Family cruising has become a popular getaway. Exciting destinations, tons of activities and entertainment, there is something for everyone at every age.
Cruise lines are offering plenty of promotions and family friendly discounts, making it an economical way to travel, especially with kids.
In this guide, we take a look at the best cruise lines for families, with the big names you would expect and a few that you may be surprised to see.
Here’s a look at the top cruise lines for families.
Sailing worldwide, with some of the biggest ships in the world, Royal Caribbean is a fantastic option for families wanting a wide selection of amenities.
Its Oasis class ships, in particular, have something for every family member regardless of age.
They offer plenty of promotional discounts on cruise fares, such as Kids Sail Free, which can be a great cost saver.
Activities and entertainment
There are lots of thrills onboard with high energy activities such as rock climbing, zip-lining, ice skating, and plenty of sports. Waterparks and epic slides are part of the Royal experience, including the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea at 216 feet, spanning 10 decks.
Younger kids can enjoy the kids' clubs (free), splash pads, or the fun-filled Boardwalk with a carousel. In the evening, watch movies, incredible diving shows at the aqua theatre or renowned Broadway musicals and other live productions.
An incredible perk of sailing with Royal Caribbean is spending a day at their private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, located in the stunning blue waters of the Bahamas. The thrill waterpark is a must with its sky-high slides such as the Daredevil's peak (North America's tallest waterslide) and a giant wave pool. For a more chill vibe, guests can lounge at one of the many beaches and pools, sampling the complimentary food.
It can be tough to deal with varying preferences and schedules while vacationing, but Royal makes it easy with mountains of options at all hours of the day.
The main dining room and buffet provide tons of choices and are great at accommodating differing palettes and dietary needs.
Popular venues include Park Café and their famous roast beef sandwich or indulging in late night pizza at Sorrento’s. Always a good choice, hot dogs and hamburgers by the pool, topped off with self-service ice cream, definitely a teen favorite.
Whether it be dancing, live music, Broadway quality productions, comedy club, or the casino, there is a wide range of activities for adult family members to explore.
Royal Caribbean has top notch cuisine and a vast array of specialty restaurants. Parents can spend a relaxing evening in an upscale restaurant in the open air Central Park or indulge in fresh sushi.
Escape to some of the adult-only areas like Solariums with loungers, hot tubs and bar (for guests age 16+). The spas onboard provide everything from massages to manicures.
There are plenty of suitable cabins for families, from connecting staterooms to larger rooms that sleep all the way to their famous, top of the line Ultimate Family Suite, which sleeps up to eight, with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and the best part of all, it even has a slide.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line is somewhat of an obvious pick for families. Whether you want to hang out with a princess, venture to a world far away, partake in a Marvel adventure or be a pirate for a night, there is oodles of fun to be had.
The cruise line has upped its game with the recent introduction of its newest ship, Disney Wish, the first new one in a decade, featuring brand new shows, restaurants, and activities.
All this Disney fun is not without a cost, though. Disney cruises are priced much higher than other contemporary lines, with limited sales promotions. They do offer several 3-4 day cruises on the recently launched Disney Wish, an opportunity to experience the magic at a lower cost.
Activities and entertainment
Onboard, even the littlest of guests will have plenty to do. Complimentary kids’ clubs offer an immense variety of activities and give kids the chance to hang out and enjoy age-appropriate activities.
Other fun activities include waterslides, character meet and greets, and live productions of Disney favorites like the Little Mermaid. Relax and watch Disney movies, including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and more.
One major perk of sailing with Disney is access to their private island Castaway Cay, a stunning paradise in the Bahamas. The 1,000-acre island is a popular port of call, with its Family Beach acting as a central hub of activity. Swim in the water, snorkel in the lagoon, or enjoy activities, music, and dancing.
A unique concept with Disney is its Rotational Dining, which allows guests to visit three different themed dining venues while on board.
Disney has taken dinner theatre up a notch, with original and diverse settings where cruisers are part of the show. Disney Wish treats guests to Arendelle, a Frozen themed dinner theatre in the Kingdom of Arendelle to celebrate the engagement of Queen Anna and Kristoff. Alternatively, guests can dine in the World of Marvel, taking part in an Avengers mission, the ultimate dinner adventure.
There are numerous other choices such as quick bites and buffets to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Another bonus with Disney, soda is included in the price of the cruise fare.
Mom and Dad get to have some fun too.
The Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge features out of this world cocktails and first hand views of foreign worlds like Batuu and Tatooine, or enjoy a cool craft beer at the Keg & Compass; a Viking-inspired pub.
Adult-only restaurants include a new itineration of Palo as a steakhouse, along with its famous classic Italian dishes. The ultimate in fine dining, Enchanté offers international cuisine from a Michelin star chef. For those who want to enjoy the sun and relax, Quiet Cove is an adults-only retreat with an infinity pool and lounge located on the ship’s upper decks.
Unlike most cruise lines, there are no casinos or drink packages on Disney cruises.
Disney Cruise Line offers its guests several cabin options. Whether it be a cozy interior cabin or the ultimate fairy tale suite, there is something for every Disney fan, including larger groups.
The new Concierge Wish Tower Suite in Disney Wish is an innovative space inspired by Moana. It has a private entry, double-height living room, which features a spectacular chandelier and floor-to-ceiling glass windows for great views, and is 1966 square feet.
There is also the convenience of onboard self-serve laundry, located on multiple decks.
Norwegian Cruise Line
With its growing fleet and wide range of activities and amenities, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) lends itself to easy-going, relaxed vacations.
There are numerous ongoing promotions to help make cruising affordable on any budget. Currently, they offer a 40% discount, in addition to free excursions, wi-fi, and open bar.
Activities and entertainment
Norwegian offers lots of high energy activities. Whether it’s a race around a speedway, G forces slides, the ultimate ropes course, or engaging fun kids’ clubs and sports.
Families can partake in classic game shows like the Price is Right. Try the Galaxy Pavilion, a high-tech games venue, that looks like something from the future,
Norwegian offers its guests not one but two private islands. A lush tropical paradise, Harvest Caye, is located off the southern coast of Belize. A great spot for nature lovers and divers. The second island, Great Stirrup Cay, is located in the Bahamas. A 268 acre island oasis, it is a lush paradise and guests can enjoy its vast beaches, great snorkeling as well as other activities.
One great feature for families is Norwegian’s flexible dining philosophy; you show up when you want. This appeals to many guests who don't want to be tied to dining schedules. Coupled with casual dress codes, this cruise line is made to relax.
NCL offers a bevy of dining options, including a buffet, main dining room and plenty of specialty options from classic pub food, Japanese, and Mexican to name a few.
Kids 12 and under eat free from the complimentary kids' menu at all specialty restaurants.
For some adult fun, try an evening out at a nice restaurant, a Broadway show, or fun at the casino.
Variety shows, live music, even a Beatles inspired Cavern Club, where guests get to step into the legendary Liverpool club and relive Beatles' performances.
Voted World's Best Cruise Spa by World Spa Awards, adults can enjoy some me time with one of over 50 specialty treatments offered.
Norwegian has a number of options for families wanting to be together. Some of the largest include family suites and villas with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Everyone gets their own space.
Another plus, family balconies / inside standard cabins are located near the kids club and pool deck. Some Norwegian ships have Family Oceanview cabins that sleep up to five.
MSC Cruises is known for its signature European flair and cuisine, sailing to ports all over the world. However, some may be surprised to know that they are also a great option for a family cruise, especially with their year long Kids Sail Free program.
Activities and entertainment
In addition to kids clubs, sports and water activities, MSC has some exclusive activities that families will love. An F1 simulator, bowling, VR Maze, video games and 4D Cinema are some of the cool things to do (extra fee applies to some). Other favorites such as the family Game Show, Family Disco, and live theatre productions such as the world famous Cirque de Soleil.
Another perk families get while onboard is LEGO Day, an entire day dedicated to fun LEGO activities with tons of special activities.
The cruise line’s private island Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is located in the beautiful Bahamas. The island does not have giant slides and pools but provides numerous beach and water activities. One great benefit to visiting Ocean Cay is its late night activities such as stargazing, glow in the dark paddle boarding and nighttime cruises.
Food is an integral part of any cruise, and whether you have a picky toddler or a starving teenager, MSC has it covered with a wide range of buffets, main dining and specialty options.
Buffets have a dedicated Kids’ Corner with a variety of foods, including pasta, daily specials, healthy options, Mediterranean dining, international cruise and desserts. There are even food selections for 6-12 months old. MSC caters to various diet requirements, including vegetarian and gluten-free.
MSC staff will take kids to their club once they have finished eating, leaving parents to relax. Or they can eat with their friends, supervised. MSC makes things easy with takeout and 24-hour room service.
For evening shows, some major highlights include the world-renowned Cirque de Soleil, which uniquely designed productions for MSC Cruises. Beyond this,there are Broadway shows and lots of live entertainment.
Adults can enjoy Central Promenade with spacious shopping areas, restaurants and bars, and other adult only zones.
Relax in the spa, enjoy some fun in the casino while kids hang out in the complimentary kids club and make new friends.
Another plus for larger families or extended family tagging along is spacious cabin options, including:
- Super Family Plus cabins that combine three connecting rooms, one inside and two balcony cabins, that sleep up to 10 guests
- Super Family cabins that consist of two connecting balcony rooms for a total of 6 guests
- Family Balcony that connects two cabins, an interior room with an outside balcony/ ocean view, for a maximum of 6 people.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival is best known for providing fun with affordability, with a large fleet and tons of different ship options, and prices.
They offer numerous promotions throughout the year, including the ongoing Funderstruck save and sail event, which has cruises starting from $139 per person. Additionally, they offer financing options that allow cruisers to book with zero time, paying over time, interest-free.
Activities and entertainment
Carnival lives up to its reputation for fun with tons of activities, including its BOLT rollercoaster and Skyride, a bike that is high up above the ship.
There are plenty of other onboard activities such as sports, live productions, game show fun with Family Feud Live, Comedy Club, Dine-in movies and deck parties.
Named “Best Private Island” 20 years in a row by Porthole Cruise Magazine, is Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay, in the Bahamas. The island’s 2,400 acres feature mostly natural landscape, including a 2 mile long, crescent shaped beach. There is lots of room to explore, and guests don’t need to worry about tripping over one another.
There are numerous dining options onboard, from buffets to the main dining room. Their newest ship Carnival Celebration has 20+ dining options, something for everyone. They also have partnered with a number of high profile celebrities to bring some unique venues.
Favorites include Big Chicken, from the legendary basketball player Shaquille O’ Neal, Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer. Also popular, well known tv host Guy Fieri has a couple inclusive and specialty restaurants across the fleet, delivering smokehouse meats and classic burgers.
Kids and families also love 24 hour a day pizza delivery or enjoy the whimsical Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast.
While kids play at the complimentary kids' clubs, parents can enjoy a quiet moment at Serenity, an adult-only retreat or perhaps some time at Cloud 9 spa.
In the evening, there are plenty of live music options, comedy clubs, dancing, or try your hand at the casino.
High end dining options include legendary chef Emeril Lagasse’s Bistro 1386, which celebrates Creole cuisine or the best of seafood at Rudi’s Seagrill where you can indulge in bran stuffed lobster tail.
There are some great family options, including the Family Harbor Staterooms & Suites.
Family Harbor staterooms are located near the Family Harbor Lounge, an exclusive spot featuring breakfast in the morning, snacks throughout the day, plus activities like board games, family movies, video games and more.
Beyond cabin perks, kids eat free in most onboard specialty restaurants. A major plus, one free evening of Night Owls babysitting service, so parents can enjoy some much-deserved alone time.
Although some cruise lines may not necessarily pop into mind for a family cruise, there are some exciting inclusions and options that may appeal to families.
The cruise line made famous by the popular 1980s hit show, the Love Boat, is much more than a ship for couples and romance.
For families wanting to explore their extensive international itineraries, they offer some exclusive programming. In particular, complimentary kids club and family discounts, such as their current Kids Sail Free in 2023.
Other perks include:
Its partnership with Discovery and Animal Planet, Princess provides a lot of unique programs and excursions. They even bring local animals onboard with their Puppies in the Piazza on Alaska cruises and Parrots in the Piazza in the Caribbean.
Explore the night skies in an indoor planetarium with real-time views of planets, stars and galaxies.
Enjoy a day at Princess Cays, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas, where you can relax in an oasis surrounded by trees, beaches and crystal clear water teaming with fish. There are numerous land and water activities to keep cruisers busy during a visit.
Princess offers its guests a lot of flexibility while enjoying its superb cuisine. Dine My Way is all about personalizing the guests cruise dining experience, allowing them to make unique dining reservations each day.
They even have next level food delivery, with OceanNow, its onboard technology that lets cruiers order food and drinks, and staff will find them wherever they are on the ship.
Families can sail in comfort, with great options like mini-suites and spacious suites. Larger groups can opt for a Family Suite, which includes two interconnecting staterooms and sleeps up to eight on select ships.
While Celebrity has created a name for itself with its innovative designs and sophisticated offerings, it can also be an excellent choice for families as well.
Celebrity offers some promotions, although not family specific, but regardless can help reduce the cost of a cruise. They frequently offer 30% off every guest as well as an additional onboard credit. Some of their benefits/ programs include:
Extensive range of destinations
With over 300 destinations, there are plenty of exciting places waiting to be discovered such as tropical islands, cosmopolitan cities, seaside villages, and rustic towns all over the world.
Kids Programs / STEM
For kids (and families) who love science, Celebrity’s STEM program is impressive. Partnering with the Frost Science Museum, they have created a one-of-a-kind educational experience onboard. The STEM at Sea program offers exclusive activities and events that will engage, entertain, and inform kids on varying topics such as marine wildlife, ecological conservation, and nautical exploration.
Camp at Sea is the only fully customizable kids cruise program in the industry. With over 500 activities, their schedule changes every sailing depending on the interests of young cruisers. From arts and recreation to science and technology, they cover all types of subjects and hobbies, making sure every kid (no matter their interests) feels entertained and engaged during their family cruise.
Celebrity Cruises offers autism-friendly interactive initiatives for families, including sensory-friendly films and toys and dietary menu options. Additionally, they offer a wide range of autism-friendly products and services, which include:
- Priority check-in, boarding and departure
- Special dietary accommodations including gluten-free and dairy-free
- Pagers/phones for parents of children while signed into the care of Camp at Sea programs (subject to availability)
- Camp at Sea flexible grouping by ability for children 3 to 12 years old
- Autism-friendly films with low lighting and volume environment.
- Autism-friendly Toy Lending Program with non-toxic crayons, markers, watercolors, building blocks, dominoes, and picture books.
Holland America Line
Originally a Dutch company, it is now part of the Carnival family and continues to grow with the launch of the MS Rotterdam in 2021. They sail throughout the world from Antarctica to Asia, offering over 500 itineraries.
Families will like their Kids Cruise Free program, reduced deposit, free wi-fi and extra onboard credit.
Stopping in 100 countries worldwide, the cruise line heightens the guest experience with their “Our Explorations Central (EXC™)” program that adds meaning and context, making the journey an even richer experience as they describe it.
They offer "Carefully Crafted Journeys" that focus on immersive experiences for those families who want to learn more about where they are visiting through food, culture and excursions.
Activities and entertainment
Holland America Line's youth activities program, Club HAL, offers an array of entertaining events for kids and teens ages 3-17, supervised by a full-time, professionally trained staff. They'll have an opportunity to join other kids their age for arts and crafts, sports, video game competitions, scavenger hunts, challenging team games and themed parties.
Families can enjoy their world class cuisine but they also have kid friendly dining at onboard restaurants. Kids can enjoy mac and cheese, pizza and more, and, order half portions from the main menu to discover new dishes.
There are various options to suit families, including staterooms with connecting rooms and suites. The Nieuw Statendam and Koningsdam feature family staterooms with beds for five and an extra bathroom.
AmaWaterways / Adventures by Disney River Cruise
Not everyone thinks about a river cruise for a family, but river cruising caters to a much broader audience now, with some great family friendly sailings. A unique pairing between leading river cruise line AmaWaterways and Disney to take families on a once in a lifetime adventure.
Bucket list destinations
Explore some of Europe's most magnificent locales, while sailing the Seine, Rhine and Danube rivers. Check off many bucket-list destinations with just one fantastic river cruise sailing through some of Europe's most spectacular cities.
Whether it is tobogganing in the Black Forest of Germany, visiting a Chocolate museum or a medieval castle, local guests and experts make each journey special with immersive experiences. While adults enjoy wine-tasting and adult-only dinners, there is plenty of programming for our teen guests, including a special welcome party, teen and Junior Adventurer dinners and Disney movie nights.
Although this is premium river cruise experience (and premium costs) families will enjoy an all-inclusive experience. This includes deluxe staterooms, locally sourced cuisine and wine, incredible views, and array of amenities, including internet access and in-room entertainment.
Whether on ship or shore, Disney magic is infused into this travel experience.s. Onboard touches from Mickey Mouse-shaped treats to fun activities that include Disney-themed karaoke and trivia to the world-class service fans expect from Disney.
Uniworld River Cruises
The boutique river cruise line, Uniworld, is known for its quality and experiences, but they don't believe it's just for adults. They welcome families, with some great amenities and programs.
Although they are a premium river cruise line, they do offer some promotions such as their current two for one prices on cruise fares.
With exotic destinations in Asia and Egypt and numerous ones in Europe, their broad range may appeal to families wanting to try a different type of cruising.
Stopping in multiple destinations on every trip, guests visit bustling cities and hidden gem villages, only unpacking once. Even while onboard, guests are treated to immersive experiences, with the local sights and ever changing views.
Activities and entertainment
Onboard there is a surprising amount of kid focused activities such as :
- Onboard activities just for kids, such as cooking classes and dessert-making with the ship’s chef and pastry chef
- Young travelers' lounge and game room, complete with PlayStation, games, movies and local treats
- Two dedicated Family Hosts to oversee all activities for Junior Cruisers (ages 4 to 12 years) and Teen Cruisers (ages 13 to 17 years)
- Opportunities to “Live the Lingo” and learn words and phrases in other languages from our Family Hosts
- Kids-only movie nights, where kids can enjoy popcorn-fueled screenings of family-friendly films along with their new onboard friends and Family Hosts
- Complimentary bicycles, helmets and Nordic walking sticks for use onshore
Onboard guests are treated to regionally inspired, farm to table cuisine. However, there are kid-friendly menus for the less adventurous diners.
There is even Young Travellers' Table, a special dining table reserved on certain nights just for our younger guests and hosts
Uniworld offers a truly all-inclusive experience. Once on the boat, there is no need to worry about extra charges, as the fare includes unlimited drinks, five-star cuisine and gratuities. While sailing, enjoy complimentary excursions, fitness classes, bike rentals, wi-fi and onboard entertainment.