It’s Wave Season, which means that now is the time to book a family cruise for the very best deals. Wave Season, which runs from January through March, is the time of year when cruise lines are most generous with incentives, like cabin upgrades and free onboard credit, to secure early bookings.
Cruises are a great option if you’re considering a multi-generational vacation. Enjoy on-ship activities together, like mini golf and waterslides, then disembark at each port for horseback riding, snorkeling and kayaking, as well as exploring the port cities, on your own or as a big group.
Given every cruise line has added so much to their cruise offerings to make them incredibly appealing to families, now is a great time to book a family cruise. Take a look at 10 of the best cruise vacations for families, as well as cruise reviews from my fellow family travel bloggers. Enjoy.
1. Cruise to Norway with Disney Cruise Line.
Disney Cruise Line launched cruises along the coast of Norway aboard the Disney Magic in 2015. They were such a hit with Frozen fans, in particular, that the seven-night cruises are back this year, departing from Dover, England in May and Copenhagen, Denmark in June.
Cruises make four stops in Norway giving families the opportunity to explore fjords, cobblestone streets, local flavors and medieval history. Dave at Adventures by Daddy took his family on this cruise last summer and live blogged about the Norwegian waffles, Fjord horses and welcoming trolls, as well as all things Frozen.
2. Cruise to Alaska with Princess Cruises.
If you’re considering a cruise to Alaska, think about Princess Cruises, which offers seven-day cruises from Seattle and Vancouver, as well as ten-day cruises from San Francisco. Cruises depart from May through mid-September and make stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as Glacier Bay National Park.
The on-board Junior Ranger program educates children about the local environment and wildlife as the ship makes its way through Alaska’s Inner Passage. As a bonus, a partnership with the California Science Center enables kids to participate in interactive activities, like whale watching and science experiments, as part of the “Science on the Seas” program.
3. Take a Mediterranean Cruise with Carnival.
Yes, you can take a cruise ship to introduce your kids to Rome, Marseilles and Athens. Carnival offers eight- to 13-day cruises departing from Barcelona, Athens and Trieste, Italy on board the Carnival Vista. Since you’ll be cruising aboard a big ship, as opposed to river cruising, you’ll get everything you expect from a big ship, like multiple restaurants, an IMAX theatre and waterslides.
Stefanie at Mommy Musings cruised the Mediterranean with Carnival a few years ago and couldn’t speak more highly of the experience. She loved being able to expose her children to culture and history they’d only read about in school books, and planning was easy since there was no need to book hotel rooms at each stop. As a bonus, the ship stops almost every day, enabling you to see many new cities.
4. Cruise the Panama Canal with Norwegian Cruise Line.
I can’t imagine a cruise more exciting than one that goes through the Panama Canal. Hop aboard the Norwegian Pearl in Miami for a 10-day cruise that will take you and the kids through Curacao and Colombia before arriving at the Panama Canal. On the way back, visit a banana plantation or ride a gondola through the canopy at Veragua Rainforest in Costa Rica.
For West Coasters, there’s an option to pick up the Norwegian Jewel in Los Angeles for a 14-day cruise that includes stops in Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, as well as Costa Rica and Colombia. On board, look for Splash Academy (ages 3-12) and Entourage (ages 13-17), both of which offer loads of activities for kids, like treasure hunts, arts & crafts, even Circus School for kids as young as 10.
5. Take a Family River Cruise in France with Tauck Bridges.
If you want to experience a small ship with your kids, try the Bon Voyage! France Family River Cruise with Tauck Bridges. Spend ten days in July or August experiencing Paris and cruising the Rhone. Kids will love going on the scavenger hunt through the Louvre, bicycling along the Rhone promenade and visiting a private ranch in French cowboy country for hay rides and a bull show.
Because it’s a river cruise, plan to make stops every day for new adventures. Or, stay on the boat for a chocolate making or crepe tasting. In between adventures, enjoy free time exploring the sights, the foods and the culture of each new city.
Cruising the Caribbean as a Family
Of course, Caribbean cruises are as popular as ever with families, too. Here are a few of the highlights:
6. Norwegian Cruise Line
Not only does Norwegian Cruise Line offer Splash Academy (for kids) and Entourage (for teens), but Nickelodeon characters, like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, host dance parties and pajama breakfasts on select ships, including the Norwegian Breakaway, Epic, Gem, Jewel and Getaway.
7. Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean program for kids has long been a favorite, enabling children ages three to 11 to participate in scavenger hunts, dig for fossils and conduct science experiments on-board the ship. Plus, be on the lookout for DreamWorks characters, like Shrek and Po (from Kung Fu Panda), which make appearances at special breakfasts and parades.
The Carnival Freedom provides children with various opportunities for on-board learning, including Camp Ocean, a sea-themed camp for kids ages two to 11. Kids will make ocean murals, create art projects from seashells and engage in marine-focused trivia games. Or, check out Seuss at Sea for kids ages two to five for Seuss-a-Palooza Story Time and Dr. Seuss Bookville, an area for family reading.
Read the review of the Carnival Freedom at Smarty Pants Mama. Or, discover what’s great about cruising on board the Carnival Magic at The Vacation Gals. Meantime, Mommy Musings has the scoop on the Carnival Dream and Carnival Breeze.
9. Disney Cruise Line
It seems most everyone loves setting sail on a Disney cruise. From character meet-and-greets to deck parties to ride after ride on the Aquaduck, there’s a lot to do and enjoy on board a Disney cruise. As a bonus, there are live, Broadway-style shows, as well as first-run movies. And the Sail-Away Celebration is a must.
Jodi at Family Travel Magazine recently sailed the Disney Fantasy and thoroughly enjoyed the port stops at Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Jamaica and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island), as well as on-board activities, like the kids club. Meantime, check out Carpe Travel for 20 Disney Cruise Tips.
10. Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises has partnered with Discovery Consumer Products to launch Discovery at Sea, a program for both kids and adults that features Discovery Channel-themed activities. Learn about the stars on the top decks with Stargazing with Discovery at Sea. Or, learn to pan for gold on a tour inspired by Discovery’s Gold Rush.
There are also unique shore excursions that have been inspired by Discovery and Animal Planet, like the “Meet the Sloths” Tour in Costa Rica. Kids and teens will also love the on-board activities program where they can conduct science experiments made popular by Mythbusters.