Family Cruises

By ,   November 25, 2015 ,   Themed Cruises

At CruiseMapper's Family Cruise page you can compare family-themed voyages on major lines' cruise ships, also see which are the best lines for families with kids, and get family cruise tips, advice and various useful information.

Find here your answer to the question is the family cruising a potential nightmare or cool fun. Learn here how to plan your family cruise vacation in order to have your own time to relax and pamper - not messing up the kids. This page is integrated with our Theme Cruises hub.

Family cruises can bring pleasure for both young and old, but also they could bring the "go to the bathroom with the kids and they eat your soap" experience. If you plan your family ship vacation properly, you will already know that children will be safe under the supervision of a professionally trained staff. Largest cruise ship lines offer kids-dedicated onboard facilities- from a nursery (toddlers up to three years old) to teenagers-only venues. However, there are some lines that are "more family" than others.

"Family Cruise" themed voyages

Family cruises are the fastest-growing branch of the specially themed vacations in the whole industry. More than two million kids worldwide take a cruise each year.

Family Cruises - CruiseMapper

More and more families sign up for new deals - most of them for the very first time. One of the reasons is that this family travel vacation type offers excellent value - both as total cost and fun experience. You pay one price which includes not only accommodation and transport, but meals (plus a kids menu), entertainment and most of the activities, including kids' clubs and programming, water parks with slides, sports facilities, cinemas. Staff's services are also included, which makes vacation budgeting easier. Some of the major lines even offer "kids sail free" deals, or give discount rates for a third/fourth person in the cabin.

Family Cruise Booking

Family cruising benefits of a great choice of accommodations. You can have different cabins, book connecting rooms, bigger than average "family" category oceanview or balcony stateroom, or a large "family suite" - your money, your choice.

Ships provide safe and controlled environment for kids-friendly cruises. Parents are restful because they know that their little ones are well looked after by professionals. Some lines provide two-way beepers or walkie-talkies to keep in touch. The whole family can eat together in the dining room. But also kids can eat separately at their lounges, and as much as they want - and without any damage to family wallet.

Mediterranean itineraries are a firm favorite among the family-themed offers, and especially Mediterranean cruises departing from Southampton UK. Short flight times, affordable prices and calm waters is what the Mediterranean Sea offers almost year-round. For the first timers, the Med is simply the perfect destination.

Children onboard are divided into some distinct groups according to their age. Each group has its own adult-free club rooms, play areas and even lounges with special fun activities for Toddlers (ages 2-4), Juniors (ages 5-7), Intermediate (ages 8-10), Tweens (ages 10-12) and Teens (ages 13-17). The kids in the different groups may eat at different time and ordering from a special menu. When there are few kids onboard, some age groups are being combined.

Family Cruises and Infants

If you take an infant on a family cruise vacation, you will be responsible for her/him the whole time. Few ships have a proper staff and nursery to look after toddlers. Among these are the Allure and Oasis, Disney Dream, Wonder and Magic (for kids between 6 and 36 months) and the NCL Norwegian "Nickelodeon ships" Gem, Jewel and Epic.

What to take on a family cruise with kids?

  • a baby carrier for visits to self-serve buffets, pool deck, and shore outings
  • wipes, disposable and swim nappies
  • Take also a few jars of extra baby food. Lines provide some selected baby food, but if your baby is finicky it’s better to be prepared.
  • Take ready-to-feed variety of small bottles if your toddler is on formula. Larger ones should be also fine because most probably you'll have a mini-fridge in the cabin.
  • If your baby is on powdered formula, know that bottled water on the ship is pretty expensive.
  • Soap and shampoo for babies are not provided.
  • Also remember to take medication- fever reducers, pain relievers, the child’s pediatrician name and contact details- just in case.

Before booking family cruise tips and tricks

  • The first and foremost thing you should do- check what is the minimum cruise age requirements of the line. Some lines vary the minimum age depending on the destination/itinerary- so do Cunard, Princess and NCL- from 6 to 12 months.
  • Look for a line with itineraries that fit your kids' holidays as early as possible- school holidays raise the demand!
  • If you book for winter or early spring, choose a vessel with at least one kids-allowed swimming pool that can be covered (like P&O Ventura).
  • Plan thoroughly your family cruise ship vacation! Choose vessel that offers several port-destinations. Check for family-friendly shore excursions and tours in ports of call. After you book, encourage kids to research destinations.
  • Don't forget to take any medication your kids use: onboard pharmacies provide minimal items.
  • If your kids are big enough, allow them to spend some time on their own. Book the younger into some of the onboard programmes. Don't forget to take the toys that your kids are used to- maybe there will be spare moments when they will feel bored.
  • The US-based lines Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, have air conditioning that is too strong for UK travelers. So better take some warm clothes for the family.

All major cruise companies aggressively compete for the family cruising market. Some of them form exclusive partnerships. If you want your kids cruise vacation to fulfill a dream of a lifetime, remember your children's favorite cartoons! Themed sailings have taken entertainment to a whole new (revolutionary) level on several vessels today.

  • NCL partner was Nickelodeon - with SpongeBob having fun on Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Epic.
  • Royal Caribbean provides its "DreamWorks Experience"- Kung Fu Panda and Shrek together with the Fischer-Price toys do their stuff on Allure of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas.
  • Disney Cruise Line offers its own all-time special and most unique Disney characters and themes.
  • Carnival generally means "family fun at sea" and "lots of great eats", but when Carnival partnered with Dr Seuss- well, these are some very new times. So don't be surprised to "see at sea" cats and hats, one and two things, elephants, and what not along with the stealing Grinch, Cindy, Sam. You know what I'm talking about here.

Best "Family Cruise Ships"

The answer to what are the best cruise ships for families depends mostly on itinerary (length and destination) and the family vacation budget. To choose among the best "luxury family" ships with all-inclusive deals, or from those offering year-round affordable family packages on some of the world's biggest-big cheap cruise ships for fun? It surely sounds like a money-question, and it is, but the family sea travel vacation deals don't relate only to cheap vs luxury choices. YOUR BEST FAMILY VACATION cruise deals will always be in the category of BEST FAMILY FUN TOGETHER!

As special offers with full all inclusive family cruise packages often are available free cruise deals, usually with booking higher cabin categories, longer itineraries, and for bigger ships. Such deals are offered mostly by cheap mainstream lines. Among the promotions are the options for a cruise with free airfare, free birthday cruise, or kids cruise free deals. Most of the free tickets are attainable with repositioning cruise deals or ship promotions (like the Disney cruise kids free offers), regular participation in on-board games and family contests, Past Guest loyalty programs, advertising events, etc.

Logically, the world's best cruise lines for families offer the best family cruises on their best ships, right? No matter if you believe it or not, but modern vessels of the so called "mega ships" class have taken on new meaning. Most of the new cruise ships are not just newly-designed to suit families- they are constructed to "wow" families. Bigger ships provide more space and activities in comparison even to land-based resorts. They also offer amazing features which would have seemed strange or unthinkable a few years ago. The Aqua Parks, the Rock Walls and the onboard surfing once seemed extravagant. Now on families with kids cruises children access outdoor movies, bowling alleys, zip-lines, circus schools, fly simulators, bumping cars.

Family Cruises - CruiseMapper

More space and attention are dedicated to teenagers. Previously many companies grouped together all teens ages 13-17, but many ships today separate the facilities for ages 12-14. Teens-only programs provide a range of options, from teen-only shore excursions to teen spa treatments.
Family suites grow in popularity today. Many of the major lines build new ships designed to incorporate a greater number of them.

Best Cruise Lines for Families

What are the best cruise lines for families? All top cruise lines for families with infants, kids, teenagers, older children and young adults are represented in the following review. Whatever you choose, you should know that all the best family cruise lines ships were designed from the beginning to provide the best family travel vacation experiences - at more or less reasonable prices.

Cheap to affordable family packages for families on tight budget, and all inclusive family deals with the best luxury packages available on the market - the choice is always yours. But no matter the class and style of travel, it's  always a "ship vacation all-inclusive package deal" if includes YOUR BEST FAMILY, it's a sea trip for the your family TOGETHER - this includes the whole value of any family trip, and that's what counts most. But still, which one of the long list of top best cruise line companies of the world is "The One" for you?

Actually, choosing "The Best among the rest" is not that complicated, as most people tend to think it is. There are three major factors to consider with - prices, on-board facilities, and family-kids programs. The "minor" variables in the equation are:staterooms (cruise lines with family cabins and suites), schedule (itinerary length), time (destination, ports of call, shore excursions), dining (alternative and kids menus - vegetarian, low-fat, kosher, etc.), themed entertainment (the Disney characters, and the Nickelodeon SpongeBob being the best exemplars).

The Family PRICES ingredient. Don't forget, that suite fares and all-inclusive packages are always a guarantee for luxury on any ship, and "care-free" is really the name of the game when money is not an issue.

  • Cheapest cheap Family packages - Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Costa, and MSC.
  • Cheap Family packages with Themed Entertainment (best kids programs, and budget-friendly rates) - Disney, and Norwegian.
  • Best Luxury Family Lines - Princess, Celebrity, P&O.
  • Top Luxury Lines Best for Families with Kids - Crystal, and any ship with prices per person per day above $500.

A summary for the best family cruise companies (though very relative)

  • Best for families with teenagers. Royal Caribbean family deals win with great facilities, cheap fares, suitable cabins, good availability, diverse destinations. The Carnival family package deals are second, but the cheapest. NCL is 3rd, but best in accommodations, quality of entertainment, and value-per-price. Celebrity, Princess, P&O, and Crystal will best suite the more influential families, and of smaller size.
  • Best for families with kids. Disney wins because of Mickey the Mouse and the rest of the gang. NCL is second but best for its unique Freestyle experience, and well-balanced parents-kids entertainment. As to Carnival, it always wins - because it's BIGGEST HUGE!

All lines strive to attract more and more kids, and often offer great discounts and special family rates, all kinds of bonuses (cabin upgrades, ship-board credits, free amenities and gifts, promotion codes for excursions, etc).

When it comes to attracting young passengers, competition is stiff in cruise industry. This list of the top cruises for kids illustrates that when it comes to fun at sea, there is no limit.


In December 2010, Royal Caribbean debuted its new entertainment program created especially for families, featuring characters from DreamWorks blockbusters, such as "Shrek," "Madagascar," "How to Train Your Dragon," and "Kung Fu Panda." The line provides its youngest fans with the chance to cruise with favorite animated movie characters. 

  • Movie-themed games in Adventure Ocean kids' program, Character meals, Character parades, DreamWorks Animation movies in 3D, Special character shows in Studio B ice rink & AquaTheater, Character photo ops
  • Rock climbing & ice skating on ships, on-board surf simulator, free of charge activities for the toddlers (-3 yo), kids partner - Fisher Price and Crayola
  • "Adventure Ocean" kids program, age specific activities (3-5yo, 6-8yo, 9-11yo, 12-14yo, and 15-17yo), Family Disco Hour, family activities
  • Facilities. 2,000m2 kids area, toddlers only pools, kids workshops, computer rooms, video arcades, "Fuel" (teen-only night club)
  • luxury accommodations for families of all sizes, multi-room family suites, interconnecting staterooms, a host of other in-cabin amenities making cruising more comfortable for the youngest passengers
  • Private islands (RCCL exclusive shore excursions and programs): Coco Cay (aka Little Stirrup Cay, The Bahamas - underwater attractions, Cayalanas Aqua Park - Bahamas' largest, SeaTrek water-slide), Labadee (in Haiti, 5 beaches, pirate ship replica).


Fun Ship Freddy, whose head is shaped like the Carnival trademark ship funnel, is one of the main attractions for kids. Carnival's branded character is between the ways the company caters to the little ones on its "fun ships." Another appealing aspect is the Adventure Ocean program of Carnival. The kids' camp hosts age appropriate activities from toilet paper soccer and karaoke contests to story time. Teens can participate in group skate session and toga parties. In addition, CCL is the only cruise line that lets children ages 12 to 17 take part in shore trips as separate groups. 

  • the Carnival Spa complex is available also for teenagers
  • age requirement - 2+ yo, kids partners: Coca-Cola (Club O2)
  • Camp Carnival Kids Program. 400 m2 kids area, arts&crafts centers, computer rooms, kids-only pools, teen-only discos, "WaterWorks" Aqua park ("Twister" water-slide is the longest at sea), "SeaSide Theater" (by the main pool, the biggest at sea)
  • Rock climbing walls, Basketball courts, Miniature golf, Ice skating rinks, Roller blading areas, FlowRider (the first in industry surf park at sea)
  • adults-only Serenity area
  • private island: Half Moon Cay (bird watching, Ice cream bar, lagoon, luxury cabanas, wedding chapel, Aqua Park).


Disney Cruise Line is one of the only in cruise industry that specifically caters to families with young children. Disney has the best set-up, dining schemes, facilities and programs for your family if you have youngsters. Other features available only on Disney cruise ships include a unique rotating dining system in which families are able to change restaurants every night, but can keep the same tablemate and servers. Unlike its competitors, the line offers a bath and a half in most of its staterooms, so babies can bathe in an actual tub. Disney also has an online service allowing guests to pre-order baby supplies and have them delivered to stateroom prior to setting sail.

  • designed exclusively for family entertainment, best for kids/pre-teenagers
  • Adults-only areas (Palo's restaurant, adult-only pools located Deck 9), rotating dining system, online pre-ordering of baby supplies (partners Babies Travel Lite)
  • Disney Kids Program (themed deck parties with Disney costumes, Scavenger hunts, Character breakfasts, Parades, fireworks (a feature only on Disney ships), animation lessons, family disco clubs.
  • Facilities. Flounder's Reef Nursery, Mickey's Pool (kids only pool), Goofy's Pool (family pool), Walt Disney Theater (Disney movies & shows), Studio Sea with interactive activities.
  • private island Castaway Cay (The Bahamas) is the only private island  with a dock. Adults/kids-only facilities & beaches, Castaway Family Beach, themed entertainment and activities.


NCL featured the Nickelodeon at Sea program (SpongeBob Squarepants) until 2015. The line did not specify why it won't renew the contract with the popular cable network but  announced that its "fleetwide offerings will continue to raise the bar on family entertainment at sea."

  • best family suites on cruise ships, huge variety of family staterooms
  • Pro Golf program (the industry's best, featuring Hawaii and Bermuda's top golf courses, Nike equipment, PDA instructors)
  •  water play areas with slides and squirters, including the three multi-story water slides on Norwegian Epic, and The Epic Plunge - the only of its kind at sea.
  • private island - Great Stirrup Cay (the industry's first), 3 beaches.


Princess Cruises has the reputation for sailing ships created with families in mind. The expansive kiddie programs, accommodations and facilities for children of all ages are exclusive. The unique activities for kids hosted by the line include "Movies Under the Stars" poolside cinema with kid-friendly flicks. Princess also offers family suites and splash pools. In addition, the Personal Choice Dining program provides families with the opportunity to choose between traditional dining (same table and same time each night) or restaurant-style, flexible eaterie (eat any time). Princess Cruises gets high marks for offering older youngsters hands-on science programs that are run in conjunction with California Science Center. Some projects include constructing miniature roller coasters and dissecting squid.

  • Arts and crafts, Eating contests, Shipboard Olympics, Dance parties, Karaoke, Swimming, Basketball
  • Caribbean, Crown, Emerald Princess ships are designed specifically for families, family-oriented "Adventures Ashore" tour program, partner: Klutz, group babysitting, 1,000 m2 kids area.
  • private resort - Princess Cay (on Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas) - 3 km long beach, luxury cabanas and bungalows, volleyball/basketball courts, supervised children area.

CRYSTAL cruise line - top facilities and programs for all ages, exotic destinations, private babysitting.

P&O - ms Ventura ship is designed especially for families, featuring an onboard circus school with a bungee trampoline, a great kids program, feature characters - Noddy and Mr Bump.

About the benefits of the family cruising

  • convenient - no cooking, cleaning, car rentals, changing hotels and restaurants, 24hr room service, twice a day cleaning, unpack only once, numerous ports with close to home departures (saving you the airfare).
  • all-inclusive - cabin, all meals (family dining, alternative menus, premium club dining), entertainment, activities and programs, pools-hot tubs-Jacuzzis, theaters, libraries.
  • cheap - most of the beverages are offered at lowest prices in discounted packages, at reasonable fees you can enjoy the best Spa treatments, state-of-the-art fitness, participate in various classes and seminars.
  • care-free experiences - supervised kids programs with certified staff and youth counselors, numerous educational, age-based activities - both on ship, and ashore.
  • adventure - great variety of destinations and sailing dates, great shore excursions and city tours. And, of course, the on-board gambling and duty-free shopping - for the most adventurous in the family.

The most famous of the family cruise lines with kids sail free deals is MSC - the kids there are almost subscribed to get free trips. In our opinion, the best family lines with year-round sailings by 24 big ships are Carnival (for teens), and Disney (pre-teen ages).

Family SUITE Cruise Ships - best Family deals as to all inclusive family package prices. With the family category staterooms you'll avoid the extra charge for second cabin, and the supplement rate, although some lines offer the option of 3rd-4th bed to the standard double-cabin. Many ships offer connecting cabins, but the total prices are still higher than classic family accommodations.

  • Best cruise for family of 5 and 6 - NCL, Carnival, and RCL.
  • Best cruise for family of 4 - NCL and Disney, also the luxury lines with family suites.
  • NCL (on Jewel and Epic, cheap "All Access" packages - best price-per-value)
  • DISNEY (on Magic and Wonder, best for kids from 4 to 12 yo)
  • RCL (Adventure, Explorer, Freedom, Independence, Liberty, Mariner, Navigator - all ages)
  • CARNIVAL (Conquest, Freedom, Glory, Liberty, Splendor, Valor - best for teens)
  • PRINCESS (all ages, all kinds of families, babysitting services at additional cost)
  • CRYSTAL and P&O (best for teens and young adults, babysitting, best enrichment programs).

Family Cruises 2017-2018 schedule

Tip: Disney makes big effort to attract travelers on family cruise vacations. Disney ships (like Disneyland parks) lack the casinos found on all other big-sized vessels. Disney resort ships have three areas: one for families; one for children; and the smartest idea- one for adults only! Kids' facilities occupy an entire deck. Disney ships even have pools with special filters so that toddlers in nappies can use them.

Family Cruises - CruiseMapper

Note: In the following table, all links are internal (CruiseMapper) redirecting to the ship’s itinerary schedule where you can compare dates and prices per person (double occupancy rates).

cruise lines / ships


departures dates / itineraries

Carnival Cruise Lines

ship Carnival Horizon

theme "Thanksgiving Week Cruise"

  1. Nov 17, 2018 (8-day Southern Caribbean)

ship Carnival Triumph

theme "40 year Class Reunion"

  1. Oct 19, 2017 (5-day Caribbean)

ship Carnival Sensation

theme "Love & Football Super Bowl Cruise 2"

  1. Feb 3, 2018 (5-day Caribbean)

ship Carnival Vista

theme "The Johnson Family Vacation 2"

  1. Sept 16, 2018 (4-day Caribbean)

various ships and departures - theme "Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea"

Disney Cruise Line

ship Disney Magic

theme "Marvel Day at Sea"

  1. (7-day Canada and New England) Oct 21, 2018
  2. (5-day Caribbean from NYC) 2018 - Jan 7, 21; Feb 4. 18; March 18; April 1, 15, 29
  3. (7-day Bahamas from NYC) 2017 - Oct 6, 14, 28 and Nov 4; 2018 - Nov 11, 18

ship Disney Fantasy

theme "Disney's Star Wars at Sea"

  1. (7-day Caribbean) various departures 2017

MSC Cruises

ship MSC Seaside

theme "Blue Family Reunion Cruise"

  1. Jun 9, 2018 (7-day Eastern Caribbean)

AMA Waterways (river cruise company)

ship AmaStella

theme "Doll Adventures"

  1. Jul 16, 2018 (7-day Rhine River)

Tauck River Cruises (various departures 2017 & 2018)

  1. ship ms Sapphire, theme "Tauck Bridges: Family Fun Along the Seine" - 7-day Seine River
  2. ship ms Emerald, theme "Bon Voyage! France Family River Cruise" - 7-day Rhone River
  3. ships ms Joy or ms Savor, theme "Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure" - 7-day Danube River
  4. ships ms Grace or ms Insprire, theme "Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure" - 7-day Rhine River

Amadeus River Cruises

ship Amadeus Silver III

theme "Smithsonian Journeys: Cruising the Rhine"

  1. Jul 11, 2018 (8-day Rhine River)

Family Cruise Tips

Two million kids sail the high seas for a year. To attract and keep them happily engaged, the lines offer everything - from meet and greets with cute cartoon characters to happy-splash water parks, ropes courses, zip lines and more. The major family-friendly cruise lines cater to North American market.

The ones that carry most of the young sailors are Carnival, NCL Norwegian, Disney, Royal Caribbean International, PrincessCelebrity, Crystal Cruises offer kids' programs on select voyages. Club HAL has supervised activities for kids aged from 3 to 12 and offers dedicated facilities on most of its vessels.

All of the above lines offer exciting cruise vacations, but there are also a lot of differences as each line has its own signature features, partnerships and structure of kids and teens programs - how they match up to your kid's ages and interests, will determine which is the ship that best fits for your family. If you want to get the most from your vacation, consider the following family cruise tips when you pick a ship:

Traveling with BABIES

  • The minimum ages for babies to sail vary from Disney's 12 weeks to six months on Princess, Carnival, Norwegian and RCI.
  • Disney Cruise Line offers themed full-service nurseries for ages 12 weeks-3 years, with toys and one-way porthole windows, allowing parents to peek at their kids without being seen.
  • On several ships (planning to offer these fleetwide), Royal Caribbean provides Royal Babies Nursery for 6-18 months babies and Royal Tots Nursery (ages 18-36 months). At the 45-minute play group of Royal Tots, kids create music, do arts and crafts, and enjoy various kinds of play with parents.
  • At NCL's Splash Academy, the Guppies, ages 6 months-3 years, start creating with the art projects Wee Can Too, play with puppets and listen to storytellers. One parent per kid must be present.

ITINERARIES that are family-friendly

  • Is there anyone who dislikes the beach? Caribbean itineraries are attractive for all ages.
  • And how about Alaska, with dogsledding, rafting, kayaking and fly fishing, appealing more to teens and grade schoolers than to young kids.
  • Somewhere in the middle is Europe, depending on how you prefer to structure your days. The little kids will be fine if a mix of palaces and parks are on your schedule, but a heavy load of historical sites and museums can make preschoolers cranky.
  • Better consider departing from a port which is near your home, so you can drive to your ship and save the cost of airfare and all hassles associated with flying.

CABIN configuration

  • Disney Cruise Line provides a bath-and-a-half in line's most cabins. The second bathroom offers a sink, toilet and vanity, in addition to the full bathroom with a sink, tub/shower and toilet. This way everyone in the family gets ready for meals and outings with the minimum of hassles (you won't have to pay extra for a suite).
  • Ask about available connecting cabins if you're traveling with grandma, grandpa and kids - most family-friendly lines will offer you them. Norwegian, for example, boasts a 572-sq.foot villa with 2 bedrooms which sleeps 6. RCI family staterooms can also accommodate 6, and the multi-room suites sleep 8 apiece. Carnival offers cabins that sleep up to 5 people each.
  • To see floor plans, sizes and categories of passenger cabins see CruiseMapper's deckplans section of cruise line deck plans reviews.

The MEAL deal

The family-friendly cruise lines satisfy the always-hungry kids with specialty casual restaurants, lavish dinner buffets, extended-hour pizza... room service, of course, as an addition to the seated dinners. Most lines provide kids menus at dinner and lunch. If you have a fussy or intolerant to lactose kid, better talk to the head waiter in advance to work out the needed meals.

  • When Norwegian Cruise Lines introduced Freestyle Dining and welcomed the ability to arrive at NCL's dining room between certain times and sit wherever you want, the company started a sea of change for the ones who like flexibility. NCL features up to 30 dining options per vessel, some of which are complimentary, some are not. Norwegian hosts Kid's Cafe on 8 ships and in addition to the kid-sized furniture, this buffet which is set at child-height pampers with fruit, hot dogs, sandwiches, Jell-o, cookies and French fries.
  • Traditional dining has its fans - your waiter knows all your preferences and brings the fruit cup for your 7-year-old before you ask. A new server every night will not know these little but important details.
  • Royal Caribbean features traditional and "My Time" dining, which enables to limit waits by making reservations for seatings between 6 p.m-9:30 p.m. Additional eateries include the Jade Sushi, Boardwalk Dog House and Park Cafe.
  • Princess Cruises lets choose between Anytime and traditional dining, allowing to show up between 5:30-10 p.m. Share a table with others to limit your wait - a wonderful way to make friends.
  • On Disney, you don't have to book first seating in order to get your children finished with dinner and they rejoin the kids' program. With "Dine and Play", Disney waiters first serve the kids aged 3-12 on the second seating; after 45 minutes, the counselors pick your kids up from the dining room, escorting them to children's program.

The SIZE - does it matter?

The answer of the question depends on the ages of your children and the temperament of your family.

  • Megaships like Oasis and Allure of the Seas offer FlowRiders (surfing simulators), ice shows and ice skating rinks, zip lines, high-dive acts, green spaces with benches as well as fun areas suggesting boardwalk with a carousel. Anthem and Quantum of the Seas add skydiving simulators and North Star - the exquisite glass-enclosed capsule allowing 360-degree panoramic views high above the decks.
  • Norwegian Breakaway stages Broadway shows and provides 27 eateries. Carnival guests can try the SportSquare's ropes course, which is an addition to the typical volleyball and basketball courts. The Thrill Theater on Carnival Breeze challenges passengers with seats that move, and you'll also get sprayed with air and water at appropriate moments.
  • All bigger ships also offer more elaborate kids facilities. The bigger the vessel, the more confusing it is for youngsters to navigate (the more crowded during peak seasons). Waiting in lines at the eateries and elevators, moving through tight hallways and needing to make reservations for shows and specialty restaurants in advance, limits the spontaneity of a vacation.
  • The major lines have upgraded their older ships which are typically smaller - Disney upgraded the Magic with a Disney thrill waterslide and other interesting features; Royal Caribbean enhanced its older ships by adding bungee jumping trampolines, rock climbing walls and Royal Babies and Tots nurseries.
  • Consider the most important to your children and you. Have in mind that the glitzy new mega-ships book at top dollar; the older ones tend to cost less.

Additional family ACTIVITIES

  • Many lines provide athletic activities, but some of them, as is with Royal Caribbean, are at another level. RCI includes ice skating, surfing, zip lines and rock climbing. Company's ships appeal to active cruisers. On the Quantum-class ships, the line debuts a version of skydiving - RipCord by iFLY, and SeaPlex - indoor fun space with roller skating and bumper cars.
  • Norwegian Breakaway will challenge you with the ropes course and bowling, available on Norwegian Gem, Epic, Pearl and Getaway. NCL is also the first line to boast Nintendo Wii sports games (already available on other lines).
  • Predictably, Disney targets the families with younger children. At D Lounge, you can team up for pirate game show "Pirate's Life for Me" or dance at "Goofy's Rock Stars and Guitars Family Dance Party". The families with teens and those adults who love sports can test knowledge during "ESPN Monday Night Football Call It".


Little kids adore cartoons, so consider which star your youngster will love to meet. In the age of media ads, action figure toys and movie blockbusters, your child may long to take a cup of tea with a princess, or count the days until teaming up with Marvel's Avengers.

  • Disney is not the only line that makes storybooks spring to life.
  • Five of NCL's ships offer dancing with Dora the Explorer, holding hands with SpongeBob or meeting other Nickelodeon characters.
  • Puss in Boots, Shrek, Fiona and other DreamWorks characters parade on six of Royal Caribbean ships - DreamWorks' movie releases play on board.
  • Carnival rolled out "Seuss at Sea", complete with "Green Eggs and Ham Breakfasts" and "Seuss-a-palooza Story Time".

The POOL and its importance

A pool's a pool! All family-friendly cruises feature them. However, water parks can really bring out your inner child.

  • Carnival, famous for its great slides, ups everyone's energy on its refurbished and newer ships with windier longer slides that twirl, snake and "flush" guests.
  • Youngsters relish RCI's H20 Zone, bringing out giggles with water guns, small pools and geysers. All teens, tweens and adults can test their skills on the FlowRider surf simulator.
  • Disney Magic features water play area and a thrill slide for young kids. The AquaDuck is partially extending over ship's side while swirling travelers down 212 feet. Fantasy and Dream have similar slides. The AquaLab is where you and kids will get wet by going down the family slide, get caught by bucket dump and run through geysers.


Family-friendly lines deliver creative kids' programs going beyond baby-sitting and the best of them divide children into age groups. When the age span within a single group is narrower, naturally the better can a program serve a kid.

  • Princess groups ages 3-7, 8-12 and 13-17. Royal Caribbean offers separate groups for kids aged 3-5, 6-8 and 9-11, and such a division takes into account children's natural tendencies - a 6-year-old kid who tends to be outgoing might be bored by being with a 3-year-old; a shy 9-year-old might feel overwhelmed when being matched with an athletic and taller 12-year-old. During summer, spring break and other peak times, these groups may be subdivided if the numbers of kids increase.
  • Carnival, the leader in attracting families, hosts more than 700,000 kids per year. Camp Ocean, line's revamped kids' program, debuted on Carnival Freedom and soon appeared fleetwide. Camp Carnival goes on the remaining ships. Camp Ocean is marine-themed and divides children into Penguins, aged 2-5; Sting Rays, aged 6-8; and Sharks, aged 9-11. Activities like "Make Your Own Sailboat", "Marine Life Trivia", "Under the Sea Mad Libs" and "Create a Penguin From Oreos", aim to make learning about sea fun. Carnival is among the few lines which offer full children's programs for the 2-year-olds.
  • Holland America offers Club HAL, which is a supervised program for kids aged 3-7, 8-12 and 13-17. The younger groups have club rooms of their own. On many ships, the teens meet each other at an indoor teen lounge "the Loft", and at "the Oasis" - outdoor sun deck with a waterfall, wading pool and juice bar. The Oasis is available on seven ships.
  • NCL's Splash Academy groups kids into Turtles, aged 3-5; Seals, aged 6-9; and Dolphins, aged 10-12. Juggling, spinning, tumbling and other circus skills, engage the young travelers. By the end of your voyage, the kids will be able to perform circus acts for their appreciative parents.

TEEN programs

The best teen programs, like the best kids' programs, separate the teens into age groups.

  • Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer separate programs for ages 12-14 and 15-17.
  • On Disney, the teens divide into 2 separate groups by age: 11-13 and 14-17 and each has its own places for hanging out. Both Princess and Norwegian group ages 13-17 together, with teens' own spaces on each.
  • While teens do fun things together, a plenty of time is available for them to form couples and cliques, so be realistic - everything you worry about at teen parties on land (alcohol, drugs and sex) is also issued at sea, so talk to your children ahead of time, and better be aware of the activities on the ship.

Do programs operate IN PORT?

When you're traveling with kids, consider lines which offer onboard activities when the ship's in port. Your child will be able to play happily while you visit museums, browse boutiques, golf or scuba dive. Port programs usually cost extra. On port days for example, NCL Norwegian charges a nominal fee for supervising kids during meals.

EVENING entertainment

Films shown on deck as you relax, tucked up in a blanket, in a lounge chair - the perfect option after a hard day with kids.

  • Movies Under the Stars was first introduced on Princess.
  • Carnival and others also pamper with outdoor movies and Disney wows with first-run movies and Disney-themed stage shows.
  • Older kids will like the Norwegian Epic's Blue Man Group, as well as Broadway-style hits playing aboard Royal Caribbean.
  • In 2014 fall "Mamma Mia" debuts on the new Quantum of the Seas; "Chicago, the Musical" on Allure of the Seas, "Hairspray" - on Oasis of the Seas, and "Saturday Night Fever" on Liberty of the Seas.


Most lines provide evening baby-sitting in a group for a fee. NCL's Late Night Fun Zone operates every day 10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. for an hourly fee. Disney, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival also boast with late-night programs. RCI even allows booking in-cabin baby-sitting for kids aged 1 year and older. The per-hour fee covers up to 3 kids in the same family. Set this up on the embark day. 

Carnival Cruise Kids Activities

The question "What is the best Carnival cruise ship for kids" has one answer - the one that's closest to your place of residence. Most of the Carnival cruise deals with children are for short cruises to the Caribbean from Florida. The best Carnival kids cruise deals and cheap family vacation packages are for the regular 3 day Mexican Riviera sailings from Los Angeles California (Long Beach CA) and all the short 3- and 4-day trips to Bahamas from Florida. Integrated with Carnival cruise tips and tricks.

Carnival - the"Kids Cruise" line

The CARNIVAL KIDS cruise line is the leader among the best passenger ship lines in the world, boasting the cheapest cruise ship fares. The best Carnival cruises for kids are the operated year-round Bahamas itineraries featuring the line's private island resort Half Moon Cay as an exclusive port of call. This secluded FUN Paradise is the dream destination for all the BIG SMALL fans of the MOST FUN ship vacation packages of magic, miracle, dream, imagination, fascination and the rest in the almost endless list of all the Fun Ships.

Carnival owns the best cruise fleet in the history of entertainment offering unique entertainment options, kids-only venues on all ships, good availability of affordable family cabins, great service and simply the BEST CARNIVAL FUN at Sea. The subject of this survey is the "Camp Carnival" kids program, with all the on-board children facilities and activities on the Fun Ships.

Carnival cruise with kids means a fun voyage by any of all the 24 big and expensive passenger ships with huge capacity, unique on-board facilities and amenities, and sailing all the world's best sea vacation destinations - Caribbean and Bermuda, Hawaii, Alaska, Mediterranean, the Mexican Riviera.

Carnival cruise kids free deals are usually part of the ships promotions, regional and seasonal discounts or the prize of some of the on-board family  contests, talent and quiz shows. Buy one get one free deals are always a possibility, due to the ships big passenger capacity (3,000+ at average) and the regularly operated itineraries. For example, the Caribbean destination is operated year-round by 23 of all the 24 Carnival ships, of which 15 from Florida ports alone. Free of charge shore excursions are offered for kids 3- years old, while children 4 to 12 years old enjoy half rates.

On all ships the fun starts with the family welcome aboard party. "Camp Carnival" offers the most hours of children entertainment at sea - completely free of charge, a separate kids pool on each ship, and the huge "WaterWorks" Park with the "Twister" phenomenon - an over 300ft (92 m) long 2-decks high Carnival water-slide special, that attracts hundreds of thousands of kids each year. "Camp Carnival" provides all day long FUN by age appropriate activities for kids and teens between the ages of 2 and 15 - on all ships, year-round.

Carnival Cruises Kids Program review, information, top features, age segmentation

  • college-educated youth counselors with professional child-care experiences (education, child psychology, youth recreation), fully trained in basic first aid and CPR. Notes: staffing in general depends on factors like ship capacity, itinerary and season; the youth staff is international.
  • the "smaller guests" (under 21) must be accompanied in the same stateroom by a parent /guardian 25+ yo.
  • Carnival cruise Family Suite accommodations, numerous connecting cabins (sharing an inside door), more spacious than average staterooms (185+ sq ft / 17 m2).
  • all-inclusive all-you-can-eat CARNIVAL KIDS menu (see the link below), with all D-Yummy delights from the never-closing Pizzeria - huge pizza slices, great pies, "cool" burgers and "hot" dogs, cookies, pastries, milk and chocolate, and tons of ice cream. The Carnival lines youth program's groups:
  • INFANTS (free of charge babysitting service) - min age 4 months, counselors change diapers when necessary, group babysitting from 10pm until 3am at additional cost of $6 per hour /1st kid ($4 for siblings), stroller rentals at $6 per day (3-5-night sailings), and $25 per sailing (5+ nights). Kids 2- yo are allowed to play in the playroom when accompanied by a parent.
  • TODDLERS (2-5 yo) - kids-only splash pools, coloring and drawing, cookie making and decorating, "Face Painting", "Sponge Painting", "Fun Ship Bingo", "Cartoon Time", "Pizza Pig Out", sing-alongs, various contests and family games.
  • JUNIORS (6-8 yo) - "T-Shirt Painting", puppet shows, talent shows and outdoor games, Disney-themed activities.
  • TWEENERS (9-11 yo) - "Breakfast Fun", ping-pong and volleyball, board and video games and tournaments, dance classes, scavenger hunts, photography, jewelry making, lots of arts & crafts.
  • TEENS - "Circle C" (12-14 yo), and "Club O2" (15-17 yo); dedicated teens-only lounges (including a pool and a disco), Disco and Karaoke parties, teen dinners and makeovers, late night movies, video games (PC, PS2, XBox), teen-only shore excursions.


  • Online pre-registration is available (kids between 2 and 17 years of age will be able to participate in the Carnival's children program once they arrive on board. The deadline for the on-line registration is 72 hours prior to sailing.
  • Leaving kids on board while in port - parents will be asked to show their tour ticket to the kids staff so in case of emergency, the staff to be able to contact the tour operator to inform the parents to return to the ship. This is not an option on non-Carnival tours and shore excursions.