With nearly one million children cruising the high seas the cruise lines realize the importance of “family time” and the need for you to make the most of your travel dollars. Nothing compares to the ease and value of a family cruise vacation. Cruises are ‘family-friendly' with comfy cabins and meals featuring kid-favorites. With an assortment of activities onboard and in port, a cruise has something to offer everyone. There are spas for Mom, golf for Dad, movies, games and swimming for the kids just to name a few. Even hard-to-please teens will find plenty to enjoy in the “clubs” designed just for their age group.
Eating on a cruise will be stress-free, also. The children’s menu offers kids’ favorite entrees and hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza are readily available. Children might want to dine with the children’s program while parents enjoy a more formal dinner. Teens like to sleep late, while adults like to get up earlier and relax over a cup of coffee. The dining hours suit everyone’s schedule. It is fun to come together for the evening meal and share all the activities of the day.
Some considerations when planning a family cruise with children include the length of the cruise, the destinations, as well as the cabin space. Third, fourth and fifth passengers in a cabin usually get discounted rates, so this would be an excellent opportunity to upgrade to a much larger stateroom. Most cruise ships also now offer discounted shore excursions for children.
When planning a family cruise vacation, look at the space each cruise ship has available to kids. Many ships have a separate swimming pool, water slide, a video arcade, and other facilities which can make a cruise vacation fun for the whole family. Below is a list of some of the activities and services offered by the major cruise lines for children.
Best overall cruise line for family cruising is Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean provides so much on their new mega-ships that will appeal to a family such as, ice skating, rock climbing wall, shopping promenade, in-line skating, mini golf, pools, full size basetball court, fitness gym and spa. The evening offer entertainment shows, casino action for mom and dad, and the whole family can enjoy the movies. The well organized and staffed children's programs are age appropriate offering hands on crafts, science, theater, swimming, games, teen clubs and more. Everyone will be happy with the dining choices. There is the main dining room, steakhouse and seafood grill, a Johnny Rockets and for dessert enjoy Ben and Jerry's! Don't forget the 24-hour room service - kids love this.
Disney Cruise Line: With Disney Cruise Line almost an entire deck is for the children's entertainment. There is an outdoor activity area, with their own kid friendly swimming pools. Age appropriate activities are available for ages three (toilet training required) to four; ages five to seven; ages eight to nine; and 10 through 12. Group babysitting for children ages 12-weeks old and up is available for a fee. For teenagers, there is a coffee house complete with music, games, a large-screen television, and an Internet cafe. Self-service laundries are an added convenience for families, particularly on seven-night cruises.
Holland America: Club HAL is Holland America Line’s youth and teen program for children and teenagers ages five to 17 and it is staffed with professionals. The program is operated on an open door policy, meaning that participants may come and go as they please. They are supervised at all organized activities; however, Club HAL's staff members are not responsible for any child or teen that chooses to leave the activity. Children under the age of five may participate in the program, provided an adult accompanies them. Families find the self-service laundry facilities a convenience on the newer ships.
Princess: Each Princess ship has a playroom and a supervised program of children's activities tailored for children ages two to 17. A schedule of special teen activities is offered. For a fee, group babysitting is available when ships are in port and in the evenings. There is no babysitting in your cabin. On the Royal Princess, youth counselors are available only when there are 15 or more children sailing. Other conveniences for families are large self service laundry facilities and two-way family radios that can be rented from the Purser's Desk.
Royal Caribbean: The Adventure Ocean program includes supervised activities designed for children ages three to 17. Evening babysitting services are also available. Teen centers with a DJ and disco are available on the newest ships. A set rate soda program is a saver for parents' pocketbooks; for a nominal charge, children can have all the fountain soft drinks they desire. The smaller standard cabins found in the older ships and the lack of self service laundry facilities are drawbacks for families.