Cruises offer a lot of value for the money spent, and are especially good for families because they don’t have to keep walking or driving around all the time. And if something gets forgotten, someone can run back to the room or buy it in one of the onboard shops! These large ships really are all-in-one floating vacation destinations, but which ones are best geared for families, with family-friendly at-sea adventures, dining options and spacious rooms? Savvy travel agents know which cruise lines offer families the most family-style options at the best prices, and here are three that check all the boxes.
Travel websites like Conde Nast like Royal Caribbean for families because some of the ships are “as exciting as going to an amusement park.” The large ships (some hold up to 6,000 passengers) offer things like bumper cars, zip-lines, simulated surfing machines, thrill slides and carousels. The ships stop at a private island called Perfect Day at CocoCay, which has the Thrill Waterpark and the tallest waterslide in North America.
The Royal Caribbean kids clubs are on all of the ships, and have separate areas for toddlers and older children; there’s also the Royal Tots and Royal Babies programs, with interactive activities and classes. There’s also theaters, science labs, video arcades and arts and crafts workshops. Teens and tweens have coffeehouse and disco hangouts, and there are counselors to supervise and guide kids from ages 3 to 17.
As for dining options, there are more than 20 per ship, with everything from hot dog joints to upscale specialty restaurants. At night, there are ice skating performances and Broadway-style shows. Royal Caribbean’s staterooms are also family-friendly, with large cabins that sleep up to eight and loft suites. This cruise line also offers their “Kids Sail Free” program, plus other discounts that show up throughout the year.
Cruise Critic posts that Disney Cruises are great for families, particularly ones with children ages 4 to 11. They also have kids’ clubs, plus themed play areas like their Monsters Academy and Disney Dream. Their Edge tweens club is for ages 11 to 14; the Vibe club is for teens ages 14 to 17. There’s also a nursey available for ages 6 months to 3 years for an additional fee. Disney ships also have family pools and kids’ pools, water slides, live shows like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” deck party, movies and interactive activities in the D Lounge.
The family staterooms have bunkbeds and room-dividing curtains, and “bath-and-a-half” facilities so others won’t have to wait when someone is n the shower. The themed restaurants are especially fun, and the menus are full of kid-friendly food like mac-n-cheese; there are also two adults-only restaurants per ship. Disney’s newest cruise ship is the 2,500-passenger “Disney Wish,” which is a hot ticket this year.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival also has a new ship: its 5,200-passenger “Mardi Gras.” Families will be thrilled to learn that it will have the very first rollercoaster at sea, in addition to the WaterWorks aqua parks, Ultimate Playground, IMAX theater (only on Vista Class) and separate kids’ clubs for ages 2 to 11, tweens and teens. There’s also a SkyRide cycling attraction (only on Visa Class) video arcades and the “Seuss at Sea” program that encourages kids to read.
Carnival’s Family Harbor cabins (also Vista class) and suites offer access to a private family lounge, plus free meals for kids at some of the restaurants and one free night of after-hours babysitting. There are also Build-A-Bear workshops and restaurants catering to diners of all ages.