Best Cruises for Families with Kids

Jocelyn Murray May 29, 2012 No Comments


Tots and Travel Recommended

Like floating resorts, cruise ships bring the journey and the destination together into one exciting adventure. Listed alphabetically, the following cruises are best for families with children, and include luxurious amenities, and a host of entertainment, dining and recreation suitable for everyone in the family, as well as the added advantage of stopping at new ports and sightseeing. But one of the nicest things about being on a ship with the kids is knowing they are not far from you at any given time.



Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Breeze

The Carnival Breeze will be Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest ship ever based in South Florida (courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines)

Carnival Cruise Lines’ mega ships are known as “fun ships” with good reason. From the moment you step aboard one of these magnificent vessels, throughout the entire trip, including ports and destinations, up to the time you disembark at the end of your holiday, you are in for an extraordinary voyage. The Carnival Dream class ships are our top picks with outstanding amenities for the entire family.

The 130,000-ton Carnival Breeze is the newest ship to join the fleet alongside the Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic in the Carnival Dream class ships. All boast an endless array of exciting attractions and activities, with most of the outdoor recreation taking place amid sweeping vistas of the shimmering sea. Play a round of miniature golf, shoot hoops on the basketball court, play volleyball, soccer, ping-pong and foosball. Jog around the track, workout at the fitness center, or just relax at the spa or salon. Carnival Breeze and Carnival Magic also feature a ropes course for those who thrive on challenges, as well as an outdoor weightlifting area with fitness equipment.

Carnival Magic WaterWorks

The WaterWorks aqua park is packed with slides, fountains, splash pools, spray elements and a giant tipping bucket (photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

There are swimming pools, whirlpools, a WaterWorks water park with thrilling slides, geysers, fountains, splash pools, and spray elements, a 24-hour video arcade, a SeaSide Theater with a giant outdoor screen, a host of Broadway-style entertainment, shows, music, galleries, shopping, bars, delicious dining options and restaurants, and so much more.

Children ages 2-11 can enjoy the many engaging supervised activities at Camp Carnival that are organized by age groups and include a variety of amusements like story-telling and crafts, to board games, video games, scavenger hunts, tournaments and lots more. Teens and ‘tweens’ have their own age appropriate fun as well with movies, games, sports and music, to name a few, at Club O2 and the supervised Circle “C.” And best of all, the youth programs are all included. Group babysitting is also available at Camp Carnival for children under 12 late nights from 10pm-3am, and on port days until noon, giving parents extra time to themselves.

For more information on Carnival Cruises visit their website at



Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises - Constellation

Celebrity Cruises is one of the youngest fleets and one of the best for families with children (courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

You don’t need to be famous to board one of Celebrity Cruises’ stellar ships. But you certainly will be treated as though you are. Although this cruise line is one of the youngest fleets among the majors, its reputation is among the best.

With so many activities to choose from for the whole family, you’ll never hear the words “I’m bored” from the kids. There are lawn games like bocce, croquet, and golf putting, to basketball, ping-pong, and a slew of interactive video games, to pool games like volleyball, to trivia contests, dancing competitions, a host of lessons, classes and lectures, food and wine tastings and activities, to a fitness center with classes, a spa with revitalizing treatments, to simply lounging on the deck and soaking up the sun and fresh sea breeze.

Kids Club - Deck 11 ForwardCelebrity Infinity - Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has dedicated programs for kids that are age appropriate and lots of fun (courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Kids have their own dedicated programs designed just for them and arranged by age groups: Toddler Time for little ones under 3 years old, Shipmates for ages 3-5, Cadets for ages 6-8, Ensigns for ages 9-11, and Teens for ages 12-17. With activities like sports, games, interactive toys, arts and crafts, karaoke, music, treasure hunts, movies and theme parties, the fun is endless and very entertaining. A variety of LeapFrog® interactive toys can also be checked out for private use. Both group babysitting and private in-stateroom babysitting (for children over 12 months) is available for a nominal fee so that parents can enjoy some time to themselves.

While the kids are safely supervised and happily entertained, parents can explore the exciting world of entertainment that Celebrity Cruises has to offer. From Broadway style productions, to riveting circus shows with acrobats and aerialists, to magicians, comedians, singers, concerts, dancing, theme parties and more, the pulsating energy is infectious.

For more information on Celebrity Cruises visit their website at



Cunard - Queen Victoria

Cunard’s luxury is reminiscent of a glittering bygone era (courtesy of Cunard Line)

Cunard is a European-based luxury liner that is reminiscent of a glittering bygone era with its gracious hospitality, posh décor, and overall grandeur. It is quintessential opulence in every detail. But fear not. Its splendor is very warm and inviting, and welcoming to families with children. Our top picks are the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria.

Children and teens ages 2-17 have complimentary programs led by highly competent and qualified staff. Age-appropriate supervised activities are planned to ensure that kids have as much fun as their parents. Everything from arts and crafts, to games, books, toys and puzzles, to movies and shows in the Royal Court Theater, to an outdoor play area, to afternoon tea in the British tradition, and so much more are included.  There is even a night nursery for little ones 12-23 months that is open from 6-11pm, so that parents can enjoy the evenings out.

Cunard - planetarium

This planetarium aboard the Queen Mary 2 is the only one like it at sea (courtesy of Cunard Line)

Recreation, dining and entertainment are as posh as the liner, with a fitness center and classes, sports courts, spa, music and theater productions, glamorous balls, daily program activities like painting, dancing and various lessons, to swimming pools (including a dedicated children’s pool on the Queen Mary 2), whirlpools, bars, lounges and restaurants, and so much more. The Queen Mary 2 even has a planetarium aboard – the only one like it at sea. For those who like a taste of the finest in this life, Cunard makes for an unforgettable experience.

For more information on Cunard visit their website at



Disney Cruise Line

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship

The Disney Cruise Line blends the elegant grace of early 20th century transatlantic ocean liners with contemporary design (courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Mention the word “Disney” to a child, and images of beloved characters, magical wands, castles, and happily ever afters dance in their vivid imaginations. Now combine that with an exemplary cruise line and you have a winning combination for the whole family that includes sensational Disney shows, acts and live entertainment, daily character greetings, special themed parties with stunts, effects, music and dancing, spectacular fireworks displays, activities galore for all age groups, delicious dining with family-friendly cuisine, and exciting itineraries.

Children ages 3-17 have a deck designed just for them in mind with areas, activities, and age appropriate programs including the ever inspiring Disney story classics with timeless characters, toys and artifacts for exploring and imaginative play, movies, games and interactive digital fun, crafts, music, computer games and much more. There is also a full-service nursery for infants and toddlers ages 12 weeks to 3 years that provides a safe, nurturing environment for the youngest guests, giving parents a break to enjoy the wonderful amenities on board, including a spa and salon.

AquaDuck Water Coaster Disney Dream Ship

The Disney Dream debuted AquaDuck – the first ever shipboard water coaster stretching 765 feet long and spanning four decks high (Kent Phillips, photographer)

Most of the Disney Bahamian and Caribbean cruises stop at Castaway Cay, a lovely private island exclusive to Disney Cruise guests with pristine beaches, crystalline waters, water sports and snorkeling, two water play areas, animal encounters, various tours, fishing and more. There is even free childcare on the island in a spacious supervised area called Scuttle’s Cove.

This award winning cruise line has the water coaster “AquaDuck” on board the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships that stretches an exhilarating 765 feet, whisking guests around the top deck through a clear tube with views of the open sea. There are character themed swimming pools on all the ships, water play areas called “AquaLab” on the Disney Fantasy and “Nemo’s Reef” aboard Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy with delightful geysers, pop jets and spray elements for lots of splashing fun. Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy also boast a sports deck with a miniature golf course, volleyball and basketball court, and virtual sports simulators, while the sports decks on Disney Magic and Disney Wonder feature basketball, ping pong, shuffleboard, and a running track, all with gorgeous panoramic views of the sea.

For more information on Disney Cruises visit their website at



Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship

The Norwegian Epic at sea makes a stunning sight (courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

The Norwegian Epic lives up to its name in every way. This impressive vessel transports passengers on a floating land of enchantment and thrills. With itineraries to the Caribbean and Europe, one can visit a host of exciting ports with the utmost of ease and comfort.  Just be prepared because you won’t want your cruising holiday to end.

This amazing ship offers plenty to see and do for everyone in the family. There is world-class entertainment and performers like the acclaimed Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams with their spectacular acrobatic feats, magic shows, comedy theater, casino, musical concerts, Nickelodeon Slime Time Live challenges and game competitions, Nickelodeon Character Breakfasts with favorite characters from the popular network channel, and lots more. The Epic boasts a variety of over 20 dining choices from classic steakhouse fare, to savory Italian, French and Chinese cuisine, to pizza, burgers, sushi, salads, and many kids’ favorites so even the most finicky eaters are satisfied.

Norwegian Epic aqua park

The Norwegian Epic’s Aqua Park is just one of the many exciting recreational activities aboard this fantastic ship (courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

There are plenty of on-board activities including a bowling alley, a sports complex with a rock climbing wall, full-sized basketball court, batting cage, 24-foot climbing cage, jogging track, spa, fitness center, video arcade, kid’s centers, and lots more. Kids and grown-ups of all ages will love splashing around in the Aqua Park with three water slides, two swimming pools, and five hot tubs for soaking. There is even an Aqua Park Kid’s Pool with mini slides, geysers and fountains for the little ones. Complimentary supervised kid’s programs offer age appropriate activities that engage children from ages 2-17, so that mom and dad can have their own fun while knowing their kids are safely entertained.

For more information on Norwegian Cruise Line visit their website at



Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises - Caribbean at night

A calm sea captures the glittering reflection of the ship at dusk (courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Many people remember Princess Cruises from the popular television show “The Love Boat.” It was certainly a big hit and quickly enchanted viewers with the idea of cruising vacations. How could one resist the allure of the ship sailing into the sunset with its many comforts and conveniences, all surrounded by an endless glittering sea? Since then, this cruise line has only gotten better with time, and is now one of the largest cruise lines on the planet.

Princess Cruises KidsCrafts

Kids are happily entertained with activities like arts and crafts at the Youth Centers aboard Princess Cruises (courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Princess Cruises is renowned for its fantastic itineraries to over 300 ports worldwide, delicious dining, exclusive amenities, and a host of wonderful recreational activities for the whole family including a variety of sports like basketball, volleyball, miniature golf, ping pong and shuffleboard, to swimming pools, a splash pool for kids, video arcade (on some ships) enrichment lectures and classes, spa and fitness center, casino, boutiques, and a host of exciting nightlife entertainment with shows, movies, parties, comedy and dancing.

Most of the ships have Youth Centers led by qualified counselors with supervised activities for children ages 3-12. These programs are designed with age-appropriate enrichment and fun, from arts and crafts, to board games, video games, scavenger hunts, theme nights, movies, sports, music, pizza parties, karaoke, and pajama nights, to name a few. For older kids ages 13-17 there are Teen Lounges with activities like talent shows, video games, movies, dance parties, and more.

For more information on Princess Cruises visit their website at



Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean - Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship (courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)

Royal Caribbean Cruises are fit for a king and queen and their entire family, down to the littlest prince or princess. Our top family and kid friendly choices are the Oasis class and Freedom class ships. There is little one cannot do on this floating nirvana. From riding waves on their 40-foot FlowRider surf simulator, to rock climbing, ice skating, miniature golfing, a sports zone, fitness classes, zip lining across the deck, in-line skating track, jogging track, lots of swimming pools, an arcade, Aqua Theater, carousel, a boxing rink, shopping, dining, loads of entertainment, fabulous shore excursions, and an H2O Zone water park with slides, geysers, fountains, and pools, and lots more, guests will find something to fit their fancy at any given moment (amenities and activities vary by ship).

The Oasis class ships offer an exclusive experience unlike any other: 7 distinct neighborhoods to visit that include Central Park with its lush gardens and winding paths, shops and restaurants, to the Boardwalk with a classic painted hand-carved wooden carousel, shops and eateries, to the Royal Promenade and more. The Oasis class, Freedom class, and Voyager class ships also boast the popular DreamWorks Experience including 3D movies, exhilarating aqua and ice shows with stunts and acrobatics, parades, and favorite characters including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and Puss In Boots.

Royal Caribbean Water Park

Royal Caribbean International’s H20 Zone water park boasts slides, geysers, fountains, pools and more (courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)

The complimentary Adventure Ocean® Youth Program ensures that children of all ages – from infants to teens – will never be bored as they participate in a variety of exciting age-specific programs and activities like scavenger hunts, science experiments, pajama nights, theme parties, karaoke, sports and game tournaments, digital interactive activities, fine arts, a teen spa, games and crafts. In-room babysitting is also available for children ages 1 and older, to give parents a night out (at hourly rates). The sitters even bring along toys and games to keep the little ones happily engaged.

Parents have their own variety of activities to choose from in addition to the wide array of on-board amenities. From interesting guest lecturers, to jewelry making and scrap-booking, to dance and language classes, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, casino, spa, salon and medi-spa services, guests are sure to return home a little more knowledgeable and rejuvenated than before.

For more information on Royal Caribbean visit their website at

Related Articles:

Crusing For Families
Cruising the Eastern Caribbean
Celebrity Millennium Alaska Cruise
Regent Seven Seas Alaskan Cruise

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions

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