When traveling with children, many families find cruises to be one of the best options. With limited stress and amenities/activities geared towards all members of the family, cruises can be a great way to relax, do things that interest you, and get together as a family in the evening for dinner and a show. .
There are few cruise lines that are not suitable for children. Some, like Silversea Cruisers, do not expressly prohibit children but do not welcome them. Others, like the brand new Virgin Voyages, don’t allow anyone under 18 to sail.
So when choosing a cruise line for your family, you’ll want to consider the specific amenities and activities offered by the ship you’ll be sailing on. Even among some of the most kid-friendly cruise lines, activities vary widely. This is particularly important for longer sailings and multi-day crossings at sea, where you will spend a lot of time on the ship.
Some of the most popular family cruise lines have introduced new ships in recent years, with flashy amenities and luxuries including themed restaurants, coasters, ziplines, bumper cars, and more. It seems there are no limits to what can be done at sea now.
Here are some of the most popular child-friendly cruise lines, starting with the one that most people immediately think of when thinking of family cruises.
Disney cruise line
As you’d expect, the Disney Cruise Line was designed for families. Fans of Disney brands such as Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars, as well as original Walt Disney characters, will love seeing the different touches around the ships. These include stage shows, character greetings, merchandise, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Shop and more.
Like in theme parks, the ships are full of families and DCL takes care of them. Menus include the kinds of foods kids love and have exciting themes kids love. There are also fantastic kids’ clubs decorated with characters, scenes and items from popular Disney movies, and energetic crew members who lead the activities.
The Disney Cruise Line is family-friendly in other ways, too. Popular children’s films are shown on Funnel Vision, the giant screen mounted above the pools on one of the ship’s funnels. There’s also an indoor movie theater showing first-run Disney movies, including Marvel and Pixar releases.
In addition to the amenities and activities that are always on board, the Disney Cruise Line offers specialty cruises such as Pixar Day at Sea, Star Wars Day at Sea, and Marvel Day at Sea. These themed cruises are limited to specific ships/itineraries and often cost a bit more, but are a great option for families who particularly enjoy these themes.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line, known for its fun at sea, also offers kid-friendly activities aboard all of its ships. These activities include movies, family game shows, arcades, Seuss at Sea, sports bridges, mini golf, ropes course, Skyride, swimming pools and water slides (activities vary by ship).
Carnival Cruise Line also offers kids’ clubs, with separate clubs for kids ages 2-11 (Camp Ocean), 12-14 (Circle “C”), and teens (Club O2). There are scheduled activities as well as play areas available at all times.
Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Mardi Gras, features a Bolt speed coaster, which is the first roller coaster at sea. to children.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean is known for its huge ships filled with “wow” activities, like ziplining, carousels, climbing walls, observation pods, VR experiences, bumper cars, RipCord by iFly and simulators Flow Rider surfing. Children, especially teenagers, love these adventurous activities and are likely to enjoy days at sea more than days in port.
Their newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, is an addition to the Quantum Class ships and is the largest cruise ship in the world. You will definitely need a full 7-day itinerary to enjoy the ship’s activities, which include climbing walls, zip line, carousel, escape room, huge dry slide, water slides, arcade , mini golf, swimming pools, and more. The Wonder of the Seas also offers several world-class shows, including a water show and an ice show.
In addition to these types of activities, Royal Caribbean ships also offer kids’ clubs. Options include Royal Babies and Tots for babies aged 3 and under, Adventure Ocean which offers programs for children aged 3-11 (there are three separate tiers by age) and a Teens program (with two separate tiers ).
Norwegian cruise line
Norwegian Cruise Line is another line that offers plenty of family-friendly activities and amenities on board their ships, including shows and free meals. Breakaway and Breakaway Plus class ships (Norwegian Joy, Getaway, Escape, Encore, Bliss and Breakaway) all offer a water park and children’s water park, as well as mini golf and game rooms. Some ships also have bowling alleys.
Norwegian Cruise Line also offers kids’ clubs which are a great way for kids to meet other kids. The minimum age for these clubs is a bit higher than some of the other cruise lines, with the Splash Academy for Kids ages 5-12.
Entourage for Teens includes programs and classes that appeal to teens, including circus skills, video games, and improvisation. There’s also late-night programming for kids ages 5 to 12, but it’s offered at an additional cost.
MSC is a popular global brand, with a growing presence in the North American market. They offer a surprising amount of kid-friendly activities for families. One of the most unique of these is the LEGO® Onboard Experience, which includes a full day of LEGO activities.
Depending on the specific MSC ship, other activities include virtual reality experiences, theater shows, formula racing, zip lines, arcade games, game shows, swimming pools and other activities. There are also youth clubs, with options for children aged 0-3, 3-6, 7-11, 12-14, and 15-17.
Whichever cruise line you choose, check the specific ship to see what activities are offered. Keep in mind that some activities may be temporarily unavailable. Although the ship you choose may have enough activities to keep you busy every day, be sure to get off the ship and explore the local culture whenever possible – the combination of this and cruise activities can really make for the perfect vacation.