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Remember watching the Love Boat on TV? How often did you see children? Hardly ever, right? Back in the day, cruises were thought to be for wealthy adults, and there were no cruises for kids. So it used to be a battle to find ships that were accommodating to them. Now, the problem is sorting through the abundance of kid’s activities, kids clubs, and family cabins to figure out which ships are best for your children. To make matters worse, ships change extraordinarily, from one line to another and inside fleets, making some better than others as far as activities and entertainment.
Each family’s style is different, so these are definitely not the only cruises to consider. Instead, consider them the jumpstart you need to plan an extraordinary family cruise get-away.
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Royal Caribbean ships are some of the largest ships and are ideal for families with children, including multigenerational family groups. The Oasis-class ships have an amazing collection of activities and entertainment great for the whole family – numerous pools, a 3D theater, rock-climbing walls, an ice skating arena, two FlowRider surf simulators, a zipline, and parades in the indoor promenade.
The Symphony and Harmony have the Ultimate Abyss slide, a 10-story slide that drops you through light-and audio effects, finishing on the Boardwalk, which would be great for older children (Must be 43 inches tall to slide.). The entrance to the slide on Deck 16 is through the open jaws of an enormous anglerfish – probably the most startling part of the entire experience is that the ride is over surprisingly fast.
Anthem of the Seas has a more refined atmosphere, but many of its attractions will still impress families. They include the SeaPlex (bumper cars, rollerskating, arcade games, and more), a skydiving simulator at sea, and the North Star, a London Eye-Esque ride that takes travelers in a glass capsule 300 feet over the sea. It also has a theater, Two70, with shows that feature the boat’s awe-inspiring innovation.
Parents and grandparents can appreciate adult-only Solariums and a wide variety of dining and evening entertainment choices. With nursery care and after-hours fun in the children’s clubs, grown-ups can appreciate adult time at night while kids play or rest. (Voyager and Freedom-class ships are also great choices for families.)
A great deal of space is committed to the kid’s clubs on these ships, with isolated areas for babies, kids, and tweens/teenagers. You’ll also discover a theater, arts and crafts workshop, science lab, video arcade, and the Scratch DJ Academy (not on Anthem of the Seas). The Royal Tots and Royal Babies programs give interactive classes and exercises (when joined by a parent) for kids from 6 months to three years old and drop-off babysitting and toddler-friendly play spaces. The Adventure Ocean play spaces take into account Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5), Explorers (6 to 8), and Voyagers (9 to 11). Tweens and teenagers (12 to 17) have their Living Room café style stomping ground and Fuel disco.
Some of the kid-friendly features include many family staterooms and suites, which mean space for the family to spread out. There’s even a Royal Family cabin that fits eight and Symphony’s Ultimate Family Suite with a slide, LEGO wall, and games galore.
With a plethora of dining options, including casual eateries like a hot dog joint and a New York-style pizza joint, as well as a variety of upscale specialty restaurants, no taste is overlooked. Johnny Rockets, the 1950s-style restaurant, is always a kid magnet (and parents think it’s pretty cool, too). Excellent Broadway-style shows in the evenings will keep the older crowd engaged, while parades and ice skating shows will wow the whole family. The spa also offers special treatments for teens.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney ships are ideal for families with kids ages 4 to 11, as Disney has the best entertainment, dining, and activities for this age group. Disney Cruise Line has done a lot more to appeal to tweens and teenagers – but its ships actually hold the most interest for the younger set.
Disney takes a separate yet inclusive approach to its children’s programming, mostly to accommodate siblings and friends traveling together. For example, the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab permit kids ages 3 to 12 access to the same spaces and activities; however, programming is designed for the younger kids in the Club and older kids in the Lab.
The Oceaneer Club offers a few themed play areas that are distinctive on each ship, including Andy’s Room (from “Toy Story”), Monsters Academy (motivated by “Monsters, Inc.”), and Marvel’s Avengers Academy, a S.H.I.E.L.D. base where children can interact with the Avengers through a virtual game. Disney Dream includes a replica of the Millennium Falcon from “Star Wars,” where kids can pretend to be a pilot or learn lightsaber strategies from a Jedi Master. The Oceaneer Lab has an Animator’s Studio and a mini sound studio.
There’s a kids club called Edge devoted completely to tweens ages 11 to 14, with video games, karaoke, and computers. The Teen’s club, Vibe (for cruisers ages 14 to 17), has a coffee shop feel. There is also a nursery available for the smallest cruisers, ages 6 months to 3 years, for an additional fee.
Disney ships have a children’s pool, family pool, and an adults-only pool. The well-known AquaDuck waterslide is a hit with families on Fantasy and Dream, while the AquaDunk thrills families aboard Disney Magic. On all except Disney Dream, the AquaLab has sprayers and fountains ideal for the littlest ones. Other venues include the Walt Disney Theater, which highlights live shows including Disney top choices (for example, “Tangled, the Musical” and “Frozen, the Musical”); the Buena Vista Theater, which screens first-run films; and D Lounge, which presents interactive activities for children and parents.
Disney’s cabins are family-friendly with room-dividing drapes, bunk beds with sparkle light constellations, and a lot of storage. The bath and a half in many staterooms permit people to shower in one while another person utilizes the toilet in the other. Disney’s ships likewise hold a cool “Pirates of the Caribbean” deck party, with fireworks and Jack Sparrow rappelling off the ship’s funnel. Other themed events on select sailings include Star Wars Day at Sea, Marvel Day at Sea, and exceptional Halloween and Christmas events all through the fall. In addition, all ships highlight the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where kids are changed into princesses, pirates, knights, and sea captains.
Onboard eateries effectively keep kids engaged while also allowing parents to appreciate the meal. For instance, in Animator’s Palate, animated dinner shows incorporate “Discovering Nemo” characters bantering with passengers and children’s drawings come to life; at Rapunzel’s Royal Table, “Tangled” characters perform tunes between courses. Waitstaff will cut your children’s food and offer various kid favorites, for example, mac-n-cheese and mini-burgers. There are also adults-only restaurants so parents can take advantage of the kids club and have a night out on their own.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line’s Vista-and Dream-class ships offer a variety of fun and do a great job at entertaining children, including clubs for the 2 to 11 set, tweens, and adolescents. In addition, the ships offer a wonderful assortment of family activities and spaces. Families will utilize two open-air pools and SportSquare; a multistory IMAX theater (Vista Class only); and probably the biggest at-sea water park.
The fleetwide Camp Ocean engages cruisers ages 2 to 11, separated into three groups, with marine-themed exercises and different games. Carnival is the only line to permit 2-year-olds into its free drop-off programs, and counselors will change diapers. Camp Ocean takes up an enormous upper deck piece, while the tween and high schooler clubs are isolated from the little ones on lower decks. Circle C pre-adolescents (12 to 14) and Club O2 youngsters (15 to 17) have their own spaces, and children have access to dance and pool parties, special teenagers-only shore excursions, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.
A real draw for kids on these ships is WaterWorks, a water park with different waterslides, sprayers, soakers, and a sprinkle area for little (yet potty-trained) kids. In addition, kids can play in the pool and SportSquare, an outside activity area with a mini-golf course, ball courts and foosball tables, and the exciting new SkyRide cycling attraction on Vista-class ships.
Watch films outside on the Dream-class ships at the Seaside Theater, a 22-foot sized screen. In addition, the Breeze is home to the Thrill Theater, a 3D-film theater with “multidimensional impacts” (think seats moving, wind blowing, and even water sprinkling during shows). On Vista and Horizon, Multiplex screens flick in both an IMAX Theater and a Thrill Theater. Families can romp on an unnerving ropes course or participate in Carnival’s “Hasbro, The Game” show, a fun contest and stage show with games as prizes.
All of my recommended ships offer a lot of family-friendly staterooms. For example, Vista-class ships have Family Harbor staterooms that can host up to five cruisers. You’ll also have access to a Family Lounge, free dinners for youngsters at select for-fee restaurants, one free evening of after-hours babysitting in Camp Ocean, and cute little shower robes. Adolescents are additionally welcome in Carnival’s spas. Also, all Carnival ships offer Build-A-Bear workshops where children can make their plush toys (for an additional fee).
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian’s relaxed atmosphere makes it an excellent decision for kids, especially for families who prefer not to worry about set dining times and dress codes. Norwegian’s more modern ships offer all the uber big-ship bells & whistles families have come to love.
Norwegian’s Splash Academy has separate activities for children ages 3 to 5, 6 to 9, and 10 to 12. Kids can do arts & crafts, sing karaoke and play video games. Epic has a jungle gym, a lot of space to wander, and an interactive light-up dance floor. The Splash Academies take up two floors on Norwegian Escape, Breakaway, and Getaway are the line’s biggest kids’ spaces at sea, home to cutting edge games, a circus school, and a small cinema. Entourage is a space for teenagers 13 to 17 with air hockey, video games, sumptuous couches, and flat screen TVs. Finally, Escort transforms into a teens-only dance club at night.
Late-night babysitting is available for an additional fee. All ships have parent-child play areas and programming for infants 6 months to 3 years. Only Norwegian Escape offers drop-off childcare for little kids in the Guppies Nursery.
Popular activities on these ships include stone climbing and rappelling walls, climbing cages, bowling lanes, and exceptional water park areas. Epic has a 303-foot-long corkscrew tube and the Drainpipe, a 104-foot tube draining into a gigantic funnel. Breakaway and Getaway have five multistory waterslides and The Plank, an 8-foot walk (part of the ropes course) that stretches out over the ship’s edge and above the ocean. Finally, Escape offers an immense rope course at sea and one of the biggest water parks.
Norwegian Epic hosts “Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical,” an incredible show for children of all ages. Epic likewise has 46 two-bedroom family villas that hold up to six people, while Breakaway and Getaway have 20 two-bedroom villas. On Escape, the Haven has two-bedroom family suites that sleep up to six passengers, and there is an extra 40 family mini-suites with bathtubs.
Princess Cruise Line
Princess ships include extensive programs, facilities, and accommodations for parents and kids. Two of the line’s most recent and most giant ships, Royal and Regal Princess, have great additions just for families, including extended kids club spaces, additional dining alternatives, a batting cage, and laser shooting range, a more extensive pool deck with a water and light show and poolside cabanas.
Further, as a component of growing its association with Discovery Communications, Princess is redoing the kid spaces on a few of its ships to incorporate energetic, current stylistic design. In addition, they have Discovery-inspired programming, which includes fun and informative activities, which has rolled out fleetwide.
Named Camp Discovery, the rebranded kids clubs include The Treehouse for children 3 to 7, The Lodge for children 8 to 12, and The Beach House for teens 13 to 17. Activities may consist of a scavenger hunt themed around Caribbean sharks, hand-on “Mythbusters”- style puzzles, learning the science of magic, junior ranger programs, and general cruise activities, like, video game competitions, art projects, and storytime. In addition, the children’s clubs are equipped with foosball, air hockey, and even Skee-Ball. In addition, adolescents can choose from sports competitions, themed parties, dance classes, and late-night movies.
On Grand-class ships (Ruby Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess), two enormous pools are family-friendly (Calypso Reef and Pool, and Neptune Reef and Pool), and there’s a sprinkle pool devoted to youngsters. In addition, Royal and Regal Princess have outside play areas with a jungle gym for youngsters ages 3 to 7 and another for teenagers with a teens-only hot tub and space for outdoor parties.
Movies Under the Stars is the line’s enormous outside theater playing poolside features on the top deck after the dark. The 300-square-foot screen shows child- and adolescent-friendly films, as well as fun for the whole family blockbusters and live sports and awards ceremonies. In addition, parents are free to go to the Jr. Chef@Sea Program, a hands-on gourmet expert-led cooking class that happens in a shipboard kitchen right alongside their growing culinary kids.
The Discovery association extends past the kids club to entire family programming. Shark Week at Sea offers shark-themed games and activities for the whole family on select summer sailings. Interestingly, families on select Alaska sailings can set out on a quest for Big Foot (a la the TV show “Finding Bigfoot”) or take part in a crab-sorting challenge (inspired by “Deadliest Catch”). Princess marks select shore excursions as Discovery Family Tours geared toward families with kids ages 3 to 12 and include hands-on activities that connect children to the destination. Animal Planet tours are ideal for parents and children who want to see whales, sharks, sloths, and different critters up close.
Hopefully, I’ve provided enough information to get you started in your journey to choosing a ship your kids will enjoy. Cruise lines have gone out of their way to ensure that cruise vacations have something for everyone, no matter their age. Been on a ship not mentioned? Let me know below and tell me what you and your children loved about it!