For a vacation that allows families to experience adventure, relaxation and family time all in the same trip, a kid-friendly cruise is the trip to take. No matter the destination, younger kids and teens are not forgotten on many of these cruise lines geared toward families. From a Disney cruise to a voyage at sea with Dr. Seuss, here are our picks for the best cruise lines for families.
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Written by Courtney Elko
Disney Cruise Line
After a day of play, it"s off to any one of the many live shows featured, or The Ã¢â‚¬Å“Pirates of the CaribbeanÃ¢â‚¬Â deck party with fireworks. Onboard Disney Fantasy, there"s also a brand new Star Wars Day at Sea, where kids can get Jedi training, meet the characters and enjoy Star Wars-themed parties and shows.
Minimum Age to Sail: 6 months old
Best Parent Features: Parents really can"t go wrong with a Disney cruise. An adult-only pool can give parents some peace and quiet and a cabaret show or dance party gives them time to unwind. On the Disney Dream ship, adults will want to explore The District, an adults-only area filled with lounges, bars and nightclubs. Disney dining options offer themed and kids" meals and a program called Dine and Play, where kids can enjoy their meal early and then be escorted to kids" club, allowing parents some adult time.
Castaway Cay is Disney"s own private island port-of-call and features white-sand beaches, bike and walking trails, a sports beach, snorkeling lagoon and Scuttle"s Cove, which is a supervised kids" club with water play and activities for the kids, so mom and dad can explore the island on their own.
Family-Specific Accommodations: Deluxe rooms and suites offer families more living space, plus bathrooms with dual sinks. Luxury, private verandahs one- or two-bedroom suite can also be found in Disney staterooms.
Departure Ports: Barcelona, Spain, Copenhagen, Denmark, Dover, England, Galveston, Miami, New York, Port Canaveral, San Diego, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Vancouver
Within in the Quantum of the Seas class of ships, cruisers can find even more onboard activity extremes with RipCord By iFly (a sky-diving simulator), North Star (a capsule that ascends 300 feet above the sea), and the SeaPlex (an indoor space with roller skating, circus school and bumper cars). The DreamWorks Experience, with characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar to name a few, is also only on Royal Caribbean. Kids will love meeting the characters throughout the ship and at meals, and they can enjoy exclusive shows and movies, too.
Minimum Age to Sail: 6 months old; 12 months old on all transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii and South Pacific cruises
Best Parent Features: Ã¢â‚¬Å“My Family Time DiningÃ¢â‚¬Â is offered on Royal Caribbean, along with Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sitters at Sea,Ã¢â‚¬Â both allowing for family flexibility. Royal Caribbean is ideal for teen cruisers, too, so parents can ward off as many eye-rolls as possible and teens can enjoy movie nights, BBQs, and a teen-only nightclub.
Family-Specific Accommodations: The staterooms vary by ship, but many feature deluxe rooms and suites with private balconies.
Departure Ports by Region: Alaska, Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, South Pacific, Canada/New England, Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Transatlantic, South America, Europe, Arabian Gulf, Asia, Transpacific and Australia/New Zealand
Minimum Age to Sail: 6 months old; 12 months old if the voyage includes more than three consecutive days at sea
Best Parent Features: Dining is flexible onboard Norwegian ships, where kids" menus are available and kids under 3 eat free. Group babysitting in the evenings when a ship is in port is also available for an additional charge. Parents will also love the variety of live shows from Broadway and comedy to live jazz music and aerialist shows.
Family-Specific Accommodations: The Mini-Suites, Family Balcony and Balcony staterooms are all great for families of four, offering a sitting area, convertible or drop-down beds and space for storage. The two-bedroom family suites are also located near the kids" areas on the ship.
Departure Ports by Region: Alaska, Pacific Coastal, Hawaii, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, South America, Canada/New England, Bahamas and Florida, Bermuda, Caribbean, Transatlantic, Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand
Minimum Age to Sail: 6 months old; 12 months old on transatlantic, Hawaii and South America cruises
Best Parent Features: A kids" club called Camp Carnival for ages 2 to 11 (included in the package) and an evening of babysitting services are available for parents to get a little break, too. Then parents can hit the adults-only Serenity Retreat area where they will find lounge chairs, hammocks, a bar and relaxation.
Family-Specific Accommodations: The family-friendly staterooms can accommodate up to five people and there is an extra bathroom. Connecting rooms are also available.
Departure Ports: Athens, Greece, Baltimore, Barbados, Barcelona, Spain, Charleston, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Honolulu, Jacksonville, Long Beach, Miami, Mobile, New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, Port Canaveral, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Seattle, Tampa, Italy, Vancouver
Minimum Age to Sail: 12 months old
Best Parent Features: Kids sail for free on select sailings and as long as two full-paying guests are within the same stateroom. Parents can also feel secure in knowing their child has on a security bracelet in case anyone gets lost and a beeper or phone can be rented so families can stay in touch while exploring the ship. Flexible meal times make life easier for parents and kids, too. Baby care for ages 1 to 3 and a baby laundry service bring great convenience to families with young children on this family friendly cruise line.
Family-Specific Accommodations: The Super Family Suite can accommodate up to six people and includes two connecting triple cabins, two bathrooms and two balconies. This cabin also comes with a fixed per-cabin cost, not a per-person cost.
Departure Ports by Region: Caribbean and Antilles, South America, MSC Grand Voyages, South Africa, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman