10 Best Cruises For Families
The strategy is working: Carnival Cruise Lines reports the number of kids onboard annually has increased in 10 years from 100,000 to 600,000. All the major cruise lines now have kidsï¿½ programs with age-appropriate and fun activities catering to everyone from toddlers to teens. Several lines, including Princess and Royal Caribbean, even add an educational aspect with science experiments; Disney offers animation art lessons.
ï¿½What Iï¿½ve always liked about cruises is the no-brainer aspect,ï¿½ says Coben. ï¿½No packing and unpacking, and you can hit a lot of spots. You wake up and youï¿½re in a new port.ï¿½ And thanks to supervised kidsï¿½ programs, he and his wife and the kids can all do their own thing. ï¿½You have the advantages of being with them and not being with them,ï¿½ Coben explains.
Sadie MacKinnon of Boston is a veteran cruiser at age 9, and she has advice. ï¿½Going on a cruise is better than traveling on a plane or train, because theyï¿½re cool. I like that there are pools, giant movie screens, and lots of restaurants, and getting off at different islands and doing all the stuff like horseback riding and snorkeling,ï¿½ says MacKinnon, whose last cruise was on a Princess ship. ï¿½I canï¿½t wait to go on another cruise.ï¿½
Generally the newer ships are better for families, with more of the offerings kids find appealing. Queens of this trend are Royal Caribbeanï¿½s newest ships, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, the worldï¿½s largest ships, which are equipped with ice-skating rinks, rock-climbing walls, miniature golf, wave pools for onboard surfing, water parks with squirting geysers, basketball courts, and more.
Cruise lines have also added family-friendly accommodations. Disney offers cabins for five with sleeping areas in the living room and 1-1/2 baths; Royal Caribbean has family cabins featuring alcoves that can accommodate six; and the newest Norwegian Cruise Line ships, including Norwegian Gem, have a good variety of cabin arrangements (standard cabins for the kids connect to extravagant suites for parents).
New, beefed-up dining optionsï¿½buffets and pizzerias open long hours so restless kids donï¿½t have to sit in a formal dining room every nightï¿½are now the norm on family ships. NCL and Princess also give cruising clans the chance to eat in the dining room whenever they want (the other lines still require a set time and assigned table in the dining room; you can eat anytime at the buffet).
Even luxury line Crystal, very much a posh adult playground, is encouraging visits by the younger set, organizing a kidsï¿½ activities program whenever kids are onboard and encouraging multigenerational family gatherings by offering substantial discounts for kid cruisers.
With this sea change, one thingï¿½s certain: thereï¿½s an ocean of options for cruising families, and kids are sure to have the most fun of all.