For a great family vacation, you can’t beat a cruise. The room and food is included in the price as are activities aboard ship. There’s daycare for the little ones and tween and teen activities that keep the older kids occupied. Cruise lines plan shore activities with detailed guides on what would suit each age group. You can plan on a family day at the beach or take a more active family on a mountain bike tour. It’s all available and it’s all easily planned out for you.
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Still, some cruise lines sail the extra mile to make kids feel welcomed aboard. Take a look at the cruise lines listed below, all consistently ranked in the top 5 family cruise lines by travel magazines and websites worldwide.
1. Royal Caribbean: Long known for pampering its guests (what cruise line doesn’t?) RC has spent millions refitting older ships and redesigning new ones. While you sun on the upper deck, the kids can hit the teen lounge, zip line their way down the ship or climb a rock wall. Many of their ships have a special teen nightclub.
2. Disney Cruise Lines: It’s Disneyworld on the water, so what’s not for kids to like? The grandfather of all family cruise lines set sail in 1996 and continues to gather steam. Every minute of a Disney cruise is crammed with parties, character-autograph sessions, Disney-based musicals, classes, tours, movies and games. Imagine pirate treasure hunts and princess tea parties and you’ve pretty much got the right idea. The newer, larger ships even feature a water park complete with a ship-long water slide.
3. Carnival Cruise Lines: One of the more affordable cruise lines, Carnival is great for families on a budget. The line is also known for providing loud, party-like atmospheres so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, this might not be the one to choose. Along with the usual children’s’ activities that other cruise lines provide; the Carnival Magic has an onboard social networking tool: Fun Hub is a shipboard intranet portal that offers teens (and others) info on daily activities. Several of the newer ships have huge water parks with multi-story waterslides and ropes courses.
4. Norwegian Cruise Lines: Ideal for families, Norwegian Cruises feature “free-style” cruising. That means you can do what you what, when you want, including eating dinner. So if your little one is having a “moment,” there’s no need to stress that you’ll be late for your dinner seating. In addition to a youth program that features Cirque du Soleil-style activities, arts and crafts and video games, the teen program offers 20 team sports and themed night-time events. Four ships have partnered with Nickelodeon so you’re young one can cavort with Sponge Bob Square Pants or Dora the Explorer on selected cruises.
5. Linblad’s National Geographic Endeavor: Rather than coddle your family with fancy meals and entertainment, Linblad Cruise lines provides a learning experience for any age. On Linblad Cruises, families snorkel among playful sea lions in Galápagos, paddle kayaks in Alaskan’ coves, or watch a polar bear approach the ship in the Arctic. Expeditions offer activities in a range of interests and fitness levels, perfect for all ages. Children will work with a naturalist or biologist assigned to the ship and gain new appreciation of the environment and learn how important it is to protect it for future generations.