Best Ships for Families with Kids

| Saturday, 01 Jun. 2013
Editor's Picks and "Best of the Best" reflect the personal opinion of Paul Motter, CruiseMates' editor-in-chief. Read Paul Motter's Bio

Most cruise ships are very suitable for families, but in different ways (with the exception of some of the small luxury ships). Your best bet in most cases is to go with the largest ships of any fleet; Almost any ship greater than 100,000 tons will have extensive children's facilities. We recommend the Freedom class of Royal Caribbean (featured below) as tops (yes, even over Disney), the Destiny and Conquest class for Carnival, and the Grand class for Princess. The focus here is on ships that provide separate facilities and activities for children only. See our Family Cruising area for in depth coverage of many aspects of cruising with youngsters.

For the most part, all of these suggested ship classes will separate younger people by their age group and have different counselors, meeting areas and activities available for them throughout the cruise.

H2O Water Park - click for pic

OASIS of the SEAS (Royal Caribbean) - Not only is this the largest cruise ship in the world at nearly 220,000-tons and room for nearly 6000 passengers total, this ship is tons of fun for children of all ages. Among the facilities onboard:

  • A dedicated in-line skating track with corners, hills, twists and turn.
  • A nine-hole miniature golf course
  • The largest rock-climbing wall at sea
  • The "FlowRider" wave-making machines for a continuous surfable wave.
  • Ice skating in a rink big enough for professional skating exhibitions
  • An outdoor water park with water slides, water shoots and sprays
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Boxing Ring
  • Zip-line
  • Comedy Club
  • Outdoor Boardwalk with Merry-Go-Round
  • Hot Dog Stand
  • Cupcake Store with decorating classes
  • DreamWorks Animation tie-in for character experiences and special shows
  • 3D-movies from DreamWorks shown in a state-of-the-art 3D facility
Flowrider Surfing Machine - click for pic
There is a huge, dedicated teen facility with onboard counselors to keep your malcontents amused and engaged. You won't see any grumpy faces here. Especially with such a huge passenger load, there will be a friend to made for everyone.

 

With the debut of Oasis of the Seas debuts in December, 2009, we have a new winner on this list. Oasis, also from Royal Caribbean, has all the above but in more abundance, and adds other goodies, like a wave pool, a boardwalk zone with carousal, cotton candy, etc and more and bigger swimming pools. Oasis will be a spectacular ship in so many ways.

Disney Dream/Disney Fantasy (Disney Cruise Line). Of course, no one can make a ship more suitable for children. This is the one cruise line where you won't have to educate the kids before you go about how much fun they are going to have! None of the oft-heard whinings "there won't be anything to do" or "I won't make any friends." common to other cruise lines will be heard pre-cruise when Disney is involved. All the Disney characters will be there, and there are plenty of activities and shows all day long. Oh, and the parents will have a good time, with their own "adults-only" zones and even entertainment. This is for the kids, but not just for the kids.

Keep in mind, Disney cruises generally cost more than the average, and your kids just might have as much, or even more, fun on a Royal Caribbean, or Carnival. Especially older kids like teens. But for the three to ten year olds who still think of the Little Mermaid as a personal friend you are guaranteed they will have the experience of a lifetime.

Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Carnival has top-flight counselors and dedicated areas for children and teens. There is babysitting offered for parents who want to have a vacation of their own (this is true on most "mass market" cruise lines). NCL has some unique features of its own. The Norwegian Jewel, has a bungee jumping-trampoline apparatus, and their newest ship, Norwegian Epic, has a regulation bowling alley.

Luxury Cruise Lines Frankly, many luxury and premium ships (Windstar, Oceania Cruises, Silversea, Seabourn) have no facilities for youngsters at all, and they make no apologies. They generally do not want them on board as they mostly disrupt the passengers.

Crystal Symphony and Serenity (Crystal Cruises) -- If one feels that they couldn't possibly sail on any cruise ship that didn't qualify for luxury status, and the kids are coming along, then our top pick is Crystal because they are in effect the only cruise line with extensive programs for youngsters aboard select sailings (Go to their web site to see which ones).

Crystal's youth offerings are separated into three tiers: 3-7 year olds, 8-12 year olds and 13-17 year olds. Activities are determined by age and the number of children on board. On those sailings with Junior Activities Directors, a detailed schedule of events is created at the beginning of each cruise. Once on board, you'll receive Surf Runner, or Teen Scene, the teenagers' guide to special activities with details for the following day's schedule and other pertinent information. Activities are determined by age and the number of children on board. On those sailings with Junior Activities Directors, a detailed schedule of events is created at the beginning of each cruise. Once on board, you'll receive Surf Runner, or Teen Scene, the teenagers guide to special activities, our daily newsletter for kids with details for the following day's schedule and other pertinent information.

Fantasia, the children's playroom, offers tables and chairs for arts and crafts, popular Sony PlayStation® game titles, a large screen television set and board games. Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity also feature a teenager's video arcade, Waves. The Library offers children's books and children's videos or DVDs for enjoyment in staterooms. Kids may choose from a special Junior Cruiser's menu, and Crystal's executive chefs and other culinary staff can prepare custom dishes. The Trident Grill serves complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and more. Baby food, high chairs and booster seats are available.

For a small fee, all vessels offer in-stateroom baby-sitting. Guests should contact the concierge on board for this service at least 24 hours in advance.

 

Recommended Articles