Gone are the days when cruise ships were only the domain of retirees looking for a relaxing, worry-free vacation. While rest and relaxation can still be found on the high seas, today cruise ship companies are working hard to appeal to another audience - families with kids. Aside from the all-inclusive luxury cruise companies, the best family cruises include kid-friendly food, activities, and entertainment on board. Several lines, such as Disney Cruise Line and Carnival, treat this demographic as their core audience. It's common for these companies to offer deals making it more affordable for families to take a cruise together, including deals that allow kids to sail for free or at a greatly reduced rate. With so many options, it can be hard to decide what's the best family cruise for your family. RiverCruisingGuide.com is here to help you sort through the options and find the best family cruises.

Comparison Table

Product

Product Name

Price

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

MSC Divina sailing on an ocean

MSC Divina

Norwegian Getaway cruise ship docked on the ocean

Norwegian Getaway

Holland America Line sailing on the ocean

Holland America Line

Carnival Vista stalled on the ocean

Carnival Vista

Disney Wonder sailing on the ocean

Disney Wonder

White Regal Princess sailing on the ocean

Regal Princess

Crystal Cruises cruising in the seas

Crystal Cruises

Cruise ship with blue lights on it

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

Norwegian Pride of America sailing near an island

Norwegian Pride of America

Best Family Cruises - FAQs


My kids get bored easily. Will they have enough to do on a cruise?

You should be more worried that they won't want to leave! Today's best family cruises have special clubs for kids, live shows based around popular kids' properties, attractions including water slides and carousels, arcades, and electronics rooms.


My child is a picky eater. I'm worried about how they'll find the food on board.

This is one of the top concerns for the best family cruises - making sure every diner has options that make them happy. Most of these ships, especially those geared towards longer-term cruises, will have over a dozen dining options. This will include casual places that serve kid-friendly food like burgers and fries. The main dining rooms will also usually offer a kids' menu.


Is taking a cruise with kids affordable? My family is on a budget.

Most the ships profiled in this article attempt to get families on board with reduced rates for kids. Some even allow kids to sail for free with paying parents. A word of caution - many of these ships offer supplemental dining options and activities that are an additional fee. This will drive the cost up although most supplemental restaurants are geared towards adults.


What is the ideal length for a cruise with kids?

That depends on your kids and how they react to new experiences. For a first cruise, an excursion longer than a week may overwhelm - not to mention the shock of coming back to reality at the end. If you're worried about how your children will handle a longer cruise, starting them out with one of the 3-4 day cruises offered by many of these companies is a good idea.


A parent needs a break occasionally. Will I be able to have some relaxing alone time while on the ship? What about a romantic dinner with my spouse?

Every one of these ships offers supervised activities to keep the kids busy while you enjoy some "you" time. You'll be free to enjoy time at the spa, play some sports, or indulge your inner child. Many ships have supplemental restaurants that are adults-only if you want a dinner away from the kids.

 

How we Reviewed

We reviewed the some of the best family cruises based on the following factors - affordability, the variety of activities and entertainment, dining options, options for route and length, and appeal to different demographics within the family (young kids, teenagers, adults)

 

Overall Price Range Of This Product

The best family cruises are aimed at families and are affordable, with three-day cruises frequently costing less than $300 a person. Many of these companies offer deals to allow kids to either sail free or at a reduced rate. Rates will go up significantly if you want a larger room or one with a view. Disney Cruise Line is higher priced, but all rooms are showrooms with an ocean view. The biggest factor that will raise your costs on many of these ships is the onboard extras.


What We Reviewed The Best Family Cruises

Father carrying his kid

Photo from: Pexels

  • Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas
  • MSC Divina
  • Norwegian Getaway
  • Holland America Line
  • Carnival Vista
  • Disney Wonder
  • Regal Princess
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas
  • Norwegian Pride of America

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

Photo from: Pixabay


Features

One of the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas has been described as a floating city. That ensures it’ll have something to recommend for everyone. Royal Caribbean’s attention to detail extends to the rooms, where all indoor rooms have a “virtual porthole” where views of the ocean outside are broadcast. Kids will enjoy activities including a kids’ water park, the “Adventure Ocean” kids club, and nightly movies and stage shows. DreamWorks characters like Shrek are on hand. Teens will love the larger water park, the skydiving simulator, and the onboard escape room game. Adults will find a spa, a casino, a gym, and an adult-only pool area. Families will find many activities they can enjoy together, including parades and nightly live music. Dining has something for everyone, with five complimentary full-service restaurants, five contemporary casual restaurants will kid-friendly dishes, a complimentary buffet, and seven supplemental restaurants including a steakhouse, a sushi restaurant, a gastropub, a Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant, and the gourmet modern restaurant Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine. Kids will also find one of their favorite burger joints, Johnny Rockets.

Pros

  • Something for everyone! This huge ship appeals to all demographics.
  • Attention to detail means every room offers a view to the outside, real or virtual.
  • Activities like escape room and skydiving simulator not found on other ships.
  • Wide array of family-friendly dining options.

Cons

  • Size of the ship can be overwhelming to young kids.
  • Many of the restaurants with the most appeal to adults are an additional charge.

Price

Anthem of the Seas cruises average $100 a day, and discounts can be found on longer cruises, including an 11-day cruise for $899. Check Royal Caribbean’s website to see which cruises are offering their Kids Sail Free program.

MSC Divina

MSC Divina sailing on an ocean

Photo from: MSC Divina


Features

Owned by MSC Cruises, the Divina is a luxury ship that provides an old-school experience for adults while also providing entertainment and activities geared towards younger guests. Inspired by the legendary actress Sophia Loren, this Italian-owned vessel features such timeless amenities such as a Swarovski crystal staircase and an infinity pool. A gym and spa are available plus a casino for adults and a Broadway-style theater with nightly productions. An interactive 4-D cinema and a LEGO play area are also available. Specialty clubs geared towards both kids and teens provide supervised activities and adventures both on the ship and off at the port. The star restaurant on the ship is the Eataly restaurant, owned by the famous Italian food hall.  Chefs are attentive and willing to help find something for everyone in your party.

Pros

  • Gorgeous ship with timeless appeal.
  • Attention to service includes butler service and exclusive bars and clubs.
  • Customized experiences for younger guests at the clubs.

Cons

  • Old-school environment may be slower-paced than young guests are used to.
  • Not as much dining variety as other ships.
  • Limited American cruises, with only New York as a port option.

Price

MSC Divina cruises begin at less than $100 a night, with an 11-day cruise starting at $899 a person. Many restaurants are a supplemental fee.

Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway cruise ship docked on the ocean

Photo from: Norwegian Getaway


Features

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its “freestyle cruising” plan, which allows guests to customize their own experience. This massive Miami-based ship is one of their most family-friendly vessels, and it’s mostly Caribbean-based cruises are packed with options that will appeal to guests of all ages. Getaway is best known for its massive water park and high-speed watersides, which makes it ideal for older kids and teens who love to get wet and wild. There are designated swimming areas for both kids and adults who want a more relaxing experience. A massive three-deck sports complex offers land-based activities for all ages. The ship offers Splash Academy clubs, divided into three age groups for kids between ages 3-12. The headliner for entertainment and dining is the Illusionarium magic dinner theater, but the ship contains twenty-six dining options. Curated by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, they include three main dining rooms and a variety of supplemental restaurants geared towards adults. A self-serve buffet is always available and a favorite of kids, while adults love the Brazilian steakhouse and Teppanyaki grill.

Pros

  • Highly customizable experience allows guests to find activities and dining options right for them.
  • More options for teenagers than many cruise ships.
  • Specialized activities for every age group and reasonably priced babysitting services offered.

Cons

  • Many of the most acclaimed restaurants are a supplementary fee.
  • Water park may be too wild for young kids or older guests.

Price

Norwegian cruises are highly reasonable with a three-day cruise going for as little as $219 a person. Kids sail free on select cruises, so check their website to take advantage of these deals. Prices will be higher for a sea-view cabin, and additional fees apply for supplemental restaurants.

Holland America Line

Holland America Line sailing on the ocean

Photo from: Holland America Line


Features

The Holland America line of cruises is geared towards veteran cruise-goers, with most of their cruises being seven days or longer and going to many locations that are rarely traveled on cruise ships. Their Grand Voyage line of cruises is considered the gold standard by world travelers. As such, it may not be the best choice for a first family cruise. For families familiar with the cruise ship experience, they will find a lot to enjoy. The live theater and movie theater will show kid-friendly entertainment, and older kids will enjoy the enrichment opportunities such as the cooking classes and digital workshops. Although the food is geared towards an adult audience, the council of celebrity chefs that oversees the dining program is happy to accommodate special requests. A supplemental steakhouse and Italian restaurant are ideal for romantic dining away from the kids. Best for families with older kids, and parents who will enjoy a mature and relaxing environment.

Pros

  • Highly attentive service.
  • Adventurous off-ship excursions geared towards people with an explorer's instinct.
  • High-quality food options.

Cons

  • Not geared towards younger kids
  • Dining options more limited than on other ships.
  • Limited options for short-term cruises.

Price

Holland America cruises begin as low as $69 a person for a one night cruise and are considered a budget-friendly option. Their most popular option, seven-day Caribbean cruises, are $499 a person. This does not include an ocean view or the supplemental steakhouse or Italian restaurants.

Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista stalled on the ocean

Photo from: Carnival Plaza


Features

One of the largest ships in the family-friendly Carnival fleet, Vista is one of the most packed ships on the seas when it comes to activities and dining options. More like a floating mall and recreation center, Carnival Vista boasts the first IMAX at sea and the SkyRide Zipline, which is highly popular with thrill-seeking teens. Carnival's Camp Ocean is a free program providing supervised activities for kids of all ages, beginning at 24 months and up. Another unique feature is the Dr. Seuss-themed children's library, complete with visits from kids' favorite Seuss characters. The WaterWorks aquapark is filled with thrills for teens. Carnival has many food options geared towards both kids and adults, with several restaurants designed by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Although Carnival Vista may be your kids' favorite ship, be warned - Carnival is known for its low fares and many supplemental options. Many food options and a select few activities carry an extra fee.

Pros

  • Busy, family-friendly environment.
  • Supervised day camp for kids, with enthusiastic counselors.
  • Variety of food options guaranteed to please kids.

Cons

  • Low on romantic/quiet options for parents.
  • Lots of onboard options carry a supplemental fee.

Price

Carnival is sold as a budget cruise line, with indoor cabins on a three-day cruise being on offer for as low as $169 a person. Carnival also offers many discounts on kids' fares and free fares on select cruises. However, cruise-goers should budget in that they and their kids will be tempted by many of the supplemental options on board.

Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder sailing on the ocean

Photo from: Disney Wonder


Features

As expected for any ship with Disney in the name, Disney Wonder is geared towards families and Disney lovers. Emphasizing short-term cruises (with the shortest being two days and the longest being fourteen), they are also known for their themed holiday cruises, among the hardest to book in the industry. Your kids will be thrilled to see their favorite Disney Princesses and Star Wars/Marvel characters on board, and the cruise is designed to keep them busy and engaged. Clubs and interactive experiences will thrill them with the ability to enter the world of their favorite movies, and live shows based on classic Disney movies are presented nightly. For the adults, they will find a pool, gym, spa, and an adults-only British-style pub. A Disney cruise is ideal for adults who want to have time to themselves while the kids are in supervised activities. Dining options include cajun-themed Tiana's place, continental restaurant Animator's Palate, and seafood-forward Triton's, along with the adults-only romantic Italian restaurant Palo. For kids who don't want to sit still for a full dinner, the buffet Cabana's is always open.

Pros

  • Kids will be excited to see their favorite characters
  • Trademark Disney attention to detail.
  • Luxury showrooms for every guest.
  • Almost entirely all-inclusive.
  • Many supervised activities for kids, allowing parents more privacy.

Cons

  • Limited activities geared towards adults.
  • Limited number of restaurants.
  • Higher price point than most family cruises.

Price

As all Disney cruises place their guests in a luxury showroom with an ocean view, Disney Wonder is comparatively higher than most competitors. Three-day cruises begin in the $1,500 range, with their two-week cruises costing $7,000.

Regal Princess

White Regal Princess sailing on the ocean

Photo from: Regal Princess


Features

Princess Cruises is a subsidiary of Carnival, providing a more luxurious, mature cruise experience. Regal Princess is primarily recommended for families with older kids who aren't looking for theme park thrills. Entertainment is highly interactive, with a famous singing competition called The Voice of the Ocean. Older kids will enjoy the Discovery at Sea exploration activities, which are sponsored by Discovery Channel. Nightly movies projected on the giant poolside screen are a good family activity, and couples taking a night off from the kids will enjoy the piano bar Crooners for a more mature atmosphere. Most of the routes are to destinations in Europe, and that impacts everything on the ship. The food on the ship is themed to Mediterranean cuisine, and both parents and kids are likely to be happy at the world-class Alfredo's Pizzeria on board. Younger kids who are picky eaters will enjoy the large buffet, and everyone should be thrilled with the ornate chocolate desserts offered at Chocolate Journeys.

Pros

  • Luxury cruise atmosphere at a lower price.
  • Dining program curated by Curtis Stone.
  • European-themed itinerary is unique to the cruise industry.

Cons

  • Limited activities for young children.
  • Lacks the adrenaline-packed activities favored by teenagers.

Price

Regal Princess is a mid-priced cruise, with most cruises averaging less than $100 a day. A 7-day Caribbean cruise costs $659.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises cruising in the seas

Photo from: Crystal Cruises


Features

Crystal Cruises is an American luxury cruise brand, frequently recognized as one of the world's best. Offering an all-inclusive experience with an emphasis on fine dining, Crystal Cruises are geared towards mature, veteran travelers. Teenagers will appreciate the onboard shopping and recreation opportunities, and the dining program is considered among the best in the industry. Featuring a state-of-the-art dining room that combines a modern menu with a menu of old favorites, you will also find a modern Italian restaurant and a branch of the acclaimed Japanese chain Nobu. For the adults, each Crystal Cruises ship features a selection of bars and lounges with unique cocktails. Each ship contains an onboard gym, spa, library, and enrichment activities.

Pros

  • Luxury, all-inclusive cruise atmosphere.
  • High-end dining program combining the familiar and experimental.
  • Many opportunities for parents to find alone time.

Cons

  • High price point.
  • Very limited appeal to young kids.

Price

Crystal Cruises is a high-end cruise line, due to its luxury staterooms and all-inclusive package. A ten-day cruise, among the company's shortest, will run about $3,500.

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

Cruise ship with blue lights on it

Photo from: Pexels


Features

Just knowing this is the largest ship in the world will be enough to get many kids excited about boarding Harmony of the Seas. If not, the wide array of entertaining and dining options will surely find something for everyone. Featuring unique attractions including an ice rink, a carousel, and the tallest water slide on any cruise ship, this massive ship is designed for families to bond. Younger kids will be happy with the DreamWorks characters on hand and the kids-only water park Splashaway Bay, while teenagers can test their fearlessness at the towering Ultimate Abyss slide. Then, families can catch a show at the Broadway-style theater. Royal Caribbean's dining options include complimentary fine dining and casual options for everyone, as well as a wide array of supplemental gourmet dining - including an Italian restaurant designed by Jamie Oliver.

Pros

  • The biggest ship in the world packs a comparatively massive list of activities and dining.
  • Activities geared towards every age group.
  • Wide choice of gourmet restaurants geared towards adults.

Cons

  • Huge, busy ship can be overwhelming.
  • Young kids may become upset at the activities they're too young or short for.
  • Many dining options carry a supplemental charge.

Price

Harmony of the Seas, as the most state-of-the-art ship on the seas, carries a slight premium compared to other Royal Caribbean ships. Cruises average $150 a night. However, many discounts for children are available. Keep an eye on their website for kids sail free premiums.

Norwegian Pride of America

Norwegian Pride of America sailing near an island

Photo from: Norwegian Pride of America


Features

This Hawaii-based ship from Norwegian Cruise Line offers a more relaxed atmosphere compared to its sister ships. Geared towards providing a convenient way to see Hawaii's natural wonders, it's an ideal cruise for older kids who appreciate nature and culture, including close-ups of volcanos and stories from Hawaiian lore. It's not all educational, though - the ship contains a fully equipped sports court and a popular video arcade. Off-ship excursions include sailing and snorkeling. Their most iconic restaurant is the Cadillac Diner, with a 1950s theme, but the ship also has two main dining rooms, an Asian fusion restaurant, and several casual restaurants. Six specialty restaurants and a gelato bar provide something for everything - for a supplemental fee. And as for the parents, they'll find over a dozen bars and lounges on board, specializing in unique cocktails mixed on deck.

Pros

  • Offers sights and excursions not offered on any other ship.
  • Hawaiian-themed food and drinks a cut above usual cruise ship fare.
  • Great for mature, adventurous kids.

Cons

  • Lacks many of the onboard adventures on other Norwegian ships.
  • Only sails from Hawaii, with limited options.

Price

Runs about $200 a night - higher than most Norwegian cruises, but with many excursions not offered on other lines. Check the website for special deals for kids.

Woman caring a bag boarding a cruise ship

The Verdict

Every one of these family-friendly cruises has something to recommend. Young kids taking their first cruise will likely be happiest on the Disney Wonder, with its familiar characters and guided activities. Older, adventurous kids may love Norwegian's Pride of America and its daring Hawaiian expeditions. However, most parents have one thing in mind when booking a vacation for the family, and that's to ensure that everyone has a good time.

Of this list of the best family cruises, which is the best? There's one cruise line that specializes in pleasing everyone - and that's Royal Caribbean. Its massive, city-like ships provide recreation and dining options for every age group. The cruise also visits a wide range of destinations. While Harmony of the Seas may be the biggest ship on the seas, the slightly smaller Anthem of the Seas has activities not found anywhere else. At the more reasonable price point, Anthem of the Seas gets our nod as the best family cruise.

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