While cruise lines primarily cater to older adults and couples, they’ve made great efforts to provide a range of kid-friendly activities and entertainment options. As a result, you’ll find a plethora of family-friendly amenities available on almost every cruise ship, from kids clubs to family suites and other onboard activities such as mini-golf, go-karts, waterslides, water parks, and more!
While it was once a struggle to find kid-friendly ships, today’s challenge is sorting through the hundreds of family-friendly activities, kids’ clubs, family cabins, and entertainment offered onboard modern cruise ships.
Causing even greater confusion is that ships vary greatly not just between cruise lines but even the ships within a brand’s fleet. Some ships are better than others in terms of onboard activities and amenities.
When choosing a ship, we tend to recommend the newer ships from a cruise line. That’s because new ships have facilities and amenities designed for families from the start. They also have the latest thrills and activities that kids are sure to love!
With so many different cruise lines out there, picking one for your family vacation can be daunting. So which cruise line is the best? We’ve done all the research for you and narrowed it down to the top six best cruise lines for families.
6 Best Cruise Lines for Families
In short, the best cruise ships for families have a wide variety of kid-friendly activities for kids, with plenty of amenities and entertainment options for kids. Here are the 6 best cruise lines for families:
- Disney Cruise Lines
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Royal Caribbean International
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- MSC Cruises
Disney Cruise Line
It’s no surprise that Disney Cruise Line makes the top of our list of the best family cruises.
Disney Cruise Line is a perennial favorite for family vacations. It’s no surprise that the entertainment juggernaut Disney offers an incredible at-sea experience for family cruising. Their ships are known for meet-and-greets with Mickey Mouse and Disney princesses, movie-themed interactive dining experiences, massive kid clubs, and kid-friendly activities.
What’s most surprising about Disney Cruise Line is how well they take care of the whole family, kids and adults alike!
The kids’ clubs aboard a Disney Cruise Ship are the best in the industry. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab allow children ages 3 to 12 to participate in the same spaces and activities, so siblings of different age groups can stay together.
The Oceaneer Club offers several themed play areas based on popular Disney properties. The themed areas are different on each ship. Still, they include Andy’s Room (from “Toy Story”), Monsters Academy (inspired by “Monsters, Inc.”), and Marvel’s Avengers Academy, a virtual reality SHIELD command post. Disney Dream even features a replica of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon where youngsters can play pilot or learn the art of lightsaber dueling from a Jedi Master.
The Oceaneer Lab has an Animator’s Studio and a mini sound studio for kids to express their creativity. The ships also include a tween club, Edge, with video games, karaoke, and computers. The teen club Vibe has an upscale coffee shop atmosphere for teenagers to mingle.
Disney cruises offer a range of activities for adults, including the adults-only pool and sundeck, a pub with live sporting events, a Champagne lounge, and a nightclub with a live DJ.
Production shows are top-of-the-line performances that could give Broadway a run for its money. Forget the stale song and dance shows on other cruise lines. Disney’s productions include special effects, costumes, and choreography that are simply spectacular.
And, if you like movies, Disney cruises access their extensive catalog of film properties to offer passengers viewings of first-run films and classic favorites, so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Carnival Cruise Line
Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line
If you’re looking to sail on a budget, Carnival Cruise Line offers an incredible experience with some of the lowest fares in the industry.
Carnival Cruise Line is best known as the “fun ship” cruise line, and for a good reason. Carnival ships consistently offer a wide variety of activities for all ages – from water slides and pools to mini-golf and basketball courts – making it a perfect choice for those looking for a family vacation that will keep everyone entertained.
The ships also offer expansive kids’ areas supervised by highly-trained staff members who plan fun, engaging activities throughout the day. These include themed parties, arts and crafts, science experiments, games, sports tournaments, and more. Plus, there’s even a separate pool just for kids!
Kids clubs are available throughout each ship, offering entertainment and fun for cruisers between 2 to 17. They feature everything from video game competitions, dance parties, arts and crafts to karaoke, scavenger hunts, and pirate treasure hunts.
In addition to all of these kid-friendly features, Carnival also offers tons of fantastic shore excursions for families that want to explore the local area. They even provide teen-only excursions, allowing parents to have some alone time while their teens have the freedom they crave.
If you’re looking for a cruise line that offers the most affordable family-fun experience, Carnival Cruise Line makes for one of the best family cruises.
Royal Caribbean International
Photo Credit (Royal Caribbean)
Royal Caribbean International is another great option for family cruises. With a fleet consisting of the largest cruise ships in the world, there’s never a dull moment while sailing with Royal Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean is consistently innovating, offering a variety of incredible onboard activities, high thrills, and immersive entertainment.
Want to try surfing, sky diving, rock climbing, laser tag, mini-golf, go-karts, ice skating, bumper cars, or zip lining? Families don’t need to leave the ship to get an adrenaline rush.
Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships have so much to do that you and your family might not think you can get it all done in a single week.
It’s not all high thrills all the time. Royal Caribbean cruise ships offer a variety of amenities and entertainment options for every kind of traveler. You don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy yourself on one of their magnificent cruise ships.
What makes Royal Caribbean one of the best family cruises is its impressive offering of amenities and activities. There’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. And whether you are traveling with toddlers, teens, or young adults, the Royal Caribbean is sure to be a hit.
All Royal Caribbean cruises come with kid’s clubs with age-appropriate activities and areas catering to different interests. There are clubs for toddlers as young as six months old (only offered on select ships) up to 17-year-olds!
Royal Caribbean International is one of the few cruise lines to offer a nursery on board their ships.
The Royal Babies and Royal Tots nursery offers affordable child care for babies as young as six months old. The program allows parents to enjoy a day in port, a trip to the casino, or a relaxing spa day knowing that their child is in the care of trained professionals.
Dining on Royal Caribbean is always an adventure, with restaurants that range from fine dining to casual buffets. There’s usually something for everyone in the family, and kids will love the interactive elements and nighttime shows. Parents can head to the adults-only Solarium pool area or disco party when it’s time for a break from the kids.
Royal Caribbean truly combines the best of both attractions and activities on the ship, with more than 300 destinations to choose from, including itineraries in Europe, North America, Central America, South America, and Asia.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Photo (Photo Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Cruise Line was voted the Best Family Experience by Travel weekly because they provide an unforgettable family experience. In fact, some of their ships even allow families to race on go-karts several stories above the ocean. However, if that’s too much of a thrill, you can always enjoy the best family entertainment and kid’s clubs at sea.
Kids of all ages can enjoy mini-golf, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, and even zip lines on select ships! You’ll also find multiple buffet options to choose from, with lots of healthy choices for kids (and picky ones too). The best part is the flexibility that the cruise line allows regarding the dress code, dining times, and even activities on the ship.
Like other ships, you’ll be able to drop your young ones off during the day at one of the multiple kid’s clubs. Norweigan offers a kids club for ages 3-12, where they can play games, go on adventures, play in a jungle gym, watch movies, or even splash around in the pool. For teenagers between 13 to 17, they’ll be able to enjoy age-appropriate activities, including video games, sports tournaments, and even dance parties at night when it turns into a teens-only club.
Besides the tons of onboard amenities, you can find, you’ll be able to experience tons of hit destinations as the Norweigan Cruise Line sails to hundreds of destinations worldwide. So whether you want to take a family vacation to places like Alaska, Mexico, or even experience the Amalfi Coast in Italy, there’s a great family vacation waiting for you.
Princess Cruises are an excellent choice for families because they offer excellent value and plenty of kid-friendly features with unique Princess experiences. One example includes the Movies under the Stars experience, where you can enjoy first-run movies on a 300-square-foot poolside LED screen from the pool deck. The staff even provides fresh popcorn and blankets to offer an authentic experience!
The ships offer a fantastic array of family activities that cater to all interests – from pools, spas, and fitness centers for those who want to stay active to art galleries and culinary classes for those looking to be creative. You’ll even find video arcades, theaters, and play areas for kids of all ages, plus evening shows that everyone will enjoy. The newer ships in the fleet have even added laser-shooting ranges, rock climbing, light shows, and two-story kid club spaces.
Princess has also launched a new Travelers series full of educational content. The classes teach everything from lien dancing, learning to play steel drums, crochet, digital photography, and more. Passengers can enjoy these activities solo or as a family.
Along with various onboard activities, there are multiple kids clubs available for kids aged 3 to 17. Activities offered include scavenger hunts, pajama movie nights, talent shows, dance parties, and more.
With nearly 350 destinations around the world to choose from on all seven of their cruise ships – including Europe, Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, and the South Pacific – Princess Cruises is perfect for those looking for a unique family experience with plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained.
Photo Credit: MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises is an excellent pick for families looking to cruise on a budget. They offer all-inclusive pricing, which includes your room, all meals, and snacks, as well as nearly unlimited drinks (including alcohol). The all-inclusive pricing makes it easy to budget for your vacation ahead of time and save money cruising.
But don’t let their low price fool you. MSC Cruises offers an impressive range of activities and entertainment for passengers of all ages. Their fleet even has some of the largest cruise ships in the world!
In addition to its value pricing, MSC also offers a fantastic array of kid-friendly features that will keep the little ones entertained throughout the cruise. These include dedicated play areas with age-appropriate activities, movie theaters showing children’s films around the clock, and water parks with slides and pools galore. Plus, staff members are always on hand to help plan fun activities for kids of all ages.
The best part? MSC Cruises also offers free childcare from three months old to seventeen – meaning they can be dropped off at the kid’s club while you enjoy some alone time with your spouse. MSC Cruises are typically based out of Europe but have recently expanded into the Caribbean, Bahamas, and South America.
If you’re looking for the best cruise lines for families, any of these six options are great choices. Each of these kid-friendly cruise lines offers a wide variety of activities and amenities for your family to enjoy together or keep your kids occupied while you sneak in some relaxation.
So next time you’re planning a family vacation, make sure to consider one of these cruise lines for an unforgettable experience.