Best Family Cruise Lines
Best family cruise lines. There is so much to do. Our clients love cruising. They are built for family vacations. Here is why.
Though traveling with young children is never easy, it's clear that cruise ships are among the most welcoming vacation options for families. The impressive playrooms and roster of activities rival what's offered for adults.
Who is the best?
All of the major cruise lines have made great strides to accommodate family travelers. However, we believe the newer the ship the better when it comes to family cruising.
Probably the best of the bunch. Disney offers free supervised kids and teen activities in the largest activity areas of any cruise ship sailing. Special wading pools for toddlers!!
Disney has the absolute best setup, facilities, dining schemes, and programs for this age group.
Disney divided kids into categories that spanned just a couple of years. At the Oceaneer Club (ages three to seven), for instance, a separate schedule of events is planned for three- to four-year-olds and five- to seven-year-olds, with some overlap during the day. The Oceaneer Lab (eight to 12) has plans for eight- to nine-year-olds and 10- to 12-year-olds, also with some overlap. Other features include the Flounders Nursery for the up-to-three set (there's an hourly fee) and Aloft, a club for teens in the ships' faux funnels.
Mickey's Pool, for the youngest set, is located on one side and an adults-only pool is located on the other, with Goofy's Pool in the center for families in general. Other facilities include the Walt Disney Theater, which features shows and movies, and Studio Sea, which presents interactive activities for kids and parents.
NCL's free style cruising is designed for families.
Kids' Crew is a very well-rounded program.
The Splashdown Kids' Club features a play gym, movie theater, computer center, and arts and crafts area. There's also a video arcade. Teens can hang out in the Underground, a club with a juice bar and touch-screen jukebox. A separate splash pool for young tykes and private hot tub, with no grown-ups allowed!
Several of the ships' 10 restaurants are perfectly suited for kids—such as the Garden Cafe buffet and the Blue Lagoon (a corner of the buffet area actually features a separate station just for kids with child-friendly dishes (chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza) and tyke-sized tables and chairs. Some ship's feature family-friendly accommodations—interconnected cabins feature heavily, and in many categories from insides to suites.
As part of Freestyle cruising, Freestyle Dining, while emphasizing a wide range of restaurants from sushi to steak and Spanish to French, allows for a traditional cruise dining scenario if folks do want to regulate mealtime.
A special focus on teen passengers.
Carnival divides kids into five age groups with strong edu-tainment offerings incorporated throughout. Toddlers (ages two to five) play "Fun Ship" bingo; dabble in arts and crafts such as sponge painting, coloring and drawing contests; and have sing-alongs. Juniors (six to eight) play Disney trivia, paint T-shirts and participate in games throughout the ships. Intermediates (nine to 11) have talent shows and scavenger hunts. Circle C pre-teens (12 to 14) and Club O2 teens (15 to 17) have access to regular disco evenings, special teens-only shore excursions, and PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox consoles.
The facilities: At 4,200 square feet, the facilities range from an arts and crafts center to a soft play area, a computer lab to a video wall. The littlest cruisers have their own enclosed wading pool. Unlike most cruise lines that wedge the teen disco into a corner of the overall kid's area, Carnival's Conquest-class ships feature their teen discos on the main promenade alongside "adult" bars and lounges.
Teens are welcome in Carnival's spas and Carnival's program accepts children as young as two, while other lines start at the age of three.
Fabulous ships with state of the art facilities.
Rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, miniature golf and in-line skating are more innovative ways to tire out your kids than, say, a basketball court or pool games (though these ships do have pretty fantastic pool areas, not to mention the usual basketball courts). And did we mention the ships' indoor promenades, which feature all manner of parades and special events? Plus, Freedom, Liberty and Independence of the Seas all offer the FlowRider, the industry's first surf park at sea.
Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean subdivides kids and teens into smaller age categories. For instance, Aquanuts (ages three to five) may engage in activities like story time and "toilet paper soccer;" Explorers (six to eight) can play backwards bingo, make their own surfboards, and take part in adventure and science activities; and Voyagers (nine to 11) play foosball and capture the flag as well as undertake science experiments ranging from earthquakes to hailstorms. Even the teens are divided into two groups: Navigators (12 to 14) take part in "open mic" karaoke contests and rock-wall challenges; the oldest group (15 to 17) are so cool they don't have a name, and have their own toga parties and group skate session.
Ships designed with families in mind.
The program: We love the activities offered to Princess Pelicans (ages three to seven), including arts and crafts like painting their own t-shirts, and a variety of games. Pirateers (eight to 12) are entertained with scavenger hunts and science programs geared to the region (learning about coral reefs, for instance). Princess offers an Adventures Ashore tour program with shore excursions appropriate for families. Off Limits (13 to 17) features dance parties, shipboard Olympics, and karaoke.
The facilities: The Fun Zone is 10,000 square feet. There's a splash pool dedicated to kids, and the ship offers family suites.
Other nifty features: Princess' Personal Choice Dining program gives folks the opportunity to choose between traditional cruise dining (same table, same time each night) or flexible, restaurant-style eateries (eat any time); The "Movies Under the Stars" pool-side cinema features kid-friendly matinees.