6 Best Cruise Lines for Families and Kids

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mother and her daughter standing on deck of yacht and they look over the horizon

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Deciding on the perfect family vacation is full of tricky decisions, but have you considered setting sail on a family cruise? With options that cater to every age, from toddlers to grandparents, cruises are the ultimate getaway for family bonding and adventure.

Let’s take a look at the best cruises for families.

6 Best Cruise Lines for Families

Royal Caribbean International

The pool deck and waterslides on Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas cruise ship

Royal Caribbean International stands out in the cruise industry for its innovative approach to family cruise vacations. As families step aboard Royal Caribbean, they’re greeted with excitement and adventure, with plenty of activity and amenities for all ages.

Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships are known for pushing the boundaries of innovation, featuring some of the largest cruise ships in the world.

Onboard activities are a cornerstone of the Royal Caribbean experience.

View of the rock climbing wall on the serenade of the seas while docked in sitka, alaska

Royal Caribbean cruise ships are more like floating adventure parks, boasting an array of thrill-packed attractions. They’re a perfect choice for active families, with activities like rock climbing walls, the FlowRider surf simulators, sky diving simulators, edge walks, and expansive water parks ensuring endless fun.

Royal Caribbean’s kids’ clubs and teen lounges are major draws for families.

The Adventure Ocean program is one of the best kids’ clubs in the cruise industry. The kids’ program is meticulously designed to cater to children of different ages, offering educational and fun activities that are both engaging and enriching. Teens aren’t left out; they have exclusive lounges and discos, providing them a space to socialize and enjoy self-guided activities in a calm, relaxed environment.

But what makes Royal Caribbean our number one choice for families is their nursery.

Royal Caribbean offers a paid babysitting service, Royal Babies & Tots, for toddlers between 6 and 36 months. Royal Babies & Tots allows parents to spend the day in port, relax on the pool deck, or enjoy late-night entertainment, knowing their kids are in the hands of experts.

Inside the Boleros lounge on Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean offers a diverse dining experience with a wide range of dining choices. Families have no problem finding food for everyone in the family, even picky eaters. From casual eateries serving quick bites to sophisticated fine dining venues, the culinary journey is as diverse as the destinations visited.

Moreover, the kid-friendly menus make dining a stress-free experience for parents, ensuring that even the pickiest eaters are happy.

The range of itineraries available with Royal Caribbean is another reason for its popularity among families. Whether it’s a short getaway to the Caribbean, a cultural exploration in Europe, or an adventurous trip in Asia, the cruise line offers itineraries that cater to a wide range of interests.

The large selection of voyages allows families to choose a cruise that matches their vacation preferences, whether they’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion.

Further, Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of budget-friendly sailings in the Bahamas and Caribbean with 3-9 days itineraries. Families have many choices, making scheduling family cruises around busy schedules easy. And nearly every Bahamas and Caribbean sailing visit their private island, CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay is a tropical paradise that’s fun for the whole family. The private island features white sand beaches, a water park, hot air balloon rides, zip-lining, and more.

Royal Caribbean also offers a wide range of family-friendly accommodations. Their selection of spacious staterooms, from big family cabins to the ultimate family suite and townhouse, keeps the entire family together.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruises Line is one of the most popular kid-friendly cruise lines. When families board a Disney cruise ship, they are immersed in a world where Disney magic comes to life. Disney Cruise Line ships are marvels, immersing guests into the worlds of Cinderella, Micky Mouse, Marvel, and Star Wars.

Disney cruises aren’t just for young kids. Disney Cruise Line’s newest ships feature entertainment and dining venues centered around Marvel and Star Wars. So let your inner child shine, as there’s plenty for older kids and adults to enjoy. 

Disney Treasure Grand Hall featuring Aladdin and Jasmine statue floating on a magic carpet
(Photo Courtesy: Disney Cruise Line)

Onboard activities are a highlight, with Broadway-caliber Disney shows and deck parties complete with fireworks that bring the Disney magic into the middle of the ocean. Families enjoy unique experiences, such as movie screenings of Disney classics and new movies that are still in cinemas.

One of the most enchanting aspects of a Disney cruise is the character experiences.

Children get to meet and interact with their favorite Disney characters – from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Disney Princesses and Marvel heroes – in a way that’s more intimate and memorable than what’s often possible in crowded theme parks.

Meet-and-greets are interspersed throughout the cruise, ensuring magical surprises at every turn.

The children’s clubs on Disney cruises transform childcare into an adventure. The Oceaneer Club and Lab are designed for kids aged 3 to 12 and feature themed areas that ignite the imagination, like Andy’s Room from Toy Story or a Marvel Super Hero Academy. For tweens and teens, exclusive spaces like Edge and Vibe provide a cool hangout spot with games, arts, and organized activities, even featuring a teen-exclusive pool area on some ships.

Like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line is the only other cruise line to offer nursery services for toddlers as young as six months.

Disney Cruise Line’s “It’s a Small World Nursery” offers a comprehensive childcare service for children aged six months to 3 years, providing parents with peace of mind and flexibility during their cruise. The nursery ensures a secure environment where children are engaged in various activities, from playing and crafting to nap times, all under the watchful eye of attentive staff.

Parents can make reservations in advance or onboard, with fees charged per half-hour.

The daycare service allows parents to get some alone time and know their children are in a safe and nurturing environment. 

Dining on a Disney cruise is a culinary journey.

The unique rotational dining system takes families through various themed restaurants, ensuring a new dining experience each night. For parents seeking a quiet, romantic evening, adult-exclusive fine dining options like Palo and Remy offer an exquisite escape. And for those quick meals or late-night cravings, quick-service locations and Disney Cruise Line’s 24-hour room service are always at hand.

The itineraries of Disney Cruise Line are as diverse as they are exciting.

Whether sailing to the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the majestic landscapes of Alaska, or the rich cultures of Europe, each destination offers its unique charm. And we can’t forget to mention Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas. The exclusive private island paradise provides families with pristine beaches and activities for all ages, including a family beach and an adults-only beach for some serene downtime.

While Disney Cruise Line may come at a premium price, the value it provides is exceptional. They are one of the best cruise lines for families, thanks to their vast catalog of famous characters, excellent service, and incredible dining experiences that appeal to kids of all ages.

The quality of the entertainment is on par with Disney theme parks, and the service is exemplary, reflecting Disney’s renowned commitment to guest satisfaction. This blend of enchanting experiences, top-tier entertainment, and exceptional service makes Disney Cruise Line a magical and unforgettable choice for family cruise vacations.

Carnival Cruise Line

Top deck of the Carnival Conquest with the red whale tail funnel and ocean horizon in the background

Carnival Cruise Line, often dubbed “The Fun Ships,” truly lives up to its nickname, especially regarding family vacations.

Families embark on a Carnival cruise and are welcomed into an atmosphere of excitement and joy. Carnival excels at providing traditional family fun, which makes it one of the best kid-friendly cruises.

Orange and yellow waterslides at the water park on Carnival Breeze

The cruise line boasts some of the most thrilling water parks at sea, complete with towering slides and splash zones that are a hit with kids and adults alike. Families can enjoy various activities such as poolside movies under the stars, lively deck parties, ropes courses, roller coasters, and family-friendly comedy shows that bring laughter and joy to every evening.

Carnival’s cruise ships are designed to keep the energy high and the fun rolling from dawn until long after dusk.

Regarding keeping the younger cruisers entertained, Carnival excels with its dedicated kid’s clubs. Camp Ocean offers a sea-themed wonderland for kids, categorized by age groups, ensuring that activities are age-appropriate and engaging.

The clubs are not just about play; they incorporate educational elements that make learning fun.

For teenagers, specialized clubs offer a cool space to hang out, make new friends, and enjoy activities like dance parties, video games, and movie nights, giving them a sense of independence and adventure.

Dining on a Carnival cruise is a delightful experience. You won’t find as much variety as other cruise lines, but there’s something for everyone to love. There’s a big focus on American favorites; think fried chicken, burgers, pizza, and fries.

The dining options range from casual eateries and 24-hour pizzerias to formal dining rooms with multi-course meals.

Carnival’s restaurant menus cater to a wide range of tastes, including plenty of kid-friendly options to ensure that even the youngest cruisers have meals they’ll enjoy. The relaxed dining atmosphere means families can enjoy their meals in a stress-free, comfortable setting.

Shaquille o'neil's the big chicken restaurant
The Big Chicken (Render Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

You can also dine at several specialty dining restaurants. And many are included in your cruise fare. My favorites are Shaq’s Big Chicken and Guy’s Burger Joint by Guy Fieri.

The itineraries offered by Carnival Cruise Line are another aspect that makes it a hit with families. Most of Carnival’s itineraries are in and around the Gulf of Mexico, with sailings to the Caribbean, Bahamans, and Mexico.

With many short sailings, Carnival cruises are ideal for families looking for a quick vacation or first-time cruisers. 

Carnival Cruise Line stands out as one of the most budget-friendly options in the cruising world. Despite the lower cost, the quality of the experience is not compromised.

The affordable cruise fares, vibrant atmosphere, family-friendly focus, and activities for the whole family make Carnival a top choice for families seeking a fun, memorable, and budget-conscious vacation at sea.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Encore go-kart track and outdoor laser tag
Norwegian Encore go-kart track and outdoor laser tag (Photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) offers a distinctive cruising experience known for its relaxed atmosphere and flexible approach. NCL’s “freestyle cruising” is a favorite among families seeking a less structured vacation.

The onboard experience with Norwegian is characterized by various activities catering to all ages and interests. Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships boast impressive features like Broadway-style shows, go-kart tracks, and water parks. Many NCL ships are equipped with aqua parks featuring thrilling water slides and sports complexes with rock climbing and mini-golf activities for those seeking adventure.

Norwegian Prima Cruise ship docked at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam

Norwegian’s kid’s club, Splash Academy, offers a vibrant space with a mix of fun and educational activities that are thoughtfully segmented by age groups. Entourage is a cool and sophisticated teen lounge where teens can hang out, play video games, or participate in organized events, all in a space that feels uniquely their own.

Dining on an NCL cruise is an adventure in itself, characterized by the line’s Freestyle Dining concept. NCL does away with fixed dining times and pre-assigned seating, allowing families to dine when and where they wish.

The range of dining options is vast, from casual buffets and cafes to upscale specialty restaurants. This flexibility particularly appeals to families, allowing them to fit meals around their day rather than structuring them around meal times.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s itineraries are as diverse as the activities on its ships. With destinations that span the globe, including the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, and more, families can choose adventures that align with their interests.

Side shot of the Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Pearl docked in Ketchikan Alaska

Whether it’s exploring the glaciers of Alaska, soaking up the sun in the Caribbean, or discovering the rich history and culture of European ports, NCL offers itineraries that turn vacations into journeys of discovery.

Norwegian Cruise Line positions itself in the mid-range, offering considerable value for the experiences provided. The line is known for its “Free at Sea” offers, which often include complimentary amenities like beverage packages, dining credits, and Wi-Fi, adding significant value to the cruise experience.

Best of all, one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea promotions provides free cruise fare for the third and fourth guests, so kids sail free.

NCL’s pricing strategy and the freestyle atmosphere make them an excellent choice for families seeking a vacation that offers relaxation and adventure tailored to their unique preferences.

Princess Cruises

Island Princess World Cruise

Princess Cruises offers a refined and enriching family experience, blending elegance with various activities and experiences that appeal to all ages. Stepping aboard a Princess cruise ship feels like entering a world where classic charm meets modern convenience, creating a welcoming and sophisticated atmosphere.

Aboard Princess Cruises, the range of activities ensures every family member finds something to love.

Princess cruise ships feature impressive amenities like state-of-the-art theaters showcasing Broadway-style shows and musical performances, perfect for family entertainment. Outdoor movie nights under the stars at the ship’s top deck with the “Movies Under the Stars” program are a unique experience, allowing families to enjoy blockbuster movies and classic films in a remarkable setting.

Children and teens are well catered for on Princess Cruises. The Youth and Teen Centers are expertly managed, providing age-appropriate activities and games.

The kid’s programs are divided into different age groups – from the youngest sailors to teenagers – ensuring that activities are tailored to effectively engage and entertain each age group. These programs are designed to entertain and educate, with activities ranging from arts and crafts to science experiments.

Dining is a highlight of Princess Cruises. The cruise line offers a blend of traditional dining and flexible options, accommodating the varying preferences of families.

From elegant dining rooms serving multi-course meals to casual eateries and specialty restaurants, every meal is an opportunity to explore global flavors. The menus also feature kid-friendly options, ensuring that even the youngest cruisers have delightful dining experiences.

Princess Cruises offers diverse and immersive itineraries. The cruise line sails to a wide range of destinations, from the tropical paradises of the Caribbean and Hawaii to the scenic landscapes of Alaska and the historic ports of Europe.

These itineraries are thoughtfully planned to allow families to explore, learn, and create lasting memories. Shore excursions are varied, offering everything from cultural tours and nature explorations to adventure activities, catering to the diverse interests of family members.

In terms of cost, Princess Cruises strikes a balance between luxury and value, making it an appealing choice for families seeking an upscale experience without an exorbitant price tag. The pricing reflects the quality and range of services, from accommodation to dining and entertainment

Additionally, Princess Cruises often offers family-friendly deals and packages that enhance the value of the cruise experience.

MSC Cruises

MSC Euribia departing Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in france

Stepping aboard an MSC cruise ship is like entering a world where contemporary elegance and vibrant entertainment coexist, creating an experience that appeals to all ages.

MSC cruise ships boast state-of-the-art facilities, including stunning theaters showcasing world-class entertainment like Broadway-style shows and live music performances.

Some ships offer 4D cinemas for movie enthusiasts, providing an immersive experience. The water parks on board are a highlight, with thrilling slides and splash areas that promise fun for kids and the young at heart.

MSC Cruises offers well-structured kids’ and teens’ clubs. The children’s programs are developed with renowned brands, ensuring engaging and age-appropriate activities. Younger children can enjoy educational games and activities, while teenagers have dedicated spaces equipped with the latest games and tech, providing them with a sense of independence and excitement.

Dining on MSC Cruises is a journey through global flavors, catering to various tastes and dietary needs.

The cruise line offers a mix of traditional dining experiences and flexible options, allowing families to enjoy meals at their own pace. From elegant main dining rooms to casual buffets and specialty restaurants, each meal is an opportunity to savor new dishes. The menus also feature options tailored for children, ensuring younger guests have plenty of food to love.

MSC Cruises is known for its competitive pricing, making luxury cruising more accessible to a broader range of families. They provide a more upscale experience but include many kid-friendly activities and attractions.

If you sail with MSC Cruises, look for their family cabins and super family cabins, which provide space for the whole family. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Cruise Lines for Families

When choosing a cruise line for a family vacation, several key factors must be considered to ensure that the experience meets the needs and expectations of all family members. Here’s a list of important considerations:

  1. Family-friendly amenities: Look for cruise lines that offer activities for the whole family and facilities tailored to different age groups, such as kids’ clubs, teen lounges, and family-friendly entertainment.
  2. Kids clubs and teen programs: Check if the cruise line provides babysitting or supervised childcare services, which can be invaluable for parents seeking time to relax.
  3. Family accommodations: Ensure the cruise line offers family-friendly accommodations, such as larger rooms or connecting cabins, suitable for families traveling with children.
  4. Kid-friendly dining options: Look for cruises with various dining options, including kid-friendly menus, flexible dining times, and casual eating spots.
  5. Onboard entertainment: Consider the type and quality of entertainment, such as live shows, movies, games, and educational programs, to keep everyone engaged.
  6. Itineraries and shore excursions: Choose a cruise with itineraries that are interesting for all family members, and check if the cruise line offers shore excursions suitable for children.
  7. Swimming pools and water parks: If your family enjoys swimming, ensure the ship has adequate and safe swimming facilities, like kid-friendly pools and water slides.
  8. Cost and inclusivity of amenities: Assess the overall cost of the cruise and what’s included, such as meals, entertainment, and family activities, to ensure it fits your budget and value expectations.
Marcello De Lio
Marcello De Lio

Marcello's been cruising since he was 12 years old. He loves the freedom that cruising provides, meeting new people, and exploring amazing new ships. Marcello created High Seas Cruising to share his passion for cruising and travel with readers and grow a community of passionate voyagers.

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