Choosing a cruise which will accommodate the entire family can be difficult. There’s nothing worse than going on a cruise only to find the activities and amenities are limited or don’t suit your family’s vacation style.
Looking for the best kid-friendly cruise lines for your next vacation? Here are 5 of them.
We’ve highlighted what’s unique about them and some things you should consider before booking your cruise. It helps to look at the types of activities, amenities and entertainment offered on each cruise line and choose the one that meets most or all of your family’s cruise vacation wish list.
1. Disney Cruise Line
If you’re looking for a cruise geared specifically for kids, Disney is most likely the first cruise line that comes to mind.
Disney Cruise Line is pricier than others but they receive high praises for their kids’ programs, family friendly activities and well-themed kid-friendly spaces by many DCL cruisers.
There are entertainment options for everyone and specialized programming and kids clubs for children 3 months to 17 years of age.
One of the biggest draws of Disney Cruise Line is meeting your beloved Disney characters – without long line ups like at the theme parks.
Nightly shows, character breakfasts, dance parties and regularly scheduled meet and greets are all included when you book a Disney cruise.
Staterooms are 20% larger than the average cabin and bathtubs can be found in almost every room. This is why many families consider DCL as one of the best cruise lines for toddlers and babies.
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When kids are busy with their own activities, adults can make a reservation at the spa, have dinner at adult-only restaurants and can stop by the nightclubs and lounges.
One thing to note, Disney does not have a casino on any of their ships. If this is something you’re looking to do on a cruise vacation, you may want to consider the following cruise lines.
2. Royal Caribbean
Have a child who is more of a Kung Fu Panda or Shrek fan, rather than Mickey Mouse or Jack Sparrow? If that’s the case, you might want to check out Royal Caribbean cruises.
Kids will love the DreamWorks Experience and hanging out with their favorite characters from Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and Shrek.
If you choose one of Royal Caribbean’s larger Oasis or Quantum class ships, the opportunity for adventure is nonstop. You’ll find amenities such as rock-climbing walls, zip lines, water parks, scuba in the pool, basketball courts, surf simulators, ice-skating rinks, and more.
Parents can sign up for dance lessons, cooking demonstrations, visit the spa, relax in the adults-only solarium, or try their luck at the casino.
Kids 6 months to 17 years old can enjoy specialized programs, activities and experiences at 3 different complimentary youth programs.
A unique perk of cruising with Royal Caribbean is the My Time Dining option. Unlike other cruise lines where dinner is served at a set time every night, cruisers can choose when they want to eat each day from 6PM to 9:30PM.
This flexibility allows you schedule dinner around your list of cruise vacation must-dos: shows, activities or port excursions.
The My Family Time Dining option is similar to the My Time Dining option however, children will be served their meal first then picked up from the main dining room for activities at the kids clubs. You’ll stay behind to enjoy your meal and have a little quiet time.
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3. Norwegian Cruise Line
Like the first two cruise lines mentioned, Norwegian has activities and youth programs for a very wide age group – 6 months to 17 years old.
Norwegian’s newest ships – Breakaway and Epic – feature huge waterslide parks and sports decks including a bungee trampoline, spider web climbing frame, bowling alley and ropes course. These amenities are great for the more adventuresome cruise-loving family.
Known for their Freestyle Cruising – up to 14 different dining options on each of their ships, with no assigned seating – families can eat whenever, wherever they want.
Restaurants are open from 5:30PM to midnight (last seating is at 10:00PM) which means families have a lot of flexibility when planning their daily activities.
Norwegian’s nightly entertainment options like the funny Second City improv show and family-friendly Blue Man Group gets rave reviews from many cruisers.
For families looking for a luxury cruise experience with 24-hour butler service, spacious two-bedroom family villas, private pool, and private fitness areas, you’ll want to look into The Haven by Norwegian. If you want to cruise but want to escape the cruise crowds while onboard, this is how you can do it.
One thing for families to note, many previous cruisers have mentioned the standards cabins on NCL are quite tight – especially the bathrooms. If space is an issue for your family, it may be worth it to upgrade your stateroom when booking your Norwegian Cruise Line vacation.
For families looking for the best price on a Caribbean cruise vacation, you’ll often find it on a Carnival ship.
Carnival is known for its laid-back party atmosphere and outfits all of their ships with family friendly and adult only spaces.
Along with multiple pools on each ship, kids will enjoy the water parks, ropes courses, and splash zones.
Carnival ships have roomy standard cabins (185 square feet or larger) and have started focusing on improving dining and entertainment options for their guests.
Food Network star Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint and Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que, BlueIguana Cantina, Mongolian Wok and Carnival Deli are only several of many dining options that are included in the cost of a Carnival cruise.
Kids clubs (also known as Camp Carnival) are for children age 2 to 17 and offer a variety of activities including karaoke jamming sessions, video game competitions and interactive story time with Dr. Seuss characters like Cats in Hats, Fish Red and Blue and Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Carnival’s Live Concert series features stars like Chris Tucker, Tim McGraw and Jay Leno. “Lip Sync Battle” and “Hasbro, The Game Show” will also keep kids and families busy and entertained.
There’s a drink package just for kids on Carnival ships. For $4.50/day, kids can drink as much soda and juice as they want with the Bottomless Bubbles Soda Card.
Carnival cruise itineraries mainly focus on the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico. If your family is interested in exploring other parts of the world, your choices will be very limited and you may need to research other cruise lines.
Princess is not a cruise line that people often associate with family cruises but like the other cruise lines mentioned above, they are very kid-friendly and offer a lot of amenities and activities families will love.
A few things that really set them apart are the batting cage and laser shooting range, as well as dance lessons and a Junior Chef program where the executive chef and staff teach kids how to cook in the ship’s galley.
Their Discovery at Sea program – an exclusive partnership with Discovery Communications and the California Science Center – provides the entire family with unique experiences that will not only keep everyone entertained but continue kids’ learning while on vacation.
Roller coaster building, squid dissection and science experiments are some of the activities kids ages 3 to 12 can participate in.
On formal night days, Princess offers a teen only dinner in a section of the dining room so teenagers can enjoy dinner with their new friends.
“Movie Under the Stars” allows families to enjoy recent hits on a giant 300-square-foot screen with complimentary popcorn and blankets while they sit back and relax on a deck chair.
Princess often receives glowing reviews for their cruise cuisine. Their partnerships with three award-winning chefs and Club Class Dining experience are sure to please foodie families.
Princess is a cruise line to consider if you are looking for a relaxing cruise vacation. There are lounges, pools, casinos on their ships but the atmosphere is a bit quieter than the party atmosphere of Carnival cruises.
Have you cruised with any of these lines? What did you like/dislike about them?