Family Vacation Tips

Family Cruises

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 25, 2015 9:24:39 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Family cruise

Many folks think a family cruise is well beyond their reach. Truth is, if your family can afford a trip to a theme park or a hotel vacation then planning a family cruise is certainly an affordable option for you.

Cruise prices start around $75 per person per day and from there the sky is the limit.  With 70% of U.S. families living within a one day's drive of a major port city, this also means you can "DRIVE" to exotic ports of call while saving the hassles and major expense of airline tickets for your entire clan.

In addition, most of the major cruise lines that cater to families off family cabins that sleep 5 or 6 guests. If that weren't enough cruise ships charge by the number of guests sharing the same stateroom, not by their ages. This means parents with teens can save really big. For these an many more reasons, family cruises are an affordable choice offering a whole lot of family vacation fun.

If you're new to cruising, if it's been a while since you've been onboard or perhaps this is the first time you're thinking of cruising with kids fear not. There are several cruise lines that cater to the family market with PLENTY on board to keep the kids busy. Each and every one of these family cruises also offer adult only areas offering grown ups respite and relaxation for lounging, entertainment and dining. This is why family cruises are IDEAL for multi generational trips and family reunions. They offer an excellent balance of activities that will please everyone at an affordable price.

The tricky bit is that not only do families have several cruise lines to choose from, every ship in each of these fleets will offer different itineraries, ports of call, departure dates and entertainment options.  Then it comes to choosing the right cabin for your family. If you think deciding between an inside, outside, balcony or suite cabin in confusing, Royal Caribbean's Oasis class ships offer over 25 cabin categories that differ according to features, occupancy and location. This is one of those situations where it really pays to work with an experienced Travel Agent who can easily guide you through this maze of decisions and ultimately book you the best family cruise perfect for your wish list and needs.

Remember, just about every cruise line out there will offer family programs or ways to entertain the kids. The cruise lines we mention here are certainly the leaders and the most popular when it comes to family cruises.  The offer the best on board programs for children of just about every age and those programs are available across the entire fleet.  With many of the other cruise lines, kids clubs and services will vary depening upon the itinerary and ship. Some of them are indeed excellent but the ones noted here offer the most all round best experiences for families.

Disney Cruise Line $$$$   

Certainly when it comes to family entertainment and hospitality the name Disney tops the list.  Not only to their ships offer innovation and imaginative technology, there programs are especially designed with kids in mind.  Disney offers an onboard nursery with baby care (fee) starting at 12 weeks with supervised lounges and pool decks just for tweens and teens. Once again adults are certainly not overlooked. Indeed they are embraced as so many have grown up Disneyphiles themselves. As Disney is renown for their attention to details this carries over into everything they do on board...from fine dining, first run movie theater and character events. Their evening shows are all included and comparable to to Disney broadway productions that families love.  There is an excellent balance of activities to promote family togetherness as well as independence so that adults can enjoy grown up fun too.  Some Disney cruises allow families to include an Adventures by Disney Tour package offering families two Disney guides to explore exciting ports of call and enjoy amazing experiences that will long be remembered by all.


Royal Caribbean Cruise Line $$$

Royal Caribbean ships, especially their newest Quantum and Oasis Class ships offer families innovative onboard activities from skydiving simulators, viewing capsules, bumper cars, surf simulators, ziplines, merry go rounds, 3D movie theaters and ice skating. These ships were built to keep active families busy on board.  Royal Caribbean partners with Universal Studios and Dreamworks so kids can enjoy similar parades and movie character encounters with their friends from "How To Train Your Dragon" and "Madagascar". On board kids clubs start are some of the largest at sea and start from age 3 with supervised age categories and clubs on up to age 17. There is a Royal Tots program for infants and toddlers from 6 months to age 3 but this is a playtime where all little ones must be in the company of their adults to participate.  Evening entertainment offers an exciting line up of ice shows, comedians, Vegas style circus productions and Broadway shows like Chicago, Hair Spray, Mama Mia and more. Royal Caribbean ships offer a wide variety of complimentary dining venues and menu options. In addition there is an equally large assortment of specialty dining options and recongnized chef chains offered for an additional surcharge if you want to splurge or celebrate a special occassion.

Norwegian Cruise Line $$$

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for it's freestyle cruising. It has long offered it's guests fun with flexibility making it idea for families in search of a lot of freedom.  Norwegian also caters to active families with impressive water parks, rope courses, repelling and more. Norwegian means N for Nickelodeon so kids will enjoy activities with their favorites like Sponge Bob and Dora. Their complimentary Splash academy and Entourage offers supervised activities for kids ages 3-17. Guppies is a parent's playgroup for little ones ages 6 mo thru 2 years of age where an adult must always be present. Norwegian offers Broadway productions like "Legally Blond" and "Rock of Ages" along with their red hot "Burn the Floor" dance production and Cirque Dreams. For those family members who want a bit more pampering and service, Norwegian offers "The Haven" which is a private resort oasis on board with private butlers, luxury staterooms and special privledges. In 2015, Norwegian has started offering some pricing that makes it more comparable to an all inclusive resort experience with options for free beverage packages and tips included.

Princess Cruise Lines $$$

Princess Cruise lines is not your Grandma's cruise any more. Newer ships have been built from the ocean up with plenty of activities that cater to families and the youngest generation of cruisers. You'll find everything from batting cages to laser tag on board.  Onboard complimentary kids clubs start at age 3 thru 17 with supervised age appropriate activies. They offer plenty of arts and craft programs on board thanks to their partnership with Klutz. Princess also offers their unique Adventures Ashore program (fee) of port excursions where their partner with the folks at Discovery and Animal planet for some really amazing experiences.


MSC Cruises are extremely popular in Europe but their ships are new to the US market. Their newest ship the MSC Divina will call Miami home and will be joined on 2017 by the brand new MSC Seaside which was built specifically for U.S. guests. These ships offer Italian ambiance and an old world cruising style with more formal dining options. What makes MSC cruises unique is that guests can choose their pricing based on the level of service they require.  No matter what level of service you choose, KIDS 11 and under sail free - Kids 12-17 sail at reduced rates. There is a baby play group for little ones from 10 mo to 2 years and other daily play events where parents must be present. Complimentary on board supervised kids clubs are for ages 3-17 years and separated according to activities and ages. Due to it's European heritage kids will see mascots from the Smurfs, Legos and even a Grand Prix simulator. There is also a Happy Dinner program where kids ages 3-11 years are served their meal with the parent's first course. Once finished the kids are escorted to enjoy evening activities in the kids club while parents enjoy a relaxing and quiet meal. The experience as well as many onboard guests are European again due to it's brand recongnition.  An MSC cruise offers a more cultural as well as fun family cruise experience.

Carnival Cruise Line $$

Carnival has long been known as the "fun ships" and they never fail to disappoint in that regard. They offer one of the best values for dollar when it comes to family cruises. They offer 25 ships sailing to ports all over the planet. Guests can enjoy the glamor of a captain's night in the formal dining room to a casual buffet to a pajama party with room service. Meals and service on board Carnival ships will rival those on any of the other cruise lines mentioned here. Decor and nightly shows are again "Fun" but not at the same level as some of the pricer options here. Families will enjoy activities like twisty water slides, sports decks and Dive In Movies on deck along with an active entertainment staff that get everyone involved in the fun.  The complimentary kids club starts at age 2 thru 17 which is one of their stand out features. Little ones can interact with their favorite Dr. Suess characters who are Carinval's onboard mascots in their kids clubs.

Whew!...this is why we have difficulty when asked what's the "BEST Family Cruise".  That would be like asking any parent which is their favorite child. Each cruise line and ever ship offers a long list of accolades that could certainly qualify it as being "the best". Bottom line....the BEST ship is the one that matches your family's specific needs and vacation wish list.  That is the ship and cruise vacation that your family will think is best.

Your travel agent's job is to play match maker. They know all the ships, features, cabin options as well as other insider tips off the top of their heads. Why?...because this is their job and they practice it day after day with hundreds of different families who all want the exact same thing as you....the BEST family cruise vacation with the most value.  Talk to an agent, share what you've been googling, what deals you've found and what is most important to your family. They will listen and help you every step of the way.

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Topics: Family Cruises

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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