10 Family Cruises Perfect for Taking the Kids
Great kid-friendly cruises By Yahoo! Travel
Caribbean cruise (Courtesy Thinkstock)
A cruise can be an ideal vacation for families. You don’t have to worry about food or logistics. Activities for the kids are provided. Then, you can see countless cities without the hassle of packing up and traveling to each of them.
However, it can also be a lot for kids to handle, depending on the trip and their ages. Make sure what you plan is a good fit for your family. Many boats offer kids’ programs based on age. (Think of it kind of like camp.) You can also, sometimes for a fee, get in-cabin babysitting or late-night play groups, so that both the parents and the kids can enjoy themselves. Amenities vary from boat to boat, though, so be sure to check before booking your ticket. Start your planning with some of these most-searched family cruises on Yahoo.
1. Caribbean Family Cruises: The Standard in Family Fun
The Caribbean is the standard for family cruises. It’s almost hard to find a cruise here that’s not geared toward family fun. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas boats leave from Florida and include merry-go-rounds and ice-skating rinks. DreamWorks’ movie characters make frequent appearances. Disney’s Caribbean trips feature all the best in entertainment and Disney characters, naturally. And, the Disney Dream has a 765-foot water coaster that whips you around over the edge of the boat and back. For just $400, Carnival also has a budget-friendly option that basically offers kids a carnival on a boat. What’s not to love? (Other than some quiet relaxation.)
2. Hawaiian Family Cruises: Island-Hopping in Hawaii
Hawaii is a string of islands, and there is no better way to see islands than from a boat. Snorkel, hike, lounge on a beach, swim under a waterfall, or do it all. Royal Caribbean offers a 12-day trip from Vancouver or Mexico to the islands. There’s a special club on board for teenagers and a play deck for the younger crowd. (Holland America also has trips that combine Tahiti and Hawaii for an all-out family vacation.) Many families, though, prefer to fly to Hawaii and then do a cruise between the islands, allowing for flexibility and extra time on either end. Norwegian’s weeklong itinerary is the only one of its kind in Hawaii, with stops on the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai.
3. Mexican Riviera Family Cruises: Cruising Down the Coast
The Mexican Riviera is generally considered to include the cities and lagoons along the west coast of Mexico, making it a good destination if you’re starting from California. Since these cruises are getting so popular, you can be sure there’ll be an option you’ll like. You just might want to stay away from the couples-themed and adults-only boats if your family includes anyone under the age of 18. From Los Angeles, try a short four-day cruise on Carnival, or take the six-day trip that hits Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. Norwegian has youth programs and onshore excursions that include zip-lining and swimming with dolphins. There are also rare Sea of Cortez trips, like the one offered by Un-Cruise Adventures, for the family looking for a unique experience.
4. Alaska Family Cruises: Exploring for All Ages
Alaskan Disney cruise (Courtesy Disney Cruises)
Kids live the outdoors, and that’s what Alaska is all about, so for a family, an Alaskan cruise would seem like a perfect fit. Disney, of course, has kids of all ages in mind for its Alaskan trips, with play centers and pool parties. Plus, go dog-sledding on shore. Visit Glacier Bay with Carnival’s cruise, and then send the kids to Camp Carnival when you want a night alone. For extra adventure, try something really different, with a National Geographic-sponsored trip that includes a whole lot of exploring.
5. Baltic Family Cruises: A Trip to Never Forget
Baltic cruise (Courtesy Getty Images)
The Baltic Sea might not seem like a natural place to take kids, but you can be sure their trip to Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, and Helsinki won’t be one they’ll forget. Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a guaranteed winner for the young ones. The best time to go is in the summer, when the weather’s warmer, which makes it an ideal vacation for when school’s out. Try Holland America’s itinerary, with some extra days on either end. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean both have a little something for the adults and for the kids. Meanwhile, Crystal has been pushing a luxury version for families. Just remember: Even if the kids complain about all the history and culture, they’ll thank you for it later for taking them to Denmark, Russia and Finland.
6. New England Family Cruises: Right in Your Backyard
The benefit of a cruise through the Northeast and Canada is that it’s so close, but there’s still so much to see. As a bonus, a boat, with all of its luxuries, beats packing everybody into a car. This helps explain why these itineraries are rising in popularity. Departures are typically from Boston, New York, Baltimore, or New Jersey, and can travel up to Prince Edward Island, Quebec City, or hug the U.S. coastline. Holland America has a number of family-friendly high-end boats, and all the major cruise lines travel in the region. If the kids are up for it, you could try a more adventurous trip with Adventure Canada. Of course, with the leaves changing color in the fall, the autumn is the best time for a New England cruise, so start your planning now.
7. Mediterranean Family Cruises: Europe by Boat
Mediterranean cruise (Courtesy Princess Cruises)
A Mediterranean cruise can be a great way to show the kids the sights of Europe without having to shuttle them all across it. But keep in mind: all the stops and excursions can be overwhelming, especially for young children. Plan what you want to do, and factor in extra travel time to fly to and from your embarkation place. Disney’s Adventures by Disney cruise is designed to hit the highlights of Italy, with plenty of activities for the toddler set. The Royal Caribbean boats typically include kids’ programs divided up by age. Princess also offers a range of family-friendly trips.
8. South American Family Cruises: So Many Options
South America has so much to offer that your family should never be bored. Visit the Chilean fjords, walk the streets of Buenos Aires, and eat all the food you want. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, then try an around-the-Horn cruise or an Amazon trip. Princess has a range of options and kid-friendly accommodations. Lindblad and Celebrity Xpedition offer once-in-a-lifetime cruises to the Galapagos Islands — something you’ll wish your parents had taken you on. Alternatively, get your toes wet first on a shorter South American trip with Costa.
9. Tahiti Family Cruises: A Balance in Bora Bora
While there are many smaller ships that cruise the waters of Tahiti and the South Pacific, it can be hard to find the right balance between luxurious beaches for the adults and fun for the kids. The upside is that traveling by boat among the islands can be an ideal way to see spots like the Tuamotu Archipelago or go snorkeling in the lagoons. And, what kid wouldn’t love feeding sharks? Princess offers a number of Tahiti cruises that attract families. Alternatively, charter a private yacht and island hop.
10. Transatlantic Family Cruises: Getting Across the Ocean in Style
Traveling by boat used to be the only way to get across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, transatlantic cruises are their own vacations, with multiple levels of pools, dozens of restaurants, shows every night, and activities for the kids. (To recreate that old-school feel, try the Queen Mary 2 from Cunard, based on the original Queen Mary but with much more to do now.) Start your transatlantic trip in Florida or New York and, depending on how long your family wants to bond, end in England, Spain, France, or even Italy. Celebrity has 13- and 16-day cruises for as little as $600 right now. Or, if you’re looking for something you know the kids will love, Disney’s trip across the Atlantic is always a crowd-pleaser. Plus, the stop in the Bahamas and the nightclubs and spa on board will please mom and dad.
By Kelly O'Mara