Our cruise: For the family

Family-oriented cruises are a wonderful way to bond with loved ones while seeing the world finds MICHAEL FERRANTE

The sheer size and scale of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas was what struck the Smith family as they embarked on a 10-night South Pacific pre-Christmas getaway cruise. 

Having only cruised on a smaller expedition ship previously Vic Smith says they didn’t know what to expect as they embarked, the ship dwarfing the overseas passenger terminal in Sydney.

 “It’s a floating city and, like a city you’ll never get bored, whether you want to see a show, go ice skating, learn to surf or take a diving lesson or just laze in the sun, there’s always something to do,” he says.

“We didn’t even scratch the surface in 10 days.”

Vic says the family relished the chance to experience the South Pacific culture and the beauty of the islands.

“The port experiences were great... the highlight for me was the one where we didn't actually organise anything - Mystery Island," he says.

“Here we strolled along the pristine sandy beach soaking in the fantastic blues of the ocean. I’m not sure I would ever get tired of it.

“For my daughter it was a split decision between swimming with the turtles on the Isle of Pines or the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of the canopy zip-line in Port Vila.” 

And his top tip for a family cruise: “If you can stretch your budget, get a suite. It’s wonderful having the little perks that suite class gives you — the priority tendering and seating, the free drinks and canapes in the concierge lounge, window seating at the restaurant, private breakfasts and lunch... and the space in the stateroom.” (But check the terms and conditions of your cruise liner first). 

Grandmother, or Nonna Gina Paparella, has taken her family of nine on an annual Singapore trip for the past five years, and in 2017 they discovered a perfectly timed cruise to coincide with WA’s April school holidays — a four-night cruise to Penang and back to the Lion City aboard Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas.

Mrs Paparella’s daughter Maria Trolio, said the experience on entering the ship was just “amazing”. 

“It was a very family-oriented ship with many families similar to ours, grandparents to grandchildren,” she says. 

“Exploring this floating city can be overwhelming but exciting at the same time. 

The nightly shows were outstanding in the theatre... if the shows were back at home I would happily get  tickets for them.” 

Maria says her teenage daughters enjoyed the teen activity area — a space with organised games and activities such as basketball, rock climbing, and swimming and where they got to meet others of a similar age. 

She said disembarkation at Penang island’s port at George Town was seamless and as easy as tapping an ID card. 

The family spent the day exploring the island’s capital city and its rich colonial history, and sampled its diverse cuisine of Asian and Indian influence (Lonely Planet rates it the best food city in South- East Asia).