Best Family Cruise Lines

The best family cruise lines really go far above the call in delivering VIP service from a child-centered perspective. Weather you are traveling with teenagers, young children or toddlers read on.

Best Family Cruise LinesBest Family Cruise Lines

A great way to contain and mange costs before you set out on vacation is to choose a family cruise vacation. These come in all shapes, sizes and budgets and we have reviewed the cruise lines that offer the best service, kids programs, attractions and features for families. Some cruise lines offer environmental programs for kids while others offer ice-skating, private island excursions and cartoon characters. 

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Some  opinions on the top cruise lines for kids video:

And more family cruise line preferences:

Family Cruises - See what each cruise line offers families in detail here.

Take a family cruise to somewhere you have barely heard of. Cruising is a safe way to save time on preparation for foreign destinations that perhaps you are a little unsure of. You always have the security of the ship to come back to after you venture ashore and this makes it a great way to take snippets from different cultures while at the same time creating a family bond in the planning. In most cases excellent meal options are already included in the price of the cruise and you only need to budget extra for a daily gratuities fee and you onshore excursions.

Cruise with a Toddler or Baby

Will my toddler have to pay full fare?

Is it worth it to cruise with a toddler? You usually don't find out the fare for toddlers until you are well into the booking process. Most of the major cruise lines don't want to broadcast that even the tiniest little babies can attract hefty charges.

 While this explained away by cruise lines in their need to provide enough facilities for everybody on the ship, you can't help but think this is really not a child and family friendly practice. While on airlines children under 2 will often travel for three on cruise lines you can often expect to have to pay 3rd or 4th passenger rates.

Choosing a cruise line. Top Tips

What is the minimum age for cruise travel?

At the time of writing most cruise lines set the bar at six months for short cruises and 12 months for cruises over 3 days long. This is the age before children are even allowed to cruise at all.  Disney cruises is an exception here and they will also offer a 50 percent discount for infants up to 2 years of age. 

Many of the toddler and family friendly options for each of the cruise lines are mentioned below. But these change often and it's a good idea to check for yourself when booking too.

Carnival Cruise Lines

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Carnival Cruise Lines

These guys are the biggest and go almost everywhere. Known as the "fun ships" and definitely one of the best family cruise lines.

  • Programs for kids 2 through 14 also make life easy for parents and varied and interesting for kids.
  • Big teens room with air hockey, games and opportunities to connect with other teens.
  • Teens get their own excursions.
  • Baby sitting is available for a fee for both group and in cabin services.
  • Toys and baby equipment available for rent if you need it.

Carnival are all about keeping the cruise spirit buzzing and the holiday atmosphere happening. Entertaining options around the world.

Celebrity Cruises

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Celebrity Cruise Line

Celebrity have cruises in Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, up to New England, over in Hawaii and in South America. They are owned by Royal Caribbean at the time of writing and are a little more upscale. 

  • Have a playroom at each "class" level of the ship.
  • Cruise rates are usually about half adult rate.
  • Usually the cruise price for children is the extra person rate, and not the full fare.
    Celebrity X-Club for youth 3-17.
  • Range from science and nature to talent shows.
  • Slumber parties for teens.
  • Babysitting for a fee.
Celebrity Solstice Kids Fun Factory Video Tour

Costa Cruise Lines

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Costa Cruise Line Logo

Also in the Carnival Family, I think of Costa as the cosmopolitan family cruise line with youth counselors and programs for children aged from 3 to 17. European in style and in coffee and use  mostly larger ships. 

Crystal Cruises

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Crystal Cruise Line

Really more of a luxury than a family line. Often they will run kids programs over the holidays. Great for children to practice and develop good dining habits, manners and interacting with others.

Cunard Line

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Cunard Cruise Line

This is the line that the Queen would travel on if she took cruises today. Offers children's programs, teens club and nannies. 

These have been promoted heavily for for families with children, especially those with toddlers and babies in recent times because of the expert nannies. Nurseries are stocked with developmentally appropriate toys and there are stacks of free activities and parties even for the youngest kids.

From kid friendly coloring books at meals to splash pools Cunard have taken care of a lot of the extras that make traveling with kids easier.

Disney Cruise Line

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Disney Cruise Line
Best Family Cruise LinesBest Family Cruise Lines - Disney Magic docked next to the Castaway Cay Family Beach

Micky Mouse when it comes to the best family cruise lines. This is where all the Disney characters take their vacations and you will find them on-board entertaining kids on their Caribbean, and European cruises.

  • Overwhelming number of activities for kids
  • supervised children's programs for kids to teenagers segregated by age.
  • Nappy / diaper wading pool areas.
  • Group babysitting at a good price.
  • Bathtubs in cabins.
  • Their own island docking in the Bahamas makes it easy to locate for the day
    Huge teen areas and activities until midnight.
  • One unnecessary "benefit" is that all soft drinks (sodas) are inclusive.

The New Disney Fantasy


We follow a few travelers as they make their journey from Washington to Alaska by the state ferry system. While this is sometimes seen as the poor mans alternative the journeys offered by the best Family Cruise lines, we found it was a rich experience to camp put on the deck and get up close to the wildlife and glaciers on-shore ant the occasional whale at sea.

Holland America Line

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Holland America Cruise Line

I used to think of Holland America as the line for seniors. Perhaps I thought this because they took a lot of cruises to Alaska. But Holland America is in many ways at the forefront of family vacations these days. Cruises are available to Alaska, Asia, Canada, Europe, Hawaii, Mexican Riviera and South America and the South Pacific. With kids shore excursions in some locations and programs for 5 to 12 year-olds.

Club HAL , the onboard children's program with Holland America Line.

Norwegian Cruise Line

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Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL have cruises all over the world including Alaska, the South Pacific, Asia, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and New England.  Flexible in dinning options at a variety of restaurants. 

  • NCL's Kid's Crew program has a Kids programs start as early as 2 years old to teenagers.
  • Playroomswith youth coordinators year-round.
  • Big charter of activities.
  • Childrens own buffets.
  • Sail free to two years.
  • Group babysitting from from 10pm to 1am for ages 2 to 12.

NCl Play Area

Princess Cruises

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Princess Cruise Line

Another branch of the huge Carnival family. Has family friendly spaces for you to play with the kids. Princess Cruises are in Asia, South Pacific, and The Caribbean and North America. Geared a little more to well travelled folk than to kids however.

  • Nursery.
  • Wildlife and conservation.
  • Kids menu on the buffet restaurants.
  • Full-time youth coordinators.
  • Group babysitting.
  • Youth program has segregated ages.

My person choice as the best cruise line (although i have not tried them all) Travels to and in many countries including Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, United States Including Hawaii, Mexico and South America. Luxury Contemporary cruise lines which delivers. Nice choice between casual and more formal dining options.

Fun Kids Cruise Activities for Young Kids and Preteens- Princess Cruises

Royal Caribbean International

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Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean International has kids programs that are some of the biggest on the open seas. The Freedom of the seas for example has a surfing machine. RCI cruises are pretty well world wide and their huge ships are an adventure for kids to explore.

  • Huge range of children's activities.
  • Supervised 45 minute playgroups for babies and toddlers daily.
  • Age specific kids programs from 3 to 17 years.
  • Babysitting both in groups and in-cabin.
  • Ice skating and more big feature attractions.

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