Cruising is a holiday the whole family can enjoy, with the latest generation of cruise ships specifically geared to families with facilities surpassing those that you would fi nd at any land-based resort. Families come in all shapes and sizes, so picking the right cruise line to suit your entire family can be difficult but here’s a quick guide to the best out there.
1. Disney Cruise Line
As you’d expect Disney Cruise Line creates a special kind of magic and promise to touch the hearts and imagination of everyone on-board. Whether it’s a 3D showing of your favourite film, a meet and greet with all the characters, outstanding Broadway shows or a musical starring those villains you just love to hate, there is something for everyone. The kids clubs are age appropriate and packed full of fun activities for little ones aged just 3 months, right the way up to teenagers. There’s an arcade full of video games, a club where you can dress up as your favourite character, a nursery for the tots and a Disney Oceaneer Lab where children can play whilst learning. The swimming pools are all set around a different Disney character and have slides, whirlpools, hot tubs and water-sprays. The nightclubs and lounges combine unique themes with a welcoming atmosphere, so children and adults alike can enjoy a night of dancing and live music together.
2. Carnival Cruise Lines
If there’s one thing that Carnival does well, it’s having fun, particularly when it comes to the children. Offering one of the most comprehensive kids programmes around, their ships which are aptly titled ‘the fun ships’ have their own activity clubs for children aged 2-17, and include lots of age appropriate goings-on. Carnival boast a boatload of fun with waterslides, golf courses, a theatre screen which overlooks the pool showing movies daily, video-game rooms, karaoke, child-friendly menus, pool parties and rooms on the ship that are exclusive to them, giving them a fun place to hang out and make new friends.
3. P&O Cruises
P&O Cruises five family-friendly ships Aurora, Azura, Oceana, Oriana and Ventura were created with family enjoyment in mind geared specifically to the British market. All feature “The Reef” P&O Cruises kids programme for 2-17 year olds, split into four age groups. Exciting daily activities are organised by qualified Reef Rangers to keep children of all ages entertained. Each ship features a supervised night nursery, toys, ball pools, rockers, soft-play areas and snug areas for younger children and videos and gaming consoles for older children. Toddlers will love appearances from Noddy and Mr.Bump whilst activities for older children include treasure hunts, face painting, group singing, parties and crafts plus Cirque Ventura a circus skills training school. Teens enjoy more autonomy, hanging out with new friends, trying the latest gaming technology and going to late-night discos. On Azura and Ventura they’ll even find a DJ’s mixing station and a Rock School during school holidays.
4. Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean offers age appropriate programmes and entertainment catered for a younger audience, and with their ships getting bigger and better every year, it would seem that Royal Caribbean have stepped it up a notch. Their ships have been transformed into a giant playground for kids of all ages with rock-climbing walls, surf simulators, ice-skating rinks, water parks, mini-golf and adventure programmes. What’s more, Royal Caribbean has introduced the Dreamworks experience to some of their ships so the kids can watch 3D films, ice shows and even meet all their favourite characters such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and the stars of Madagascar.
5. Princess Cruises
Princess have dedicated youth centres for children aged 3 to 17, split into age appropriate groups and each with a suitable entertainment programme. Activities include; arts and crafts, pizza parties, karaoke, talent shows and discos to name just a few. The teens get their own exclusive hang-out filled with video games, giant TV screens, ping pong tables and juke boxes. Princess offer children an educational programme where they can learn whilst they play and also has special kids dining where junior cruisers can enjoy dinner without their parents and in the company of their new found friends.
NCL have teamed up with Nickelodeon to offer non-stop family entertainment. Your children can take part in interactive game shows, eat breakfast with SpongeBob SquarePants and sing and dance at Dora’s Music Party. Not only will older kids love the waterpark, but they get their own lounge area where they can take part in Wii and Xbox challenges and sports activities. NCL doesn’t stop there either, new to 2011 they have introduced The Blue Men group as part of their world-class all-round family entertainment programme.
Time to pamper yourself
Whilst your youngsters are having the time of their lives you can treat yourself to a day in the spa, at the gym or simply just relaxing by the poolside, all in the knowledge that your children are being looked after by fully qualified staff. Most family-friendly cruise lines also offer a babysitting service, just in case you fancy a romantic dinner for two.
From the spacious staterooms to the world-class entertainment, the kids clubs to the adult-only lounges, you can be rest assured that there really is something for everyone on these family-friendly ships.