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What Are the Best Cruises for Kids?

Discover the best cruises for kids, packed with exciting activities, from water parks to character meet-and-greets. Create lasting memories for everyone onboard.

By Cruise Booking Team

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Children can have a big impact on whether your family cruise is enjoyable or not. Choosing kid-friendly cruises is more important for parents. If they're not having fun or don't like the food, they might complain a lot, and you will sigh during your journey.

The best cruises for kids have lots of fun things for those under 18 to do, plenty of food that kids and teens like, family-friendly accommodations and services on the ship, and chances for kids to meet and hang out with other kids. It doesn't matter if your family is big or small or if you have a tight budget or more to spend – there are great sea vacations that will make kids say, "This is the best cruise ever!" at the end of the week.

What Makes Cruises a Great Choice for Kids?

An icon of the seas, kids playing pillow fights in the Ultimate Family Townhouse, excitement, ocean views.
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International

Choosing the best cruise line for kids is a super fun vacation idea for families with kids. Here's why:

  • Lots of Things to Do: Cruise ships have cool stuff for kids of all ages – there are play areas for little ones, lounges and clubs for teenagers, and fun games and activities for different age groups.
  • Fun Shows and Movies: Cruise ships have awesome theaters, cinemas, and live music spots that kids will love. They also have meet-and-greets with characters, parades, and shows with cartoon favorites.
  • Learning while Having Fun: Cruises teach kids about sea life, history, and other cool stuff through fun programs. These programs make learning exciting and interactive for kids.
  • Yummy Food for Families: Cruise ships have all kinds of places to eat, perfect for families with kids. There are buffets, pizza spots, and fast-food places with meals kids love. Some cruises even have special dining events like breakfasts with characters or themed dinners.
  • Safe and Sound: Cruise ships take safety seriously, especially for kids. There are staff members who watch over the children and make sure they're safe during activities. Parents can also use special messaging systems to keep in touch with their kids during the trip.

In short, cruises are a fantastic choice for families with kids. They have tons of activities, fun entertainment, learning opportunities, family-friendly food options, and strong safety measures to make sure everyone has a great time.

Do Kids Need Passports for Cruises?

At international airport, two adorable european children hold passports, tickets, and boarding passes with toothy smiles. A family trip concept
Photo by user26142724 at Freepik

Choosing kid-friendly cruises can be a lot of fun. Cruises have many activities for kids to enjoy and make friends. While your kids are having a good time, you can also enjoy activities for adults. But before you tell your kids about the exciting plans, you might be wondering if they need a passport to go on a cruise.

So, the answer is Yes, all family members need passports if you visit another country, but an important thing to notice is there are two types of cruises, and the passport rules are different:

  • Closed-Loop Cruises: These cruises start and end at U.S. ports. Your child doesn't need a passport for these cruises. They can use other U.S. documents like a passport book or their birth certificate to show they are U.S. citizens.
  • Standard Cruises: These cruises start or stop at a port outside the U.S. If your kids are traveling abroad on these cruises, they must have a valid passport book. The passport should meet the requirements of the destination and be in good condition with enough blank pages.

Even if you're taking a closed-loop cruise, it's a good idea to get valid passports for your kids. This is because many cruise lines may require passports for emergency evacuation reasons.

If your kids are not traveling with their main guardians, they should also have notarized letters of consent from their main parent or guardian. Not having this document can cause legal issues. So, it's important to be prepared before going on a cruise with your kids.

What's a Good Age to Take a Kid on a Cruise?

A wide shot of kids in Splashaway Bay, a water park, enjoying the water, running in the water, and yellow buckets with water spraying above them on Wonder of the Seas
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International

If you've ever traveled with a little kid, you know it can be a bit tricky. Toddlers tend to get restless on planes, may not like new bedtime routines, and might be picky eaters. So, you might need clarification about going on a cruise with a toddler. But it's easier than you think, and it can be fun! After you try it once, you might even want to make it a family tradition.

But before you plan about the best cruises for kids, there are a few things to think about. You need to choose the right room and decide on the activities you want to do. Most cruises require infants to be at least 6 months old. But for some special cruises, like those crossing the Atlantic or Pacific or those with a lot of days at sea, kids need to be at least 12 months old.

If you're traveling with a toddler who's at least 6 months old, there are fun programs on the cruise ship just for them. There's Toddler Time for kids under 3 and Camp at Sea for kids ages 3 to 12. So, you and your little one can have a great time on the cruise.

Related: What Are the Rules for Kids on Cruise Ships?

How Do You Select the Best Kid-Friendly Cruises?

A young girl climbs up a rock wall named Adrenaline Peak, enjoying a challenge and having fun
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International

Choosing the right kid-friendly cruises requires careful consideration of various factors. One key factor is the availability and quality of onboard facilities, especially for children. Look for ships equipped with amenities like play areas, pools, and entertainment options that cater to different age groups.

Children's programs play an important role in providing a kid-friendly cruise experience. Find the perfect cruise line's offerings for kids, including organized activities, games, and childcare services. A well-designed program can keep children engaged and entertained, allowing parents to enjoy their cruise while knowing their kids are in good hands.

Safety is prominent, so check for cruises that prioritize the well-being of young passengers. Provide that the ship adheres to safety standards and has measures in place, such as secure play areas and attentive staff. It guarantees a worry-free environment for both parents and children throughout the voyage.

Age-appropriate activities are essential to keeping kids excited and involved. Choose cruises that offer a variety of activities appropriate for various age groups, from toddlers to teenagers. So that every child, regardless of age, can find enjoyable and engaging things to do while on board.

The best kid-friendly cruises are those that boast excellent onboard facilities, well-thought-out children's programs, top-notch safety measures, and a diverse range of age-appropriate activities. By considering these factors, families can make informed decisions and provide a memorable and enjoyable cruise experience for everyone.

Related: What Are Kid Activities on a Cruise?

What Are the Best Cruise Lines for Kids?

Ever thought of going on a family cruise? You can do cool stuff with your family, like a scavenger hunt, dance party, or cooking class. Forget about school and work for a bit and enjoy time together. Some cruises have special activities for different ages, and some even have babysitting so parents can have a night off. New ships are adding more rooms for families because lots of people want to go on family cruises.

1. Royal Caribbean International:

Royal Caribbean Cruise ship
Photo by hetoimasai at Pixabay

The Royal Caribbean has many fun things for families with kids, like rock climbing, zip-lining, surfing, bumper cars, and more. There are also Dreamworks Characters on several ships, so you can meet them, watch movies, and dine with characters from Madagascar, Shrek, and others. Plus, there are different types of rooms for families of all sizes.

2. Carnival Cruise Line:

The big Carnival cruise ship is in the harbor in Miami, Florida, United States
Photo by romeo22 at Freepik

Have fun on a kid-friendly cruise with Carnival Cruises. There's lots to do for the whole family, like riding the Green Thunder slide or playing giant board games. You can eat at a 24/7 ice cream bar and enjoy entertainment. The Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit ships have cool water parks, mini-golf, and basketball courts. Families can stay in special rooms, and there's a fun Seuss at Sea program based on Dr. Seuss books.

3. Disney Cruise Line:

Through the Panama Canal, Disney cruise ships pass through the locks
Photo by Pol index at Freepik

Disney Cruises offers lots of fun activities on its cruise ships, like the Mickey's Sail-A-Wave Party and pirate-themed dinners. There are kid-friendly dining places and cool stuff for kids, with visits from Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. And for adults, there are special dining spots, quiet pools, and options for nighttime entertainment.

4. Norwegian Cruise Line:

The Norwegian Epic cruise is in port at the moment
Photo by Bernhard1960 at Pixabay

In Norwegian Cruise, families are welcomed with bright cruise ships that have lots of fun things for everyone. Grown-ups can chill at the spa or play games at the casino, while kids can join supervised programs where they can learn cool stuff like juggling, do arts and crafts, and go to themed parties. And, in all the restaurants, even the special ones, there are menus just for kids.

5. MSC Cruises:

The MSC Meraviglia cruise ship is docked in Hamburg on the Elbe
Photo by Nikon-2110 at Pixabay

MSC Cruises ships have fun clubs for kids and teens, where they can play LEGO games, take dance classes, and join sports tournaments. The entire family can have a good time with swimming pools and waterslides (available on certain ships). Families can buy the MSC Fun Pass for extra perks like flight simulators, a bowling alley, and the XD Interactive Cinema.

Related: Do Cruises Offer Free Travel for Kids?

What Are the Best Cruise Ships for Kids?

Discover the best cruise ships for kids for your family's next vacation with our list of top choices for kids and their parents.

1. Icon of the Seas:

A wide view of families enjoying Splashaway Bay in Surfside neighborhood, a water park for kids, is an icon of the seas
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International

Even though it is new in the cruise market, Royal Caribbean's new Icon of the Seas will be one of the best Royal Caribbean ships for kids. It will be the largest ship, with exciting features like a water park, ropes course, surf simulator, and more. Kids will have lots to do on the ship, including watching ice skaters and acrobats.

There will be special areas and restaurants just for little kids and their families. The ship also offers family cabins with separate rooms for kids and a huge townhouse with a screening room, karaoke machine, and even a backyard connected to the family neighborhood.

2. Disney Wish:

Disney Wish Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Disney Cruise Line

People might know that Disney is a great option in cruises for kids on their cruise line, but it might surprise them that there's a lot for adults, too. The new Disney Wish, starting in 2022, has cool stuff for kids, like themed clubs and movie theaters. There are also shows and dining based on Disney movies.

For adults, there's a "Star Wars" bar, fancy restaurants just for grown-ups, and family-friendly features like split bathrooms in most rooms, a nursery drop-off, and a splash area for toddlers. The cruise goes on short trips from Port Canaveral, Florida, stopping at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, with a family beach and childcare.

3. Carnival Celebration:

Carnival Celebration Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line ensures passengers, including social kids, make new friends on ships like Carnival Celebration. The ship features attractions such as the Bolt roller coaster, offering kids the ultimate vacation bragging rights. With diverse dining options, all-day pizza, and ice cream, families stay fueled for fun activities like Family Feud Live.

The kid-friendly cruises include weeklong Caribbean trips from Miami, with sister ships Mardi Gras and Carnival Jubilee offering similar adventures from Florida and Texas, respectively.

4. Norwegian Encore:

Norwegian Encore Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Encore provides a more mature atmosphere than many family-oriented ships, appealing to teens with top-deck attractions like a vast go-kart track and open-air laser tag. The ship's virtual reality playground offers thrilling rides and games, surpassing typical cruise ship arcades.

Parents should be prepared for the cost of passes for these activities. The ship's diverse cruises for kids cover Alaska in the summers, the Caribbean in the winters, and occasional sailings through the Panama Canal and the Pacific Coast.

5. Sun Princess:

Sun Princess Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises' Sun Princess is the go-to choice for family cruises in 2024. With Park19's expansive upper-deck activity zone featuring nine kid-friendly cruise attractions, including a safe hang-gliding experience and splash zone, it promises endless fun.

Inside, Firefly Park caters to younger ones, while Neon Grove and The Underground offer cool hangouts for tweens and teens. The ship sails the Mediterranean from Civitavecchia, Piraeus, Barcelona, and Caribbean routes from Fort Lauderdale.

6. Disney Magic:

Disney Magic Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Disney Cruise Line

The first ship of the Disney Cruise Line, called Disney Magic, started in 1998. Even though it's been around for a while, the ship still feels modern, thanks to Disney's constant improvements. Kids love it because of cool features like pirates, princesses, superheroes, and an exciting water slide with a three-story drop.

Over the years, Disney added more fun stuff like the AquaDunk high-speed thrill slide in 2013 and the Marvel Avengers Academy kids club. In 2018, they introduced Tangled Dinner Theater restaurant. This makes Disney Magic a favorite for families on one of the best cruise lines.

7. MSC Seascape:

MSC Seascape Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises' MSC Seascape offers a floating mega-resort experience that is perfect for families with diverse interests. Notable for its Robotron ride, where three riders fly over the ship and sea on a twisting robotic arm.

Kids can enjoy Pirates Cove Aquapark, virtual fun with F1 simulators, VR racing, a 4D movie theater, and a video arcade. The Lego-themed Doremi Land kids club includes spaces for different age groups, featuring Lego rooms, gaming areas, and a dance club.

8. Wonder of the Seas:

Splashaway Bay, a group of kids having a great time splashing through water, an exciting and fun photo shoot for Wonder of the Seas
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean offers more than just all-inclusive pricing on the largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas. Families can enjoy the Ultimate Abyss waterslide, a surf simulator, and zip lining for teens.

Adventure Ocean, their award-winning children's program, features immersive playrooms. Additional family attractions include Surfside, with an aqua park and dining options, and Thrill Island, with a redefined rock-climbing wall and a mini-golf course, providing ultimate family fun.

9. Celebrity Ascent:

At, Ascent, sculptures, artworks, pools, decks, pools decks, architectural images, main deck, abstract sculpture
Photo Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has lots of cool stuff for families, like outdoor movie nights and cupcake decorating. But what's neat is their Camp at Sea program for older kids and teens. There are over 500 activities, and teens aged 13 to 17 can do things like silent discos, sports, video games, and hang out with other teens.

They're adding a new ship, Celebrity Ascent, this fall, and it has all these activities for kids and teens, plus some extra special ones for adults. The spa is super fancy and even has a special menu for kids and teens so the whole family can enjoy it.

10. Sapphire Princess:

Sapphire Princess Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises offers diverse routes, but their Alaskan journeys stand out. The 7-Day Jeff Corwin's Nature & Adventure Voyage on Sapphire Princess takes you from Vancouver to Anchorage, Alaska.

Kids aged 3 to 12 can enjoy Camp Discovery with science activities tied to Discovery Channel shows. Various age-specific lounges and family-friendly Animal Planet shore excursions provide entertainment, making it an engaging experience for larger families.

What Are the Best Tips for Cruising with Kids?

In the distance is Cococay island, fun for the family, rock climbing, and action in the aft part of the day
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean International

Planning a cruise with kids can be a bit tricky, as there are extra things to consider. However, if you follow the tips in this guide before and during the cruise, both you and your children will have a great time. So, go ahead to the next chapter if you're planning your first cruise with kids.

1. Choose the Right Cruise:

When you're ready to plan a cruise vacation for your family, choosing the right ship is crucial to keeping your kids happy. There are specific cruise lines, like Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Royal Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line, that are great for kids.

To decide on the best cruise ship, involve your kids in the planning. Show them pictures of the ship and pool area and let them decide which activities they find most exciting. This way, they'll have an idea of what to expect and will be satisfied if the cruise ship isn't their first choice.

2. Choosing the Right Stateroom:

Family cruises offer spacious staterooms, ensuring enough room for quality family time and individual space. Having extra bathrooms is a good idea, especially for larger families, as it makes a significant difference. If a single room is only available for some, consider connecting rooms. This is ideal for cruising with older teens, providing them privacy while staying close.

Another option is splitting kids between two rooms with one parent in each, allowing easy movement between the rooms. Ships with kids-specific entertainment often have family-sized rooms closer to the fun, eliminating complaints about long walks across the ship for enjoyment.

3. Research the Kids’ Clubs:

Nowadays, most cruise ships have special programs just for kids. When choosing a cruise, it's important to check out these programs. Kids' clubs offer fun activities and play spaces designed for different age groups. They usually have areas for building toys and board games. For older kids, there's a lounge with video games and TVs.

Some cruise ships also organize daily activities like crafting, cooking lessons, and scavenger hunts. If you're voyaging with babies or toddlers, look for cruise lines that provide nursery or babysitting services. Although there might be an extra cost, it's worth it when you want some time alone to relax. Check the cruise line's website for more details on the activities in the kids' club.

4. Know Your Entertainment Options:

Before going on a cruise, it's a good idea to check out the shows and activities they offer. Different cruise lines have other shows, and some might not be suitable for kids.

Some cruises have partnerships with characters like those from Disney or movies like "Kung Fu Panda" and "Shrek." These shows can make kids happy, so it's helpful for parents to know about them ahead of time and let them choose which ones they'd like to see.

5. Pack Carefully:

Once you've planned your trip details, it's time to get ready. When traveling, don't overpack, and this applies to cruise trips, too. Consider the types of clothes and how many outfits you'll need based on your planned activities. Your plan comes in handy here, as it helps you know what the family will be doing, making packing easier.

For various age groups, be prepared in advance. For toddlers, bring milk formula, diapers, and necessary medicines, as some cruise lines may not provide them. Pack a quantity of sunscreen and hats to protect against the sun, especially when kids are playing on upper decks or during shore excursions. Consider bringing an action camera to capture the amazing sights you'll come across.

6. Plan a Shore Excursion:

Consider taking a break from your cruise by going on a shore excursion in the middle of your trip, if possible. This can enhance your travel experience. Whether it's a visit to the nearby beach or engaging in fun activities like snorkeling and hiking, outdoor adventures can add more joy to your cruise. Be mindful of any age, height, or weight restrictions.

Discuss excursion choices with your family, especially kids, to ensure everyone can participate in the selected tour. It's important to avoid booking a tour that one family member cannot join.

7. Avoid Motion Sickness:

Many people who go on cruises face a common issue called motion sickness. It's important to be ready for this, especially if you're traveling with your family.

Even if no one in your family usually gets motion sickness, it's a good idea to bring medicines like Dramamine, MotionEaze, or Bonine, just in case. You might find these medicines for sale on the ship, but it's better to be prepared in advance. Planning is a smart move.

8. Take Safety Measures:

It's a good idea to set some safety rules for your kids, especially when you're on a cruise ship. Although there's a mandatory emergency session for all travelers, it's important to have simple family rules. Some safety rules for your kids could include not running on the decks, avoiding dangerous areas, and not entering anyone's cabin.

The main goal is to make sure your kids know how to keep themselves safe. Cruises can be a great choice for families with small children and adults. I hope the suggestions above encourage you to go on a cruise and assist you in planning your trip with your family.

Related: Best Cruise Lines for Teens

Conclusion:

In conclusion, choosing the best cruises for kids involves considering factors like onboard activities, entertainment, and family-friendly amenities. Optimal cruises provide a safe and enjoyable environment for children, offering diverse age-appropriate programs and engaging experiences.

Whether it's exciting water parks, kid-friendly dining options, or interactive entertainment, the ideal cruise ensures a memorable and entertaining vacation for the entire family. Selecting a cruise that caters to the unique needs and interests of children enhances the overall travel experience, creating lasting memories for both parents and kids alike.

FAQs about Best Cruises for Kids

A cruise suitable for kids offers a wide range of child-friendly amenities and activities, including supervised kids' clubs, water parks, age-appropriate entertainment, and family-friendly dining options.

Kid-friendly cruises typically cater to children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, providing age-appropriate activities and facilities for each group.

Cruises are generally safe for kids, with strict safety protocols in place, including lifeguards at pools, secure kids' club facilities, and staff trained in childcare and emergency procedures.

Essential items to pack for your child on a cruise include swimwear, sunscreen, comfortable clothing and shoes, any necessary medications, favorite toys or books, and any specific items they may need for onboard activities or excursions.

Yes, many of the cruise lines provide professional babysitting services, permitting parents to enjoy some adult time while their children are safely cared for and entertained.
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