When traveling with kids, many families find that cruises are one of the best options. With limited stress and amenities/activities focused on everyone in the family, cruises can be a great way to relax, do things that interest you, and come together as a family in the evening for dinner and a show.
There are few cruise lines that aren’t kid-friendly. Some, like Silversea Cruisers, don’t expressly prohibit children but don’t cater to them. Others, like the brand-new Virgin Voyages, do not permit anyone under the age of 18 to sail.
So, when you are choosing a cruise line for your family, you’ll want to look at the specific amenities and activities offered by the ship you’ll be sailing. Even among some of the most kid-friendly cruise lines, activities vary greatly. This is especially important for longer sailings, and those sailings with multiple days at sea, where you’ll be spending much 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, zip lines, bumper cars, and more. It seems there are no limitations to what can be done at sea now.
Here are some of the most popular kid-friendly cruise lines, starting with the one that immediately comes to most people’s minds when thinking about cruises for families.
Disney Cruise Line
As you’d expect, the Disney Cruise Line was designed with families in mind. Fans of Disney brands such as Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars, along with the original Walt Disney characters, will love seeing the various touches around the ships. These include stage shows, character greetings, merchandise, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and much more.
Like at the theme parks, the ships are filled with families and DCL caters to them. Menus include the types of foods kids like, and have exciting themes that kids love. There are also fantastic kids clubs decorated with characters, scenes, and items from popular Disney movies, and energetic crew members that lead activities.
The Disney Cruise Line is also family-friendly in other ways. Popular kid movies play on Funnel Vision, the huge screen mounted over the pools on one of the ship’s funnels. There’s also an indoor movie theater offering 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 sailings 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 they are a great option for families with a particular love of these themes.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line, known for fun at sea, also offers kid-friendly activities on board all of their ships. These activities include movies, family game shows, arcades, Seuss at Sea, sports decks, mini golf, ropes course, the Skyride, pools, and waterslides (activities vary by ship).
Carnival Cruise Line also offers kids’ clubs, with separate clubs for kids aged 2-11 (Camp Ocean), 12-14 (Circle “C”), and teenagers (Club O2). There are scheduled activities as well as play areas available at all times.
Carnival’s newest ship, the Carnival Mardi Gras, offers a Bolt speed coaster, which is the first roller coaster at sea. Their next ship, the Carnival Celebration, will also include a Bolt coaster as well as many other kid-friendly amenities.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Royal Caribbean has been known for its huge ships filled with “wow” factor activities, like zip-lining, carousels, rock climbing walls, observation capsules, VR experiences, bumper cars, RipCord by iFly, and FlowRider surf simulators. Kids, especially teens, love these adventurous activities, and will likely 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’ll definitely need a full 7-day itinerary to enjoy the ship’s activities, which include rock climbing walls, zip-lining, a carousel, an escape room, a huge dry slide, water slides, an arcade, mini golf, pools, and so much 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 3 years and under, Adventure Ocean which offers programs for kids aged 3-11 (there are three separate levels by age), and a teen program (with two separate levels).
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line is another line offering many family-friendly activities and amenities on board their ships, including shows and freestyle dining. The Breakaway and Breakaway Plus class ships (The Norwegian Joy, Getaway, Escape, Encore, Bliss, and Breakaway), all offer an Aqua Park and a Kids Aqua Park, along with mini golf, and arcades. Some ships also have bowling lanes.
Norwegian Cruise Line also offers youth clubs that are a great way for kids to meet other children. The minimum age for these clubs is a bit older than some of the other cruise lines, with the Splash Academy for Kids aged 5 to 12.
Entourage for teens includes programming and classes that teens are interested in, including circus skills, video games, and improv. There is also late-night programming for kids aged 5-12, but that is offered at an additional fee.
MSC is a popular global brand, with an increasing presence in the North American market. They offer a surprising amount kid-friendly activities for families. One of the most unique of these is the LEGO® Experience On Board, which includes a full day of LEGO activities.
Depending on the specific MSC ship, other activities include VR experiences, theater shows, a formula racer, zip-lines, arcade games, game shows, pools, and other activities. There are also youth clubs, with options for kids 0-3, 3-6, 7-11, 12-14, and 15-17.
Regardless of which cruise line you choose, check the specific ship to see what activities are offered. Keep in mind that some activities may be temporarily unavailable. While the ship you choose may have enough activities to keep you busy every day, be sure to get off the ship and explore local culture wherever possible - the combination of that and cruise activities really can make for a perfect vacation.