Enjoy family meals together in stylish surroundings without a second thought about meal planning, hit exotic destinations minus the angst of navigating the clan, and take a guilt-free moment poolside while the kids have fun in the free kid's club. A P&O cruise is the ultimate stress-free family holiday, with games of bridge in the library, live performances in the theatre, happy hour at the bar and thrill-seeking adventures on the top deck.
Here are 11 reasons to take your family on a P&O cruise:
It's not all about bottomless buffets and pyjama parties; open up your kids' world and explore a new destination on a shore day. Save time and take advantage of P&O's expertise by signing up to the line's curated shore excursions offering a variety of fun family things to do. Go easy on a guided bus tour of the town centre, take in the sights, sounds and smells of a local market or scale a waterfall during an outdoor adventure. No matter the pace preferred, there's a family-friendly shore tour to help you get the most of your port and its people.
By choosing a P&O shore excursion there are added benefits of being the first passengers off the ship to maximum your time at port, as well as knowledgeable English-speaking local guides, easy shipboard payment without the worry of converting currency and a guarantee that the ship won't leave without you on the off-chance that your tour runs late.
P&O has some of the most diverse itineraries, which include Indonesia's Lombok and Komodo Islands, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu's Mystery Island, Western Australia's Esperance and Exmouth, South Australia's Kangaroo Island and Queensland's Moreton and Fraser islands.
More recently, P&O has added the remote and pristine islands of Papua New Guinea to its cruise itineraries, so families can now to easily visit Australia's nearest neighbour, which was previously hard to access and expensive to explore in comfort and absolute ease. Experience the friendly Trobriand culture, walk the powder-white sand bar of Conflict Islands, trek through virgin jungle on a deserted island, and snorkel crystal-clear coral atolls abundant with marine life.
Modern Australian families will appreciate P&O's boutique hotel styling with velvet chaise lounges, seashell-adorned walls and strategically placed pots of green. It's not just the good looks; the layout encourages families to come together. There are large, shady, poolside cabanas with privacy curtains, shared bench seating at The Pantry food outlets, and intimate lounges to play board games or a few rounds of Uno Emoji.
P&O's cabins are spacious, clean and well laid out, maximising storage space and allowing four people to hang out without feeling cramped. Bathrooms utilise the small space well and some offer a shower over bath -- handy for families with infants and young kids. Other nice touches include a flat-screen TV and DVD player so kids can have an in-room movie night by requesting a recent movie release from the DVD library.
Family-friendly room configurations include quad-share cabins (some interconnecting) with one bunk bed, a single bed and a sofa bed. Also available are triple berth cabins with a single sofa bed and double bed.
Head to the main pool to find children in their element, splashing in the water or soaking in the hot tubs. On Pacific Dawn and Pacific Explorer there's the added fun of zipping down waterslides or cooling off in the fountains, shooting cannons and playing under a tipping bucket at the waterpark. Parents can take turns keeping an eye on the littlies while the older children tune out on padded sunloungers.
The atmosphere is infectious with live music and like-minded parents having fun in the sun with the kids. Those that prefer a quieter area can escape to the adults-only pool in a separate location (which varies, depending on the ship.)
P&O's international food hall, The Pantry, is an alternative to a traditional cruise ship buffet. Families can enjoy a quick and casual bite together in a homey setting with shared booths or bench tables.
Friendly staff stand ready to serve fresh food from eight themed, glassed stations. Kids can choose nachos from Mexicana, a steamy bowl of noodles from Stix or hot dogs from Fat Cow. Then the kids can be enticed to finish their veggies with the promise of a slice of cake or jelly cup treat from Sugar Bar.
Children are also welcome at the fee-free restaurants; if the main menu doesn't suit, there's also a kids' menu with favourites such as spaghetti bolognaise or fish and chips.
Parents can opt for a date night at one of the specialty restaurants while the kids enjoy a hosted dinner with their fellow Kids' Club friends at The Pantry. P&O make it special with a kids menu that is always finished with ice cream. They are then escorted back to the evening events, which can range from a karaoke party to popcorn movie nights.
P&O offers a complimentary kids' club divided into age groups (from as young as two years old), plus a separate area for tweens and teens aged from 11 to 15 and 15 to 17. While kids are having fun, parents can enjoy the amenities of the ship, such as the ship's thermal suites or a romantic dinner at celebrity chef Luke Mangan's Salt Grill.
Turtle Cove (two to 6 years) and Shark Shack (seven to 10 years) offer activities that include age-appropriate team games like 'musical chairs' or 'rob the nest'. On any given day, there are scheduled arts and crafts such as beadmaking. Kids can also enjoy Mario Kart competitions, pyjama parties and movie nights. What's great about P&O's kids club is that it allows for organised outdoor activities on the sports deck so children are not always confined inside.
P&O is exceptional at organising the family-friendly stage shows. Turtle Cove and Shark Shack members have an opportunity to participate in a couple of live performances held at the Marquee, the ship's 600-seat theatre. Kids can get into costume and appear in cameos during the Big TC & Skipper's Island Adventures performance. There's also a Time to Shine Talent Show, where children showcase their skills on the same stage used by the ship's entertainment team and headline acts, complete with a full production of video, music and lights. Passionate young staff members put a lot of effort into rehearsing and executing the adorable performances.
Traditionally, theme nights onboard a cruise ship are aimed at adults. On P&O, kids don't miss out, with themed family parties held to complement the ship-wide formal nights. Kids are invited to The Dome where they can have a boogie on the dance floor under a glimmering disco ball with live music playing on stage.
P&O Edge is Australia's largest outdoor adventure park at sea. For a fee, kids can enjoy racing down a flying fox, rock climbing, slackline surfing and walking the plank. Activities can be purchased separately or enjoyed up to twice daily throughout the cruise by purchasing a VIP Pass. The premium passes include extras such as Laser Tag, Bungy Tramp and the Bull Simulator Ride. It's worth the spend for teens and thrill-seeking kids aged six and up.
When the kids' club closes at 10.30pm, group babysitting is offered in the kids' club rooms for only $5 per child per hour. Most kids are curled up against a giant cushion asleep in front of a movie by pick-up time, though some make the most of the late curfew of 1am. Parents can take the opportunity to have a flutter at the casino, laugh at the late-night adults'-only comedy club, listen to live performances at the bar or dance the night away at a themed party. (Be sure to pick up the kids no later than 1am as a fee is payable for every five minutes that parents are late).
It's recommended parents book babysitting with youth centre staff no later than the morning of the day they require it. P&O does not offer babysitting for kids under three years old or provide in-room babysitting services.
Updated July 31, 2018