The Voice of the Cruise Industry

Setting sail for family fun

MSC - Family Cruising

If a family hasn’t sailed before, the prospect of cruising can be daunting. Find out how to promote cruises to first-time families, and discover what additions to the cruise scene in 2017 will help entice customers and their children onboard.

It’s a familiar scene in Liverpool’s Myriad Travel – a parent walks in looking for a family holiday that keeps everyone entertained, but they’re unsure of what to do, or where to go. “They don’t think about cruising, so we propose it,” director Tiffany Woodley explains.

“It’s normally just the mum who comes in, and they’re often hesitant about the idea. The entertainment and facilities are the best aspects to highlight, then the value for money. We give them DVDs or video links to show the kids at home and always send brochures, as the imagery shows all generations.”

The main fears Woodley tackles concern health and safety. “They worry about things like the kids falling overboard. It’s easy to sell with teens as we talk about the freedom they can have, but that they are confined on the ship, which is a huge selling point. For younger children we discuss the crèches, and how they are fully equipped with everything from highchairs to bottle sterilisers.”

Royal Caribbean - family cruising
Fun above the sea…

The majority of Myriad Travel’s first-time family cruise bookings are for multi-generational groups, often celebrating a special birthday or anniversary. “We had a great booking from grandparents who had cruised a lot and wanted to take eight of their family away who hadn’t been before, for the grandfather’s 70th,” says Woodley. “They booked with P&O Cruises and it worked really well, and they loved all the choices of restaurants and the flexibility. I expect we will book the others again, as it really opened up cruising to them.”

P&O Cruises senior vice-president of sales and marketing Paul Ludlow says the line’s cruises are “ideal” for multi-generation family holidays. “Children of all ages are well catered for, with age-specific children’s clubs, activities, and entertainment both day and night. We also offer a choice of children-oriented shore excursions.”

Fred Olsen has seen an increase in multi-generational bookings, and head of sales Neil Herbert says: “The flagship of our fleet, Balmoral, tends to be the most popular ship for families, being large enough to have the facilities that people want, while small enough to often dock closer to the destinations.”

Last summer the line relaunched its children’s club, and in peak holiday seasons the newly titled Little Skippers club offers activities including arts and crafts, deck games and treasure hunts.

Travel Counsellor Karen Williams says the most crucial element when booking a family’s first foray into life at sea is finding the right line and ship. “I really get to know my customers and discover what they like to do when they’re away, what they are expecting and the type of people they are,” she explains.

To help alleviate worries, Williams sends those preparing for their first sailing a list of FAQs specific to their cruise, covering everything from tipping and laundry services to dress codes and dining times.

Williams normally encourages first-time family cruisers to sail from Southampton “for the ease and simplicity”, and recommends Barcelona for those seeking a  Mediterranean cruise, “for the short flight and ease of transfer”.

For customers keen to avoid flying there are several newcomers to the ex-UK scene. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade will be based in Southampton for the summer season following a dry dock – seven years after the line halted ex-UK cruises. While the majority of sailings are in term times, several Norwegian Fjords itineraries are available in the main summer holidays.

Thomson Cruises is also making a return to ex-UK cruising, with Thomson Celebration sailing out of Newcastle over the summer. It will be the first time the line has based a ship in the UK since 2014, and it offers several Northern Europe itineraries outside of term time. The fleet will be boosted by Tui Discovery 2 in May, which will homeport in Malaga and Tenerife over the summer.

Family cruising
…and under water

Cruise novices are unlikely to realise the variety of entertainment available for children onboard, and Princess Cruises’ sales manager Karen Farndell suggests going into detail about what children can do in clubs. “Customers can see what kids’ activities are on offer before their cruise starts, meaning that children can pick out what they want do before they even get onboard,” she says, adding: ”This is a great way to get the children excited about their holiday.”

Princess is rolling out a fleet-wide refresh of its clubs, which will debut on Caribbean Princess when the ship arrives in Southampton this May for the summer season.

As well as the new-look clubs, Princess is introducing the Camp Discover programme, with interactive scavenger hunts, puppet and mask-making, cake decorating and science experiments.

Celebrity Cruises is launching a summer camp at sea on all 2017 European sailings and selected Celebrity Equinox Caribbean cruises. Running alongside the main kids clubs, the free camps are aimed at three-to-17-year-olds, and include silent discos, science and engineering groups and mindfulness sessions.

For a novel way of inspiring younger customers, look no further than Royal Caribbean, which launched the UK’s first kids’ holiday brochure in December. The Royal Adventurers programme is co-branded with Thomas Cook, and has a series of features and games focused on onboard family fun.

Another highlight for families with younger children is the variety of toys on vessels. About a third of children who travel with MSC Cruises are aged seven to 11, and the line has partnerships with toy behemoths Chicco and Lego. This year the line will unveil MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside, which will offer children a digital bracelet that enables parents to track their location onboard.

For families who remain unsure about cruising, a taster sailing can be an easy introduction. A-ROSA’s head of sales Lucia Rowe says the line’s three, four and five-night itineraries are popular with families who haven’t cruised before. She explains: “We often find families choose us as an alternative to a city trip, but with all the comforts of a hotel.”


1 A direct comparison between a cruise and a land-based holiday showcases cruising’s value for money.

2 Cabin photos rarely show the additional beds made up, so explain where everyone sleeps, and that interconnecting and family cabins sell quickly.

3 Highlight flexible dining options and the cuisines available to convince parents even the fussiest eaters will be catered for.

4 Ships will hold an element of mystery to cruise novices, so encourage customers to explore their vessel’s layout online.

5 Promote baby essentials available onboard, such as bottle warmers, highchairs, changing mats and baby laundry services to help reduce parents’ packing lists.


Royal Caribbean offers eight nights on Independence of the Seas, roundtrip from Southampton departing August 12, 2017, calling at Gijon, Bilbao, La Coruna, Cherbourg and Paris (Le Havre). Price from £4,000 for two adults and two children sharing an interior stateroom. 01932 834 379

Sail round-trip from Southampton on August 26, 2017 to Stavanger, Olden, Flaam and Bergen with P&O Cruises’ Britannia from £799 per adult and £639 per child. Based on seven nights in an inside cabin. 0843 373 0111

Thomson Cruises offers seven nights on Tui Discovery 2 from £1,109 per adult and £799 per child, departing Malaga and visiting Palma, Barcelona, Ibiza Town, Almeria and Ceuta. Based on two adults and two children sharing an inside plus cabin, departing July 30, 2017, including flights from Gatwick, transfers, port taxes, tips and service charges.  0871 230 2800


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