Best family cruises
Don’t mistake Disney cruises as children-only affairs: the experience on these ocean liners is one the whole family will take great joy in. As the kids are distracted by seemingly endless activities in the youth clubs—where they play interactive games, see shows, play dress-up, meet Disney characters and even partake in educational experiences—parents can unwind with amazing spa services, delicious food or just some relaxing time by the pool. Even older teenage children are kept entertained with hang-out areas featuring video games, dance music and opportunities to make new friends. At night, everyone can come together to enjoy the incredible musicals and other live performances. There are plenty of various Caribbean cruises offering short three-night getaways and full week excursions, but the seven-nights Eastern Caribbean trip includes enough stops to really scratch that travel itch in the British Island, U.S. Virgin Islands and, of course, Disney’s private island Disney Castaway Cay. Rooms start at $4,544.44, cruises offered throughout the year.
Photograph: Courtey CC/Filckr/Joe Turco
Of the already very family-oriented Royal Caribbean fleet, the newer Allure of the Seas ship is considered to be one of the best for adults and kids alike. Young cruise goers will be excited by the big water park on deck, the speedy zipline, 43-foot-tall rock climbing walls, visits from beloved Dreamworks characters and the super cool ice skating rink. Expect a nursery for tiny tots and babies, fun youth programs and teen rooms that will keep the kids distracted while grown-ups get in some me-time at the fitness center, drink a daiquiri by the bar or try their luck in the Casino Royale. This particular cruise stops at four ports: Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico. Rooms start at $648, cruise offered in spring, fall and winter.
Though this might be a long trip, it certainly isn’t a dull one. The whole family will have fun while partaking in Dr. Seuss-themed fun (think parades and shows), a game show everyone can be part of, water slides and special pool features, and a movie theater. When grown-ups want to enjoy Serenity, the adults-only retreat boasting hammocks and a low-key bar, kids can play games and have fun with arts and crafts in age-appropriate day camps. For an additional fee, parents looking for a date night (there’s a comedy club on board!) can sign up for the “night owl” program, where kids under 11 years old will be taken care of until as late as 1am. During port days, everyone will love the clear waters, blue skies and beach bumming in Maui, Honolulu, Kona and Hilo. Rooms start as $1,219. Available October, December and January.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ricardo Mangual
Families who are looking to get away on a warm excursion but don't have the time or the funds for a full week getaway will love Princess Cruises. On your way to and back from a full day in the charming, full-of-history Grand Turk (the capital of the Caicos Islands), take advantage of the sports courts, enjoy a movie under the stars, splash in the pool, see live shows and sing your heart out during karaoke sessions. Counselors keep kids busy with special arts and crafts and science-related projects while teens can hang out together sipping mocktails. Cheers! Rooms start at $509.
This European cruise line lets you travel south of the border in style—and free of worries. Kids and teens are kept busy in their hangout rooms and reveling in Club Hal’s daily youth-related programs. Everyone can come together for particularly stellar live entertainment, cooking classes and to devour the incredibly good food served daily. Some cruises even offer in-cabin babysitting, should you want to stay out late. During the voyage, the ship makes stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta—where the weather is beautiful nearly year-round. Rooms start at $599, available September and October.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ Rémy DUGOUA
Does your family prefer to spend time on ground? This is the cruise for you. With only two days at sea, you’ll be able to explore Portland and Bar Harbor in Maine; Saint John, Halifax and Nova Scotia in Canada, where you will see beautiful fall foliage and historic lighthouses while eating scrumptious lobster. During the two days on water, watch Rock of Ages and Cirque Du Soleil shows or opt for bowling and other family-friendly activities. Rooms start at $799, cruise offered is September and October only.
Why spend your trip touring the Pacific Northwest stuffed in a cramped car when you can see the region's highlights all in one week and enjoy a luxurious experience? Everyone aboard a Celebrity Cruise can appreciate the restaurants, the grassy lawn for lounging and watching artists from the Corning Museum of Glass blow glass creations right before your eyes. Parents can relax with spa services or a well-concocted cocktail while the travelers under 17 are kept entertained with art-related group activities, team building exercises and culinary workshops. The cruise makes stops in Astoria, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; and Vancouver, Canada. Starts at $999 per person; discounts for military and seniors available. September.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/eGuide Travel
Though you might be aboard a ship named the Queen Mary 2, you’ll feel plenty American on this 4th of July vacation. While on this luxury vessel, expect a buffet that puts many others to shame, fine dining, masquerade balls and excellent music. Younger visitors will find plenty to do in the Play Zone, where children under 12 can play board games and enjoy videogames, while guests ages 12-17 can hang out in The Zone and use Mac computers and play other videogames. Parents of babies can rely on the nursery while they appreciate the night programs. The trip itself includes a visit to Halifax, Canada to see the beautiful landscape and a stop in Boston, where you can see the places frequented by America’s founding fathers and enjoy one of the country’s best firework displays. Starts at $1,099 per person. July 1-July 6.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Matt Coats
This is fun for the whole family… with a holiday twist. The decks are decorated with lights and ornaments, guests are treated to holiday parties (including a tree-lighting ceremony with Mickey Mouse), families can decorate gingerbread houses together and, of course, expect a visit from the big man in red: Santa Claus. This particular cruise includes stops in Key West, Disney’s private island Castaway Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas, but other holiday trips along the Bahamas are also available with slightly different stops. Rooms start at $3,899. November and December only.
During this cruise along the 49th state, you’ll see staggering glaciers along a fjord; visit Skagway, which still boasts plenty of architecture and tourist sites that harken back to its 19th century pioneer day during the Klondike Gold Rush; a day in Juneau, where beautiful landscapes, whale watching and dog sledding await; fishing, rock climbing, zip lining and canoeing in Ketchikan, and a final port day exploring the museums, gardens and other cultural delights in Victoria, Canada. Summer only.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rennett Stowe
Though MSC operates almost entirely in Europe and within the Mediterranean region, the cruise line's move to enter the crowded Caribbean market is a major plus. The competitive prices offered on many of the cruises mean more money for your family to spend in port cities—including in Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau, Bahamas. During days and nights at sea, kids and teens are kept busy with LEGOs, video games, activities and parties planned just for them, and tots can, for an additional fee, be watched by the babycare service. Prices start at $349 per person, available spring and fall.
If you or anybody in your family has ever dreamed of seeing Cuba, here’s your chance. This short, wallet-friendly cruise includes plenty of fun to be had aboard the ship (think rock climbing, swimming, spa days, youth and teen clubs, and kid-friendly dining options). The cruise offers only one full-day at sea, which is great for people who want to check out on-ground fun. Prices start $478 per person.
There’s more treats than tricks on this spooktacular fall vacation. During the Halloween-themed Disney cruises in September and October, guests are invited to carve pumpkins, make masks, show off their costumes at Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party and sing-along to Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Choose between two-, three- and five-night Halloween voyages leaving from different ports. On this particular one, you’ll spend your days in sunny and warm Mexico, hitting cities like San Lucas and Ensenada. Rooms start $2,210. September and October only.