We have just returned from our first ever family cruise holiday. 10 days aboard Royal Caribbeans’ Ovation of the Seas from Sydney to New Zealand. There are lots of online review and guides about crusing with kids, so instead of rehashing the basic info I thought I’d share with you a few tips and tricks from our trip. What to pack, what not to pack, what to expect, what the food is like and most importantly…..did the kids love it? The info below is all based on the ship we were on, but I imagine it would apply to most large cruise ships that cater to families. If you’d like to know more specific information about Ovation of the Seas – click here.

What to Pack – Clothing

Our cruise was in April and took us from Sydney, where the departure temperature was a very pleasant 26 degrees, over to New Zealand where the temperatures could potentially drop to single digits. So you can imagine, between 2 adults and 2 kids, we packed a lot. Yes probably too much, and yes not enough of what we needed and too many of what we didn’t need. Of course packing lists will greatly vary depending on where in the world your cruising and the time of the year, but in general I would suggest that you;
Pack lots of underwear and socks. If you go for 10 days, pack enough for 15. Between being in and out of the pools and spas, participating in exercise classes, and freshening up for dinner each night, we went through loads of undies. Throw in a few extra pairs and you won’t regret it.
Don’t overdo it on the warm stuff. You won’t get cold inside the boat, we were more than comfortable in shorts and tshirt, or a dress most of the time. We did have to rug right up on the deck when we hit NZ but one jacket, scarf and beanie each did the trick. I packed too many jumpers and wished that they were tshirts by the end of 10 days.
Pack for your day trips. Make sure you have a rough idea of what you’re going to get up to on port days. If you’re mountain biking in Picton like we were, and it’s muddy…..you’re probably going to need an extra set of clothes on that day.
Take bathers. My kids swum in the indoor and outdoor pools almost every day. The outdoor pool was around 24 degrees and the indoor pool even warmer. We took bathers and we also threw in our 2mm Bailey and Bosun wetsuit for our 4 year old which was a winner.

What to pack – Handy Extras

Allsmalls Hanger – Depending on what type of room you have you’ll probably find there’s not lots of room for drying clothes. We had our own deck and at the last minute I threw in our Allsmalls hanger, which we take camping all the time and knew would come in handy. We tied it up to one of the chairs outside and it made the perfect spot to dry bathers and smalls. You can get one online here (they’re an S.A local biz too)

Lanyards – A crusing must. Once aboard each of your family will be given a “SeaPass” which gives you access to your room and also acts as your payment method for anything not included in your package. eg – paying for extended iFLY sessions, paying for a massage, or paying for drinks if you haven’t bought a drinks package. You have to have it on you all day every day, and a lanyard is the perfect way to ensure it doesn’t get lost, especially for kids.
Magnetic Clips – The bathroom door and some of the walls of our stateroom were metal, so we found little magnetic clips really handy for hanging up our sea pass at the end of the day and also putting up a copy of the entertainment program.
Over the door hooks – Something else I threw in last minute and wished I had two of. This was really great for hanging our bulky jackets on or drying towels.
Medicines – Especially kids panadol, nurofen, antihistamines etc. We took plenty but have heard stories of people paying upwards of $100 for Panadol on board.
Magnetic White Board – We didn’t take this, but saw quite a few room doors with them on so that family members could leave messages about where they were or where to meet up “3pm – Mum gone to the pool” or “meet you at the buffet at 6pm” kind of thing. Great idea.
Chargers and Adaptors – Our ship had both US and EUR power outlets plus 2 usb outlets. We took two adaptors and had plenty of charging space.
Pop Up Laundry Bag – Another one I threw in at the last minute and was glad I did. We threw all our dirty washing into the one bag and stored it in the cupboard out of the way. Oh and speaking of laundry, keep your eyes out for and take advantage of any laundry specials on your cruise, they are normally delivered to your room when available. days. On Ovation of the Seas we had a full bag of washing done and returned in 24 hours for $25US (about $38 AUD)
Nappies – obviously if your kids are still wearing nappies you would bring them, but since my 4 year old is only a few months into being consistently dry and night time it was much easier for us to just pack some night time nappies to prevent any accidents. She actually didn’t have any, but glad we took them
Walkie Talkies for the Kids – now we didn’t take these BUT I saw quite a few kids running around with them and thought it was a great idea. I am not sure what brand or model would be best but make sure it’s got a decent range as our ship was over 300m long so you’d want one that covers most of that. Uniden have a 4 pack of walkie talkies that run off batteries (good idea to get some rechargeable ones if you will use them often) The UHF45-4 UHF model has a Kid-Zone function that lets parents block out unwanted conversations so you know your kids are only communicating with who you want them to. They’re around $100 for a 4 pack and you can get them from places like JB-HiFi. Would come in really handy.

What NOT to pack

Towels – not necessary. There are plenty on board and you can take as many as you need, as long as they all get returned (you’ll once again use your SeaPass to check in and checkout pool towels and blankets.
Pillows or bedding. Once again there are plenty. If you’re not happy with your pillow they’re more than happy to swap it over for you. Our fold out couch was a bit hard the first night and we had extra mattress toppers put on which made a big difference.
Snacks – There is SO MUCH food available and you’re welcome to take a plate back to your room if you want to. Rooms have a small fridge so you can pop a little fruit platter or some crackers and cheese in there for snacking.
Coat Hangers – I always throw a couple of coat hangers in my bag on holidays, but I didn’t need to. There were plenty available and could ask for more if needed.

If you’d like to know more specific information about our recent 10 days aboard Ovation of the Seas – click here

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