Cruise holidays are a very popular and cost effective family holiday choice, with modern cruise ships having so much to offer.
With activities and entertainment for all ages, a cruise gives the whole family time to relax, have fun and enjoy themselves. But with so many great deals out there and every cruise line competing for your business, how do you pick the perfect cruise holiday for your family? Here are seven aspects of the family cruise experience that it’s worth comparing to help you narrow down your choices:
All the family-friendly cruise ships will have pools but when it comes to the water attractions on offer, there are some differences between the ships. If your kids love splashing around, it’s worth checking out which water park appeals to them the most. Carnival ships, for example, have WaterWorks, an on board water park that’s perfect for teens and grown-ups too. The kids will love the twisting tubes, the racing slides and the PowerDrencher, just in case they’re not soaked through already. Norwegian Epic is also very popular for its water attractions – it is the only ship to have a ‘bowl slide’ known as the Epic Plunge which takes you down a pipe and around the bowl before ending in a big splash. Royal Caribbean’s H2O Zone is also a firm favourite and has lots to offer younger children, with water guns and smaller pools to keep them happy.
Most kids have a favourite character – whether it’s a beloved cartoon, a movie star or their most cherished toy – so it’s worth finding out which characters and character-themed activities will be on board. Many cruise lines offer the opportunity for your child to meet their hero and whether it’s a Disney princess or Marvel’s Avengers, this is always an unforgettable experience.
There are often activities on offer based around the characters to keep your little ones entertained too, from parades that the kids can take part in and story time to movie screenings and meet-and-greet character breakfasts. Many cruise lines will further incorporate the characters into shows – for example, Royal Caribbean currently have ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ on ice and the ‘Madagascar Aqua Show’ in which the characters mingle with acrobats, high divers and swimmers for a thrilling display.
Things to do
Although every cruise experience is packed with a colossal programme of exciting things to do, these vary between ships so it makes sense to check out what activities are available and pick the ones that you think your family will enjoy the most. For thrill seekers, Royal Caribbean’s newest mega ships have some unbelievable activities on offer, including a FlowRider surf simulator, an 80 foot zipwire, dual climbing walls and a real carousel. Every ship is different and whatever your kids are into or have always wanted to try, from ice skating to bumper cars, there will be an itinerary that’s perfect for them.
As for the daytime entertainment, there’s always plenty to do on board when the sun goes down, but some itineraries are sure to wow your kids more than others. The evening shows are a big part of the cruise experience and so it’s worth checking out the show line up to see what would take your family’s fancy. Popular choices include the Blue Man Group who are currently performing on Norwegian Epic until the end of March 2015, and Mama Mia, Hairspray, Chicago and Saturday Night Fever on Royal Caribbean which are sure to delight the teens.
Another popular evening activity is the poolside cinema, and ‘Movies Under the Stars’, offered on Princess Cruises, are loved by kids and grown-ups alike. These allow you to enjoy your favourite films next to the pool in a 300 sq ft movie-theatre under the night sky. Carnival and some of the other lines offer movies outdoors, too.
Supervised clubs are a great part of the family cruise – they keep the children entertained and give grown-ups time to relax and unwind. All the family-friendly cruises offer children’s programmes that provide fun, supervised activities for the kids to take part in but those which divide children into smaller age groups seem to work the best. Royal Caribbean, for example, divide up their child cruisers into Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years) and Voyagers (9-11 years). Activities are all age-appropriate and range from arts and crafts to hands on science. Older kids can enjoy everything from backstage tours to sports and science experiments.
It’s worth knowing that not all babies are welcome on board! Some cruise lines have a minimum age (typically six months). The good news is that from six months, there are family-friendly ships that cater well for babies, providing activities to include them in the cruise experience. Royal Caribbean, for example, has Royal Babies (6-18 months) and Royal Tots (18-36 months) which are playgroup sessions developed by Fisher Price incorporating toys, music and learning activities. You’ll need to stay with your baby during those sessions but if you’re in need of a bit of time to yourself, the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery on certain ships provide you with babysitting facilities for tots from 6 to 36 months in both the day and evening.
When you’re living in close confinement, a few extra feet can make all the difference! The size of cabins on offer varies from ship to ship, as do the facilities with some offering a welcome extra mini-bathroom. Some of the lines also offer connecting cabins or family suites that sleep up to eight people which are often more attractive in price than booking separate cabins and allow you to keep a close eye on your little ones.
The size of the ship is another important consideration for a family cruise. Although a mega ship will offer the best facilities for older kids and teens, it can be trickier for younger kids to navigate and may feel a little crowded during peak times. Sometimes the smaller ships are a better option for families, especially when they have been upgraded – and there are some great value deals to be had.
Images via Royal Caribbean Press Center