Cruising is a great option for a family holiday. We have taken our boys on several cruises which include Pacific Pearl (3 night Auckland - Auckland), Rhapsody of the Seas (5 night Sydney - Auckland) and Voyager of the Seas (14 night circumnavigation of NZ Sydney - Sydney). They have enjoyed each cruise and on the last 14 night one my youngest was in tears as he wanted to stay on the ship.
The kids clubs are awesome and our boys really enjoy them. It's also great for parents to get some time to themselves as I know in our family this can be a rare occurrence. What I really like about the kids clubs is that they are mostly planned activities and games as supposed to just leaving all the kids playing computer games. There are also lots of activities onboard so that families can spend time together - swimming pools, table tennis, movies etc and depending on the ship there may be rock climbing, ice skating, mini golf and basketball.
Voyager of the Seas
On Voyager of the Seas our boys were 7 and 10. They were both in separate kids club groups which had age appropriate activites (e.g. Dodgeball, talent shows, Pirate Night, craft activities). The Kids club generally operated from 9am until 10pm with closed periods throughout the day for meals. When in port the hours did sometimes vary. Kids can also go with the Kids Club staff to lunch although charges do apply. There is also the late night party from 10pm-2am and the cost for that was $US6 per hour per child. Our boys loved the Kids Club so much that on one of the port days they chose to spend 14 continuous hours there. This was great as my husband and I were able to pop into Melbourne on our own for a couple of hours to shop and we knew the boys would be safe and occupied. Other things that we enjoyed on Voyager of the Seas were Roller Skating, Mini Golf, Rock Climbing, Basketball, The Dreamworks Breakfasts, Dreamworks Move it Parade and Dreamworks Sailaway Party. There is also ice skating, movies, and the Ice Show which was definitely worth seeing.
Rhapsody of the Seas
Rhapsody of the Seas was the first cruise that we took the boys on and they were 4 and 7 at the time. Again they both loved kids club and there were plenty of fun activities. Their favourite on this cruise was the pirate night where they "took over the ship". This was the one day they were taken out of Kids Club and they walked around the ship dressed as pirates, into the dining room and then into the main theatre where they did a little pirate song show. We also enjoyed the late night buffet night. Rhapsody is a much smaller ship than Voyager but there was still plenty to do. She was refurbished in 2012 - although she is currently sailing on her last season in Australasia and will be replaced with Explorer of the Seas. I have also seen Radiance on a ship inspection and although we haven't yet cruised on her, everyone that I spoke to on the Voyager cruise who had been on her said she was a lovely ship and one of their favourites. Radiance was refurbished in 2011.
One of the shorter cruises that we have taken the boys on is Pacific Pearl and again we all really enjoyed this. The boys were 6 and 9 years old on this cruise. The 3 night cruises out of Auckland are great for first time cruises or even just for a weekend away. It's also great value compared to a 3 night hotel stay as it includes all your meals and most entertainment. The Kids Club hours on P&O were very similar to RCI and they also have the late night option with a surcharge. We really enjoyed the food in the Pacific Pearl main dining room. There is a buffet restaurant onboard however the selection is a lot more basic so we ate most of our meals in the main dining room. We also went to the speciality restaurant Salt Grill by Luke Mangan and really enjoyed that. Our boys also loved it however the food is gourmet and there are no kids meals so it definitely isn't suitable for all children.
In 2015 there is one 3 night departure in April however in 2016 there will be 3 Food and Wine Cruises and a 4 night Bay of Islands cruise all ex Auckland. The 3 night cruise is a great way to try out cruising to see if you like it and it's a perfect break for families.
Our next family cruise will be in March next year on Queen Mary 2 so we're all really looking forward to that. Our eldest will be celebrating his 13th birthday onboard which will be a great experience. The boys (and me) are counting down already