The Cruise Director

Taking a cruise with the whole family - mum, dad, kids, grandparents, aunts and uncles - is becoming increasingly popular.

It's easy to see why. A cruise can offer a holiday that suits all age groups, on one ship that visits a variety of destinations.

On today's big resort-style ships, there are activities and facilities designed to cater for everyone, from babies of six months to seniors in their 70s. This is the key to successful multigenerational cruising - you can choose what to do together and what you prefer to do on your own. You often see big family groups enjoying dinner together, while during the day everyone has done their own thing.

Parents of very young children can take advantage of babysitting services and kids' clubs and spend time lounging by the pool, while older members of the group might go to lectures, the spa, a wine-appreciation course or a session at the gym.

Most resort-style ships have music-free, adults-only "retreats" with pools; some have private cabanas and Celebrity ships have grass lawns where you can play boules and croquet or just relax with a good book.

There's an extraordinary range of on-board activities to keep children and teenagers amused. Ships that sail around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific feature rock-climbing walls, ice rinks, sports courts, massive movie screens, discos, karaoke, racing-car simulators, sports courts, water slides, circus performers and cartoon characters.

The newest and biggest ships, sailing in the Caribbean and Europe, have even more advanced play things: zip lines; FlowRiders; aqua parks with water slides, pools and chutes; rope courses and sports complexes. When Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas launches next year, you can add bumper cars and a sky-diving simulator to the list.

Ports of call and shore excursions offer more diversions that appeal to all age groups. Depending on where you are in the world, you could go snorkelling over coral reefs, sledding in the snow, flight-seeing in a helicopter, sightseeing in historic cities, or walking through wildlife reserves. Some lines offer teen-only excursions, and others have nannies or babysitters to look after young children while you take off on an adults-only expedition.

SHIPSHAPE: MS Oosterdam

LAUNCHED July 2003; MS Oosterdam is a large, family-friendly resort ship in HAL’s Vista class of ships.
PASSENGERS AND CREW 1916 (double-occupancy); 817 crew.

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ACCOMMODATION 924 staterooms, including 461 verandah cabins, 165 outside (window) and 136 inside cabins.

REGULAR HAUNTS Alaska, Australia, New Zealand.

PERFECT FOR Multigenerational families (for large groups, ask about pricing for the Family Reunion Program); couples.

DINING Vista, the main dining room, spans two decks and menus include traditional dishes plus vegetarian and low-carb options. Lido is the casual buffet, and don’t miss  the speciality restaurant, Pinnacle Grill. 

PARTYING There are several bars, lounges and a disco, but HAL passengers are not  party animals - like the ships, they tend to be refined and traditional.

DOING The Club HAL program caters for kids from three to 12.Teens age 13 to 17 can escape from the grown-ups in the Loft, where they can play music and games, sing karaoke, and watch movies. Cooking courses tailored for kids are held in the Culinary Arts Centre. There are two pools (one with a retractable roof), plus a small pool for children, and a basketball and volleyball court.

THE DETAILS A seven-day Alaska cruise from Seward to Vancouver, sailing via Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage, departs on June 29. Fares for inside staterooms start at $1739 a person. There are some interconnecting cabins. 1300 987 322, hollandamerica.com.au.

DEALS

OFFER OF THE WEEK Save 25 per cent for a family of four on three-, four- and seven-night Yasawa Island (Fiji) cruises on Captain Cook’s MV Reef Endeavour. Parents’ bonus: children age five to 10 are looked after by a nanny between adventures. Fares from $1572 for seven nights; offer valid until September 30. 1800 804 843,  captaincook.com.au.

OTHER DEALS

P&O CRUISES Pacific Pearl sets sail on a 10-night Christmas cruise to the Pacific Islands, including Noumea and Mare, departing Sydney on December 19. From $5599 for a family of four. 13 24 94, pocruises.com.au.

CRUISEABOUT A four-night Disney Wonder cruise, departing Miami on January 29, visits Castaway Cay, Nassau and Key West. Two adults and two children (two-11 years) sharing is $2096. 1300 769 228, cruiseabout.com.au.

UN-CRUISE ADVENTURES runs Kids in Nature sailings on the Wilderness Adventurer in Alaska. A seven-night Ketchikan-to-Juneau wilderness cruise departs on July 26 and August 9. Fares from $US3195 ($3585); save 25 per cent on children up to 12. un-cruise.com.

TIP

When you go ashore, depending on the age and interests of your children, it’s best to keep it simple - most eight-year-olds are going to enjoy outdoor activities a lot more than a museum. If you can combine a taste of local culture with plenty of physical activity, you’re onto a winner - for example, visit Vanuatu’s Ekasup cultural centre in the morning, then spend the rest of the day on a beach. And sometimes it’s fun to stay aboard while everyone else is off the ship.

sally.macmillan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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