Updated: Mar 15
Kid friendly cruises come in many shapes, sizes, and locations. And even within the same brand, each ship can be a completely different experience from ship to ship. There are also many different types of cruises. From the mass market mega cruises we all know, to small ships, yacht’s, expeditions sailings and river cruises. There is so much variation out there that it can be difficult to find your perfect getaway. That’s why I’ve decided to put together for you a list of the 8 most kid friendly cruises.
1. Disney Cruise Lines
This one almost seems like a given. Disney Cruise Lines is geared towards families with kids of all ages. They offer their Disney’s Oceaneer Club, Edge for Tweens and Vibe for Teens. They also have a nursery for children under 3 years old. It is available at $4.50 per half hour and each additional child is $4.00 per half hour.
Beyond the kids club, there are live shows, character greetings, deck parties, the pools, splash areas, and water slides. The splash areas are the only places where children in swim diapers who are not fully potty trained yet can play with water. They also offer Coast Guard approved vests that children can use who are not great swimmers.
There are activities that are just for adults. Adults have their own pool where kids are not allowed and there are bars and adult clubs on board. But Disney ships will mostly have activities geared towards families, and in particular, small kids.
2. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
Royal Caribbean also has a kids club (Adventure Ocean) where kids have all kinds of fun activities. They offer a family dining option, where you can have an early dinner together, and at a certain time, Adventure Ocean staff comes to pick up the kids and takes them to the kids club while you finish your meal. It’s perfect if you have little kids who can only sit at a dinner table for so long before they start getting antsy.
Beyond the kid’s clubs, there are also all kinds of onboard activities for the kids. There is zip lining, rock climbing, surfing, ice skating, a sports deck, mini golf, a carousel, water slides, splash pads, bungee jumping, and all kinds of kid friendly fun stuff. Some of their ships do offer a splash pad for children in swim diapers. These are on Oasis, Quantum and Freedom class ships.
I recommend the Oasis Class ships as a kid friendly cruise class, but nearly all ships have activities for kids with more activities added as ships are being “Amplified”. CocoCay is Royal Caribbean’s private island. Recently, they opened up their Perfect Day on CocoCay facilities. These facilities have a water park for kids of all ages and boast to have the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean and the tallest waterslide in North America.
3. Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival is one of the only kid friendly cruise lines to offer a kids club starting at age 2. They offer Dr. Seuss at Sea with a Seuss character breakfast. There is also a Build-A-Bear Workshop where kids can create their own plushy friend. There is an IMAX Theater on certain ships and a 3D Thrill Theater.
They also offer water slides, pools and splash pads for kids. They do not have a swim diaper friendly pool for kids. Carnival has a Ropes Course, mini golf, Sports Deck, The Skyride on Vista, Horizon & Panorama, which is an 800 foot suspended track pedal track. Carnival Mardi Gras will also have BOLT, a roller coaster at sea.
4. Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian has their kids club for kids 3-17, babysitting for a fee, water slides & pools. They also have mommy and me sensory play, music and movement and “colors of the Rainbow” for kids under 3. There are family workshops like pizza making and game shows. Older kids from 6-12 can partake in circus skills and show activity. Onboard, they have a ropes course, sports complex, go-carting, bowling, game shows, Broadway shows, and even a Cirque du Soleil Dinner show.
They do not have a swim diaper friendly pool, so you do need to make sure your kids are potty trained if you want them to use their pools.
5. Princess Cruise Lines
Princess offers a Kids Club, Camp Discovery, created in conjunction with discovery Communication, and has engaging youth programming with wonder-filled center designs. They do offer babysitting services for children under 3 for a fee and also have a Kindermusik program for a mommy and me playgroup.
A little personal note about Kindermusik. I did the Kindermusik program with my son when he was an infant until I became pregnant with Madison and had pregnancy issues. I feel this program was instrumental in making him grow up to be the intelligent boy that he is today. It was a lot of fun for both of us and he enjoyed the programming and the hands-on activities.
They have the Reef Family Splash zone on the Caribbean Princess, but as most kid friendly cruise lines, Infants and young children who are not toilet trained are not permitted in any of the pools or spas due to public health concerns.
6. Holland America Cruise Lines
Club HAL is available on select ships and babysitting services are also available for a fee. All kids must be completely toilet trained to participate in Club HAL, as staff cannot assist them in the bathroom at all. Highlights for kids ages 3 to 6 include “Painting Picassos,” and “Sing-Along Storytime,” as well as theme parties, such as “Dino-Mite Night” and “Ships Ahoy Pirate Treasure Hunt Adventure. Activities for tweens (ages 7-12) include anything from ice-cream eating contests to gaming tournaments and theme parties. Tweens will have plenty to enjoy. Teen cruisers enjoy mocktail parties, karaoke and trivia contests, jewelry making, video games, staff vs. teens volleyball tournaments, themed events and more. There are also pools they can enjoy, but again, swim diapers are not allowed due to public health concerns.
I was able to find one river cruise company that caters to families, and that is Tauck cruises. They are “…the only river cruise company to have a dedicated family river cruise program with four different river cruise itineraries that cater to “kids” from 8 to 80+.”
River cruises are not really very kid friendly, because the size of the ship is going to be very small and can only accommodate so many people. There isn’t a lot of space and sometimes don’t even include a pool, so to fit a dedicated kids club is unfeasible. The recommended age for kids to sail on a river cruise is from 8 years and up.
Lindblad has family expedition sailings on small ships that can get into many different ports that some of the larger ships cannot. They offer expeditions and activities for kids from ages 8+ and it is in conjunction with National Geographic.
“An expedition is the perfect way to experience wildness with your family—whether that’s a twosome, nuclear unit or sprawling multi-generational clan. On every expedition we see grandparents, parents, and children sharing activities and creating a bright, collective family memory. Whether you’re 8 or 80, there is joy in discovering the wild together. “
They have kid-friendly menu options and impromptu movie nights with pizza. Their National Geographic Global Explorers program where kids and teens can choose cool activities—from earning a Zodiac “driver’s license” to recording wildlife sightings in their Field Notebook—all designed to help them develop what National Geographic Education defines as the attitudes, skills, and knowledge of an explorer.
On every expedition we see grandparents, parents, and children sharing activities and creating a bright, collective family memory. Whether you’re 8 or 80, there is joy in discovering the wild together.