8 Family Cruise Ideas for Kids of Every Age

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PaulGauguinBannerBy Eileen P. Gunn

Thinking about a cruise with the kids in 2014?  I met today with more than a half dozen cruise companies to discuss what’s new or perhaps not well known about their services and amenities for families.

Here is a round up of what I learned, organized by age group. Hope it gives you some good ideas to plan around for your spring and summer travels on the high seas.

For Tweens/Teenagers:

Tauck has been expanding its Bridges brand, which is targeted to families and multi-generation travelers. It’s offering two river cruises in Europe, one through France along the Rhone and the other on the Danube through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

tauck river cruise

Activities on these ships are designed with kids in mind. In Paris, for example, a tour of the Louvre might incorporates a scavenger hunt. Still, the media person I spoke with recommended these trips for tweens and teens. Kids younger than 8 or 10 will find it hard to keep up on shore days packed with history and culture and activities like bike riding on country roads.

paul gauguin urchinThe South Pacific is on almost everyone’s bucket list but not necessarily as a family destination (second honeymoon, maybe?). Think again. Paul Gauguin has partnered with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society (above and left) for select sailings. Kids aged 9 to 17 can (for an additional fee) participate in activities like hiking and snorkeling and workshops that show how black pearls are cultivated, all with an eye on environmental awareness.

For School-age Kids:

 MSC, a cruise company with one ship sailing to the Caribbean from Miami (and more embarkation points around the world) has a hard-to-beat offer: Kids 11 and under sail for free on all ships all the time.

Their ships feature many amenities and services for families. Most unique are its  “Happy Dinners” for 3 to 11 year olds. Kids are served their dinner during their parents’ appetizer course. Just as they finish eating and start to get restless, counselors take them to the kids club for evening fun, so families can dine together but parents can still enjoy a leisurely meal.

royal caribbean barbieRoyal Caribbean is bringing Barbie on board its ships in 2014. Look for Barbie movie night, story time and other themed activities at the kids club. For a fee families with girls aged 4 to 11 can have a “premium experience” that includes a Barbie themed state room, dance class, fashion workshop and kids fashion show.

We know this will send some families running toward Royal Caribbean and some running the other way. If this is not quite your thing, or you’re traveling with boys, keep in mind RC also has a relationship with Dreamworks, too.

• Royal Caribbean is launching the Quantum of the Seas from the New Jersey side of New York harbor in November. It skips the summer travel season, but is worth keeping in mind for the holidays and next year’s winter break.

For Younger Kids:

• The program that had me the most excited was a Carnival’s new partnership with Dr. Seuss. Themed story times and arts & craft activities and parades target kids aged 2 to 5. They sometimes happen in a space where parents can join in if they don’t want to shuffle their little ones off to the kids club alone. Carnival says kids as old as 10 are enthused about the character breakfasts that feature (of course) green eggs and ham.

Seuss on Carnival

For Babies and Toddlers:

Norwegian wasn’t at the press event, a notable absence. But readers are always looking for cruise amenities for the under-3 set, and it’s worth noting that NCL is providing more for this group. New ships offer dedicated playrooms for parents and toddlers and activities like spaghetti art that parents can do with their little ones.

For Everyone

Costa Cruise Lines is Carnival’s European arm and is an interesting option for parents who want the convenience and amenities of a large cruise ship but a slightly different experience. While the company has one Caribbean cruise out of Miami, its itineraries span the globe and its customers largely come from across Europe.

The media rep told me that this means that in the kids club your child’s new friends will represent a range of cultures and languages. While they have plenty of amenities and services to keep kids busy throughout the day, they are the only large-ship company that doesn’t partner with a major toy or entertainment company. Some parents might see as offering less added value for the price, but we understand that others might view it as an opportunity for a more low-key family experience.

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2 Responses

  1. Excited to see all of these fun new activities. I think we’re the ones that would skip Barbie but would welcome Dr. Seuss and happily eat Green Eggs and Ham.

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  2. Agreed. the Dr. Seuss is a fun and easy-to-like partnership!

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