Cruise review – a single parent’s guide to cruising!


Pristine island beaches create lots of relaxed - and free! - family fun

Pristine island beaches create lots of relaxed – and free! – family fun

…a cruise should be a no-brainer for families

particularly single parent families…


Everyone loves a holiday – but a single parent family holiday can often leave that single parent feeling just as stressed and exhausted as ever!

After all, there is still all the organising, packing, travelling, unpacking and then – well, the kids don’t stop eating, making clothes dirty, or needing to be entertained, now do they? So although the kids are looked after, poor old mum or dad is not – and this is where cruise holidays come in…

My single-parent family recently took a South Pacific cruise. This wasn’t our first cruise, and it certainly won’t be our last. Why? Well when you think about it, a cruise should be a no-brainer for families, particularly single parent families. And here’s why…

Cruises make great holiday financial sense

For starters, cruises are a good value for money. Once you look past the initial outlay, almost everything is included in your ticket cost.

Before committing to a cruise, if you have the luxury of time up your sleeve it can be useful to do some online research. Keep an eye on each cruise companies website, and sign-up to their newsletters. In particular, watch their ticket prices for a few months before you go. That way, you should be able to snap up a dip in prices, an advertised sale or limited-offer bargain from an online promotion, or a Sunday newspaper travel section sales ad. You could save hundreds of dollars – or score a free upgrade to a balcony room! And don’t forget to add on your parking if you’re driving to the port – here’s our cheap Sydney cruise parking article to help!

As mentioned, most cruise holiday costs are factored in to your ticket purchase – accommodation, meals, (non-alcoholic) drinks, entertainment, housekeeping, etc. So once you’re paid up and on-board, you can pick and choose any extras you’d like to splash out on, but your essentials are taken care of. If you have the self-restraint to resist the extras thrown into your path every day, this makes for a very budget-able holiday that is not going to leave you with unexpected credit card bills!

Cruise tradition - the kids love the surprise of finding

Cruise tradition – the kids love the surprise of finding towel animals in the cabin in the evening!

Cruises give you a much-needed break from housework

For single parents, the attraction of no cooking, washing up or making the beds cannot be understated – no, really – that blissful break from domestic chores alone is probably enough to seal the holiday deal for many a single mum or dad!

No matter what kind of cabin your budget allows for, your friendly cabin attendant will make the beds, tidy up, clean the bathroom and stock up your towels. He/she will also turn your beds down at night – and if you’re lucky (usually every second night), they’ll leave a cute cruise tradition in your cabin for you – a novelty rolled-towel animal sculputure!

So all you really need to do is get up in the morning, organise the kids and then decide where you want to eat – and what fun things you all want to do that day – ahhh!

No one has ever starved to death on a cruise

Most cruise ships have several restaurants, including all-you-can-eat buffet-types and a la carte dining. Throw in some casual cafes dotted around the ship with unlimited snacks, and often access to free room service and you have a no-cooking, no-washing-up and no-worries parent dream – bon apetite!

Adults-only pools carry the promise of a peaceful kid-free zone!

Adults-only pools carry the promise of a peaceful kid-free zone!

Cruises have free child care

One of the great aspects of cruising is that you can spend as much (or as little!) time with the kids as you want. Baby care centres and kids clubs usually run three sessions daily, including an evening session, that you and the kids can pick-and-choose from. Older children can sign themselves in and out, and dedicated teen “hang-out” areas are also available to keep the older kids occupied – they can wander in and out as they please until a teen curfew (usually) kicks in around midnight.

If the kids are happily installed in a club, this could be the perfect time to spoil yourself with a guilt-free pamper session at the beauty spa ($$) – or even a self-indulgent swim that doesn’t involve holding up a flailing toddler, or constant child-surveillance! Close your eyes, kick back and breeeathe!

Single parents can re-join the adult human race in the evenings

In the evenings, on-board shows are the traditional entertainment choice, and are a fun part of the cruise experience. Slightly daggy musicals and comedians abound, but these abbreviated Broadway-type extravaganzas are family-friendly (if the kids want to join you for the early session), and short enough to not become boring.

As mentioned, kids club/child-minding sessions also run in the evening, so you actually have the option of getting out there with the other adult humans – and let’s face it, this is usually a rarity for single parents!

Here is the perfect opportunity to embarrass yourself in a Karaoke bar, or perhaps bust some moves in one of the night clubs or piano lounges. Alcoholic drinks are an extra cost, however drink prices are reasonable – around normal on-land bar prices.

Cruises keep everyone entertained

When you are not island-hopping, there’s no need to worry if the kids (or yourself!) are going to get bored whilst on the ship. If you are the organised type, there are daily schedules delivered to your room every night to help you plan the following day, with more to do than you could ever possibly cover!

Rock-climbing-walls are a free

Rock-climbing-walls are a free
activity for the kids on many ships

Depending on your ships facilities, you can choose from exhausting the kids with non-stop swimming, water-sliding, rock climbing, game arcades, mini-golf – even ice skating on some of the larger ships.

Chill-out in the afternoon and get the family together for some fun team-trivia, a talent show, or perhaps try your luck at bingo ($$).

If you’re a fitness fanatic, or worried about all those delectable deserts you’re giving-in to every night, you’ll find an exercise track to haul yourself around for a brisk walk or jog – or get yourself to the onboard gym – after all – the more you work-out, the more guilt-free deserts you can consume!

Two ships passing in the night? Cruise Romances

If you’re hoping for romance on the high-seas, or perhaps just a fleeting holiday romance, cruising is probably not the ideal holiday choice – at least for single parents.

Apart from the obviously advertised “party”-type cruises, mainstream cruising still carries a bit of a “staid” or “old persons holiday” stigma, and to a certain degree, that’s true – there is a good percentage of over-50s cruising the high-seas. That said, the balance is made up of younger people and families – mostly couple families. This makes for a nice social dynamic but perhaps doesn’t really encourage a large “singles” – or should we say – single parent crowd. Singles events are usually held during cruises, but are not a big feature.

So for single parents, if you are looking for love, cruises are perhaps a less-likely place to find a potential partner – but then again, never say never!

Fun on deck - there's plenty of room for the kids to play onboard

Fun on deck – there’s plenty of room for the kids to play onboard

Extras to budget for

Cruise ships make a good slice of their profit on on-board spending – so prepare to be bombarded with constant sales-pitches.

Art auctions, Bingo games ($$), a busy casino, a beauty spa – every day there is a “special sale” aimed at whatever your shop-aholic weakness might just happen to be!

Ship photographers snap pics of everyone, everywhere onboard and where the ship stops at too – it’s a strong person that can resist a photo of their grinning child in front of a cheesily-dressed fake-pirate on a tropical isle gangway! You’re looking at anywhere from $15-$30 per pic, or you can buy a photo package for more pics for your money.

There are a few well-stocked on-board shops full of kitschy-souvenirs and different product sales each night, crowded with people non-sense-ically buying cheap watches and sunglasses that they probably don’t need. Duty-Free luxury goods and cosmetics can offer some good bargains – once the ship leaves land, you’re in Duty-Free waters!

And as if all-you-can eat and (included) 3-course dinner restaurants weren’t enough, there are specialty restaurants (extra cost) dotted throughout the ship, not to mention pay-cafes with the “good coffee”.

But these of course are all optional, and easily avoided if you don’t want to hike up the on-board account shock at the end of the holiday!

Tips – many cruise lines pre-charge you for tips (Aussies are notoriously bad tippers), however some don’t, or you still may want to give a little cash bonus on top to a favourite waiter or your cabin attendant, so you may want to remember to keep some extra cash for this purpose too.

Kids can snorkel in shallow water to discover beautiful fish & coral at island ports-of-call

Kids can snorkel in shallow water to discover beautiful fish & coral at island ports-of-call

Summing up

Cruising is proving itself to be a good single-parent option in the competitive single parent holiday stakes.

If you do your pre-cruise planning well in both price and cruise line, you should end up with a good-value holiday where the focus is on family, and some valuable parent me-time on the side – and that’s got to be a single parent plus. Bon Voyage!

Are you a single parent that has been on a cruise? Did you love it, or hate it? Tell us below!

23 Responses so far.

  1. Nataschia says:

    Hi, I’m a single mum of 5, but with only one still home and homeschooling (his 7), we have been doing a bit of travelling and are planning to do our first cruise later this year – we are lucky to get the isolated children’s allowance and I think travelling is awesomely educational.
    Which cruise destination do you think is best for a first cruise – and do you think it’s best to cruise in school holidays or not when you don’t “do school” – my son most likely would not stay at their child centre if I wasn’t there.

    • LetsGoMum says:

      Hi Nataschia,

      Fantastic! It depends if you want him to socialise with tons of other kids (go in school hols if so) or some kids. If you travel on Carnival Cruises there are always lots of kids in and out of school holidays. On cruise lines like Royal Caribbean there are not many kids out of school holidays and not as many kids during school holidays. P and O are another child friendly cruise line with plenty of kids, and still a lot outside of school holidays.
      Another consideration is cost of course, and if you go out of school holidays you will save quite a bit of money. With homeschooling you can choose a cruise right after school holidays so that you still get some kids and it is cheaper – that is probably the way I would go. Good luck with choosing and have a wonderful time!

  2. Happy traveller says:

    I am a single mum who has been on six cruises with daughter. It is a terrific holiday but would recommend princess and p&o for single parents as they allow only a certain number of kids on board to ensure kids get looked after – and patents.

  3. Aroha says:

    I am a single parent unable to work for the past 4 yrs due to complex medical issues. Centrelink deem me not sick enough to qualify for Disability Allowance so I have been struggling on the lesser funded Newstart Payment even though I am not and probably never be able of being job active. It has always been my dream to experience a cruise. And a dream is where it shall remain as under Centrelink rules they prohibit anyone receiving Newstart Payment to physically leave Australia other than to attend a funeral of a family member. I suppose if you stayed within Australian waters you might be fine, but as I have yet to be financially able to afford to pay off a cruise for myself and 2 kids I’ve never looked into it further. About a year ago my Mum wanted to take her first cruise to NZ and offered to help pay me and the kids fares to go with her. I asked Centrelink and was told that Passports would be lodged through Customs and I would be immediately cut off payments. Just sharing to raise awareness.

    • LetsGoMum says:

      Hi Aroha, thank you for your comment. Yes I think that’s right – Newstart payments are suspended if you leave the country until you return? I’m not 100% sure, so it’s definitely worth a call to Centrelink to check what you would need to do to re-start payments.

    • Amy says:

      Try Carnival, local Aussie cruises that are only going out to sea with no stops are great first experience and I believe they now have their own equivalent of afterpay

  4. jacinta says:

    Thankyou for sharing, I never thought about cruises’ much as a single parent. This is awesome! If I booked for a cruise ? for next year my girls will be 5 & 3.5yrs … Perfect! Thankyou ☺

    • LetsGoMum says:

      For sure – perfect ages for fun! Get them swimming as much as possible in the meantime and maybe they can also snorkel a little with you by the time you go!

  5. Trace says:

    I’m a 51yr old Mum & I’m taking my 15yr old daughter on a NZ Carnival Cruise in Dec 2018 with some family members. They are all experienced cruisers and this will be our very first yime cruising and we can’t wait and are counting down the months..Does anyone have any tips/ideas about the drink packages on Carnival Australia,I plan on enjoying myself & letting my hair down,hence I might have a few drinks,each night,but I
    DON’T DRINK Wine nor Beer,only bourbon, and my daughter loves to have her water on hand,and the occasional soft drink,so would the drink packages be a good choice for us ??

  6. Sam says:

    This is a great article. Thank you. As my kids are just 7 months and 2 1/2 years old. I think for now I won’t be taking any crushes. But for the future this article has come in very handy. Thank you.

  7. Jillian says:

    Hi, just wanted to warn single parents that are looking to use the free childcare while on a cruise..please make sure you book in early because I witnessed a single mum quite miserable because the kids club was fully booked out when she phoned before she bought her tickets and asked specifically if she could be guaranteed childcare and was told yes. I wish we could have had more time to get to know each other so I could have stepped in to help her.

  8. Afua says:


    Great article!

    What was the name of the cruise company you went with please?

  9. This is a great guide for any parent on a cruise! I’m going with my parents on a cruise to the Baltic Sea, first cruise. Should be interesting…

  10. Jasmine says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing your experience! It can definitely be a stressful and tiring time, trying to go on holiday with your children as a single parent. But from what you’ve found, a cruise sounds like a great alternative holiday for single parents. There’s definitely lots to keep both you and your kids entertained, and you may even get a chance to indulge in some downtime for yourself with all the supervised activities often on offer for children.

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About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at!