What Are the Best Cruise Lines for Families?

The best cruise lines for families provide family bonding opportunities and exciting entertainment. Learn what those cruise lines are in this article.

Cruises appeal to a wide range of people. From couples looking for a romantic getaway to international friends meeting in common waters, there’s a cruise out there for everyone.

One of the most popular types of cruises these days are family cruises. Many cruise lines have ships and itineraries that accommodate families, providing entertainment for all ages and a chance for family bonding. However, with so many cruises available, choosing the best one for your family can be difficult. 

Luckily, we’ve outlined some of the best cruise lines for families to make your next family vacation successful. Keep reading to discover what they are and learn what you should look for in a family cruise. 

The Best Cruise Lines for Families

The best cruise lines for families are Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises. Let’s take a closer look at what these cruise lines offer families. 

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line is first on our list of the best cruise lines for families. As one of the largest cruise lines in the world, it’s no surprise that Carnival offers a variety of family-friendly cruises for all ages. You can take a look at all the ships in the fleet right here.

Carnival Vista Class Decks
Carnival Vista Class Decks (Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive)

If you choose to cruise with Carnival, just be sure to select a ship with kid-friendly features. For example, Carnival Panorama has different supervised kid programs in three different age categories, a massive water park, and a SkyZone trampoline park.

One of Carnival’s most unique offerings is Seuss at Sea, thanks to an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss. This cruise program features interactive activities, arts and crafts, and more for your little ones to enjoy.

The Carnival Horizon even features a dedicated Dr. Suess-themed Waterworks Aqua park. The best ships for the Suess at Sea program are the Vista class, including Carnival Panorama, Carnival Horizon, and Carnival Vista.

Carnival Celebration Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Jouni Niskakoski / Shutterstock

When it comes to the cruise line’s newest Excel class ships, the younger ones can be kept busy at one of the onboard dedicated kid clubs while the older members of the family enjoy some thrills on the BOLT roller coaster. The thrilling ride was first introduced on the Mardi Gras and is 800 feet long, 187 feet above sea level, with speeds up to 35-40 miles per hour.

Best Carnival Class Ships for Families:

  • Excel Class: Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, Carnival Jubilee
  • Vista Class: Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Panorama

Royal Caribbean International 

Royal Caribbean International has several ships that put it in contention for one of the best cruise lines for families. 

In particular, the Oasis class cruise ships offer thrills for all ages. The ships boast activities suitable for all ages and different neighborhood areas, from teens-only hot tubs to dedicated play areas for small children and toddlers.

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean

There are activities that the whole family can tune into, such as ice skating shows, broadway musicals, the boardwalk, pools, rock climbing, and much more. The entire family will be kept busy during those sea days! Some oasis class vessels, such as Wonder of the Seas, even feature the Ultimate Abyss, a 10-storey slide located aft of the ship, perfect for family members with a minimum height of 112 cm.

The Quantum Class Royal Caribbean cruise ships have slightly different features which everyone in the family will enjoy. Some unique features that family members can enjoy are the iFLY simulator located aft of the ship and the SeaPlex area, which offers plenty of family rivalry with bumper cars and glow-in-the-dark laser tag.

Odyssey of the Seas Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

All Royal Caribbean ships offer amazing Broadway-style shows, games, and activities. Passengers might also be able to enjoy the cruise line’s feature-filled Perfect Day at CocoCay Cay private island in the Bahamas, depending on the itinerary, for even more family fun! Families will get to have even more enjoyment at sea when the new class Icon of the Seas offers even more family fun than even the Oasis class ships!

Best Royal Caribbean Class Ships for Families: 

  • Icon Class: Icon of the Seas
  • Oasis Class: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas
  • Quantum Ultra Class: Spectrum of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas
  • Quantum Class: Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is one of the best cruise lines for families as they offer plenty of family activities on most ships. A particular perk to watch out for on Norwegian cruises is their occasional promos, where kids sail for free!

Norwegian Bliss Open Deck
Norwegian Bliss Open Deck

The whole family can participate in various activities on the ships, such as waterslides, laser tag, bowling, and more! There are also different dining options ranging from casual to specialty dining.

Since the second Breakaway Plus class Norwegian Joy, each NCL cruise ship has featured a race track speedway. The first Prima class vessel has gone a step further by featuring the first three-level race track at sea! Family members with a minimum height of 1.40 meters can enjoy the thrill feature.

Norwegian Prima Speedway
Norwegian Prima Speedway

Almost all Norwegian cruise ships are family-friendly, featuring a free youth program for kids aged 12 to 17. There’s also Splash Academy, where kids aged five to 12 can show off their artistic skills. 

Best NCL Class Ships for Families:

  • Prima Class: Norwegian Prima, Norwegian Viva
  • Breakaway Plus Class: Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore

Disney Cruise Line

You can’t talk about the best cruise lines for families without mentioning Disney Cruise Line.

Since its founding in 1995, Disney Cruise Line has always offered the ultimate family experience. Each Disney cruise ship offers experiences the whole family can enjoy together. 

Being on a Disney cruise is similar to being at Disneyland. Your kids can look forward to spotting their favorite characters onboard throughout the voyage, and there are plenty of things to do onboard.

Disney Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Maria Maarbes / Shutterstock.com

What’s great about Disney cruises is that many activities are designed for specific ages, not just young children. For example, the Edge is an interactive play space exclusively for tweens. There’s even a teen-only lounge and spa for your older kids who maybe thought they were too old for a Disney cruise.

Finally, a variety of adult-only activities are available onboard, from nightclubs and lounges to elegant dining options. Even group babysitting options are available to give parents time to enjoy these adult activities.

Disney Wish, which is one of the newest in the fleet and began service in 2022, offers some amazing features and experiences for the entire family.

Disney Wish AquaMouse
Disney Wish AquaMouse

The ship has the AquaMouse water attraction, a thrill that takes guests through immersive show scenes and lighting while by heading through 760 feet of twisting tube, which even sticks out over the side of the ship. The ride ends on an epic lazy river!

While the kids are having some water fun, the parents can get some time by heading to Disney Wish’s Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge or the Quiet Cove, which features an infinity pool and bar.

Best Disney Class Ships for Families:

  • Wish Class: Disney Wish, Disney Treasure
  • Dream Class: Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy
  • Magic Class: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder

MSC Cruises

Lastly, we have MSC Cruises as not just a family cruise line, but also the fastest-growing in the world. With many new MSC innovative mega-ships coming out, there are many options for all family members.

MSC Cruises has several cruises for parents and children to enjoy. Dining on board is easy, whether you try their restaurants or want your meal delivered to you at the end of a fun-filled day. They also offer supervision if your older kids want to enjoy a meal with their new friends onboard the ship.

MSC Cruises Ship
Photo Credit: Nate Hovee / Shutterstock

The ships’ Kids Clubs offer activities such as sports tournaments and family discos. One unique activity on MSC cruise ships is the LEGO Experience, which is an entire day dedicated to Lego activities the whole family can enjoy. MSC also ensures parents have fun, with options for spa days and romantic dinners for two.

Read Also: MSC Yacht Club – Is it Worth it?

MSC Euribia, Baby Club Chicco
Image Courtesy: MSC Cruises

If we look at one of the newest ships in the fleet, MSC Euribia, there are seven rooms fully dedicated to children of different ages. The ship even has the first MSC Foundation Youth Center, offering activities based on sustainability. The onboard youth staff will make sure the kids are kept busy during the voyage.

MSC Starship Club
MSC Starship Club

Many of the larger MSC cruise ships offer great interactive fun, including an f1 simulator, a sportsplex, an aquapark, and bowling. There are also some specific ship features, such as the Starship Club on MSC Virtuosa and Robotron on the MSC Seascape. The new Worls’ Class vessels have even more features for families to experience!

Best MSC Class Ships for Families:

  • Meraviglia Plus Class: MSC Grandiosa, MSC Virtuosa, MSC Euribia
  • Meraviglia Class: MSC Meraviglia, MSC Bellissima
  • Seaside EVO Class: MSC Seashore, MSC Seascape
  • Seaside Class: MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview

What to Look for in the Best Cruise Lines for Families

A cruise is a great vacation idea for the entire family. For the most part, many cruises offer a variety of accommodations and activities for families. 

When planning your vacation, you can’t go wrong with sticking with the most popular cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. However, to ensure that a cruise is right for your family’s specific needs, it’s essential to do your research to ensure that your chosen cruise line offers everything you’re looking for. 

To help you out, here are some of the main things to consider when choosing between the best cruise lines for families. 

Family Suites

One of the essential elements of your cruise to consider is accommodation. You want to ensure that everyone is comfortable – children and adults. 

Many cruise lines have ships that offer family suites. The options range from single-family-focused staterooms, perfect for families with small children, to interconnected cabins that give teenagers some privacy while ensuring they stay close.

Cruise Ships With Family Suites
Photo: Royal Caribbean

When considering cruise ship cabins, you’ll also want to remember the number of family members. Most cruise lines have ships with cabins that accommodate at least four people. Some cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, have family staterooms that can sleep upwards of 6 people, making them ideal for large families. 

Here are some of the most popular family staterooms on the best cruise lines for families:

Family Activities

For some people, the main highlight of a cruise is the different ports and the excursions that can occur at them. However, many families – especially those with young children – spend a lot of their time on the ship because it’s easier to keep track of everyone, and children may not be interested in the itinerary. Therefore, for families, a cruise is only as good as the activities on board.

Read Also: Fun Cruise Ideas for First-Time Cruisers

Choosing a cruise with a youth program is a great idea for kids. This ensures that your kids are entertained and stay occupied throughout the cruise. Moreover, these programs also give parents some time to enjoy the cruise ship’s adult activities, such as the cocktail bar and the casino.

Odyssey of the Seas Deck Game
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

Many big cruise line offerings have a variety of activities to satisfy kids and adults of all ages. For example, all large cruise lines, including Carnival, Norwegian, and Disney, have ships with water parks.

Many cruise ships also offer other entertainment options, such as Broadway-style shows, games nights, laser tag and mini golf, sports courts, and even a large open deck screen for movies.

Family Dining

Finally, you’ll also want to consider the dining options of the best cruise lines for families. With most cruise lines having strict limitations on what food you can bring onboard, knowing your dining options on your voyage is a good idea.

Worlds of Marvel is the first-ever Marvel cinematic dining adventure on Disney Wish
Worlds of Marvel is the first-ever Marvel cinematic dining adventure on Disney Wish

This is especially true if you’re traveling with picky eaters. Many cruise ships have restaurants that offer kid classics, such as pizza and chicken fingers. Carnival has a list of kid-friendly foods on their cruise ships. The same goes for Royal Caribbean, making it easy to plan your cruise meals well before embarkation day.

Family Cruise Lines FAQ

Is Carnival Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean International more family-friendly?

Both Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International offer family-friendly cruises. However, both cruise lines are relatively different. Carnival is generally a more affordable cruise line, with Royal Caribbean offering more luxurious perks. That said, the one you choose largely depends on your family’s vacation needs. 

What’s the best cruise length for kids?

The best cruise length for your family depends on many factors, including the age of your kids and what you plan to do on your cruise. Arguably, the age of your kids may play a huge factor, as it may be challenging to bring an infant on a two-week cruise, but it may be equally difficult to work around a teenager’s school schedule for the same amount of time. Generally, a seven-day cruise is your safest bet for a family getaway. It ensures you can fully enjoy your trip, yet it won’t be too overwhelming for your kids.

Is a cruise a good vacation idea for families?

A cruise is an excellent vacation idea for families! This is especially true when you choose a large cruise line for your vacation, as there’s much to do on these cruises. Between water parks and games, chances are that you’ll never hear the words “I’m bored” from your kids on a cruise!

Conclusion: Plan Your Next Family Cruise

The best cruise lines for families are Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises. Each cruise line offers a unique experience enjoyable for the entire family and a chance to build unforgettable memories. 

As these are all large cruise lines, it’s crucial that you do your research to ensure that you choose the cruise ship that will provide the best vacation for you and your loved ones!

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.


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