What The Simpsons taught us about cruising and the perfect family holiday

"Thanks to you, we're having fun. Before-we-had-kids fun!"

In one of our favourite Simpsons episodes, Homer and the family fall in love with cruising, after Bart organises the "vacation of his dreams".

Lisa meets like-minded kids, Homer and Marg rekindle their romance, and Bart stars in a montage of adventure activities. When the cruise director sings, Enjoy It While You Can, Bart realises he soon has to return to his boring life, and hatches a plan to keep the ship out to sea.

That's how we feel whenever we're on the water. There's something magical about escaping land-borne troubles – especially if you're forced off Wi-Fi for a few days. (Think of it as a digital detox.) The motion of the ocean is soporific. Every meal is taken care of. And you don't have to hassle the kids to pack the dishwasher.

More than a million Australians go cruising every year. It's one of three international travel trends for 2016, alongside family luxury and multi-generational trips.

We first put our toes into the water off Fiji, on a Captain Cook Cruises tour of the Yasawa Islands. The kids were five and six, ideal ages for a small ship: old enough to snorkel off remote islands, and young enough for the toys in the playroom. 

Tweens and teens would probably prefer a larger ship, with rock-climbing, zip-lining, ice-skating, roller-blading and jogging paths.

The latest trend in family cruising is not one that comes immediately to mind. River cruising is the domain of the grey nomad, but luxuriously appointed ships are perfect for families seeking a boutique experience.

You can drive your own vessel through the canals of Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Germany or Italy through Le Boat. Or join a flotilla, cruising with up to four other boats. There's no need for a licence, so the kids can have a go at the wheel. Bring bikes on board to cycle through the vineyards and villages. (This is what we plan to do for my 50th birthday next year.)


"Sure, life is full of pain and misery, but the trick is to enjoy the few good things in the moment," Lisa says at the end of the Simpsons episode, "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again".

It's an homage to "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", in which David Foster Wallace explains how the indulgences of cruising turn him into a spoiled brat. This leads to an existential crisis, with overwhelming personal despair.

Sure, we all get the post-holiday blues. But I reckon we deserve to be indulged. And, with a wealth of choices in the high season – from December to April in Australia and June to August in Europe – you can find a cruise to suit your budget.

The big cruise ships have supervised children's clubs, so you can have "before-we-had-kids fun". Or, in the words of Homer Simpson, "Ocean Sex Rules! Screw Land Sex!"