Find the Best Kid-Friendly Cruises: Activities, Dining, and Fun for the Whole Family!

Kid-Friendly Cruises: The kids can make or break a family cruise. They will vocally and repeatedly express how bored they are and how much they dislike the food options. Parents who choose the wrong cruise ship may feel as confined as though they are on a deserted island, complete with biting crabs beneath their feet.

The best kid-friendly cruises feature ships that offer countless activities for those under the age of eighteen, plenty of dining options that satisfy both young palates and ravenous teen stomachs, family-friendly cabins and ship amenities, and chances for socializing with other passengers. You can find some amazing seaside vacations that will have kids saying, “Best cruise ever!” by the end of the week, regardless of the size of your family or your budget.

But since every family travels differently, these are by no means the only ships to take into account. When you’re narrowing down your options for enjoyable, family-friendly cruises, use them as a starting point.

Best Kid-Friendly Cruises

Cruise Secrets, cruise line secrets, Cruise tips, Kid-Friendly Cruises
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Disney Wish

It is not shocking that Disney is one of the best kid-friendly cruises, but you might be surprised at how much there is to do and enjoy for adults as well. Particularly with the new Disney Wish, which made its debut in the summer of 2022, is that true?

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Disney Wish features four age-specific kids clubs, but the main Oceaneer Club, which is open to children aged three to twelve, boasts a brand-new, spectacular grand entrance. Children can explore the club’s areas dedicated to “Star Wars,” fairy tales, Marvel, and Disney Imagineers after gaining entry via a slide.

Junior cruisers can enjoy two movie theatres with first-run Disney films, Broadway-caliber productions with Aladdin and the Little Mermaid, and dining options centered around Arendelle from “Frozen” and the Worlds of Marvel in addition to the kids club on Disney Wish.

Adults will enjoy the little extras on Wish that make family cruising easier, like split bathrooms in most cabins, a drop-off nursery, a splash area for toddlers, and restaurant staff that will offer high chairs and puree baby food. These extras are in addition to a “Star Wars” themed bar and adult-only fine dining restaurants.

From Port Canaveral, Florida (close to Orlando), Disney Wish offers quick three- and four-night cruises that stop at Castaway Cay, the company’s private island, which offers a family beach, supervised child care, a splash pad, and strollers for rent.

Disney Treasure, a nearly identical sister ship, will make its debut in 2024.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas

6 Best Royal Caribbean Cruises, Best Royal Caribbean Cruises
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Even before it officially launches, we have no doubts that Royal Caribbean’s brand-new Icon of the Seas, which will soon surpass all other ships in the water in size, will rank among the best cruise ships for families. With a six-slide water park, a wild ropes course, a surf simulator, a rock-climbing wall, a sports court, and Surfside, a half deck full of restaurants and play areas just for small children and their families, kids will never be bored on a ship.

Acrobatic divers flip and splash in the AquaTheater, which is now located up high on the ship beneath a glass dome, and ice skaters land jumps on a rocking ship, sure to amaze kids (and parents) who enjoy a good show. Icon’s indoor shopping strip, the Royal Promenade, offers parades and pizza that you shouldn’t miss.

To better accommodate guests of all ages, the kid-friendly cruise ship will also feature creative new family cabins and suites, some with separate kids’ rooms. With three floors, a screening room, karaoke machine, in-suite slide, and a backyard that connects to the Surfside family neighborhood, the Ultimate Family Townhouse will be a massive living area.

Starting in January 2024, Icon of the Seas will depart Miami for week-long cruises through the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Norwegian Encore

Norwegian Encore, Kid-Friendly Cruises

Compared to many of the family-oriented ships on our list, Norwegian Encore has a more sophisticated atmosphere, but teens love it for its onboard activities. With one of the largest go-kart tracks in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and an outdoor laser tag arena perfect for playing matches under the stars, its top decks entice older children. There’s a massive virtual reality playground with games and rides that surpass the offerings of a typical cruise ship arcade.

Parents should be aware that cruiselong passes for laser tag, virtual reality games, and the go-kart racetrack are not inexpensive. To keep the teenagers satisfied, be ready to take out your wallet.

Teenagers can fuel their growing bodies with tacos, barbecue, and hibachi at night, as well as 24/7 comfort food and burgers at The Local. Then they’ll consent to be seen in public alongside their parents at some show that sounds as good as “Choir of Man.” They know they can always sneak out to Entourage, the teen club, to hang out with the cool kids late at night, so it’s an easy concession.

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The best cruises for kids on Norwegian Encore cover several oceans. With a few trips along the Pacific Coast and the Panama Canal in between, the ship spends its winters in the Caribbean and its summers in Alaska.

Carnival Celebration

Carnival Celebration

On Carnival Cruise Line ships, both guests and crew members arrive prepared to make new friends or enjoy a laugh, a story, and a drink with fellow shipmates. Outgoing kids will blend in perfectly and enjoy the line’s massive new ship, Carnival Celebration. Older children will enjoy the teen and tween clubs, which are conveniently located near Guy Fieri’s burger stand and the video arcade. They can make friends at the Family Harbor Lounge, Camp Ocean, and Dr. Seuss Bookville.

The only cruise ships with a top-deck roller coaster named Bolt are Carnival Celebration and Mardi Gras, which are nearly identical twin fleet mates. These are the best cruises for families with young children. (That is, until Carnival Jubilee, the third sister, makes her debut in late 2023.) For kids on vacation, a ride here is the ultimate source of bragging rights and Instagram gold. In the ship’s Ultimate Playground, where the coaster is the dominant feature, young cruisers can challenge their new friends to games of ropes course dominance, basketball, and miniature golf.

Youngsters who enjoy good food courts can get together with friends and family at several free, informal dining establishments, such as Shaq’s Big Chicken restaurant and three Street Eats locations that serve loaded French fries, meat on a stick, and dumplings. The whole family will be well-nourished for the interactive “Family Feud Live” show with pizza and ice cream available 24/7.

Weeklong Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Miami are among the kid-friendly cruises offered by Carnival Celebration. Its sister ship, Mardi Gras, sails comparable Caribbean itineraries out of Port Canaveral, Florida (close to Orlando). Carnival Jubilee will operate exclusively on seven-night Western Caribbean cruises, out of its base in Galveston, Texas.

Sun Princess

Sun Princess, Kid-Friendly Cruises

That two of our best ships for children haven’t made their debuts yet may seem strange. But in terms of family entertainment, Princess Cruises’ new 4,300-passenger Sun Princess will be miles ahead of the rest of the fleet, just like Icon of the Seas. You will want to keep this kid-friendly cruise ship in mind if you’re planning a multigenerational family cruise for 2024 or later.

The Sun Princess will be the first Princess cruise ship with a large, kid-friendly activity area located on the upper deck. Known as Park19, it will have nine sun-loving activities spread across three decks. The Sea Breeze Rollglider—a safer take on hang gliding from an elevated track—a ropes course, a splash zone, a climbing structure with obstacles, and a sports court are some of the attractions.

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Firefly Park, located inside the ship, will offer drop-off kid programming as well as family play areas for children aged six months to seven years. Neon Grove and The Underground, the separate hangouts for tweens and teens, feature plenty of video games and comfortable lounge furniture.

Sun Princess will alternate between Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale and Mediterranean cruises out of Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, Piraeus, the port for Athens, and Barcelona.

MSC Seascape

MSC Seascape, Kid-Friendly Cruises
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The MSC Seascape, a floating megaresort from MSC Cruises, is among the best cruises for families because it offers something for everyone. The Robotron ride, reminiscent of a ride in an amusement park, sets the ship apart from its sisters. A robotic arm that is attached to three riders at a time is twisted and turned to propel the riders over the ship and the ocean.

With its slides, splash area, and rope bridge, Pirates Cove Aquapark is sure to appeal to water babies. Some children might use their parents’ money to indulge in VR motorcycle racing, F1 race car simulators, 4D movie theaters, and video arcades, among other virtual entertainment options. Families can organize games that challenge visitors of all ages using the newest technology, or they can form teams for sports court competitions.

There are designated areas for infants, children, and teenagers in the Lego-themed Doremi Land kids club on board. The 7,567-square-foot area has three areas for teenagers: a gaming area with VR options, a hangout with ping pong and foosball, and a dance club. For younger children, there are two Lego rooms with Duplos and regular Lego bricks.

Not to mention the line’s delicious pizza, which is sure to please families, especially the dessert varieties drenched in Nutella.

From Miami, MSC Seascape offers seven-night cruises through the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

AmaWaterways’ AmaLea

AmaWaterways' AmaLea
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Retirees love river cruises in general, but that isn’t always the case when Adventures by Disney teams up with AmaWaterways. Both adults and children will enjoy the river cruise vacation that the two travel agencies have designed.

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Since AmaLea is one of the ships AmaWaterways specifically designed for family cruises, it makes our list of the best cruise ships for kids. Some twin balcony cabins can accommodate up to three people, while the suites can accommodate up to four people, including the option for connecting cabins for larger families. Unlike many river ships, AmaLea features an outdoor chess set in a giant pool, which is a surprise hit with children.

AmaLea navigates the Danube, passing through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, while other ships navigate the Seine and Rhine rivers. With shore excursions designed to keep both adults and children entertained, Adventures by Disney maximizes your time. There are even options for kid-supervised activities while parents take more adult-focused tours. Your family might visit a farm in Hungary, play hide-and-seek in the intricate maze of a palace in Austria, and relax in a playground perched above a tree in Germany.

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