Updated: Oct 11, 2018
The baby needs a nap. The toddler’s restless. The tween and teen are bored out of their mind. Let’s face it - family vacations can be a challenge to plan and it can be nearly impossible to keep everyone happy and entertained while you’re on it. My recommendation? Consider taking a cruise vacation! Think about it - mom and dad can enjoy some down time in the adults-only area, the little ones can go to the onboard camp for a fun-filled day and the tween and teen can choose from a ton of activities to enjoy onboard. The trick to keeping everyone happy is to choose a ship that will do just that - and a little bit more. Of course, everyone’s tastes and budgets are different but I promise there’s a cruise line that will be a great fit for your family and it’s my job to help you find it. The following ships have a great range of activities, amenities and family-friendly staterooms that will take your precious family vacation from basic to extra!
Disney Cruise Line - Disney Fantasy/Disney Dream
The Disney Travel Company is known for catering to families - parents and children both young and old(er) alike. Disney Cruise Line’s ships offer some of the best accommodation options for parents and their children to have plenty of comfort and space. Of course the little ones (babies, toddlers, elementary-aged kids) will have so much magical fun to enjoy. From character spottings to their renowned fireworks at sea, there’s so much for them to look forward to. Disney didn’t forget about their older siblings though. Tweens and teens have their very own age-specific lounges Edge (ages 11-14) and Vibe (14-17) onboard where they can enjoy activities like gaming tournaments, dances, karaoke and scavenger hunts under the constant supervision of DCL’s certified counselors! Parents can indulge in a fabulous spa treatment or relax in one of the numerous adults-only spaces like their Quiet Cove Pool or enjoy a romantic specialty dinner at Remy or Palo. Disney also offers Wave Phones given out to text or call friends and family onboard, they even work on their private island Castaway Cay!
Royal Caribbean - Harmony of the Seas
I was invited to sail on the Harmony’s Inaugural sailing almost two years ago and this thrill-seeking ship has it all. From out-of-this world water slides to surf simulators to rock climbing walls… it’s an excellent choice for families. The Harmony’s accommodations are incredible - modern, spacious and their higher-end suites even come with butler service! Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean offers age-specific clubs and camps for little ones to be entertained while mom & dad do their own thing one afternoon. Take the little ones for a spin on the beautiful Boardwalk Carousel while the older kids go for a ride on the Abyss, the tallest slide at sea! Parents can enjoy adults-only quiet spaces like the Solarium, order a drink from a robot at the Bionic Bar or delight in a whimsical dinner at Wonderland, a must-try sensory experience. Royal Caribbean’s ships are all certified Autism Friendly for those who have a family member on the spectrum, a big plus for special-needs families.
Carnival Cruises - Carnival Horizon
Launched in April of 2018, the Carnival Horizon is their newest and shiniest ship to hit the seas. If offers numerous family-friendly spots like its Dr. Seuss WaterWorks water park and their award-winning SkyRide, a suspended two-lane race track for pedal-powered go-mobiles as you watch the waves crash below. They offer family staterooms to keep everyone comfortable with plenty of space throughout. Camp Ocean offers camp activities for kids ages 2-11 who are then divided into smaller age-appropriate groups. Circle C is for kids 12-14 to enjoy games, dance parties and movies. Club O2 is a dedicated space for teens 15-17 where they can listen to music, play sports and video games as well. Parents can head to the Piano Bar for a fun night or to the Serenity Retreat for some quiet time.
Princess Cruises - Majestic Princess
Having partnered with Discovery, Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess is a great choice for families. Camp Discovery has a forest-themed center The Treehouse for ages 3-7, The Lodge for ages 7-12 to learn and explore things about their destination along with fun games, sports activities and casual spots for just hanging out! The Beach House, a lounge specifically for ages 13-17 gives teens a place to socialize and connect with other teens through things like movies, onboard parties, video game tournaments and even dance lessons. Young adults aged 18-20 have Club 1820 where they can experience exclusive events tailored to them without any parents, siblings or hosts. Family experiences include Family Movie Nights, productions like Voice of the Ocean and the Family Fun Fair in the piazza. Princess even offers family shore excursions through their partnership with Discover and Animal Planet. Parents can enjoy some alone time at The Sanctuary, their adults-only retreat knowing their kids are in the capable hands of Princess’ certified staffers.
Celebrity Cruises - Celebrity Edge
The Edge is still a couple of months away from her maiden voyage but it’s by far the most innovative ship on this list and has a lot to offer when it comes to families. Fully customizable camps are available through Celebrity’s Camp at Sea partnerships with powerhouses like Lonely Planet, Xbox & S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to make learning exciting and fun! Teens can enjoy their own space, The Basement, where they can listen to music, play video games and socialize with other teens. Maybe your child’s a foodie, in which case they have onboard cooking classes available for them to create some culinary delights in the kitchen. Family friendly excursions are available as well for families to be able to enjoy experiencing the ports together. There is also a Teen Spa for ages 13-17 providing mani/pedis, hairstyling, facials, massages and even personal fitness training. Adults can enjoy a dip in the pool at the Solarium while their little ones have a day at camp. This ship is also home to the Magic Carpet - an incredible multi-deck extension that goes up and down the side of the ship - deck by deck. You’ll have a full bar & comfortable seating while enjoying the most spectacular views as it soars over the open ocean. Staterooms on the Edge are thoughtfully designed and offer some very family friendly floor plans. Celebrity Cruises is also certified as Autism-Friendly and provides sensory-friendly movies, toys, special dietary options and even priority boarding and departure.
These ships are my absolute favorite for families and I love that each of them offers significant value in their own way. It really all depends on what type of an experience you’re looking for as a whole. One more thing I’d like to mention - if you or anyone in your party is expecting or becomes pregnant before the cruise you’ll need to make that you or she's not 24 weeks or more along when it comes time to sail, most cruise lines will deny boarding after that due to pregnancy risk concerns. Have questions or need help planning your family’s school break or summer trip? Feel free to reach out to me anytime - I’d be thrilled to discuss your family vacation goals in more detail with you and help you plan a truly memorable family trip!