The 10 Best Cruise Lines for Families

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Planning a family cruise can be tough, and one of the main problems that families face is being overwhelmed by all the options. There are so many cruise lines for families to choose from, each with its own unique offerings.

I’ve worked in the cruise industry for over eight years and have taken my children on lots of different cruises in that time. So I’d love to use my experience to help you find the best cruise line for your family.

There’s no single answer on the best cruise line for kids, though. Some cruise ships, which are fantastic for teenagers, would be a nightmare for parents of toddlers. Some family cruise lines have lots of activities for parents and kids to do together, whereas others have fantastic kids’ clubs that your children won’t want to leave.

When considering the best cruise lines for families, you should look at all the options and decide which aligns best with what you and your kids will enjoy. So, here’s 10 of the best kid friendly cruises options, including something for all ages.

The 10 Best Cruise Lines for Kids

To help you in your decision, here are some things that you need to know about each of the best cruise lines for families with kids of various ages…

1. Disney Cruise Line

Best for: A really special experience

What Are the Ships Like?

The five Disney cruise ships are luxurious and fun. On board, you’ll find excellent entertainment packed with Disney magic and bump into characters such as Donald Duck as they stroll the decks.

Here I am with Mickey and Minnie on the Disney Wish. It’s one of my favourite cruise ships ever! You can read my Disney Wish review here.

Activities On-Board

Disney cruises have a great focus on entertainment. You’ll enjoy themed deck parties, character meet and greets, award-winning live shows and 3D Disney movies. There’s loads to do, making them one of the best cruise for kids options.

The swimming pools on Disney ships are really fun, including some shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head and older kids will love the water slides.

Age Group Most Suited To

Disney Cruises offer a magical experience for kids of any age. Under threes can be cared for in the nursery, but this is quite expensive.

The free-of-charge kids’ clubs for three to 12-year-olds are out of this world. You’ll struggle to prise your kids away. Tweens and teens also have their own fun hangouts.

Can You Sail From the UK?

Yes. Disney Dream has a good choice of itineraries sailing from Southampton.

Disney Magic cruise

Passengers

Disney Cruises are pretty much exclusively for families and are popular with children of all ages, but there are plenty of adult-only areas too.

Price

Disney is one of the more expensive cruise lines with few reductions for children. Take a look at my article to find out how much a Disney cruise costs.

2. Royal Caribbean

Best for: Active families with older kids

What Are the Ships Like?

Royal Caribbean International has 27 ships with more being built all the time. The newest Royal Caribbean ships are the biggest in the world, accommodating as many as 7,600 passengers and 2,350 crew members.

On board, you’ll find the most exciting features at sea, outstanding food and a fun atmosphere. Here we are in the North Star observation pod which extends 300 feet above Anthem of the Seas.

My family in the North Star ride on Anthem of the Seas

Activities On-Board

These vary by ship, but may include things like rock climbing, mini golf, surfing machines, sports courts, water slides, zip line, ice skating, skydiving simulator, parades, escape room game, trampolines, trapeze school and laser tag.

Age Group Most Suited To

Many of Royal Caribbean’s onboard activities have age and height restrictions which you can see here.

This means that if your children are younger than eight, they may be disappointed that they’re not allowed to take part in everything. Plus, you’ll essentially be paying for things you don’t use.

That said, on our most recent cruise on Anthem of the Seas, my five-year-old loved the iFly skydiving simulator, the North Star observation pod and the bumper cars, while his seven-year-old sister was a huge fan of the rock climbing wall.

Bumper cars on Anthem of the Seas

Can You Sail From the UK?

Yes. Between May and October, you can sail from Southampton on Anthem of the Seas. In 2025, that will change as Independence of the Seas returns to Southampton.

Passengers

You’ll find a mix of couples and families of all ages. On sailings from the UK you can expect a lot of British travellers, whereas, on Caribbean sailings, the passengers will be mostly American.

Price

Royal Caribbean cruises are mid-range in terms of price. You can add on a drinks package to make your cruise all-inclusive, but these can be pricy. Look out for special offers where you might get drinks included in your cruise fare.

3. Carnival

Best for: US families on a budget

What Are the Ships Like?

With Carnival Cruises, the emphasis is on fun. The ships are brightly coloured with a real American feel.

Carnival cruise ship slides

Activities On-Board

Carnival’s newest ships have amazing facilities such as the SkyRide (which is a bit like riding a bike around a track in the sky).

Carnival Mardi Gras, which launched in 2021, features the first-ever rollercoaster at sea. There are waterslides aplenty and you’ll also find Dr Seuss characters on board.

Age Group Most Suited To

Carnival cruise ships are best suited for children aged eight and over.

The waterslides and activities have height restrictions of between 42 and 48 inches. Unlike other cruise lines, Carnival Cruise Line bans children in swimming nappies from the spray parks as well as the pools, so these ships aren’t great for toddlers.

Can You Sail From the UK?

Only occasionally do Carnival ships sail from the UK. Their ships are predominantly based in the Caribbean, although you can sail from European ports too.

Passengers

Carnival ships are very popular with American families. On short cruises, you may find a lot of groups, particularly during college spring break, which you should avoid as it would be like taking your children on an 18-30 holiday!

Price

Carnival cruises are fairly cheap, although this could be outweighed by the fact that you have to pay for flights in most cases.

4. MSC Cruises

Best for: Families with babies and toddlers

What Are the Ships Like?

MSC Cruises ships are very glitzy and glamorous, with Swarovski crystal staircases and lots of marble. The newer ships have water slides and splash areas.

Partnerships with LEGO and Chicco ensure that children have lots of fun on board and my two loved their time in the kids club.

MSC kids club

Activities On-Board

Some of the facilities such as the 4D cinema, bowling, racing car simulator and the arcade are chargeable, so you’ll need to budget for that if your children will want to do these things. There’s lots of fun to be had in the kids’ club such as whole days devoted to LEGO building.

Age Group Most Suited To

MSC Cruises is great for babies. On many ships, you’ll find a dedicated baby area where parents can bring their babies at certain times.

The dining room offers a special baby menu for children aged 6-12 months and pushchairs are available to hire free of charge. All other age groups will have a great time too, although it’s worth noting that their friends in the kids’ club will probably speak a variety of languages.

Our family on board MSC Preziosa

Can You Sail From the UK?

Yes, but only on selected ships. MSC Cruises is unusual in that passengers embark and disembark at various points during the cruise, rather than all starting their cruise at the same port. This means that the choice of itineraries from the UK is somewhat limited.

Passengers

MSC Cruises is an Italian cruise line and is popular with passengers from all over Europe. Because of this, all the announcements and signage are in six different languages and the entertainment often doesn’t include much speaking – think acrobats rather than comedians.

You won’t find many Brits on board, but when you do, you’ll probably remember them and say hello when you bump into them again.

Price

MSC Cruises can be really cheap. We paid £399pp for a 7-night cruise and the children were almost free as they were very young. The MSC drinks packages are also the most reasonable that you’ll find at sea.

5. P&O Cruises

Best for: British families with younger kids

What Are the Ships Like?

P&O Cruises offer both family and adults-only ships. They vary in size from medium to large and offer a modern, friendly, British atmosphere.

My family on board Iona

Activities On-Board

You won’t find loads of activities on-board P&O Cruises ships, but there will be several swimming pools and Jacuzzis and some ships have a splash area for the little ones. Most kids’ activities will take place in the kids’ club.

Age Group Most Suited To

P&O Cruises accept two-year-old children in the kids’ club, whereas on most other cruise lines the minimum age is three. This is one great reason for anyone cruising with a toddler to choose P&O Cruises.

Under-fives can be dropped off at the night nursery where they’ll be cared for, free of charge, between 6 pm and 2 am. And P&O Cruises is one of the only cruise lines to allow babies and toddlers wearing swimming nappies to use the swimming pools.

Two year old Adam on P&O Britannia

Whilst this cruise line is good for children of any age, those older than seven or eight may have more fun on a ship with more facilities.

Can You Sail From the UK?

Yes! P&O Cruises offers a wide choice of cruises sailing from Southampton all year round. From two-night taster cruises to 14-night sailings around the Mediterranean, there’s something for everyone.

Passengers

Being a British cruise line, you’ll find that the vast majority of passengers on-board are British. The type of passengers on board will be different, with shorter cruises attracting a younger crowd than longer voyages.

Price

P&O Cruises is one of the cheapest family-friendly cruise lines. From time to time they offer reduced kids’ prices, with children able to sail from as little as £1, which makes for fantastic value for money.

The drinks on-board are cheaper than many other cruise lines, being similar to local pub prices. And, importantly, you don’t have to pay any gratuities (tips) as you do on most other cruise lines, which saves you around £10 per person, per day.

6. A-ROSA River Cruises

Best for: River cruises with the kids

What Are the Ships Like?

A-ROSA is a river cruise line, so the ships are a lot smaller than ocean cruise ships. One of the newest ships, A-ROSA SENA, was the first river cruise ship built with families in mind, so this is definitely the best ship to choose out of the fleet.

The ships don’t have a lot of space for running around, but this does at least mean it’s easy to keep an eye on the kids – they can’t get lost.

Activities On-Board

Don’t expect anywhere near the facilities that you would get on an ocean cruise ship. However, there are kids clubs at least, which offer various programs for kids aged 4 to 15 with experienced entertainers.

A-ROSA SENA also has a sun deck with a separate kids’ pool so you don’t need to worry about them splashing anyone and 28-square-foot family cabins that sleep up to five people.

Age Group Most Suited To

Because there’s not a huge amount to do onboard, A-ROSA river cruises are better suited to older children who don’t mind a bit of quiet time where they can entertain themselves. Family-friendly shore excursions are probably more targeted at older kids too.

On the sun deck of the A-ROSA Donna
On the sun deck of the A-ROSA Donna

Can You Sail From the UK?

You can’t sail from the UK with A-ROSA, as their family cruises take place on the Danube, Rhine, Seine and Rhone rivers, so you’ll need flights.

Passengers

There’s normally quite a mix of nationalities on an A-ROSA river cruise, including guests from around Europe and also from the US. River cruise guests generally prefer a quieter sailing so don’t expect a boisterous crowd – the kids can have fun but they won’t be able to run amok.

Price

A-ROSA river cruises cost a lot less than some other premium river cruise lines, and kids up to 15 sail for free when travelling with a paying adult. The fares are all-inclusive too, so they’re actually quite good value.

7. Norwegian Cruise Line

Best for: Cruising with total flexibility

What Are the Ships Like?

NCL ships are colourful and packed with fun. The cruising experience is all about enjoying the flexibility to cruise your own way, with a huge choice of dining options and places to relax and have fun, and no real set dining times.

The older ships aren’t quite as fun, but waterparks and slides feature heavily and there’s definitely a kid-friendly vibe across the whole fleet.

Norwegian Encore
Norwegian Encore

Activities On-Board

There is a serious amount of things you can do on an NCL ship, including aqua parks with multiple exciting water slides (some of which are aimed at younger guests), immersive VR experiences, bowling, and even go-karting on some of the newest ships.

Age Group Most Suited To

NCL is good for kids of all ages. The best activities onboard are probably aimed more at kids aged 7+ but the splash parks are suitable for younger kids, while there are dedicated groups in the Splash Academy kids clubs for 3- to 5-year-olds with tailored activities for that age group.

Kids Club on Norwegian Encore

Can You Sail From the UK?

There are some NCL ships that sail from Southampton, including some of the newest and biggest ships in the fleet. Cruises are available from the UK from April to October.

Passengers

NCL cruises generally include a mix of families and couples, but there’s definitely a younger vibe to the cruise line – don’t expect as many older couples to be sailing.

Price

Normally there are significant discounts on kids travelling with their parents. As for the cruise line in general, prices are mid-range, and there are often package deals to add things like drinks or WiFi for a reduced cost.

One thing to be aware of though is that a lot of the activities do cost extra. Yes, the virtual reality arcades are fun, but they are very expensive so if you have older kids you’ll need to budget for that.

8. Costa Cruises

Best for: Italian-style cruising on a budget

What Are the Ships Like?

Costa’s ships are not the most exciting or feature-packed, and they feel like they’re a bit of a budget cruise line at times. They don’t look cheap, but they aren’t offering some of the glitz and wow-factor moments that other cruise lines do. Expect a lot of great pizza and ice cream, though.

Costa cruise

Activities On-Board

Costa isn’t known for being super-innovative so don’t expect fancy features like roller-coasters or go-kart tracks. But they do have some good facilities for kids, including splash parks and dedicated teen rooms that are age-appropriate. Affiliations with Peppa Pig are great for younger kids, including themed water areas and activities in the younger kids’ clubs.

Age Group Most Suited To

Costa is better suited to families with younger children under 6, as much of the theming and activities are targeted at these age groups. Older children might get a bit bored with the lack of variety when they want to hang out with their friends, although if your teens enjoy relaxing by the pool then they might enjoy the atmosphere.

Costa Favolosa at deck 10

Can You Sail From the UK?

Costa doesn’t offer any sailings from the UK – instead you’ll need to fly to Europe, where there are many different departure ports to choose from.

Passengers

Costa passengers tend to include a mix of ages and nationalities, which is reflected in the kid’s clubs too – your children will be able to mix and mingle with others from various countries, which can be exciting for them.

Price

Costa cruises tend to be towards the lower end, and kids sail free on many sailings too, making them a good option if you’re on a budget.

9. Princess Cruises

Best for: Bringing the grandparents

What Are the Ships Like?

Princess Cruises ships are medium to large in size and offer understated luxury with excellent food and service. Princess Cruises are very popular with multi-generational families who want to cruise with kids, parents and grandparents all together.

With my mum on Enchanted Princess
With my mum on Enchanted Princess

Activities On-Board

Aside from the usual swimming pools and hot tubs, you won’t find many family activities outside of the kids’ clubs. However, the offering here is very good for those aged three to 17 and has a particular focus on education, thanks to partnerships with Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel.

Kids on Princess cruise

Age Group Most Suited To

Princess Cruises is a good cruise line for children of all ages. Under-threes are allowed in the kids’ club when accompanied by an adult and free baby food is available (either in a jar or pureed fresh).

Older children may have more fun on a cruise line with more for them to do on board.

Can You Sail From the UK?

Princess Cruises from Southampton and Dover are available on a choice of several ships with various itineraries available.

Passengers

The nationality of passengers varies depending on the itinerary, with lots of Brits sailing from Southampton and lots of Americans sailing from other ports, including European ports. The passengers can be slightly older than some of the other family-friendly cruise lines.

Price

Princess Cruises are around mid-range in terms of price. Cruises under seven nights are rare, so you won’t find many cheap taster cruises.

10. Celebrity Cruises

Best for: Chilled-out teens

What Are the Ships Like?

Celebrity cruises offer a 5-star cruising experience on board modern and luxurious ships. The newest ships Celebrity ships have some uber-cool features such as real grass lawns, a ‘flying carpet’ that moves up and down the side of the ship and a silent disco.

Celebrity Cruises

Activities On-Board

You won’t find masses of kids’ facilities on-board Celebrity Cruises ships. However, there are Xbox stations where children can play solo or take part in tournaments.

Kids can also take part in iTake, a programme that involves storyboarding a movie, heading out to capture the shots on a GoPro camera and editing them in the iLounge.

Age Group Most Suited To

Celebrity Cruises are most suited to children aged 12 and over. The teen hangout is really cool and the glamorous onboard atmosphere is better suited to teenagers than children.

Celebrity Cruises Rooftop Garden

Can You Sail From the UK?

Yes, but only on-board certain ships and only between April and October.

Passengers

Similar to Princess cruises, the type of passengers you’ll find on Celebrity Cruises varies depending on the itinerary. This cruise line is popular with affluent couples.

Price

Being a 5-star cruise line, the price of a Celebrity Cruise is usually towards the higher end of the scale, although great deals can often be spotted.

What Are the Best Cruises for Families?

Do a couple of cruise lines from this list take your fancy in particular? You’ll find that the ships that each cruise line owns can be quite different, so be sure to take a look at this post next: The best cruise ships for kids

Take a look at my guide: How to choose a cruise in 7 easy steps to make planning your cruise holiday as easy as possible.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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2 thoughts on “The 10 Best Cruise Lines for Families”

  1. would love to surprise my husband with a cruise and grandkids could you send me some information please

  2. Very keen to look at a cruise which would suit my daughter, her partner and two babies aged 3 and not quite 2 and my husband and I (in our sixties). I’d welcome any suggestions Jenni!

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