Parenting can be rough. It’s hard enough to get kids out the door for a quick trip to the grocery store, let alone drag them on a family vacation.
Luckily, we have a solution:
Schedule a family cruise! Yes, kid-friendly cruises are actually a thing, and we don’t know who’ll love going on one more - you or your children.
And don’t worry, you won’t be the only parent with a group of rowdy kids. Approximately 25% of parents take kid friendly cruises with children under the age of 18, which means 1.6 million kiddos set sail with their families each year.
Here’s the deal:
The best cruises for kids require very little effort on your part. If you know where you want to go and when you want to be there, you’re set.
Each of the family cruises listed below offers food, beverages, and awesome amenities - all you have to do is show up!
We spent hours (23, to be exact) gathering info about the best cruises for kids so you don’t have to. Load up your luggage with a few of our favorite travel must-haves and get ready to embark on an amazing vacation with your loved ones.
Voted the best large cruise ship in 2016, this beloved boat is a hit with families. Three different swimming areas make it easy to find one that’s right for your family’s needs.
Long lines make it difficult to enjoy some of the attractions quickly, especially if you have kiddos who get tired or impatient easily.
Entertainment: This cruise is a Disney fan’s dream. There are Disney-themed shows, Disney characters strolling around the boat, Disney crafts, Disney desserts...you get the idea. It’s not all Disney all the time on the Disney Dream - but it’s pretty darn close. If your kids don’t like Disney movies, you should probably choose a different family cruise, like the Carnival Breeze or Norwegian Getaway, from our list.
But the Disney Dream isn't just for kids, it's fun for adults too. It offers luxurious spa treatments and a modern fitness center, as well as lounges, clubs, and Goofy’s Sports Deck.
Dining: Disney Dream serves a variety of American favorites, such as grilled cheese and milkshakes. Younger kids have a blast sipping drinks at Royal Court Royal Tea, while older kids love the Enchanted Garden. Room service is available if you prefer to chow down in your bed.
Amenities: Staterooms include standard amenities, such as television sets and private bathrooms, found on other ships. Many rooms include at least one porthole to view the ocean, and some include private verandas.
We’re happy to report that Disney Dream offers more wheelchair-accessible rooms than we’ve seen on any other ship. These rooms include lowered towel racks and roll-in showers.
Childcare: Group babysitting is available for kids under the age of 3, but there’s a small fee. Older kids can hang out at the Oceaneer Club without mom and dad.
Price/Value: With price tags ranging from $2,200 to $4,200 per person for 3 to 5 days, Disney Dream definitely offers the most expensive trips on our list. However, you’ll be creating magical memories your children will never forget - so if you can afford this cruise, it’s worth every penny.
Wondering what’s covered in the prices listed above? Pretty much everything, which makes it easy to budget for your trip. Disney says the cost covers 3 meals a day, plus snacks, desserts, and beverages. It also covers most meet-and-greets with the characters and most other entertainment options. Expect to pay extra for alcohol, babysitting, and salon services on the boat.
Several vacationers say the Liberty of the Seas cruise is great for multigenerational families, so you can bring the kiddos as well as the grandparents. Supervised kids’ clubs give adults a brief break from family time, if desired.
Unlike Disney Cruises filled with princesses and Mickey Mouse, you won’t find DreamWorks characters all over the place. This can be a pro or a con depending on what you’re hoping to see during the trip.
Entertainment: There’s always something to do on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas, whether you're looking to catch a flick in the 3D movie theater or have a meet-and-greet with popular characters from DreamWorks movies. Strengthen your muscles as you climb the rock wall, soar across the ice rink, or take it easy and relax during a soothing spa treatment or a soak in one of several whirlpools. You’ll also find live music, multiple water slides, a library, and plenty of bars and lounges.
Dining: You can get a real meal at one of the numerous on-site restaurants on this boat, but we’re most excited about the Ben and Jerry’s. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, grab some complimentary grub from Sorrento's Pizza or Jade Sushi. You can also treat yourself to baked goods or Mexican fare - and don’t forget to have coffee delivered straight to your room for an early morning pick-me-up.
Amenities: Don’t worry, you won’t have to share your shower with strangers on Liberty of the Seas. Each stateside room includes a private shower and bath, plus a TV and telephone. If you upgrade your lodging, you can request an Ocean View stateroom or get a room with a balcony that reveals the beautiful scenery outside. Most Suites include a complimentary concierge, private lounge area, and special seating during events, so keep that in mind if money isn’t an issue.
All rooms include electrical outlets, but some guests complain they aren’t compatible with their electronics. You may want to bring a converter strip just to be safe.
Childcare: Look, we get it: You love your kids, but sometimes you don’t want to be with them 24/7. Royal Caribbean understands that, which is why they offer several complimentary kids’ programs. There is a small fee if you drop off little ones at The Babies and Tots Nursery, but you can find plenty of free, fully supervised activities to keep kids age 3 to 17 busy during your trip. And if you're thinking your kids might complain that the programs are babyish, keep in mind there are tween and teen lounges just for older kids.
Price/Value: Prices range drastically depending on how long you travel, which room you choose, and whether you’re cruising during the off season. Generally, you can expect to spend between $450 and $1,500 per person, and that price doesn’t include passport fees or other expenses you might rack up, such as airline tickets. Cruise Critic says Liberty of the Seas is a good value for the money it costs, giving it 4 out of 5 stars in this category.
Aside from the travel-related expenses we discussed earlier, this price covers pretty much everything except taxes and port expenses (those generally cost between $80 and $100 per person, per trip). You don’t have to worry about paying extra for food, entertainment, or accommodations while you’re on the boat. Bring some spending money if you plan to buy souvenirs or participate in on-shore excursions.
All ships offer pools, high-quality restaurants, and live shows. Affordable rates make it easy for nearly anyone to afford a family cruise.
Some reviewers complain that MSC Cruises lacksthe organization found on higher-priced cruises.
Entertainment: Kids love watching Kelly and Kloe Onboard, which features the adventures of two young girls whose father works on the boat. There are also arcade games, mini bowling, and an Aqua Park, as well as daily competitions for trivia, dance, and karaoke.
If you prefer to relax and unwind, you can enjoy spa services or snack on healthy fare like fresh fruit.
Dining: Dining options vary depending on which ship you choose, but most travelers we’ve talked to say they love the Mediterranean fare. You can also find buffet-style selections, baked goods, and classics like hamburgers and pizza. You don’t have to bring any formal attire for the restaurants, but you may want to pack some semi-nice clothes. Exposed midriffs generally aren’t allowed in the restaurants.
Amenities: Rooms with and without an ocean view are available, but you’ll pay more if you choose one with a window. Like the other cruise lines on our list, MSC Cruises offer private toilets and showers in each room. You can also expect to find a small TV.
Choose a Suite if you like your space. Suites include a large bed, couch, and private balcony.
Childcare: MSC Cruises offer multiple childcare options. You can request childcare day or night, even if you plan to leave the boat for an on-shore excursion. You can also drop off the kiddos during mealtimes. Many ships only offer childcare for kids over the age of 3, but MSC Cruises have Babycare for little ones age 1 to 3.
All kids receive security bracelets so you don’t have to worry about them leaving with someone else. You can also rent beepers and cell phones for added peace of mind.
Price/Value: We’ve seen prices less than $100 per night for MSC Cruises, although some trips cost a couple hundred bucks each day. Many of the trips we’ve found are $300 to $400 bucks for 6 nights and 5 days.
Kids sail free on many of the cruises, which means you can potentially take the entire family on a cruise for less than $1,000 bucks (well, assuming you already have passports and don’t have to pay flight fees). However, watch out for extra fees once you’re on board; not all of the activities are free.
This is one of the only cruise lines we’ve found that offers free video games. You’ll pay a premium for the 4D Cinema and some virtual reality games, but many video games are free. If you’re worried about incurring extra fees for gaming, spa services, or other luxuries, request one of MSC’s all-inclusive packages.
With the exception of the Vista, the Breeze is currently the biggest Carnival cruise ship you'll find - so older kids can explore the boat without constantly bumping into the ‘rents. A 320-feet water slide also delights adventurous tweens and teens.
Some adults complain that the ship’s food could taste better, but most kids seem to think it’s fine.
Entertainment: If you think it’s difficult to pry your kids away from their smartphones and tablets, this cruise is just what your family needs. There are tons of activities to keep older kids busy - free of charge. Tweens can perfect their artistic skills in the arts and crafts area or hang out at Camp Ocean - supervised by attentive staff, of course. Teens can play dodgeball, satisfy sugar cravings at the ship’s candy shop, or party with other teens at Club 02.
Carnival Breeze also has awesome activities for the adults in your family. They can unwind in the therapeutic thalassotherapy pool (try saying that 3 times in a row), battle each other in lip sync contests, or play life-size board games.
Dining: Guests swear Guy’s Burger Joint is one of the best places to eat, especially if you love thick, juicy burgers. Pizza Pirate is another kid-friendly option, but teens who stay up late may prefer Pizzeria del Capitano - it’s open 24 hours a day. Swirls sells creamy ice cream and froyo that really hits the spot on a hot day, and Shake Spot has some of the thickest shakes we’ve ever seen.
Amenities: Spacious closets and dresser drawers make it simple to find a spot for the entire family’s attire, even if your teen packed half his or her wardrobe. 24-hour room service lets you satisfy late-night cravings without leaving your kids unattended. And every room includes a private toilet and shower, as well as a TV and telephone.
Childcare: Carnival Breeze offers supervised youth programs for kids aged 2 to 11, plus supervised areas for teens and tweens. It’s free for kids to attend these areas, and you’re allowed to leave the boat for on-shore excursions if you want.
The staff can’t administer medication, so keep that in mind if you’ve got a kiddo who uses an EpiPen or inhaler.
Price/Value:Cruise Critic gives the Carnival Breeze a 5 out of 5 for value, and Fodor’s Travel also gives a nod to the ship’s affordable accommodations. After reviewing the prices, which start at $179 per person, we totally understand why. This is the second-cheapest ship on our list of the best cruises for kids and families; in fact, it might even cost less than our most budget-friendly pick if you schedule an off-season trip.
Sure, you may have to dole out some extra money for specialty restaurants or excursions that take place on shore, but this cruise ship’s price is still a steal. Set aside some funds for WiFi access as well if you want to keep in touch with friends via social media or email during your trip.
Dining options include a cafe, buffet, and room service, as well as a noodle bar and private restaurants. Has scored an impressive 100% multiple times on inspections executed by the Vessel Sanitation Program.
Small balconies, some of which face other rooms rather than the ocean.
Entertainment: “I’m bored” is something you’re unlikely to hear during a cruise on the Norwegian Getaway. This kid-friendly ship has activities for all ages, from parent-child programs for little ones under 3 to jungle gyms, karaoke, and crafts for the under-12 crowd. Teens 13 to 17 years old can shimmy and shake (supervised by attentive staff, of course!) at the teen-only nightclub or play some video games at Entourage.
But hey, there’s plenty for parents to do too! You can zip line across the boat, view a dinner-theater presentation, or place your bets at the casino. There are also more than 12 different bars for adults craving something other than juice or soda.
We should probably warn you that there are no Nickelodeon cruises as of 2017, so keep that in mind if your family wants to meet Jake and the Pirates, SpongeBob SquarePants, or other popular characters. Norwegian partnered with Nickelodeon for 3 years, but we haven’t heard anything about a contract renewal.
Dining: Chicken and waffles, teriyaki noodles, fresh-carved meats...you’re sure to find something that pleases your palate on the Norwegian Getaway. We love that you can eat whenever you want instead of honoring the strict schedule that some cruise ships require. After all, your toddler might have zero appetite at 5:00 p.m. but feel absolutely famished by 5:30.
Many of the food and nonalcoholic drink options on this ship are free, but you might incur a small fee if you order room service. Travelers recommend ordering the pass for unlimited drinks if you plan to down a lot of booze during your stay.
Amenities: This cruise doesn’t have many fancy amenities unless you book a mini-suite or a room in The Haven, but it covers the basics. You can find a TV in most rooms, as well as a toilet and shower. Some rooms have bathtubs, which is super important if you’re responsible for keeping kids clean who are too young to shower.
Ocean-side views are available, but prepare to pay extra. Request a room with an extra bathroom if you have a big family or little kids who can’t wait long to use the toilet.
Childcare: The Norwegian Getaway offers childcare for kiddos age 3 to 12. There’s also a club called Entourage for teens 13 to 17 year old. You can do fun activities with little ones under age 3 in The Guppies Program, but there’s no childcare for kids that young.
Price/Value: It’s hard to pinpoint a price for the Norwegian Getaway since fares vary based on where and when you’re going. Generally, we’ve found that you can book 7 days on the Miami boat for around $600, but cruises that depart from European destinations cost as much as $2200 per person. When you consider how much you’d spend for a hotel room and meals, the price for a cruise is extremely reasonable. Keep in mind that not all meals are free on the Getaway, but you can order specialty packages at a discounted deal. You may also have to pay for some shore excursions, but there are packages available with excursion credits.
Norwegian regularly runs a Free at Sea promotion that lets travelers choose between 5 different packages, including free WiFi and unlimited drinks. This helps keep costs low during your trip.
Missy Nolan is a single mom who is too sleep-deprived to come up with a clever bio at the moment. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and loves staying home with her 3 kids. Well, most of the time. Missy rocks at parenting, baking, cooking, saving cute outfits she'll never wear on Pinterest, and sipping her beloved secret-menu Starbucks Pink Drink while strolling through Target.
She's your go-to girl for advice or feedback on any of the things listed above, as well as tips on healthy living, bargain hunting, marketing, and finances. Connect with Missy here or at MakeItWithMissy.com, a food blog that features healthy recipes and grocery deals.