Once you start perusing options for a family cruise, you may quickly become overwhelmed. Once you factor in all of the different cruise lines, various size and types of ships, and all the potential ports and destinations, literally hundreds of potentially viable options emerge. Comparing all of these options can be daunting. So, we have developed a tool to help.
We have compiled a 28 page e-booklet to help you quickly compare cruise lines. We designed the comprehensive Family Cruise Companion’s Reference Guide to Cruise Line Youth Programs & Policies to assist families in their efforts to assess the various options and decide which cruises could be a good fit for their family. You may download a free copy here.
The Typical Short List For Planning a Family Cruise
A handful of cruise lines are routinely recognized as being family friendly. A review of the numerous travel publications and blogs available generally yields a consensus view as to the most family-friendly cruises: Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian (NCL). High marks often also go to Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. (Focusing on U.S.-based market.) (You can find a comparison of some these top family cruise lines here.)
Anyone looking to plan a family cruise could safely start by taking a look at what those lines have to offer. And, it would also be a safe strategy to focus on the larger ships among those lines. In recent years, the major cruise lines have been rolling out larger jumbo mega-ships that can hold 4,000-5,000+ passengers plus a crew of 1500-2000. The newer mega-ships have been designed and built with dedicated facilities and activities for children. Offerings may include elaborate water parks, rock climbing, zip lines, bumper cars, ice and roller-skating, surf simulators, 3D movie theaters, and much more.
Looking More Broadly to Plan Your Next Family Cruise
Most families can find good reliable options among the cruise lines on the traditional short list. However, that popular list of usual suspects does not limit your options for planning a fun family cruise. A vast array of other options exist that could be a great fit for your family.
International & Foreign Language Options
For instance, if you are interested in planning a European based vacation, building your plans around a European based cruise line could yield better or more interesting options for your family’s needs. Similarly, perhaps you are interested in reinforcing your kids’ foreign language skills and/or brushing up on your own skills, you can use a cruise to plan your own mini-immersion experience. There are several European and Asian cruise lines that sail ships with robust youth program and great facilities and amenities for kids. Some examples: Cunard (British), P&O Cruises (British), Thomson Cruises (British), Aida (German), Hapag Lloyd Cruises (German), Costa Cruises (Italian), MSC Cruises (Italian), Pullmantour (Spanish), Star Cruises (Asian). Some of these European based lines will also sail Caribbean itineraries.
Alternatively, perhaps your family has older kids who love outdoor adventures. Or, perhaps you want to expose your city kids to more up close experience with the natural world. Several cruise lines may have options that better meet those goals.
Options Focused On Nature & The Environment
For example, Paul Gauguin Cruises sails itineraries throughout Tahiti, Fiji, and the South Pacific. During certain holiday and summer sailings, it offers a Stewards of Nature program, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society. That program provides interactive programming for kids 7 to 17 hosted by WCS naturalists. This line also offers the Ambassadors of the Environment Program for families with children ages 9 and older. In partnership with the Jean-Michel Cousteau and Ocean Futures Society, this program offers a series of educational eco-excursions.
Shifting to the other side of the glob, the Hurtigruten cruise line sails cruises around Norway and the Norwegian Fjords, Antarctica and other select destinations. This line has a Young Explorers’ Program for kids ages 7 to 13 with dedicated hosts supervising fun activities focused on eco-friendly learning. The hosts speak Norwegian, English and German.
Luxury & Small Ship Options
While many of the mega-ships have elaborate youth programs with a wide menu of activities and facilities, perhaps you have no interest in sailing ships of that size. Perhaps you really want a smaller ship experience that will still allow everyone in your group to have fun. Or, perhaps you are looking for something more upscale.
The policies regarding kids and the range of activities and facilities for smaller ships and/or the luxury market vary widely. There are some ships which do not allow kids. Some ships permit children, but provide no programs or activities of any kind that are child-focused or child friendly. Some ships allow children, but only over a certain age; or may allow younger children only at certain times of the year. Our Reference Guide will help you sort through all of those different policies, compare cruise lines, and identify cruises that would work well for your family.
Compare Cruise Lines and A Wide Range of Options
Start planning your next family cruise with our Reference Guide on Cruise Line Youth Programs & Policies. The Reference Guide provides a summary overview of most of the cruise lines that are currently sailing. The Reference Guide covers small ships, mega ships, luxury cruises, river cruises. It provides a thumbnail sketch of the youth policies and programs for dozens of cruise lines around the world. It also provides useful category groupings. You can quickly compare cruise lines and focus on ones that are most relevant to your family’s needs. And, it provides a handy directory. It includes contact information (phone numbers and websites) for each of the 68 cruise lines covered. Download this comprehensive yet concise guide today for free.
Also, for more inspiration, take a look at this project sponsored by The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). For that article, some experienced family travel bloggers from the UK and the US were invited to talk about choosing a family cruise. They discussed their favorite cruises and explained why those cruises specifically worked well for their families.
We would love your feedback on our Reference Guide! Has your family has taken a cruise that falls outside the box of traditional/mainstream family cruising? Please share your experience in the comments below.