A cruise may not be the first thing you think of at the words, “family vacation,” but they can undoubtedly be a family affair.
Why? Because they have a little something for everyone. Dads can hit it off at the casino or play a round of tennis or two. Moms can have a relaxing day at the spa, or even go on a shopping spree. Older teens can go to parent-approved clubs (no more worrying about them coming home late!), while smaller kids can enjoy the pool or playgrounds that most cruises have.
The thing is, though—not all cruises are created equal as far as family-friendliness. Some are geared more towards young newlyweds
or retired couples, with not much to do onboard for kids of any age.
So, in the spirit of helping your family have a great time, lets’ find the best cruise for a family. We picked these based on the variety of activities on board that should cater to both parents and kids of all ages. Enjoy!
The Anthem of the Seas
The Anthem of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. Launched in 2015, the cruise ship can accommodate up to 4,905 passengers, with 16 passenger-accessible decks.
This cruise ship was meant to be a floating resort more than just a hotel on the seas. Its bright interiors are welcoming for kids and are a sign of the fun things to come.
The highlight of the Anthem of the Seas is its array of high-thrill activities that are perfect for thrill-seeking young adults and kids. The RipCord is a simulated skydiving experience onboard, where you can feel what it’s like to free-fall even without falling yourself – great if you have a fear of heights!
For surfers, you can try out the Flowrider wave simulator. Aspiring surfers can practice their skills in a safe environment. Everyone will also enjoy swimming in the many pools on the Anthem, including standard pools and whirlpools.
Other unique activities include archery, indoor bump cars, and a trapeze school where kids will undoubtedly enjoy bouncing around. For older teens that want a challenge, they can try scaling up the rock-climbing wall or get a SCUBA Certification.
For adults who want a nightlife experience, the Anthem of the Seas offers lots of bars and pubs to drink the night away. You can also enjoy numerous dining options with up 18 different restaurants onboard from big names, including an Italian restaurant by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. There’s also an abundance of shows in the Anthem for both kids and adults.
This cruise ship is based in the Bahamas and is an excellent way for the family to explore the Caribbean islands. You can also make side trips to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral—always a fascinating place to explore for both kids and adults alike.
Overall, the Anthem of the Seas is a fun-filled cruise ship for the whole family. It’s perfect for kids who are more inclined to do active, outdoor, and thrill activities.
When it comes to cruises for the whole family, it’s hard to top Disney. In fact, just the name itself will probably send your kids into a frenzy, begging you to book that trip.
That being said, a Disney cruise is absolutely magical for families with younger kids. It’s filled with character interactions and shows that add a certain charm that only Disney can deliver.
This is a proud tradition that is carried on by Disney Wonder, one of the first vessels in the Disney Cruise Line. From the moment you and your family step inside, you’ll be greeted with the familiar red, yellow, and black color scheme that’s known to Disney fans the world over.
The attention to detail is magnificent. For example, all of your kid’s meals are served on Mickey Mouse plates, and your cabin’s pillows and blankets all have the Mickey logo. It’s like Disneyland on the sea.
Of course, the majority of the attractions on board are for kids. There are endless character meetups and parties throughout the day. It’s an excellent chance for young children to see their Disney favorites in the flesh. You can even dine with them or have tea with Cinderella.
The Disney Wonder also throws some of the most spectacular shows in any cruise line. To start your trip off, you can attend Mickey’s Sail-A-Wave Party to jumpstart your cruise experience officially. You can enjoy a pirate-themed show at the Pirate Night party or meet your favorite Pixar characters at the Pixar Pals Party.
There are also different shows and performances by your favorite Disney characters at the Walt Disney Theater. One of the most popular ones is the “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular” show featuring characters from the hit Disney movie Frozen.
Of course, there isn’t a shortage of water activities—they’re plentiful aboard the Disney Wonder. The Aqualab Pool is a water playground filled with slides that’s sure to entertain everyone in the family. For adults wanting some quiet alone time, the Quiet Cove Pool is your destination.
Dining options also abound onboard the Disney Wonder. You can get access to international fare with food from American, Mexican, and other international cuisines. For the adults in your family, you can also enjoy a nightlife experience around the many pubs and bars on the ship. Down a pint at the Crown and Fin Pub or at the French Quarter Lounge. You can also dance the night away at the Azure club or enjoy a cocktail poolside at Signals.
Overall, the Disney Wonder is undoubtedly at the top of any family’s must-ride cruise. It may lack some of the more thrilling activities of some cruises, but it more than makes up for that with a sense of charm and magic that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
The MSC Divina is a family-friendly cruise for many reasons, but one stands out among the rest – kids under 11 sail for free! That’s right! For selected itineraries, you can tag along with your kids, and you don’t need to pay extra for them. Sweet deal, right?
However, note that this isn’t always valid for all itineraries, and there are only limited slots for this free privilege. We recommend checking and booking way in advance to ensure you have your slots in.
The ship itself is a magnificent Mediterranean-inspired ship, with Italian interiors, an authentic stone piazza, and marble finishes. The Divina accommodates up to 4,345 passengers, which allows you plenty of opportunities to mingle around with other international families.
Even though it’s a glitzy and elegant “adult-looking” ship, you’ll find amenities that can keep your younger kids busy.
The Divina boasts multiple pools on deck, which vary from wild to calm. The Aquapark is the main one and boasts kid-friendly pools. For a quiet dip, you can try out the Garden Pool.
Your kids will undoubtedly love the many video game options the Divina offers. You can become a race car driver with the Formula One Simulator. This allows you to experience what it’s like to drive one of these power racecars. There’s also the Virtual World, where kids can play classic arcade games.
You can even bring your baby and toddler along. You get access to free Chicco equipment such as strollers, backpacks, and bottle warmers. That way, you don’t need to pack as much bulky baby equipment.
There are also plenty of dining options onboard the Divina. There’s no shortage of European and Mediterranean fare, and the cuisine is really world-class. They have a full-service buffet to power your day ahead.
There are even kids-only dinner and adult-only dinners onboard. Kids can have their freedom of eating without their parents, while you can have a well-deserved date night with your spouse — Win-Win for everyone.
Overall, MSC Divina is a fantastic cruise for the family. If you can take advantage of the free pass for kids, then this might even be the most affordable one on this list.
The Norwegian Getaway promises something for everyone. The 3,963-passenger ship certainly has a wide variety of activities and leisure options that make it a hit for any family. The ship is like a literal moving resort and mall all rolled into one, with all the amenities you’d expect from both.
For swimming pool lovers, Aqua Park has it all. This full-featured waterpark rises seventeen decks above the sea. It includes over the top five-story mega slides, twister slides, and drops that can rival any water park on the land. If you dare, try the Free Fall, one of the fastest slides on the sea that drops you in at 4G speeds.
For younger kids who want a milder water experience, the Kids’ Aqua Park includes spray features and other water playground amenities.
For non-wet activities, your kids can try out the three-deck-high Sports Complex. Here, kids can enjoy all sorts of physical tasks such as swinging on ropes, climbing the Spider Web cage, or even try balancing themselves on the Plank.
There are also youth programmers available that have kids engage in fun activities like dodgeball and scavenger hunts. For toddlers, you can enjoy parent-child bonding activities with your baby at Guppies. These include hands-on painting and sensory play.
Older teens will have their own fun in the Entourage, a clubhouse by day and nightclub at night that’s made specifically for teens. It also occasional hosts youth-oriented programs like fashion events, theater workshops, and pool parties.
For mom and dad, there’s the Mandara Spa and Salon. This offers guests a luxurious and rejuvenating experience, which can help you relax after a long day on deck. It can do up to 50 treatments using a variety of techniques. For keeping in shape, you can also do your workout routine at the Pulse Fitness Center.
If you’re feeling lucky, try your fortune at the Getaway Casino. It has all the classic casino games like Blackjack, Craps, and Roulette, as well as all sorts of modern slot machines. It’s consistently voted as one of the best cruise-line casinos by Porthole Magazine and Casino Player Magazine.
When night comes in, time to head out for some dining and drinking. At the center of this experience is the Waterfront, a third-mile strip with restaurants, bars, and shops.
Dining is also as exciting as the activities onboard. You can have a private dining experience at the Haven Restaurant or sample a wide variety of cuisines at the Taste Restaurant. You can also sample authentic pub fare at O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill or try out Asian flavors in Shanghai’s Noodle Bar.
Overall, the Norwegian Getaway is a fantastic experience. The world-class waterpark alone is worth the trip. Add to that an incredible array of family activities, dining options, and nightlife hotspots, and you have the recipe for a winning family vacation.
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, there are lots of family-friendly cruise options out there. Some are more geared towards younger kids, some older, but there are nevertheless hits for all the age groups. Of course, you can’t forget yourself. You need options for adults as well.
While every cruise on this page would make an excellent choice, there’s one cruise that does it better than the rest, and that’s Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. It offers a comprehensive mix that has activities for all ages. Even though it’s aimed more towards active kids, we find that this fits most family descriptions pretty well. After all, what kid doesn’t want to run around and play?
The Anthem of the Seas also offers the best in terms of value vs. price, which sits well with most family budgets. For the most affordable, however, that would be the MSC Divina if you can manage to book one of their “kids stay for free” rooms.
Whichever cruise you choose, we hope you’ll have a blast on your next vacation!