If you’re in family vacation-planning mode and already know and love a cruise or if you’re planning a maiden voyage for 2019, set your sights on these family-friendly cruises to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Baja and more. From the kids’ clubs you can expect on many lines to unique excursions you wouldn’t be able to experience any other way, we found something for everyone. Cruise on!
Eastern Caribbean – Royal Caribbean
If you’re looking to zoom through Haitian skies on an absolutely epic zip-line (the longest in the world over water) or swim with dolphins in perfect turquoise waters, then a Royal Caribbean seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise is for you (they have some 299 other destinations available, too). The adventure continues on deck, whether you fancy a surf in the FlowRider, thrilling waterslides, or mini golf. And their Adventure Ocean youth program is a must for families. Once the kids have discovered the Adventure Science Lab and Imagination Studio, they won’t even ask where you’ve gone (the Bottomless Galley Brunch, perhaps?). Little cruisers can jump into ball pits at Aquanauts while teens have a whole disco to themselves (dance party included). There are even Royal Tots playgroups for babies on board. Additional stops along the way include St. Maarten, the Bahamas Blue Lagoon Island, and St. Thomas’s Turtle Bay. For a closer look, check out Red Tricycle’s recent jaunt aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world!
Rates start at $628
Find out more: royalcaribbean.com
Panama Canal, Costa Rica & Caribbean – Princess Cruises
Thanks to its Discovery at SEA program, Princess Cruises caters to kids of all ages both on deck and ashore. New programs are rolling out fleetwide, with new center designs launching throughout 2019 as part of Camp Discovery. The Treehouse is now dedicated to three-to seven-year-olds for hands-on play and fun; The Lodge serves up sports and comfort for eight-to 12-year-olds, and The Beach House will be the onboard hangout for teens. Did we mention these are all included? Learn all about it here. And everyone can stay in comfort with Mini-Suites with convertible bunk beds for the kids or larger Family Suites with separate bedrooms available too. You’ll be well rested when it’s time to snorkel and kayak at a tropical port like those on their 10-day Panama Canal with Costa Rica & Caribbean, where you can get up close and personal with both baby and 600-pound turtles alike at Cayman Turtle Farm, encounter sloths IRL at a Costa Rican sanctuary, or ride a rainforest aerial tram. Thanks to Discovery Family Tours, many hands-on experiences are geared to the three to 12 camp.
Rates start at $798
Find out more: princess.com
Baja – Disney Cruise Lines
When you board a Disney cruise ship, character appearances, onboard themes like Pirate Night, and all the magic of a Disney theme park set sail with you. Itineraries abound, from a three-to seven-night Bahaman adventure that kicks off from Texas, Florida or New York and includes an excursion to Disney’s very own private tropical island, Castaway Cay, to a two-to five-night cruise to Baja you can plan in time for next Halloween! All three spooky options sail from San Diego, a great place for the kids to get their feet wet, so to speak, while still on dry land, with a Disney Pre-Cruise Package ahead of setting sail (a Vancouver departure is also newly available for booking). There’s lots of festive fun onboard as well as ports of call in Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, where you can stay on theme with Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, charter a private sail or go on a treasure hunt snorkel around Banderas Bay, bike Mazatlan, or meet dolphins (kid encounters are specialized for ages four to eight as well as 10 and up).
Rates start at $1,402 (includes taxes, fees, and port expenses)
Find out more: disneycruise.disney.go.com
The Bahamas – Norwegian Cruise Line
In addition to West Coast and Florida ports, the East Coast is another popular point of departure, with Norwegian ready to sail you away to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, or the Bahamas, the locale of Great Stirrup Cay—Norwegian’s own private island, complete with white sand, sea turtles to snorkel alongside, and a new complimentary taco bar, Abaco Taco (need we say more?). Norwegian’s youth programs, Splash Academy (ages three to 12) and Entourage (ages three to 17), are also complimentary for play and parties, while its Guppies Program hosts activities for parents and baby cruisers six months to three years. (If you book a cruise on the Escape, there is also a Guppies Nursery.) While on Norwegian’s Breakaway, Getaway, and Epic ships, watch for Cirque Dreams to perform amazing acrobatic stunts.
Insider Tip: On select five or seven-day cruises to the Bahamas, extra guests can sail for free!
Rates start at $429
Find out more: ncl.com
Bermuda & New England – Celebrity Cruises
We love Celebrity Cruises for their inclusivity. They’ve gone the extra sea mile to ensure that their onboard environments are autism friendly for kids of all ages, with sensory toys and movie-viewing environments, gluten- and dairy-free menu options, and well-trained Fun Factory and Youth Staff. Other services include priority check-in, equipping parents with contact phones while their kids are signed in to Fun Factory programs, and a Cruising Social Story booklet to download ahead of the cruise. You can book a Celebrity Cruise to popular destinations like Alaska, the Caribbean, and Europe. And if you want to get a jump on Summer 2019, consider the 10-night Bermuda & New England Cruise on Celebrity Summit, which sets sail from New Jersey next May. Bermuda is a great spot for kids with calm, clear waters and King’s Wharf to explore. Back on the mainland, Boston’s rich culture and history and Bar Harbor, with Acadia National Park, make for kid-friendly ports of call.
Rates start at $1,499
Find out more: celebritycruises.com
France – Avalon River Cruises
If river cruising is more your family’s speed, Avalon Waterways has fantastic options for seeing Europe (or Asia or South America). You won’t find the clubs that keep the kids entertained during long stretches at sea, but you will find wraparound wonder with so much constantly in view right from the ship (your room included), making this a trip-of-a-lifetime for culture-seeking big kids. If you have eight to 16 days free in 2019, take a voyage down the epic Seine. A Grand France cruise stops at landmarks made famous by the likes of Napoleon, Joan of Art and Vincent Van Gogh. Plus, Paris! In addition to visits to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, the kids will love counting the 37 Parisian bridges—or challenge the family to keep a tally on the whole journey. Their MyAvalon service will also help you personalize shore excursions to your family’s liking.
Rates start at $2,599
Find out more: avalonwaterways.com
Alaska – Holland America Line
For a northern voyage to Alaska, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to embark with a company that has 70 years of experience traveling to the Last Frontier. Holland America offers not one, but three cruising options under their Alaska & the Yukon collection. So whether the family wants to beeline it for the Inside Passage and take in Glacier Bay National Park, or would prefer a sea and land itinerary that spotlights North America’s tallest mountain, Denali, and explores Denali National Park or the wild Yukon, you have options for experiencing this Great Land. Onshore, the kids will love rolling up their buffalo plaid sleeves and checking out a Lumberjack Show, complete with log rolling and ax throwing, as well as Saxman Village Totem Park in Ketchikan.
Rates start at $899
Find out more: hollandamerica.com
Great Britain – Poseidon Expeditions
If you have rising history buffs in the family, want to take a closer look at medieval castle life, or be amazed by wildlife, take note that Poseidon Expeditions is launching a brand new 13-day cruise, British Isles: Legendary History & Wild Nature, on May 22, 2019. You’ll have the chance to see baby puffins on the Skellig Islands off Ireland or spot otters and wild ponies while exploring Snowdonia National Park in Wales. Dolphin, whales, and seals are also likely to swim by. The kids can direct their nature questions to naturalist guides led by renowned historian Dr. Hew Lewis-Jones. With 55 guest suites aboard the Sea Spirit, the scale of this cruise isn’t overwhelming either, but a sure way to see remote and wondrous corners of Great Britain.
Rates start at $5,216
Find out more: poseidonexpeditions.com
The Caribbean – Carnival Cruise Line
Did you hear? Carnival Horizon, their newest ship, is ready to set sail from Miami and take your family on a six- or eight-day Caribbean cruise. Onboard, you’ll find a colorful kid’s delight, with SportsSquare’s mini golf and games, ropes course, and the elevated SkyRide, as well as Dr. Seuss Waterworks (with two epic waterslides that are kid and parent friendly). The Camp Ocean kids club is another play area just for little cruisers (ages two to 11), while Serenity is an onboard retreat just for adults. The family can reunite for an IMAX movie or a comedy show or go head to head for a Lip Sync Battle. Once ashore, in the Southern Caribbean, for instance, enjoy stingray encounters on Grand Turk, zip line on the beach in La Romana, snorkel around Curacao, and take a Jeep Safari to Aruba’s Donkey Sanctuary. For a kiddo’s first-hand take on all the Carnival fun, check out our report.
Rates start at $429
Find out more: carnival.com
— Jennifer Massoni Pardini