by Rickee Richardson, Senior Editor
Cruising has become a true family vacation. All age groups are welcome and planned for on a cruise ship. You will be able to find a cruise that will give any age group from toddler to great grandmother a memorable vacation. Cruise lines have invested millions in recreational facilities and staff to keep kids of all ages occupied and entertained during the cruise.
As you would expect, Disney Cruise Line has done an excellent job of catering to families. However, you may be surprised to learn that many cruise lines have excellent programs for kids of all ages. Children are usually divided into groups according to age and take part in age-appropriate activities such as arts and crafts, scanvenger hunts, ice cream parties, disco parties, movies and cartoons, kids-only dinners, talent shows, video games and lots more. Some cruise lines offer babysitting services during evening hours for a nominal charge.
Below are some cruise lines that, in our opinion, offer superior programs for kids:
- Carnival Cruise Line - Camp Carnival provides specially trained youth counselors and age-specific activities for Toddlers (ages 2-5), Juniors (ages 6-8), Intermediates (ages 9-11) and Teens (ages 12-14) and older Teens (ages 15-17). They also offer a teen shore excursion program and, for a fee, evening babysitting.
- Royal Caribbean - From Royal Caribbean classics like the rock wall to the Adventure Ocean (ages 3-17) and Fisher-Price kids' programs (6-to 36-months-old), there's always something fun to do. And, when the ship is in port, the Explorations! shore excursions turn every destination into a family-friendly adventure. Every member of the Adventure Ocean staff holds a college degree in education, recreation, or other related field, or has qualified-equivalent experience working with children ages 3-17. All are certified in CPR. Babysitting is available either in group settings or in your stateroom.
- Costa - An Italian Style vacation is big fun for the little ones onboard a Costa ship! With lots of activities and games to choose from, kids can have fun playing with children their own age. And mom and dad can rest easy, knowing their children are under the careful supervision of the ship’s dedicated youth entertainment staff. The Costa Kid’s program is included in the price of your cruise vacation, so all activities are free. Children are divided into groups according to age: Mini Club (ages 3-6), Maxi Club (ages 7-11), Costa Teens Club (ages 12-14) and Teen (ages 15-17). Group babysitting is available at no charge.
- Disney Cruise Line - Disney's Oceaneer Club (ages 3-7) has its own play area shaped like Captain Hook's ship, its own pool and Disney character experiences. Big Kids (ages 8-12) have both structured activities and free-form playtime. They can explore their world and beyond in the Oceaneer Club lab and interactive play space. Teens (ages 13-17) find the freedom to be themselves hanging out in the perfect place for "private time," and exhilarating excursions with their own age group. Teens even have a space where they can enjoy music, movies, video games and other teen-only activities late into the night. Kids 12 weeks to 36 months have a place at Flounder's Reef nursery and group babysitting area. All groups are under the watchful eyes of trained counselors.
- Holland America Line - Club HAL® provdes a wide variety of exciting youth- and teen- friendly activities and facilities for guests ages 3 to 17. All Club HAL® activities are supervised by permanent, full-time Club HAL® Youth Program Directors and staff, and are designed to be kid friendly and age appropriate. Club HAL® Youth Program Directors hold degrees in education, childhood development, recreation, leisure studies or related fields. There is Club HAL® or kids (ages 3-7), Club HAL® Tweens (ages 8-12), and teens ages 13-17 will enjoy The Loft and The Oasis. Babysitting is available for a small fee.
NCL - Kid's Crew (ages 2-12) and Teen's Crew (ages 13-17) programs are custom designed for toddlers, teens and everyone in between. These programs are active, energetic, educational and, most importantly, fun. All kids will be under the constant supervision of carefully chosen staff of youth counselors from leading universities and organizations. Each team counselor attends a special training course on safety, communication skills and confidence-building. NCL does not offer individual baby sitting.
- Princess Cruises - Junior cruisers ages 3 to 17 can enjoy a boatload of exciting onboard activities. The dedicated youth centers are staffed by trained counselors, who are ready to ensure young sailors stay happy all day long. There are Fun Zone activities for junior cruisers ages 3 to 12 and a Teen Center (Remix) for teenage guests. Kid Sitting is available for ages 3-12 at a fee of $5.00 per hour per child, except on Royal, Tahitian, and Pacific Princess.
- Celebrity - There's so much for children to do in the Celebrity X-Club that keeps them engaged and having a great time in an environment designed just for them. From teen-oriented explorations and entertainment to special opportunities for toddlers and their parents to interact with each other, the X-Club is designed to make sure the children enjoy their Celebrity experience as much as the parents do. Children are divided into groups according to age: Toddler Time (under 3 years old), Ship Mates (ages 3-6), Celebrity Cadets (ages 7-9), Ensigns (ages 10-12) and Admiral T's (ages 13-17)
When traveling with children, you may want to consider a larger cruise ship as opposed to a smaller ship. The larger the ship the more likely there will be other children on board within the same age group(s) as your child(ren). Larger ships (70,000 tons and larger) are more likely to have video arcades and extensive kids facilities. Most cruise lines also have family-friendly staterooms with extra beds or adjoining staterooms. If you want a stateroom that will sleep more than two people, book early as these cabins go fast.
All in all, a cruise vacation is a good value and gives families a chance to spend time together and create memories while exploring exciting new places.