Is a cruise vacation a good choice for families? And how do you choose the right line?

MS kidsI’m at that stage of life where my kids are still pretty young, and most of our vacation planning centers around what will work best for our family. (You may have noticed that “family” theme going on in my blog.  Write what you know, right?)  And because I do so much cruise industry research for my travel writing, I tend to get lots of cruise-related questions from families.

The number one question?

Do cruises make for a good family vacation?

My answer: Yes, they absolutely do, but not every cruise line is created the same.  Some are better than others, due to the nature of their amenities and offerings, so take the time, do the research, and find the one that best fits what you hope to achieve in your family vacation.  There are many spectacular kids programs, shore excursions, and entertainment options available.  (Want to see what the different lines offer for very young cruisers?  Link over here and read through this breakdown by line.  If you’re looking at options for tweens and teens, read through this article by Heidi Allison, there’s a lot of good information on amenities for an older child. Just remember to confirm all this information with your travel agent when you book your cruise; cruise line policies can change suddenly and without notice.)

In addition, if f you ARE planning a family cruise vacation, it’s very important to research cruise lines’ children’s amenities and policies. There are lines that cater especially to families with children’s amenities and programs, there are also those that allow but don’t promote travel with young children, and some cruise lines categorically discourage (or have policies against) bringing young children aboard.  You want to make an informed booking decision.

Following are some basic guidelines from AllThingsCruise about cruising with children, especially with very young ones:

• In general, 6 months is the minimum age for cruising on most lines; but expect it to be 12 months on TransAtlantic and other select voyages.

• Disney allows the youngest children aboard at 3 months, while Viking River requires a minimum age of 12 years to cruise. The rest of the lines’ age requirements fall at various spots within this spectrum.

• The majority of cruise lines offer children’s programs or amenities in some form, but several do not. They include Azamara Club CruisesOceania CruisesSea Dream Yacht ClubSilversea CruisesSeabournUniworld Boutique River Cruise CollectionViking River Cruises and Windstar Cruises.

• Those lines that offer children’s activity programs generally begin them at age two, but Cunard starts programs at age one, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises programs are for children aged 5 and over.

• Babysitting services are available on some, but not all, lines. Parents should expect to pay premium price for these services in most cases; for example, Crystal Cruises are $10 per hour for one child, $15 per hour for two children and $20 per hour for three children.

Do you have a favorite line for cruising with the family?  I’d love to hear about your feedback, so leave me a comment on your experience.


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