The first cruise ships weren’t designed with kids in mind. For example, only adults in first class could swim in the Titanic’s pool. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of incredible family-friendly cruises these days. In fact, cruise lines are going out of their way to cater to their youngest passengers.
From a Disney Cruise where you’re guaranteed face time with Anna and Elsa to an Alaska cruise where your kids can see glaciers before they’re gone, here are 11 cruises to take while the kids are still young.
Disney Wish – Disney Cruise Line
Disney pioneered the concept of the kid-centric cruise. Its newest vessel, Disney Wish, is the brand’s first ship in a decade. Kids will be most stoked about AquaMouse, a waterslide-meets-roller-coaster Disney is billing as its “first attraction at sea.” Wish also has Disney’s first “Frozen”-themed restaurant, Arendelle, and its first “Star Wars”-themed bar, Hyperspace Lounge.
Prima – Norwegian Cruise Line
This new ship from Norwegian Cruise Line has serious bragging rights. For starters, it has the only three-level go-kart racetrack at sea. Kids with the need for speed can race at up to 27 miles per hour on the 1,378-foot long speedway. The ship also has the industry’s first “tech-immersive” mini golf experience and its first Tidal Wave waterslide. Want to teach kids about gravity? Try the 10-story Drop and Rush slides.
Disney Dream – Disney Cruise Line
Every Disney Dream itinerary includes a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Of course, it’s understandable if you want to stay on board all day. Between the Oceaneer Club (where “Star Wars” fans can pilot the Millennium Falcon), the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (where aspiring princesses can get their hair done like Cinderella’s), and the AquaDuck (a water coaster designed by Disney Imagineers), you’ll never hear an “I’m bored.”
Alaska Glacier Country – UnCruise Adventures
Introduce your kids to the wonders of nature on this 7-night voyage. The scenery is stunning, but the goal is to experience the great outdoors while learning about everything from science to sustainability. UnCruise Adventures’ smaller vessels (22-86 passengers), may not have all the bells and whistles of larger ships, but they can anchor in smaller inlets. Between the bears, eagles and humpback whales, this trip is perfect for the budding wildlife photographer.
Caribbean Princess – Princess Cruises
Thanks to a partnership with Discovery and Animal Planet, kids cruising with Princess Cruises on several different ships can get up close and personal with wildlife. Search for sloths in Costa Rica, track whales in Baja and learn how to catch Alaskan king crab from a “Deadliest Catch” captain. While all of Princess Cruises’ ships are kid-friendly, the Caribbean Princess is the only ship with the Reef Splash Zone.
MS Fridtjof Nansen – Hurtigruten Expeditions
With its smaller, expedition vessels, Hurtigruten Expeditions is ideal for a more immersive experience. For young minds interested in science, it’s hard to top their icy itineraries. In addition to shore excursions, kids are invited to take part in the Young Explorers’ program which includes an onboard science center. (Young Explorers sail for up to 50% off.)
Celebrity Beyond – Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Beyond is new, but its specialty restaurant, Le Petit Chef, is already a hit with families. Celebrity Cruises, who prides itself on offering autism-friendly cruising, also has a great Camp at Sea as well as a Teen Club where teens can try hot glass blowing, take STEM classes and battle it out on the dance floor during a silent disco. Beyond’s two-bedroom, two-bathroom suites are perfect for families.
Mardi Gras – Carnival Cruise Line
Mardi Gras is the first ship in North America powered by liquified natural gas. While the sustainability factor is cool, kids will be more excited about BOLT. The first roller coaster at sea, this thrilling ride reaches speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. If the line for BOLT is too long, play putt-putt golf or tackle the ropes course. Mardi Gras, which debuted in 2020, sails in the Caribbean.
Pride – Carnival Cruise Line
For an entry-level European family escape, sail the Mediterranean on Pride. Kids learning about world history will enjoy excursions in Rome and Barcelona. On board, they’ll be obsessed with WaterWorks, the on-ship water park; its most popular slide is Twister. Younger kids can exercise their imaginations at Seuss at Sea where Dr. Seuss’ bestselling books are brought to life.
Wonder of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
The Wonder of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship. One of its biggest draws is the Ultimate Abyss – a 10-story slide. Kids will also love the Luckey Climber, a vertical maze, and racing on The Perfect Storm water slides. Then there’s the zip line and the FlowRider surf simulator where the power of 30,000 gallons of water is harnessed to create the perfect swell. Kids sail free on Royal Caribbean.
MSC Seascape – MSC Cruises
Seascape, which debuts in December 2022, has nearly 8,000 square feet of space dedicated to kids. In addition to infant and toddler care, the ship will have two LEGO rooms and three exclusive spaces for teens. There will also be a huge (for being at sea) water park featuring a virtual reality water slide. For family bonding time, don’t miss events like the evening carnival and game shows.
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