travel

10 experiences you didn’t know you could actually have on a cruise.

Carnival Cruise Line
Thanks to our brand partner, Carnival Cruise Line

Travel – gosh... haven't we all missed it.     

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion there are scores of parents, just like me, who are yearning to get away on a fun family holiday, something different from a local road trip. 

I’m VERY ready to expand our horizons once again.

With primary-aged kids who are seemingly growing up faster than ever, we’ve been looking for a holiday experience that’s fun, memorable and great value – a family vacation that will allow us to spend some quality time together as we unwind from our busy lives. 

And something that requires the least amount of mental load for me to plan too, would be incredibly handy.

That's really where the convenience of cruising is the sparkly option for families like mine. 

Image: Supplied. 

Cruising seems to have everything we’re after in a holiday – super-fun activities, world-class entertainment and delicious dining options, and that’s just the start, really. The thought of waking up to a new destination each day without the hassle of airports or luggage limits, and only unpacking once, is SO appealing. 

Because navigating luggage retrieval, tight time schedules, running through airports, long layovers... all with kids on tow. IYKYK.

Carnival Cruise Line, the World’s Most Popular Cruise Line, is returning to Australia this year and that spells boundless fun. With stunning destinations like the South Pacific, New Zealand, the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania to choose from – each with their own unique characteristics and shore excursions – there’s actually so much to get excited about when I think of family travel (that we're long overdue for!).

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Five million people globally cruise with Carnival every year (pre-2020), and their Australian-based ships have hosted almost 1 million people alone since 2012, so it’s obvious there’s something very special about a holiday with Carnival that I'm yet to experience first-hand. 

Always the keen vacation-researcher, I took a deep dive to find all I could about the unique experiences you can actually have onboard Carnival Cruise Line. I lost count after... 45. Woah. Turns out there's plenty to crack on with!

Here are 10 I specifically needed to investigate further. There’s some that will definitely surprise you!

1. Thrilling waterslides

My kids love making a splash as much as the next kids. It seems to be in their DNA at a certain age. Carnival's Green Thunder Waterslide will have you plummeting down an impressive free-fall drop above the ship before sliding and twisting your way to the deck, while the spiralling Twister Waterslide will have all of us parents hearing our kids squealing non-stop with delight. 

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I'm impressed there's even enough room to physically fit these monuments on a cruise tbh, judging but their size! And that's just on one deck.

Image: Carnival Cruise Line. 

2. Live entertainment

I can’t deny it, I love a bit of razzle dazzle. Especially when I'm in holiday mode... with no kids' lunches to think about preparing in the morning.

The entertainment onboard Carnival really appeals to me. You can catch stage show performances, watch live music at multiple venues, and even get your hysterics on at The Punchliner Comedy Club, where comedians will do their best to make you laugh. 

Love that it's fun for all ages too, so all 4 of us can watch.

3. Free 24/7 pizza and ice cream

This is not a drill.

If you’re anything like me, half the fun on holidays is working out what to eat next. 

On Carnival you’re spoiled for choice with a wide array of mouth-watering dining options. One of the highlights, especially when kids are involved, is the delicious ‘any time’ soft-serve ice cream from Swirls and round-the-clock pizza – yum. 

They'd get to know my kids (read: me. Definitely me) on first name basis pretty quickly!

Image: Carnival Cruise Line. 

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4. Towel Animal Theatre

I hear there's some real nostalgia from those who love to cruise when it comes to the folded towel creations that staff often leave in your room to find. A creative skill worth putting on my LinkedIn if I could do it myself!

They may be made out of flat towels, but there’s nothing two-dimensional about the performances at Towel Animal Theatre on a Carnival cruise. They’re rolled, folded and brought to life by the same masters of the craft that leave the cute little guys nightly in your room… except these especially-absorbent stars get on stage and put on a show for an audience, where the whole family can enjoy it. 

You can also get a behind-the-curtains peek at how the stars are actually made too, by getting to the show early for the Towel Animal Folding Seminar.

Image: Carnival Cruise Line.

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5. Dive-In Movies

This truly is taking movie night to the next level, and I'm all ears. 

Their Dive-In Movies mean you can grab some popcorn and catch the latest blockbusters on the big screen from the comfort of the poolside lounge – or even from in the pool itself if that floats your boat.

6. Mini Golf

My hubby and kids love a hit of mini golf, and every Carnival ship I learned has a Mini Golf course. Fun for the whole family, it’s the perfect relaxed activity for quality time during your cruise. Plot your course around the obstacles and see who can get the most hole-in-ones.

Image: Carnival Cruise Line. 

7. Arcade Games

For those who love video games and have a competitive spirit – and let’s face it, that’s most kids – the Warehouse Arcade onboard boasts a huge number of games and is open 24 (!!!) hours.

You can basically get your tokens for a small fee and let the fun times begin, at any hour of the day.

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8. Mad Hatter’s High Tea

My sweet tooth has absolutely been passed onto the kids. So once we inevitably step onto our first Carnival cruise, the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea Party is where I'll be racing them to. 

The spread of decadent canapes, themed treats, cakes, teas and coffees looks GLORIOUS, and will give us that sugar hit we're wanting to then laze by the pool of the rest of the day.

This High Tea is available on itineraries of 5 days or longer, the traditional afternoon tea costs $10, and for those of us parents who want to add some bubbly fun, you can include a glass of champagne for an extra $5. Sign me up now, basically.

9. Free Kids Club

There’s so much family fun to be had but let’s be realistic, the kids probably aren’t going to want to spend every waking hour with us parents (– and truthfully, it'd be nice to have some kid-free time here and there!).

As luck would have it, there are free kids’ clubs onboard, and I'm loving seeing them broken up in to key age groups. Camp Ocean will keep your 2 to 11-year-olds engaged with exciting activities, Circle C is the ultimate hot spot for 12 to 14-year-olds, and Club O2 is the perfect hangout for teens aged 15-17. 

10. Adults-only Serenity Retreat

Speaking of having some scheduled kid-free time, I'm over the moon to hear this activity is an inclusion for over 18s!

So, obviously the kids can’t be the only ones having their own fun on this holiday. The Adult-Only Serenity Retreat is the ideal place to unwind and enjoy some kid-free time. Relax in the hot tub, reconnect with a partner, indulge in a beauty or spa treatment (for an additional cost), or simply lounge by the adults-only pool, enjoying the peace of the retreat and finish that holiday book. 

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I feel like I could have easily kept going, but there we have it: the 10 experiences I didn't actually know you could have on a cruise. It's a wonder they fit all that onboard the same ship?

Super family-friendly, there’s just so much fun to be had on a cruise with Carnival. And I’ve only scratched the surface. Some premium activities do incur a small additional cost, but I was really impressed to see just how much was included in the regular fare, so it’s not only enjoyable and entertaining, but it’s great value too.

A cruise with Carnival really does seem to tick all the boxes for a playful, exciting holiday the whole family will enjoy.

I can’t WAIT to set sail.

Image: Supplied. 

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia/Carnival Cruise Line.

Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line is the World’s Most Popular Cruise Line®. Carnival Splendor and Carnival Spirit are both scheduled to return to Australia when cruise operations resume from their scheduled home ports of Sydney and Brisbane. Designed with fun in mind and featuring over 45 activities to enjoy each day, Carnival offers families and couples fun, memorable holidays at great value. The health and safety of Carnival’s guests is the utmost priority. As such, the actual cruise offerings may vary from the descriptions and images displayed, while Carnival assesses the enhancements of its onboard health and safety protocols in light of COVID-19.