Family cruises are often memorable vacations. Cruise ships cater to all ages and many offer interesting and/or educational age-specific children's programs. With over 60 cruise lines and almost 300 cruise ships to choose from, selecting the right cruise line for your cruise vacation is often difficult. For most families, large cruise ships offer the greatest variety of activities and often provide youth counselors to enhance your kid's memories even more.
All of the large ship cruise lines (with most ships over 1000 guests) offer kid's programs for ages 3 through 17. Many also have onboard nurseries for babies.
More information: Which Cruise Line Is the Best Fit for Your Family?
Carnival Cruise Lines markets itself as the "fun ships", and the cruise line has a variety of family-friendly amenities at its fleet-wide Camp Carnival. Carnival has scheduled onboard programs for ages 2 through 14, special shore excursions for teens, and even baby sitting (for a fee). In addition to the kid's clubs, the Carnival ships feature plenty of onboard activities for families like water parks, the SkyRide, and Seuss at Sea.
The Celebrity X-Club Youth Program offers family friendly cruising and activities for kids ages 3-17. Children can learn more about the world by exploring science and nature or just have fun participating in the wide variety of activities from talent shows to slumber parties. Celebrity offers in-room babysitting for a fee. The Celebrity Kid's Camp at Sea focuses on activities related to STEM, recreation, art, and culinary
Costa is the Italian branch of Carnival Corporation, and the ships are designed for both Europeans and North Americans. The year-round Costa Kids program offers daily activities for kids 3-17, and has youth counselors. Good choice for families who want their kids to interact with those from other countries.
Crystal is a luxury line that offers a supervised children's program whenever a large enough group of children will be onboard (holidays, summer vacations, etc.) Grandparents and parents who prefer an upscale line, but who wish to take their kids (or grandkids) along might enjoy this sophisticated line. Crystal does not set the youth program activity schedule until the ship knows the ages and numbers of kids who will be sailing.
Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth are three of the largest cruise ships afloat. They have a British flair for their children's programs, including real children's nurses and trained British nannies. The ships also have a teen center.
Anyone who loves Disney World or Disneyland will love Disney Cruises. The Disney characters entertain the kids on the ships, and there are numerous family activities. As such, the ships are much like a theme park at sea, and are geared towards family cruising. The ships have the "It's a Small World" nursery for babies and supervised children's programs year-round for ages 3 through teens.
Holland America's Club HAL provides year-round supervised children's programs for ages 5-12. Some of the Holland America ships have programs for ages three through seventeen. The ships have daily activities and a "just for kids" shore excursion on its Half Moon Cay Caribbean island.
Italian cruise line MSC Cruises caters to family groups of all ages and often offers "kids sail free" specials for those 11 and under who are staying with their parents in the same stateroom. Like other family friendly cruise lines, the ships feature water parks and other exciting kid activities for ages 1-17.
NCL's Kid's Crew program has a playroom staffed with youth coordinators year-round. Activities are scheduled when the ship is at sea and in port for kids ages 3-17. Fun things to do for kids include dancing, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, costume-making, and games.
Princess Cruises' youth program provide age-specific activities for kids 3-17. The ships also include learning activities on science, wildlife, and conservation. Teens will enjoy many of the same things they love at home--Nintendo, movies, Karaoke, and giant screen TVs. Younger kids will find plenty to do in the youth center. Princess also has full-time youth coordinators and group babysitting.
For adults who want to share their travel adventures with their children or grandchildren, Regent's complimentary Club Mariner youth program is designed for age groups 5-8, 9-12 and 13-17 and is supervised by a staff of experienced and enthusiastic youth counselors. Club Mariner operates during the summer and select holiday sailings.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International has big ships with non-stop activities for children and teens. Some of the ships have those famous rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks, FlowRider, and ziplining. The RCI supervised year-round youth program, Adventure Ocean, is targeted to kids 3 to 17 in five age groups, but the company also has a nursery program for ages 3 months to 36 months. It promises to be both fun and educational. Group babysitting is also available.