One of the highlights of a cruise vacation is the kids’ club! These onboard activity hubs encourage kids to play together—usually free of additional charges—while parents enjoy some alone time. Here are the best kids’ clubs on cruise ships.
1. MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises offers six distinct kids’ areas on their ships. Parents with babies can go to MSC Baby Time to play together and meet other families with children of a similar age. Little ones will love shaking, rattling and rolling Chicco toys. Babies can even compete in Mini Olympic Games! New MSC Babycare service allows parents to drop off kids ages 1 to 3 for an added fee.
Mini Club is for sailors ages 3 to 6 and Junior Club is for pirates ages 7 to 11. LEGO bricks, arts, crafts, dance performances, sports and video games are some of the activities kids will enjoy under the care of professional staff.
Tweens and teens get their own spaces with the Young Club (ages 12 to 14) and Teens Club (ages 15 to 17). Supervision is provided, but older kids are invited to do their own thing in activities like sport tournaments, dance contests and teen beauty treatments. Flash mobs, karaoke, a teen white party (where teens wear all white pants, white shoes and a white shirt) and even a teen prom make it even more fun for teenagers to gather and make new friends.
And when families want to hang out together on MSC cruise ships, there’s DOREMI Studio, a lounge just for families that includes a green screen for talent shows and family disco. Can you dig it?
2. Princess Cruises
What’s super cool about Princess Cruises’ kids’ club is their partnership with Discovery. Reimagined youth centers are rolling out fleetwide in 2020 and include three areas for kids of various ages. The Treehouse is a forest-themed space for children ages 3 to 7. Kids ages 8 to 12 will kick back at The Lodge, where they can play sports and lounge in an outdoor-themed area. The Beach House is just for teens (ages 13 to17) and gives them their own place to chill and socialize.
Camp Discovery hosts all sorts of engaging activities inspired by popular Animal Planet and Discovery channel shows, like MythBusters, Shark Week and Finding Bigfoot. Kids can step into a scene from one of their favorite shows, try hands-on challenges, explore different environments and even meet local animals, like puppies in Alaska and parrots in the Caribbean. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers are welcome in Camp Discovery when supervised by a parent.
Teens will feel like VIPs at the Rock the Boat Party, where they get to dress up in their fancies, walk the red carpet and sip mocktails. Sports competitions, dance classes lead by crew dancers and scary movie nights give teens lots of opportunities to make loads of special memories.
3. Disney Cruise Line
The magic of Disney comes to life for kids aboard Disney’s four cruise ships in slightly different ways. Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Ocean Lab are the two main clubs for kids ages 3 to12. While they are two different clubs, they are also connected so that kids can explore and visit friends and family members. Andy’s Room, modeled after Toy Story, is on all four ships in Disney’s Oceaneer Club, yet is multi-level on the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic.
Character performances, dress-up, drawing, storytelling, games and crafts keep kids’ imaginations going. Popular activities bring whimsical Disney storytelling to life, such as Toy Story Boot Camp, Jedi Training on Disney Dream and Become Iron Man on Disney Magic. Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream feature Marvel Super Hero Academy, Star War- themed areas and Magic PlayFloor, an interactive floor where kids can race cars around a track like Lightning McQueen or soar over London with Peter Pan.
Disney’s youth centers boast some of the longest operating hours at sea, and even offer lunch and dinner at Disney’s Oceaneer Club on select days so that parents can enjoy some of the awesome adult-only dining options. Parents, babies, preschoolers, those over age 18, and kids whom are not yet potty-trained are invited to visit during Youth Activities Open House.
It’s A Small World Nursery offers some of the lowest rates for baby and toddler care at sea. Horns, wheels and other interactive toys delight toddlers, while the quiet area in the back of the nursery is reserved for naptime. A one-way mirror makes it easy for parents to check in on their little ones without disrupting their play.
Tweens and teens get their own trendy hangout spaces on all four Disney cruise ships. Edge is for ages 11 to 14, while Vibe is for ages 14 to 17. Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream even feature private teen sun decks within Vibe. High-tech entertainment, interactive activities like DJ lessons and improv, a coffee bar and smoothie station keep older kids coming back for more.
Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, also features special areas just for kids, including Scuttle’s Cove play area for ages 3 to 12 to explore with counselors, the teen Hide Out, and supervised tween activities.
4. Royal Caribbean
Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean’s youth programming for toilet-trained kids ages 3 to 17 hosted by trained childcare staff. Edu-tainment is the name of the game and it’s all about making learning fun for kids and giving teens a place to kick back.
Hands-on programming includes science, art and theater activities like Wacky Water Workshop and volcano experiments. Play spaces and activities are separated by age group. Aquanauts, ages 3 to 5, will enjoy space night, finger painting and bingo. Explorers, ages 6 to 8, go ga-ga over pajama night, talent show and Nutty Nicknames. Karaoke, scavenger hunts and crazy tag are just a few of the fun options for Voyagers, ages 9 to 11.
Teens ages 12 to 14 are entertained with video games, pool parties, scavenger hunts and sports tournaments. Teens 15 to 17-years-old get to roll the dice at Casino Night, train to be a DJ and face off in Battle of the Sexes. There’s also fun island activities for teens, such as beach volleyball and water balloon toss.
Royal Babies is a drop-off nursery on select ships for kids 6 months to 36 months. Parents wishing to play or create art with their children will enjoy Free-time play and the Royal Tot Art Program. The Toy Lending Program is also fabulous for families who want to pack light yet ensure their little ones have engaging toys to explore everyday.
Late Night Group sitting is available from 10 pm to 2 am for parents who want to get their party on. Kids ages 3 to 11 can be cared for in their own late night party for an hourly fee. Or take advantage of Sitters at Sea, a program that includes babysitting in your own stateroom so kids can rest and play in their own space for an added fee. My Time Family Dining is a great way for families to start meals together, then kids will be escorted off to Adventure Ocean while parents continue the rest of their food and beverages without the kids asking when they’ll be done. Adventure Ocean Dining is an option for kids to eat dinner with youth staff and friends.
5. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line’s complimentary Splash Academy is available aboard 16 of the 17 ships within the fleet. The facilities and activities are split into four different age groups for children ages 3 to 12.
Turtles ages 3 to 5 get giddy over Circus School, parades and treasure hunts with trained staff. Seals ages 6 to 9 will learn Circus Skills like plate juggling, participate in team-building challenges and paint. Dolphins ages 10 to 12 can try to walk on stilts, play sports, video games and go undercover at Spy Night. Port Play and Late Night Fun Zone offer supervised entertainment for the kids so that parents can enjoy a port excursion or evening activities on their own. Fees may apply.
Parents and kids under age 2 can play together at Guppies, a sensory activity space featuring music and movement. Families sailing on Norwegian Escape with tots under age 3 can drop them off for special care at the Guppies Nursery for an added fee.
Teens ages 13 to 17 will love hanging out at Entourage, where they can watch movies, play video games and compete in sports all on their own (without pesky adults around). By day, teens can create balloon sculptures and graffiti art. By night, they can shake it at themed dance parties in the teen dance club, including Glow and College Night.
Family activities onboard Norwegian Cruise Line include pizza making, game shows and trivia. Youth counselors and Cruise Staff help make things fun and create great bonding experiences for the whole family.
Want to whip around a racetrack onboard a cruise ship? Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore are newer ships that feature the only racetracks at sea (which are some of the highest-rated recreation activities onboard), open-air laser tag arenas and dedicated virtual reality and gaming complexes.
Carnival Cruise Line carries about one million kids a year, the most in the cruising industry, due to their focuses on fun and affordability. Carnival features three kids’ programs each with their own separate spaces.
Camp Ocean is for kids ages 2 to 11 and features new marine-themed programming onboard all 27 Carnival ships. Decked out like an underwater play space, Camp Ocean offers more than 200 ocean-inspired activities such as Design Your Own Aquarium and Create a Penguin From Oreos. Experienced staff encourages Penguins, ages 2 to 5, to create miniature play igloos, Sting Rays ages 6 to 8 to create Sea Salt Art, and Sharks, ages 9 to 11, to participate in interactive gaming, among other activities. Some ships have Party Reef space for group activities and Creative Corner for arts and crafts breakouts. Camp Ocean covers 11 key areas of play to help ensure children find activities they are truly interested in.
Circle “C” is for 12 to 14 year-olds and Club 02 is for 15 to 17-year-olds. Teens can come and go as they please from Club 02 and participate in activities like capture the flag, jewelry making and karaoke. They can hang out, listen to music and even attend a prom. Circle “C” is a space for tweens to Cruise, Chill and Connect. Bean bag toss, board games, video games and even themed face painting are fun supervised activities they can check out as they choose.
Carnival also offers family activates like Seuss at Sea, “Hasbro, The Game Show,” all-ages comedy performances and some of the largest water parks at sea. When the family all gets together to enjoy these interactive activities, you can’t help but have a good time.
Cortney Fries (pronounced “freeze”) is an award-winning Chicago-based writer and mom to two spunky elementary school-age kids. She loves nothing more than traveling with family, having adventures with friends and exploring the outdoors. Cortney believes that you should definitely do things that scare you just a little bit. Follow her on Instagram, @cortneyfries.