10 tips for smooth sailing on your family cruise trip

The hassle-free, relaxed, all-inclusive nature of holidaying on a cruise ship is growing in popularity. In 2018, it is estimated that around 26 million people will go on a cruise! State-of-the-art ships with amazing activities for all ages, multiple dining options, kids clubs, and awesome pools, mean that cruises are growing in popularity for families too. Disney even has its own cruise line. Throw in the adventure of travelling to multiple destinations without the need to pack and unpack, and you’re on to a winning holiday for everyone.

If you’re considering a cruise for your next family vacation, check out our 10 tips for smooth sailing.

1. Research

Before choosing your cruise destination and cruise line, ask for recommendations from friends and family, and read independent online reviews from fellow travellers. Consider how much time you would like to spend at sea, or how many ports you would like to visit, along with what packages are available. Maybe try a mini cruise for your first adventure to see if it’s something that the family will enjoy again.

If there is a particular restaurant or activity that you don’t want to miss on your cruise, it pays to book ahead. Before you travel, check if there are any dress codes for the fancier restaurants you want to try out, or if there are any party or theme nights so you can pack accordingly.

2. Cruise newbies

Some cruises offer a ship tour on your first day so that you can get your bearings and discover all that the ship has to offer. It also means you won’t miss out on knowing if there’s a second quieter pool, or if a restaurant allows outside dining. If there’s no tour, be sure to study the deck plan.

3. Activities

Grab an activity schedule and go over it with the family to plan who’ll do what, so everyone has maximum fun. Some cruise liners have their own on-board apps to help you plan your time and manage the family. Just try not to overplan things as you will want lots of down time to just relax. Check the ship’s daily itinerary for special activities and discounts.

Family-friendly cruises will offer a kids club so that parents can have some much needed relaxation time. Evening babysitters may be available too.

4. In port

If you’re booking any activities at your port, ensure these are booked through a licensed tour operator and are covered by your travel insurance policy. Remember that if you’re delayed on a ship organised port tour the ship will wait for you. If you’ve booked your own excursion and you’re late getting back to the ship, they will sail without you.


5. Safety

Make sure your family – including your kids – listens to the safety announcements and instructions from officials on the cruise, so everyone knows what to do in an emergency. This is especially important if you don’t plan to be together all of the time.

6. Taking care of your valuables

Holidays are meant to be relaxing but you still need to be aware that not everyone is a genuine holidaymaker. Look for cabins that have a safe to secure your valuables.

When you’re out and about, it’s important to make sure any personal belongings you’re carrying on you aren’t left out of site, as travel insurance doesn’t generally cover unattended luggage.

7. Keeping well

Sea sickness is the thing most people wonder about when booking a cruise. If you’re prone to a bit of travel sickness ask your pharmacist about the best options to prevent it. If you do feel nauseous and don’t have any medication, the ship’s medical centre will be well-versed in treatment.

Don’t forget to pack plenty of sunscreen that you know works well for your family. Pack a small first aid kit in your luggage too and ensure everyone is washing their hands regularly to help avoid any bugs that may go round. Read here for more tips on staying healthy on-board.

8. Watch the dollars and cents

Ensure that you know exactly what is included in your package and what isn’t, especially when it comes to food and drinks. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in port, an all-inclusive drinks package may not be good value. Find out what currency you will be charged in for purchases and any activities not included in your package, so you can work out the exchange rate and keep a tab on your budget. Also ask what the expectation is around tipping.

Internet packages may be quite pricey on-board so it’s better to wait until you’re in port and can nab 15 minutes of free WiFi at a cafe, library, etc to get online. To ensure you have enough recharging space in your cabin, pack a power board and an international adapter.

Turn off roaming on your mobile phone and switch to flight mode so you aren’t running up a hefty bill.


9. Check your passport

If your cruise is taking you to other countries, make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after your return date.

10. Travel insurance

Hopefully you won’t need to use your travel insurance, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! The right travel insurance can cover not only medical emergencies and lost luggage but can also help you out if you miss the boat or have to cancel your trip due to an unexpected event. Be sure to check exactly what you are and aren’t covered for by reading the terms and conditions of the policy.

A Southern Cross Travel Insurance TravelCare policy automatically covers overseas cruises if you’re a fare-paying passenger aboard a licenced cruise ship. You will need to ensure that you select all the destinations you’ll be visiting when buying travel insurance. Southern Cross Travel Insurance can provide cover for a wide range of benefits, whether bad weather cancels your trip or you get a tummy bug on-board.

Taking grandparents on the cruise with you? Southern Cross Travel Insurance has no age limit on their TravelCare policy as they believe that everyone should be free to experience the joy of travelling, no matter their age.

This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ, with additional information provided by Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI). SCTI are New Zealand’s leading travel insurer with over 35 years’ experience as a specialist travel insurer. Southern Cross are proud winners of the 2018 Canstar Award for Outstanding Value for Travel Insurance – International.

For more information visit the Southern Cross Travel Insurance website or the Cruise Travel Insurance page.

Views expressed in this article are that of the author and not necessarily that of Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI). As the author receives payment from SCTI for this article, that payment may influence the content and views expressed by the author in this article.

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  1. dawnblyth 02/12/2018 at 5:39 pm

    We went on a cruise before we had children and found it was a great, economic and fun way of having a holiday. Our cruise included activities on board, entertainment at night time, and day trips off the boat. Meals and accomodation was included – we just paid for our drinks. Was fantastic. I think the only thing I would do differently is perhaps spend a little more money and get a room for just the two of us rather than share with friends as we did – just to give a little space and privacy.

  2. Alezandra 01/12/2018 at 11:25 pm

    Last time we were in Wellington city, we saw 2 big cruise ships docked and it was amazing to look at. Really tall and daunting. We haven’t experience cruise ships before and this list makes it sounds easy and manageable to do. Tips to take on board before we go on board (the cruise). 😛

  3. kymmage 30/11/2018 at 11:04 pm

    Yes a great list. I had my phone in airplane mode the entire time I was cruising. I didn’t want there to be any chance that my would get hot with roaming charges. You can’t get a good package for mobile charges and mobile data on a cruise ship! Sea sickness was the main worry for me but medicine was great!! And also I watched the on board charges daily to make sure I wasn’t going over my limit.

  4. Mands1980 29/11/2018 at 12:56 pm

    I have always thought about doing a family cruise but it requires a lot of questions before you would book one. There is lots to think about when you read these 10 tips for smooth sailing. Travel insuarance is one of the most important things to get when on a cruise or overseas. With 3 kids it’s a lot to think about making everyone happy.

  5. Bevik1971 26/11/2018 at 4:27 pm

    I would LOVE to go on a family cruise!!! My partner isn’t a fan of the sea though LOL, so doubt it will happen anytime soon. May have to organise a girls cruise instead! 🙂 I would definitely be doing some hard out research if we did decide to do a cruise though – I’m really finnicky about making sure everything is sussed down to the last detail, especially when it involves money haha.

  6. Shorrty4life1 20/11/2018 at 10:39 pm

    This was a great read. I’m always researching on places to go and what’s been going on in the news for that particular place etc weather wise or war wise you can never be too safe. I find this so important and I also research prices too coz there are so many different places nowadays

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