. If you have any questions please ask in the comments below or share your own tips to help others too. You can also see more of our time from our Instagram stories here @theblondenomads. Happy Cruising legends!
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