No matter you like it or not, but mainstream cruise lines are becoming more and more family-friendly. Multigenerational groups that look for voyages with something for everyone are now the privileged ones. However, such a vacation is less appealing for adults who prefer to stay away from crowds of screaming kids or parents who desperately hope to find some time to themselves. Kids-free cruises are the way out. Although lines do the best to occupy all under-18's with kids' clubs and various activities, children usually run free on cruise ships, hang out in stairwells, ride the elevators incessantly, and generally annoy elder shipmates. Many companies offer entirely kids-free cruises, or cruises with minimal number of tykes who are well-behaved. The key is to pick itineraries and ships with reduced appeal for families. Follow our kids-free cruises types and the tips for avoiding children when you don't want to give up a peak-season mainstream sailing.
The following review is integrated with Family Cruises.
Luxury kids-free cruises
The high-end lines' intimate ships like Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club and Seabourn Cruise Line, or luxury Oceania, Windstar, and Azamara Cruises are dignified, refined, and geared to adults. The little trouble here is, they're also the most expensive...
- Kids-free cruises upgrades
As we mentioned above, the tricks to avoid junior travelers on peak-season mainstream sailings will cost you much more than usual. Book a large balcony suite (why not with a whirlpool tub) and reduce the time spent on public spaces. Big balconied suites make for idyllic retreat, and provide extra living space. When the crowds in public areas are overwhelming, better seek solace in the cabin. Even the standard balconied rooms work well, though these should not afford a view of you to the guests on decks above. Since balcony cabins today are a standard feature on the newer cruise ships, you may upgrade affordably, if you book during a sale. The above mentioned about prices, means that you will find few children onboard. While some of the luxury vessels provide occasional kids' programs during holidays, the ships will not be overcrowded with under-18's; the ones who do go are well-behaved and well-traveled, often accompanied by nannies. Classed cruising has its comeback - spend more money on maximizing privacy. Book an NCL Courtyard Villa and enjoy the spacious accommodations and ship-within-a-ship luxe experience. Norwegian Epic villa residents have access to a private pool, sundeck, dining, nightclub and fitness facilities. Cunard Queen's Grill guests are provided their own sun decks, lounge areas, and dining rooms, not to mention the fabulous accommodations with Queen Mary 2 two-floor duplexes and butler service. MSC Cruises also come with exclusive gyms, pools, and restaurants, though, beware because some families do these top digs frequently. Spa suites, which are a recent trend on contemporary cruise ships, allow travelers to create their own spa experiences with accommodations near the onboard spa, in-cabin amenities and V.I.P. spa privileges. However, perks may vary from line to line. AquaClass cabins on Celebrity Cruises fleet get unlimited access to Persian Garden spa, relaxation and aromatherapy steam rooms, as well as access to the healthy-eating Blu restaurant. Costa Cruises feature Samsara Spa cabins and suites with two spa treatments, fitness classes, and unlimited use of thalassotherapy pool. Another extra is the reserved table in Samsara restaurant. Luxury spa accommodations are included by NCL, Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America.
However, if you can't afford much luxury and are cruising with family, minimize the stress by booking a kid-friendly cabin. Disney cabins feature split bathrooms and allow you to maximizing the efficiency of daily routines. Family cabins on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess Cruises offer separate kids' bedrooms, or partitions between pullout sofas and master beds, so parents are able to stay up with the light on. Pay attention to your location. If you want quiet in-cabin experiences, make sure the elevators, laundry room, and other noisy machinery are not within earshot - above and below your cabin. Don't book an inside cabin - the windowless, 150-sq.foot stateroom only forces you outside into ship's hustle. Choose late dinner seating, or take advantage of the attentive room service. Whatever you do, try to avoid buffet at rush hours.
- Small cruise ships
Small-ship, boutique, and expedition lines have one distinct advantage over mega-ships: it's fitting into smaller, less-known ports and delivering crowd-free days on shore. Hurtigruten ships are shore-hugging and visit 34 ports on coastal routes over six or seven days. They give an opportunity to start exploring non-touristy call ports. Think about choosing an Antarctica cruise, or off-the-beaten-path Alaska with an expedition line like American Safari Cruises and Lindblad Expeditions - the biggest port crowds will consist of penguins or seals. Avoiding the tourist hoards in Europe or the Caribbean is possible by Star Clippers or SeaDream Yacht Club - slip into little harbors and enjoy peaceful days of water play from the water sports marina. Some of the premium lines (Princess Cruises, Holland America) keep a few of their older and smaller vessels to attract senior passenger clientele. Kids' facilities on those ships are limited , and they sail longer, exotic itineraries. Try Holland America Prinsendam and Rotterdam or Princess Cruises Pacific Princess. If you are devoted to these lines, you will pick up loyalty points and be still able to sneak in kids-free cruises every now and then. Holland America larger ships compared to the behemoths of industry, are mid-sized and appeal to more mature passengers.
Culturally focused schedules with walking shore excursions in historic cities and no mega-ship amenities keep river cruises kids-free. The exceptions are themed sailings that are family-focused, which are usually promoted during summer months. On average, you may choose from the rivers of America, Asia, Europe, and Egypt, enjoy scenic cruising and local wines in a relaxing atmosphere.
True kids-free cruises
The safest bet is cruising on a ship which doesn't allow any kids onboard at all. Such cruises do exist, but they are not too many. P&O Cruises, for example, keeps three vessels - Oriana, Arcadia, and Adonia as adults-only. If you are 50+ you may travel with the Grand Circle Small Ship Cruises. Try also the U.K. Saga Holidays with travel companions as young as 40. Voyages to Antiquity are considered unsuitable for kids under the age of 12, and the younger than 16 ones are discouraged from cruising. Look for full-ship, lifestyle-based charters which are kids-free. Themed cruises (partial or full charters) take over a substantial number of staterooms, or the entire ship. Nearly everything goes around the specific theme, and the experience is about connecting all these like-minded guests socially in the big-group activities.
Longer kids-free cruises
World Cruises and Grand Voyages attract repeat cruisers. This type of sailings promote social bondings among crew and guests. In other words, you will be drawn out of the shell you're currently using for a shelter. Families usually take weeklong or shorter voyages. Choosing a longer itinerary will do - you will have pretty much guarantee to sail with fewer kids. Set on the Caribbean? Choose 10-days or longer itinerary, better those including a Panama Canal transit, full or partial. Skip roundtrip Honolulu itineraries, if you have chosen Hawaii, and opt out of Southern California for two-week roundtrips. Repositioning cruises, world cruise segments, and grand voyages are lengthy and have a good kid-free shot, as well. Choose less traveled routes. Generally, the more exotic itineraries attract fewer families. Cruises to the South Pacific, South America, Africa, the Far East, the Arctic and Antarctica, are typically more adult-oriented and even the lines that usually attract families, have fewer on such sailings. Port-intensive itineraries are another alternative. You'll be off ship for much of your voyage, exploring on your own at own pace and avoiding fellow travelers whenever it suits. Oceania Cruises and Windstar Cruises keep sea days to the perfect minimum by emphasizing on time in port. Choose itineraries with overnights to further maximize time ashore.
- Sailings during school terms
Book a cruise during school terms, and you will definitely see a few youngsters onboard. And while a Royal Caribbean or Carnival cruise to the Caribbean always features kids onboard, non-holiday voyages will probably have fewer and be less overrun with children. Try Europe in early spring, Alaska in September, or the Caribbean in fall. Choose the less-popular types of cruises. Combine term-time trips with some of the categories above - a long sailing to some exotic destination on an adult-friendly line. You'll reduce the chances to fight for control with the under-18 set greatly. Mainstream cruise ships fill with kids the minute school is out, especially on short itineraries of less than 7-nights. It's not a problem when you're cruising with the family. Disney Cruise Line is the best choice for the littlest ones, Royal Caribbean is good for tweens and teens - both lines feature ideal setups to whisk brood off. Whatever of the above mentioned alternatives you choose, remember that you deserve trying kids-free cruises.