Ready to set sail with your kids? Taking the whole family on vacation is no easy feat. That’s why finding the best family cruises ensures everyone will enjoy the trip. This is a convenient and fun way to see multiple destinations while enjoying being aboard a luxury liner. Cruise ships even cater to the tiniest of tots with a variety of activities and childcare facilities. The latter giving parents a chance to truly unwind on vacation.
Relaxing (or not relaxing) is a pretty big deal actually. In a survey of 2,000 adults on the topic of “vacation pressure,” two in three Americans admit they feel too much pressure during their vacation to actually enjoy it. And 23 percent said they haven’t physically relaxed on their getaway in two years or longer! Another survey says it may just take a few days to unwind. For Americans, it takes an average of four days to completely relax and forget work while on vacation.
That is, if you’ve even taken a vacation recently. Sadly, 55 percent of parents haven’t taken their family on vacation in three years, according to new research. But what’s so nice about cruises is it takes a lot of the planning out of the equation and makes traveling one of the best parts of the vacation. We can all admit airplanes aren’t nearly as fun as that water slide on the cruise ship! And of course, 47 percent of parents are concerned about their vacay being kid-friendly. Thankfully, the cruise ships below are geared towards all ages.
So, which is the best cruise for families with kids? You might be thinking Disney Cruise Line is practically synonymous with family sailing. But is Disney the leader when it comes to the open seas? Sure, their ships feature character meet-and-greets, but what amenities stand out among the best of other leading cruise ships? We’ll help you answer that! We searched for the consensus of cruising experts to find out which of the best family cruises will float your kids’ boats and yours, too.
The List: Best Family Cruises, Most Recommended By Experts
1. Disney Wish
Saying there is a lot to do on board this ship is an understatement. According to Family Vacationist, “From an action-packed dinner-and-a-show experiences like Worlds of Marvel and Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure to the Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge, live performances, and Incredibles-themed inflatable obstacle course, you’ll never run out of things to do.”
“Disney Wish has four kids clubs that are divided by age, but the main Oceaneer Club for 3-12-year-olds has an all-new and exciting grand entrance. Kids get to enter the club by slide — and once inside, get to explore the ‘Star Wars’-, fairy tale-, Marvel- and Imagineer-themed spaces within the club,” The Points Guy describes.
Cruise Fever thinks your kids will enjoy all the amenities: “At the top of every kid’s wish list might just be a Disney cruise. In addition to the signature shows, favorite characters, kids’ club and lots of pools, this ship has raised the bar on family entertainment. Ride the 760-foot AquaMouse (vintage Mickey) with special effects and storytelling. Sign up the kids for creative activities in the Imagineer interactive lab. And, play in a Star Wars Cargo Bay.”
2. Disney Dream
Disney also claims the number two spot for many experts. Frommer’s reveals why: “Much to the delight of even the youngest Disney fans, characters from Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Tinker Bell’s fairy forest make appearances in the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab children’s activity centers. Though kids will enjoy splashing around the Finding Nemo-themed water play area, more daring passengers will ride the Aqua Duck, a 765-foot-long, four-deck-high flume ride. Sit in two-person inflatable rafts, zip around the edge of the ship’s top deck, and zoom 13 feet out over the ocean inside a transparent tube.”
Will it be a dream come true? Reader’s Digest would probably say so: “It’s hard to pick just one favorite aspect of the Disney Dream, but we can confidently say that the entertainment is hard to beat. Gravitate toward the Millennium Falcon area in the kids club or head to a stage show production of Beauty and the Beast. At the end of a long day of play, kids can snuggle up and watch Disney movies on the pool deck under the stars. The cruise line also tends to make eating fun for kids of all ages. Of course, we’re charmed by all things Mickey-shaped (from waffles to ice cream pops).”
More Marvel Day at Sea fun here on the Disney Dream! 👏 pic.twitter.com/eFOspdj0vQ
— Disney Food Blog (@DisneyFoodBlog) January 8, 2023
Even better, Family Vacationist says they make a special stop during Bahamas and Carribean sailings “at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, which is often a highlight of any Disney cruise. Castaway Cay’s family beach is a great place for swimming, and you can also rent bikes, kayaks, and snorkeling gear for kids and parents to see colorful tropical fish and perhaps even a sea turtle munching on sea grass.”
3. Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
Parenting recommends this ship if you have babies or toddlers among your crew: “Oasis [is] the latest and greatest in the 22-ship fleet. [It boasts] the cruise line’s first nursery for infants and toddlers (6 months or older), the first carousels and zip lines at sea, 43-foot-tall rock-climbing walls, two surf simulators a piece and a special spa for kids and teens. A packed calendar of supervised activities for kids and teens means parents get plenty of ‘me time.’ With a 4,000-foot-long zip line and a water park complete with floating trampolines, it’s a hit with both kids and their parents.”
With their childcare program, “you can expect a dedicated, soft-floored space complete with cartoons and interactive activities like sing-alongs, games and play sessions, further divided up by age. However, unlike the other kids programs onboard, this one will cost you per hour. Furthermore, playpens, Gerber baby food, diapers and formula can be pre-ordered and delivered to your stateroom. Nighttime babysitting services are also available until 2 a.m., so you can have adult time, too,” Good Morning America writes.
For older kids, there are endless activities. Reader’s Digest points out the “Royal Escape Room challenge called Mission Control: Apollo 18, a glow-in-the-dark laser tag… [and] Spotlight Karaoke, which happens either with all ears and eyes on you and your kids, or in a private karaoke room for a memorable time with favorite tunes.”
4. Carnival Mardi Gras
According to Cruise Critic, there’s no shortage of fun on this ship: “Families are drawn by the two outdoor pools and game-and-activity-packed SportSquare; a multistory IMAX theater (Vista Class only); and some of the largest at-sea water parks. We’re also very excited for Carnival Mardi Gras, the line’s newest and biggest ship (5,200 passengers) boasts the first roller coaster at sea: BOLT, all adding up to a fantastic Carnival cruise for kids.”
USA Today says both people young and young at heart will love this cruise: “Providing fun for all family members, young and old, Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras ship offers ‘zones’ – six areas of this ship, each with a different theme for eating, drinking and just having fun! Experience BOLT – the first and fastest roller coaster at sea, which offers terrific 360-degree ocean views; enjoy Water Works, with its spiraling slides, racing slides, dumping bucket, and more; or play a game of Family Feud Live on an authentic set. Parents can enjoy a break from the kids at the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, where they’ll find peaceful sea breezes, comfortable lounging and a nearby bar.”
The Points Guy thinks social kids will fit right in and writes, “They can make friends at the Family Harbor Lounge, Camp Ocean and Dr. Seuss Bookville, or the teen and tween clubs conveniently located near Guy Fieri’s burger stand and the video arcade.”
5. Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas
TripSavvy thinks this is a great ship for teens: “The world’s largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas, offers plenty of amenities to wow your teenager and your entire family.” Notable amenities include “dedicated teen spaces, diving and acrobatics shows at the AquaTheater, a FlowRider surf simulator, a rock climbing wall and a zip line.”
“For families, a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s massive ship is as exciting as going to an amusement park. The new largest ship in the world, the 6,998-passenger Wonder of the Seas, boasts a fantastical undersea-themed Wonder Playscape, an outdoor playground with climbing walls, slides, games, and interactive features — such as a mural featuring sea creatures that come to life at the slightest touch,” Condé Nast Traveler writes.
“Families who like a good show can gasp as ice skaters land jumps on a rocking ship and acrobatic divers flip and splash in the AquaTheater. Don’t miss the parades down the Royal Promenade, Wonder’s indoor shopping strip,” adds The Points Guy.
Ready to book your next cruise? Take us with you!
- Family Vacationist
- The Points Guy
- Cruise Fever
- Reader’s Digest
- Good Morning America
- Cruise Critic
- USA Today
- Condé Nast Traveler
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