Family cruises are often memorable vacations. Cruise ships cater to all ages and many offer interesting and/or educational age-specific children's programs. With over 60 cruise lines and almost 300 cruise ships to choose from, selecting the right cruise line for your cruise vacation is often difficult. For most families, large cruise ships offer the greatest variety of activities and often provide youth counselors to enhance your kid's memories even more.
More information: Questions to Ask When Planning a Family Cruise with Your Children
Carnival Cruise Lines advertises itself as the "fun ships", and the cruise line has a variety of family-friendly amenities at its fleet-wide Camp Carnival. Carnival has scheduled onboard programs for ages 2 through 14, special shore excursions for teens, and even baby sitting (for a fee).
The Celebrity X-Club Youth Program offers family friendly cruising and activities for kids ages 3-17. Children can learn more about the world by exploring science and nature or just have fun participating in the wide variety of activities from talent shows to slumber parties. Celebrity offers in-room babysitting for a fee.
Costa is the Italian branch of Carnival Corporation, and the ships are designed for both Europeans and North Americans. The year-round Costa Kids program offers daily activities for kids 3-17, and has youth counselors. Good choice for families who want their kids to interact with those from other countries.
Crystal is a luxury line that offers a supervised children's program whenever a large enough group of children will be onboard (holidays, summer vacations, etc.) Grandparents and parents who prefer an upscale line, but who wish to take their kids (or grandkids) along might enjoy this sophisticated line. Crystal does not set the youth program activity schedule until the ship knows the ages and numbers of kids who will be sailing.
Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth are three of the largest cruise ships afloat. They have a British flair for their children's programs, including real children's nurses and trained British nannies. The ships also have a teen center.
Anyone who loves Disneyworld or Disneyland will love Disney Cruises. The Disney characters entertain the kids on the ships, and there are numerous family activities. As such, the ships are much like a theme park at sea, and are geared towards family cruising. The ships have supervised children's programs year-round for ages 3 through teens.
Holland America's Club HAL provides year-round supervised children's programs for ages 5-12. Some of the Holland America ships have programs for ages 3 through teens. The ships have daily activities and a "just for kids" shore excursion on its Half Moon Cay Caribbean island.
NCL's Kid's Crew program has a playroom staffed with youth coordinators year-round. Activities are scheduled when the ship is at sea and in port for kids ages 2-17. Fun things to do for kids include dancing, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, costume-making, and games.
Princess expanded its youth program in 2002 to provide age-specific activities for kids 3-17. The ships also include learning activities on science, wildlife, and conservation. Teens will enjoy many of the same things they love at home--Nintendo, movies, Karaoke, and giant screen TVs. Younger kids will find plenty to do in the youth center. Princess also has full-time youth coordinators and group babysitting.
For adults who want to share their travel adventures with their children or grandchildren, Regent's complimentary Club Mariner youth program is designed for age groups 5-8, 9-12 and 13-17 and is supervised by a staff of experienced and enthusiastic youth counselors. Club Mariner operates during the summer and select holiday sailings.
On select Alaska and Tahiti cruises, Regent offers an excellent program entitled, "Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program". Jean-Michel Cousteau and his colleagues from Ocean Futures Society share their broad knowledge with enrichment programs, videos, lectures and shore excursions. Youth learn more about the eco-systems of the region and how to be responsible members of our planet.
Royal Caribbean International has big ships with non-stop activities for children. The ships have those famous rock-climbing walls and ice skating rinks. The RCI supervised year-round youth program, Adventure Ocean, is targeted to kids 3 to 17 in five age groups. It promises to be both fun and educational. Group babysitting is also available.