Warm waters, pristine beaches and friendly hospitality - all the hallmarks of a South Pacific holiday. Bernadette Chua rounds up what the cruise lines offer for family getaways in the region.
The South Pacific is one of the most family-friendly holiday destinations in the world - and it's still the most popular cruise region for Aussies. And as Easter is approaching, now is the time to book. We've found a mix of lines that accommodate children, from contemporary to premium and luxury.
Don't be fooled into thinking only larger, contemporary lines like Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises cater for the kids. Some high-end luxury lines even have dedicated areas for little ones, including Crystal Cruises which regularly sails to less accessible South Pacific ports of call such as Tahiti and Samoa.
Here are some of the best South Pacific cruises that mum, dad and the kids will love.
Carnival Cruise Line
The family line regularly heads to popular islands in the South Pacific such as Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, but on its longer cruises Carnival also calls at more remote destinations including Bora Bora, Papeete and Moorea. The shore excursions are fabulous for the entire clan - whether it's a lagoon cruise with shark and ray feedings in Bora Bora or parasailing over Moorea's crystal-clear blue waters.
Explore more: carnival.com.au
The line has Australia's largest ship, Ovation of the Seas, as well as Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas, regularly sailing the South Pacific. Aside from the high-tech onboard activities for kids, Royal Caribbean also has shore excursions such as grotto and cave diving in Lifou and an underwater ocean walk in Vanuatu, perfect for little ones.
Explore more: royalcaribbean.com.au
P&O Cruises Australia
You might think Australia's favourite cruise line only sails to the more well-known destinations in the South Pacific, but P&O also regularly cruises to Papua New Guinea. It's an amazing holiday spot for the family - rich in culture and history, and with plenty of active shore excursions such as the Alotau Cultural Festival and the Rabaul Volcanic tour. On board, there are plenty of activities in the kids' club, from arts and crafts to sports, for when mum and dad want a little downtime.
This is a real adventure! The half-cargo, half-passenger ship is a different kind of cruising, and it's well suited to family holidays. Aranui sails around Tahiti, particularly around the Marquesas Islands. It's a wonderful holiday: passengers visit remote villages in the region and the kids will enjoy activities such as hiking, swimming, snorkelling and 4WD touring. While the cruise might not be appropriate for toddlers, older children and teens will have a blast.
Captain Cook Cruises Fiji
This family-friendly cruise line travels around the Yasawa Islands in Fiji - perfect for active tribes. As well as snorkelling and glass-bottomed boat tours off the ship for everyone, the staff organises events to keep children occupied on board while mum and dad go scuba diving or hiking. Captain Cook caters for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. The line also has cabins with four bunk beds and adjoining staterooms.
The premium contemporary cruise line is more known for its older cruisers - but it shouldn't stop the kids from having fun. Its Millennium Class has four ships - the Celebrity Millennium, Summit, Infinity and Constellation - which are more kid-friendly. There are designated youth areas: the Fun Factory for kids aged three to 11 and the XClub for teens aged 12 to 17. The ships' crews organise tournaments as well as themed nights for children, as well as scavenger hunts and movies during the day for both kids' clubs.
Explore more: celebritycruises.com
While Princess is known for being more suited to adults, the line has really upped its offerings for younger cruisers. Camp Discovery has The Treehouse for kids aged three to seven, while The Lodge is for children aged eight to 12. Animal Planet and the California Science Center have also struck up partnerships with Princess, creating informative and fun programs such as dissecting a squid or learn more about space. Teens also have their own special area, and the exclusive Club 1820 is just for 18-20s.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
This luxury small ship cruise line might not be an obvious pick for a family cruise around the South Pacific, but the line has a fantastic kids' program. There are a number of itineraries sailing around Tahiti, the Society Islands, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands and the Marquesas. The line has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society to provide an exciting program for children and teens (aged seven to 17), which takes kids on dolphin-watching expeditions, swimming with sharks and rays and racing hermit crabs.
Explore more: pgcruises.com
Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, while branded as high-end ships, also boast dedicated mess areas for kids and teens. On sailings with 10 or more youngsters, junior activities directors run the show, and it looks like quite a show. Crystal Cruises normally sails around the South Pacific when its ships are in Australia for wave season. For the kids, there are art supplies, flat-screen TVs, and gaming consoles PlayStation 4, Nintendo Wii and Xbox One. The line offers babysitting and onboard restaurant the Trident Grill serves complimentary hot dogs, burgers and pizza.
Luxury line Seabourn does not actively cater for young travellers and there are no specific children's facilities, however, teens and children are welcome on board and all shore excursions are free for kids. Seabourn does not accept babies under six months at the time of sailing. On Seabourn cruises the focus is on letting you experience nature up close in a way that is unique and exciting. For children old enough to explore, this means plenty of excursions and sharing your voyage with a knowledgeable expedition team of scientists, scholars and naturalists in destinations such as Papua New Guinea.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent's Seven Seas Voyager is a regular visitor Down Under, and this super-luxurious line allows you to head to the South Pacific with little ones (as long as they are over one-year-old on boarding). The Club Mariner Youth Program for five- to 17-year-olds has fun interactive activities including meet the captain, scavenger hunts, bingo, wacky Olympics, putt-putt tournaments, dance parties and movie nights. It's all supervised by friendly youth counsellors and is for age groups five to eight, nine to 12 and 13 to 17.
Silversea has no specialised programs for kids and does not provide activities, care or supervision of children while on board. Silversea also has limitations on its shore excursions for children under the age of eight. The line does offer family cruise savings when travelling with guests under the age of 18. Guests between two and 17 years old are 50 per cent off, while those under the age of two receive 75 per cent off.
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