If you’re looking for a great family holiday where you can explore the world and enjoy some quality time together, there’s no better venue than a cruise. There might have been a time when cruising was seen solely as an activity for the older generation, but that certainly isn’t the case any more.
Cruise fleets, especially most of the newer ships, have a plethora of activities to keep the kids and teens amused, so all members of your cruising party, young and old, are guaranteed to have a good time. Almost every cruise line has great family-friendly programmes, with kids’ clubs, swimming pools, games rooms, arts and crafts and children-themed performances and buffets. All you have to do now is decide which cruise liner you’d like to take your family on. Read through our cruising for kids guide and see which liner floats your boat.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International® are renowned for their family-friendly activities, especially onboard their bigger ships such as Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. These magnificent ships have the size and space to host some spectacular activities that the kids will be dying to try, such as rock climbing, the Flow Rider wave surf simulator and even a zipline!
On selected ships, little cruisers will be able to enjoy shows, parades and meet-and-greets from their favourite DreamWorks characters like Shrek and Po from Kung Fu Panda. Food-wise your little ones will be well catered for with kid’s menus and specialty dinning rooms. Kids under five eat for free in some restaurants and they can also meet their favourite characters over a meal at the DreamWorks Character Breakfast.
Carnival Cruise Lines
If you’re looking for great value entertainment for the kids, then consider Carnival Cruise Lines. Their newer ships, in particular, offer some great activities to keep the kids busy while you get some well-earned rest. The kids’ club is a hit with all ages from 2 to 17. There are three clubs in total, split into different age groups, so your children will always be playing with others of a similar age.
If you do manage to pry your kids away from the club, surprise them with a tasty treat from the irresistible sweet shop Cherry on Top, Stacked to the ceiling with jars full of delicious candy in every imaginable colour. This shop is like something out of a dream world and is bound to be a hit with the youngest members of your party.
Carnival has their own partnership with Dr. Seuss and your kids can enjoy several Seuss-themed events including a Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast, Seuss-a-Palooza parade and story time. Kid’s menus are also available in all in the dining rooms.
Celebrity Cruises® runs an exciting programme for kids and teens onboard. The Fun Factory has a selection of entertainment options especially crafted for specific age groups, from Shipmates aged 3 to 5, Cadets aged 6 to 8, Ensigns aged 9 to 11 and teens aged 12 to 17. Parties take place throughout the day at lunchtime, dinner and later in the evening. Teens will love the Xbox experience rooms, videography learning courses and teens-only late night dances. All activities are supervised and hosted by Youth Counsellors.
Celebrity Cruises has endless options for picky eaters and on Celebrity Reflection®, they have made to order pastas, pizzas, stir-fries and an omelette bar, as well as Indian and Mexican food stations. This ship also boasts an ice cream bar with daily fresh-made ice cream and endless sweet toppings.
If you’re considering a P&O Cruises ship, then be sure to opt for one of their child-friendly cruises like Aurora, Azura, Oceana and Ventura. While the whole fleet can offer a great holiday, these ships in particular have been built with family-friendly entertainment in mind. There’s soft play areas for little ones and Splashers facilities in the pool. The ships also host family-friendly events, like magic shows and family discos.
In addition to The Reef Kids Club, parents have the option to drop kids off at the special children’s tea area in the evening, while they enjoy dinner together. Children’s tea offers all of the kids’ favourites, including sausages, fish fingers and pizza. Of course, there are many healthy options available as well, such as salads, soups, fruit and pasta.
Princess Cruises have an exclusive partnership with the California Space Center, so they have staff on hand to deliver exciting and engaging science lessons like nothing you have seen before! Your kids may find themselves building a roller coaster, watching for whales or even dissecting a squid. They also run a programme called Pete’s Pals, which will give your kids the lowdown on the threatened and endangered species that they may encounter during their holiday – an absolute must for little animal lovers!
Older teens will enjoy The Beach House, a specialty lounge to socialise in and The Rock the Boat Party, an evening of mocktails, dancing, awards and celebrating with friends. Princess Cruises knows that sometimes you’ll need a break from the kids, so they offer a variety of opportunities for kids to eat with their new friends and youth staff, while you enjoy a romantic dinner for two.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
In 2016 Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines launched its new kids club programme ‘Little Skippers’. This club is run on four ships, Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch. You can rest easy, letting your kids enjoy the activities in the kids club that range from arts and crafts sessions, deck games, treasure hunts, quizzes, cookie and pizza making, through to games evenings and swimming classes.
Children’s menus onboard offer a wide selection of yummy favourites and a limited number of high chairs are available on each cruise ship.
No kids’ programme seems more thought out than MSC Cruises. This family-owned company has it all, starting with a variety of kids’ clubs that offer sports, group games, Xbox tournaments, dance classes and performances. If you need a little time alone with your special someone, the MSC Babycare Service is happy to help with ages one to three.
Teens get their own lounge to hang out in, with a massive choice of activities so they can make new friends and do their own thing. They also have weekly teen events including the Teen White Party, MSC Flashmob and the MSC Generation Awards Teens Talent Show.
There are dedicated children’s menus in all restaurants and lots of options for meals. Come for Fun Time Dinners, where children can dine with the entertainment staff, or Happy Dinners, where children are escorted to the Miniclub after dinner, while adults sit back and leisurely enjoy their meal.
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines has a whole host of programmes to keep your little ones entertained and having fun. Their Splash Academy has a range of activities for all ages including sensory play, circus school, treasure hunts, painting, team-building challenges, video gaming and themed nights. The Entourage Room, for teenagers, has films, art, music, sports and a cool dance club.
The family dinning buffet has something for every appetite, including the Action Stations with meat-carving, made to order pastas, omelettes, waffles, soft-serve ice cream and more.
Marella Cruises (formally Thomson Cruises)’ Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2 are chock-full of child-friendly activities and facilities. From the Kids’ Club to the teens-only space, The Hideout. There’s also mini golf onboard and a climbing wall. Little ones will love the interactive evening show, Splash Live! And there’s Babytainment classes for parents and under-threes, where they can learn nursery rhymes and baby ballet.
Kid’s dinning includes the buffet restaurant, with a huge selection of dishes like pasta and fries, with ice-cream cones for dessert. There’s also afternoon teas, with gooey cakes and freshly baked scones.
Cunard’s ship, the Queen Mary 2, has some of the top cruise activities for children. Their Play Zone is a space where younger cruisers can enjoy age-appropriate activities like arts and crafts, toys, puzzles and books. They also have themed days, such as the Wild West, Under the Sea and Sports Day, as well as a wading pool outdoors. If you have very little ones, a crib-equipped nursery for ages 12-23 months is available, so you can have a quiet dinner alone.
The Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 ships all serve a Children’s Tea. This light supper is served in the buffet restaurant and includes kid favourites like baked beans, pizzas and pastas, as well as baby food and milk for any tots onboard.
Have you taken your kids on a cruise? What was your experience like? Share your story with us in the comments below!
Images by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, P&O and Princess
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