Best cruises for families

Expedition Cruises
By Linsey McNeill
Home » Best cruises for families

Cruises can be ideal for a family holiday with some ships offering non-stop entertainment onboard including pools and waterparks, various activities from mini-golf to bumper cars, a variety of dining options with something to suit even the fussiest eaters – not to mention all the different ports of call.

Obviously, it’s crucial to pick the right cruise for the right family, taking into consideration the age of the children, the ship’s facilities, ports of call and the general vibe onboard.

Note that all ships within the same fleet don’t necessarily offer the same family-friendly facilities, so it’s important to check which ones cater for which age groups.

For young families

Several cruise lines cater well for young children, including Disney Cruise Line, P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean, and some, such as MSC Cruises, offer free stays for children sharing a cabin with their parents.

Disney has transported some of its theme park magic to the ocean with its cruise line offering Disney Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel character meet-and-greet sessions, youth clubs, themed waterparks and kid-friendly dining.

Best family cruises


Disney Very Merrytime Cruises (Kent Phillips, photographer)

For very young children, an It’s a Small World onboard nursery takes youngsters from six months to three-years-old, and there are family cabins, with thoughtful touches such as privacy curtains plus double sinks in the bathrooms.

P&O Cruises also has character appearances, from Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, and the array of onboard entertainment for little ones includes dance sessions, premieres of Aardman films. RCL’s newer ships, Arvia and Iona have splash areas for young ones, plus there are nurseries for babies from six months, plus kids clubs up to 17.

P&O Cruises also has the advantage of a wide choice of ex-UK cruises, so parents can avoid the hassle and cost of flying.

Royal Caribbean offers childcare and babysitting to allow parents some time off, while Marella Discovery and Discovery 2 have baby centres, and Cunard’s Play Zone takes children from two years old, plus there’s a kids club for 8-12 year olds.

River cruises tend to be less appealing to families, but A-ROSA and CroisiEurope are two lines that cater well for young children, with onboard creches and family cabins, plus child discounts on some ships.

For teenagers

No bored, moaning teens is pretty much guaranteed on cruise lines such as Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean which offer plenty of easily accessible entertainment.

Celebrity’s Camp At Sea, for children from three to 12, runs supervised activities such as treasure hunts and arts and crafts, while the Teen Club organises more grown up events such as video game competitions, teen parties and cooking classes. There are also outdoor movies nights, archery tournaments and silent discos.

Best family cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer Prima class ships have taken teen entertainment up a notch with facilities such as multi-deck race tracks and amusement arcades with virtual reality games. Family suites or interconnecting rooms are available and there are youth programmes on all its ships except NCL Spirit. Royal Caribbean ships are packed with activities, such as laser tag, mini golf and a surf similator, all to ensure parents will never hear the dreaded phrase “I’m bored”.

Other cruise lines

Don’t just look at the cruise lines that offer non-stop entertainment onboard. Other lines might also be good for kids too, depending on their age. Havila Voyages Head of UK Sales Matthew Valentine said cruises along the Norwegian coast are perfect for families who love the outdoors.

“Havila Voyages ships hug the coast, stopping regularly to offer incredible experiences such as boat trips, snowmobiling and husky sledding,” he said. “There is even the opportunity to meet and play with husky puppies.”

Cruises for multigeneration families

Celestyal UK Country Manager Jo Reid pointed out that cruises are also great for multigenerational families.

“They allow each member of the family to do as little or as much as they like, from reading a good book in a cosy corner to going ashore on adventurous excursions,” she said. “You can be sure to keep everyone in the family happy…and the best part is coming together in the evening to enjoy a delicious dining experience and to talk about your day.”

SeaDream UK Sales Director Natalie Read agreed. “Everyone goes off and does their own thing, there’s something for gran and something for the kids, and they all get together and have a lovely dinner in the evening.”

To find family-friendly cruises for youngsters or teens, check out our cruise directory.