Guest Blogger: Crisel, her husband, and her two year old daughter are Australian expats, currently living in the Soloman Islands, a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania. They are planning a world tour beginning in 2019, but in the meantime, are traveling to as many of the Soloman Islands and countries in the Pacific as they can. They can be found on Instagram
Our family decided to look into a cruise after a recent international flight that involved a screaming two-year-old. Our goals were simple: less plane, less car and less time stuck in a hotel. My husband and I love to travel as much as we can and explore different places, but as our daughter has moved past the infant stage into the terrible twos, it has become more difficult. The idea of boarding a cruise ship and having everything within reach – pool, restaurants, cafés, entertainment area, kids’ area, and spa – was intriguing. And on top of that, we would wake up with a new place to explore every morning!
The cruise we booked was the Golden Princess Cruise Ship to New Zealand. Since we were traveling during the school year, the theme of the cruise was targeted to adults, but that didn’t deter us and, as an added bonus, our daughter got so much attention from the cruise staff because there were so few children on board. Our main goal was to have a relaxing holiday, which we did.
Our cruise to New Zealand began in Sydney with two days of straight sailing to Fiordland National Park. Once there, we spent a full day cruising along Milfound Sound and Doubtful Sound, where we experienced the most magnificent views of our lives. From the ship, we saw endless mountains and breathtaking waterfalls, including Mount Tutoko, the highest peak in Fiordland National Park. Mount Tutoko was surrounded by glaciers, which were stunning.
After a day spent cruising along Fiordland National Park, we arrived at our first stop: Dunedin. Getting off the ship for the first time was very exciting and there was a shuttle bus that took us to the city center where we discovered shops, cafes, and local markets. The short bus ride to town was my daughter’s favorite activity and our first stop was at a local café to get our daily dose of caffeine.
After getting our fill of caffeine, we took a short walk to the Town Hall. My daughter took advantage of a small park in front of a church to chase and feed pigeons. We also went to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory while stopping, along the way, to play at a little maze garden in front of Dunedin’s historic railway station.
From Dunedin, we re-boarded the ship and stopped at five other places: Akaroa, Wellington, Auckland, Tauranga and Bay of Islands. Each morning, we would wake up and have a new place to explore. At every stop, we would visit the parks, markets, cafes, beaches, and generally look for places where our daughter could run around freely. We did make an effort to avoid touristy areas and shopping centers as our time was limited.
Our favorite stop was Paihia, Bay of Islands. The beach was stunning, and there was an awesome kids’ park nearby where we spent quite a bit of time. The cruise ship did offer a shuttle bus ride from the ship to the center of Paihia, but we elected to walk to town instead, as that would give my daughter time to run around and also so that we could spend more time at the park and the beach. When my daughter got tired, I carried her on my back, and we continued to explore. While in Paihia, we enjoyed fish and chips at a local restaurant and ice cream for dessert. We also visited a local art market that had a lot of unique art from local artisans, including wood crafts, underwater creatures made of metal, and clothing made from organic cotton.
Our second favorite place was Tauranga. Unfortunately, my daughter did not feel well that day, so my husband and I took turns exploring Tauranga while the other stayed on the ship with my daughter. Tauranga was my personal favorite stop because the place is beautiful – white beach, boutique shops, funky cafes, and friendly locals. I also had the opportunity to climb Mount Maunganui, which, at 232 meters above sea level, took me about an hour to accomplish. There were many families with kids climbing the mountain at the same time and I would have loved to have experienced it with my daughter as the view from the top was superb.
The cruise line offered day excursions and tours that we could pay extra to experience, but we decided even before we booked the cruise that we would not do any extra excursions because of our two-year-old. Although it would have been fun to experience some of the offered excursions, such as the glow worm caves and The Lord of the Rings film set, it would have been too much for our daughter. Instead, we had a great time exploring each stop at a leisurely pace with our daughter and, after a day of exploring, we simply went back on board the cruise ship to relax either by the pool, or by watching a movie in the room. The best part about the cruise was that we did not rush around and plan every single minute of our time, like we usually do, we just went with the flow.
What we liked about the cruise:
- Everything is on board. Pretty much everything we needed and wanted was on the ship. Although we booked an ocean view room, we were upgraded to a room with a balcony that gave us a little bit more room, especially with a toddler. We spent most of our time outside and away from our room, but it was nice to have the extra space.
- Food was amazing. There were so many food options onboard. There was buffet, a la cart, or fine dining. We loved fine dining every night and tried so many different and delicious dishes. We chose anytime dining option that allowed us to have dinner whenever our daughter was ready. The staff was very accommodating and provided both kids’ menus and kids’ activity packs at meals.
- Waking up in a different place every morning. Yes! You sleep in one city and wake up to a different one. This was great because we did not need to pack and unpack our luggage.
- Everyone is so friendly. From housekeeping staff to waitresses to entertainers to guests. Everyone was so friendly.
What we did not like about the cruise:
- Entertainment shows took place every night after dinner, but because my daughter had to go to bed, we were unable to all attend. My husband was kind enough to let me watch entertainment shows every night while he put our daughter to sleep, but it would have been nice to enjoy as a family. The shows included stand-up comedy, concerts, and international talent shows. All shows were appropriate for children, so I would have taken my daughter if they had offered the shows during the day.
- The Kids’ Club was for kids ages three and up. Because my daughter was not three, we could not use the Kids’ Club, and babysitting was also not available, so we had no date nights.
- We gained a lot of weight on the cruise!
- Our cruise had to end after 2 weeks!
- My daughter still naps once a day, so we usually walked her around in the pram or I carried her on my back until she fell asleep. Her naptimes provided my husband and me with an opportunity to recharge and unwind, either at a café or by continuing to explore quietly until she woke up.
- Because we were traveling with a toddler, a full day (7-8 hours) of exploring the city was enough for us. We would definitely return to the Bay of Islands and Tauranga again for a family holiday if given the opportunity, but the cruise was a great opportunity to visit and get a sense of the location.
- My daughter loved the cruise life! She enjoyed the elevators, the buffet breakfasts, and the opportunity to break up our day by visiting and exploring new places, playgrounds, parks, shops and cafes. My daughter also loved the entertainment on the ship, in particular dancing to the music that played in the Piazza.
- I would absolutely recommend a cruise for families with toddlers as it is an easy way to have a relaxing holiday while exploring many different places. I suggest checking to make sure that the cruise you are interested in caters to families with children and would also check to make sure that you can take advantage of the Kids’ Club and the minimum age (most cruise lines offer Kids’ Club for ages 3+).
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