Tasmania is only a short one hour flight from Melbourne, but why fly when you can sail? We were bringing my parent’s caravan over to the island so it really was our only option, but I would recommend it regardless. In this post I will share why the Spirit of Tasmania with kids is a great experience your kids will love and hopefully pass on some tips.
Read more about our Road Trip in Tasmania here:
Part 1 Road Trip – Cradle Mountain, Launceston, Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay
Part 2 Road Trip – Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur, Hobart and Mt Wellington, Mole Creek Caves
Spirit of Tasmania with Kids
Day vs. Night Sailing
We did one of each and I liked experiencing the sailing in both ways. Obviously the night sailing goes by a lot quicker and I would definitely recommend the night sailing if anyone in your family suffers from seasickness. Generally the night sailings leave at 9pm and arrive at 6am, making for very little sleep especially for young children. The day sailings do feel long as you are on the ship all day, which means keeping the kids entertained all day and feeding them throughout the day. With a day sailing you arrive in Devonport at 6pm, which for us meant staying the night in Devonport with our caravan. I enjoyed the day sailing – going through the cut at Port Phillip Bay, passing the other Spirit of Tasmania, and keeping an eye out for dolphins. But once is enough to do this. I would also allow price to be a factor in your decision, which is how we ended up with one of each.
There is no denying that the jetty in Melbourne is right in the City making for a very busy and congested boarding area. You can check in 2.5 hours before the sailing and check in closes 45 minutes before departure. When travelling with kids we find it is easier to give ourselves extra time and we arrived 2 hours early.
There happened to be a cruise shop on the dock that morning disembarking thousands of passengers, which made for a very slow check-in process. The check in process is very smooth and the kids were really excited to receive their Spirit of Tasmania kids packages. These are quality giveaways with a deck of cards, activity book and crayons, a puzzle, a magnet activity and a few other things. This is where you receive your key card if you have purchased a cabin. You do have to go through a quarantine area and you cannot bring any fresh fruit and veg to Tasmania. You will also need to check any portable butane and LPG canisters before you embark. You will be directed into vehicle lines and since we were travelling with a caravan, we were on the bottom level. If you do not have a cabin, you would want to stake out your area as early as possible as the prime areas filled up quickly. Don’t worry there is lots of seating, but if you want choice, stake out your spot.
The ship is a large ship, but don’t dismiss the Bass Strait. If you are at all susceptible to motion sickness, I would take tablets as a preventative measure. Kids especially often cannot anticipate motion sickness and so I recommend tablets on the Spirit of Tasmania with kids. Obviously the ship’s motion can vary greatly based on the weather. Our crossings were not too rough, but once you get out of Port Phillip Bay, we really felt the motion more. Paul was trying to work on his laptop and quickly realized that wasn’t wise once we were through the cut. You couldn’t walk straight through the ship halls and we were thankful to go lie down in our cabin for a few hours.
Keeping the Kids Entertained
This mostly applies to the day sailings and there is lots to keep kids entertained. Remember they have that nice activity bag they received when they boarded. We wandered all the public levels of the ship as each area of the ship has a different theme and decorations. I would have loved to go to one of the movies showing at the cinema, but we had already seen the kids movie they were showing. On the top floor is a small kids playground with a television area. This is probably most suitable for kids under 5, but my 5 and 7 years old enjoyed playing there too. I am not a big fan of arcades, but there is an arcade for kids to burn through money. There is also a games lounge with a few video games, but every time we walked by they were all taken. Since we were travelling during school holidays, there was some activities for the kids. I can’t wait for the age when my kids don’t care about face painting. I have probably spent hours in face painting lines in my lifetime! The face painter on the ship was great and kudos to her for being able to paint elaborate motifs on little faces while the boat rolls. I am just happy that my kids are old enough to line up by themselves now. There was a craft activity that my daughter did as well. We love playing card games as a family so that killed some time. My kids had also brought some activity books of mazes and brainteasers. Kids will enjoy spotting other ships and our 5 year old even spotted some dolphins outside our cabin.
When travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania with kids, a cabin is a must for a night sailing. They are 4 berth cabins, but we were fine to have the 5 of us in one of them. I did have to book (at no cost) a lounger for 1 of us, because we had to book accommodation for all 5 of us, but we didn’t use it. We had an outside cabin because I enjoy being able to peek outside. We also got a cabin for our day sailing since it was only an extra $100 and we had heard it can be nice to lay down and nap or rest if you are motion sick. The cabins are very clean and the kids enjoyed the bunk beds – It was like their own little mini fort.
To keep costs down, we usually bring our own food whenever possible. This was a bit tricky since you cannot bring any fresh fruit and veg on the trip to Tasmania. We had planned to have a late lunch in the TMK restaurant, but unfortunately it closed at 3pm. The food actually looked pretty good and basically for $24.50/adult or $12.50/child, you can fill your plate with some decent looking food. On the way back to Melbourne, there are no restrictions on fruit and veg and I really wish I had brought back some lovely Tasmanian cherries and strawberries.
Taking the Spirit of Tasmania with kids may not have been the cheapest way to get to Tasmania, but it allows you to bring your vehicle and everything you want for your holiday easily. It also is a fun and unique experience for the kids. Since they use surge pricing, it cost our family $1,500 return. However, this cost is significantly higher because we took a caravan instead of a car, which is subsidized by the government. In fact, a vehicle generally travels for only $99, compared to the $200+ we paid for an adult passenger. We did think about having my husband bring the vehicle and caravan over and we could fly and meet him for a slightly cheaper price. However, this would make things more complicated and our kids would miss out on this fun experience.