ICE CREAM, SUN DAYS
Travelling with little kids is notoriously difficult — but not on this cruise ship
GET YOUR KID’S HAIR BRAIDED WHEN YOU VISIT AN ISLAND AND VOILA, NO MORE BRUSHING FOR THE REST OF THE TRIP!
You’ll love it. There’s free ice cream.” When you’re a three-year-old, or a parent of one, recommendations for a holiday don’t get much better than that.
My travel agent cousin – also a mum who understands the, er, joys of travelling with young kids – had just heard we were about to take an eightnight family cruise on Carnival Spirit.
They had us at “free unlimited ice cream” but I soon discovered there were many more reasons to appreciate cruising with kids.
REASON NO. 1: NO AIRPORT ANGST
Juggling a little one, piles of luggage and long queues is a pain – that’s even before you board the flight where, as a parent, there’s always the risk your child will turn into “that” kid, the one who has mid-air meltdown, refuses to sleep on a long-haul flight or won’t stop kicking the seat in front.
On a cruise, there’s none of that. The customs/boarding process is quick and within 90 minutes of leaving our home in Sydney, we’ve found our cabin, had a splash in the water play area and, you guessed it, had an ice cream.
In short, we’re already in full holiday mode, with almost none of the usual travel stress.
REASON NO. 2: THE FOOD
When I first heard about the endless ice cream on board, I’ll admit, it did trigger alarm bells. Would all the kids’ food on board be junk, I wondered? Kids’ menus generally tend to be quite limited when it comes to healthy options, and kids themselves can be pretty resistant to trying new things.
I needn’t have worried. In fact, cruising is pretty much perfect when it comes to kids and food. For starters, most of the dining options on board are included in the fare, so no agonising over overpriced kids’ meals that may or may not get eaten.
The buffet is great – loads of options and kids can see for themselves what they’re getting and it’s instant, so less chance of them changing their mind between the order and service. Also, it’s open all day, reducing the bother of having to pack emergency kids’ snacks for between meals.
The kids’ main dining room options (a la carte, and also included in the fare) are staples like fish and chips and spaghetti bolognese – ensuring kids will actually eat them – but the sides of steamed vegies are an excellent option, alleviating my concerns of a week of junk.
For adults, the main dining room menu is varied enough to keep a week-long cruise interesting, with daily themed specials (themed cocktails too, though they’re extra).
For an even fancier dinner, there’s also the fine dining restaurant, Nouveau – there’s an extra charge but the food is top notch.
REASON NO. 3: THE TOWEL ANIMALS
Elephants, monkeys and octopus, oh my. Who needs toys when you get a new “friend” delivered to your room every day? It’s not just housekeeping staff who can create something from nothing to make kids smile, though. The pool deck staff are also maestros of the towel animals, and even run demos to show you how to DIY.
One of the official photographers hands my daughter a flower folded from an old daily program distributed around the ship.
Then there’s our waiter (I say “our” waiter, because we get the same restaurant staff allocated to us every night, which is awesome for not having to re-explain that my picky kid would like a side of just broccoli, thank you) who, at the first sign of a three-year-old meltdown, crafts a mouse from a napkin in seconds.
It’s the perfect distraction and lets everyone get on with their meal. Now that’s real magic.
REASON NO. 4: ISLAND TIME
There’s water, there’s sand – it’s every kid’s dream come true. And arriving
to a new tropical island every day without a long flight or drive is every parent’s dream come true.
We spend three days at three island stops – the Isle of Pines, Lifou and Noumea. There’s the option to join guided tours, but when you’ve got a little one, the Isle of Pines and Lifou lend themselves to just hanging out on the beach and taking turns to head out for a snorkel (hire your snorkel on board and bring it with you).
For Lifou, a pre-booked pass lets us snorkel at Jinek Bay Marine Reserve, a little hike from the main beach area, but the snorkelling is good for such a popular tourist spot.
For us, though, the highlight of our island days was at Amedee Island, a day trip from Noumea.
We take a boat transfer to the island, score sun lounges on the beach, snorkel with turtles, take a glass-bottom boat tour, tuck into a massive buffet lunch where the kids dance with the island musicians, check out the views from the lighthouse and send a postcard from the smallest post office in the world.
REASON NO. 5: NO HAIR BRUSHING
Get your kid’s hair braided when you visit an island (about $10, and Australian currency is accepted) and voila, no more brushing their hair for the rest of the trip! If your kid is like ours and would rather do anything than get their hair brushed, that’s a holiday right there.
REASON NO. 6: YOU GET TO DO THE FUN STUFF
It’s not that you can’t head along to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (a themed high tea with Alice in Wonderland characters) or the Dr Seuss breakfast (green eggs and ham, anyone?) if you’re not travelling with a kid, but it makes it all the more fun when you have one with you to see their eyes light up at the crazy cakes and watch them freak out over the larger-thanlife Thing One and Thing Two.
Many of the optional activities on board are aimed at families – the Build-A-Bear workshop is a particular hit with Miss Three – while the kids (and kidults) embrace the dress-ups for ’80s rock’n’roll, “elegant” and island nights. Many of the early evening performances in the main theatre are family-friendly, too. For mums and dads who don’t get out too much, it’s a real treat to able to have a nice meal, catch some live music and still be only five minutes from “home” should a quick exit be necessary.
Speaking of treats, a confession: by the end of the week I look forward to my daily soft-serve fix as much as my three-year-old. As with cruising, it’s not just the kids who’ll get hooked.
THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF CARNIVAL CRUISE
CARNIVAL SPIRIT RUNS REGULAR PACIFIC ISLANDS CRUISES. AN EIGHT-NIGHT CRUISE FROM SYDNEY DEPARTING FEBRUARY 27, 2019, STARTS FROM $849 A PERSON, TWIN SHARE. CARNIVAL.COM.AU
Kids squealing in water play, or wide-eyed at the Dr Seuss breakfast – fun aboard Carnival Spirit is a parent’s delight too.
DR SEUSS BREAKFAST