The 6 Best Cruises for Kids in 2021

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The Rundown

Best Overall: MSC Meraviglia – See Rates at Cruisecritic

"There’s a bowling alley, two Formula 1 virtual-reality race cars, and a dazzling Cirque du Soleil show."

Best Activities: Carnival Cruise – See Rates at Expedia

"Kids can make a splash at Waterworks, Carnival’s thrilling waterpark at sea complete with Kaleid-O-Slide, a high-speed waterslide."

Best Cruise Experience: Norwegian Cruise Line – See Rates at Cruisecritic

"There’s no set dining times or strict dress code – allowing a lot more flexibility."

Best Large Cruise: Caribbean Cruise on Royal – See Rates at Cruisecritic

"Allure of the Seas is the third largest cruise ship in the world and every inch of it is jammed packed things for families to do."

Best Educational: Princess Cruises – See Rates at Cruisecritic

"Partners with Discovery to offer educational experiences that highlight some popular shows, as well as enriching excursions."

Best River Cruise: AMA Waterways (Adventures by Disney) – See Rates at Cruisecritic

"Offers kid-friendly river cruises that are loaded with educational opportunities."

Best Overall: MSC Meraviglia

MSC Meraviglia

Courtesy of MSC Meraviglia

  • Sails from: Miami
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: MSC Meraviglia
  • Itinerary: Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras; Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, United States

MSC, the Mediterranean cruise line that’s making waves in the American market, is known for being very kid-friendly and has discounted rates for children. On the newest ship, Meraviglia, kids will love the Polar Aquapark with waterslides, a “Himalayan bridge,” and several pools and a splash bucket. There’s also a bowling alley, two Formula 1 virtual-reality race cars, and a dazzling Cirque du Soleil show. Restaurants onboard Meraviglia have kid-friendly menus and the kid’s club is fantastic including two teens clubs–one for 12 to 14-year-olds and one for ages 15 to 17. The ship is fitted with family cabins that connect (for extended families), and off the ship, there are other family-friendly excursions. 

Best Activities: Carnival Cruise

Carnival Cruise

Courtesy of Carnival Cruise

  • Sails from: Galveston
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship name: Carnival Vista
  • Itinerary: Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Cozumel, Mexico

The port of Galveston is home to the Carnival Vista, a game-changing ship for Carnival that is chock full of fun activities. Kids can make a splash at Waterworks, Carnival’s thrilling waterpark at sea complete with Kaleid-O-Slide, a high-speed waterslide with a changing pattern of lights. Then there’s Sky Ride, a suspended bike course with great views but is not for the faint of heart, and a giant IMAX movie theater. Family favorites like Dr. Seuss characters can be found roaming the decks, or kids can head over to the Build-A-Bear workshop. The kids club, Camp Ocean, has a roster full of activities for each age group and tweens and teens have their own space, too.

Best Cruise Experience: Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Sails from: Los Angeles
  • Duration: 5 nights
  • Ship Name: Norwegian Bliss
  • Itinerary: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Ensenada, Mexico

Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Freestyle Cruise” approach is perfect for families–there’s no set dining times or strict dress code–allowing a lot more flexibility. NCL’s ships are built with families in mind and its newest member, Bliss, has something for everyone. Speed around the race car track on the top deck, play laser tag or mini golf at sea, or zoom down high-speed waterslides at the Aqua Park. The teen’s club, Entourage, has movies, video games, music, and dance parties, while the Splash Academy hosts a slew of activities geared to the younger crowd. For larger families needing more space, there’s a wide variety of suite staterooms, and 2-bedroom family suites in the Haven, NCL’s exclusive enclave. 

Best Large Cruise: Caribbean Cruise on Royal

Royal Caribbean

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean 

  • Sails from: Ft. Lauderdale
  • Duration: 7 Nights
  • Ship Name: Allure of the Seas
  • Itinerary: Cozumel, Mexico; Costa Maya, Mexico; Nassau, Bahamas

Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas is the third largest cruise ship in the world and every inch of it is jammed packed with things for families to do. For the adventure and sports types, there’s a surf simulator, ice skating, rock climbing, basketball, volleyball, and ziplining over the ship’s “boardwalk”–a walking promenade that’s home to a carousel. In the evenings, there are Broadway shows and the one-of-a-kind Aqua Theater with high-diving and acrobatic acts. The kid’s clubs are some of the best at sea: with a hands-on science adventure lab and “Imagination Studio” where kids can create paintings and sculptures. On the Caribbean cruise, passengers are also treated to a day in Nassau, where kids can explore the island's history, as it was once home to famous pirates and buccaneers.

Best Educational: Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises

Courtesy of Princess Cruises

  • Sails from: Fort Lauderdale
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: Regal Princess
  • Itinerary: Princess Cay (Bahamas); Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico

Princess partners with Discovery to offer educational experiences onboard the Regal Princess that highlight some popular shows (think Shark Week), as well as enriching excursions–meaning the kids will return home after a cruise full of hands-on learning. In the evenings, families can watch movies under the stars on the pool deck or the elaborate water show–with fountains shooting 33 feet into the air. The kid’s camps are broken into three age groups, with a tree-house themed club for the little ones, an outdoor lodge for the eight to 12 crowd, and a beach house for tweens and teens. Club events include talent shows, theme nights, and treasure hunts. When it’s time to rest, Princess has two-bedroom family suites. 

Best River Cruise: AMA Waterways (Adventures by Disney)

AMA Waterways (Adventures by Disney)

Courtesy of Adventures by Disney

  • Sails from: Vilshofen, Germany
  • Duration: 7 nights
  • Ship Name: AmaLea
  • Itinerary: Passau, Germany; Linz, Austria; Wachau Valley, Austria; Weissenkirchen in der Wachau, Austria; Krems, Austria; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary

European river cruises have traditionally been geared towards the older crowd–that is, until Disney came along. Disney has partnered with AMA Waterways, which specializes in luxury river cruises in Europe, to offer kid-friendly river cruises that are loaded with educational opportunities. The all-inclusive cruises bundle shore excursions, meals, gratuities, and beer and wine at dinner. Disney Adventure Guides who help showcase each destination are onboard each cruise, plus there are Disney movie nights, and cultural immersion opportunities for the kids. The 7-night Christmas Market cruise is a great way for the families to celebrate the holidays along the magical Danube River with snow-dusted towns and villages decorated in lights.

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