How the Top 6 Cruise Lines Compare For Families
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Cruises are ideal for multi-generational and extended family vacations. They’re also an easy way to have time together as a family while giving everyone a little time to themselves, too. Here is what I learned at the Cruise Line Industry Asssociation’s Annual round-up of cruise lines about offerings at most of the top Cruise Ship companies for families. Hope it gives you some great cruise ideas for your family.
Carnival Ships Have Something For Kids of All Ages
There is always lots happening on Carnival Cruise Ships. Camp Ocean offers new or remodeled activity centers across the fleet with a total of 200 activities for three different age groups between ages 2 and 11.
The Vista, which hit the water in 2016 offers a pedal-powered skyride, a clubhouse with family activities like mini-bowling, a “kaleid-O-slide” water slide with rafts and light effects and the first IMAX movie theater at sea.
A water-play area for little kids has tot-sized slides, tipping buckets, and sprinklers. A Carnival spokesperson told me they made a point of adding more seating and shade nearby for parents who want to be able to relax while keeping their splashing kids in sight.
The family-centric cruise line has also expanded its Dr. Seuss-themed activities with Bookville play spaces for 1-to-3s, story time with the Cat in the Hat, character breakfasts and parades. The Horizon, which sails European ports, will add a Dr. Seuss WaterWorks water park to its decks in spring of 2018. If it’s popular I’d look for that to spread to other ships, too, over the next few years.
Costa Cruises Keeps its European Cool
This Italian cruise company is still off many Americans’ radar, but if you want your cruises to have a more European accent, take a look. Try your mettle on a Formula-One racing simulator on the Favolosa, which has Caribbean and European itineraries, and the Luminosa, which seems to go just about everywhere. The Diadema, which circles the Mediterranean, has Laser tag. And all ships have added 4-D movie theaters.
Disney: Frozen at Sea
Disney Cruise Lines’ cruise to Iceland and the Norwegian Fjords aboard the Magic is no doubt inspired by a certain Icy movie.
In fact, Disney has brought Anna, Elsa and company on board the Magic as well as the Wonder. A Frozen-themed day will feature character meetings and dining, a chocolate-themed scavenger hunt, snowman building, an evening deck party and more.
Look for special Star-Wars Days on specific salings of the Fantasy. In addition to character meet-and-greets and a deck party, guests can wear their own costumes, play Star Wars trivia and watch all six movies. Kids can participate in Jedi training and arts and crafts. Adults can spend the evening eying suspicious characters in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Wow! For fans of these movies, these add-ons sound fun.
MSC Offers Legos, Baby Gear
This European cruise company is trying hard to keep pace with its established US rivals. MSC’s new ships have dedicated kids’ play spaces for five separate age groups and splash pads in the pool area.
The company also has partnerships with Lego and Chicco, two European brands popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Look for Lego- and Duplo-themed kids clubs for preschoolers and school-age kids, and “experiences” like building workshops and contests. Full-on Lego themes have even been rolling out on new ships for the past two years (with abbreviated theming on existing ships). They look nice and kids love their Legos; I’m not sure how much room these spaces leave for non-Lego activities.
The Chicco partnership provides equipment for kids under 3, such as strollers (which are handy on a ship), bottle warmers and baby carriers for shore excursions. The under-3s play area has Chicco toys for parent-child play and a nap-space with playards where tots can nap under a sitter’s care, so parents can get a break and maybe some whirlpool time.
Norwegian Cruises Likes To Be Daring
After the major overhaul it rolled out with the NCL Breakaway, we’ve been seeing change in smaller increments. The NCL Escape offers a bigger aqua park than even the Breakaway has, with a family water slide and “Aqua Racer” tandem slide. A “guppies” nursery adds childcare for the under-2s. The top-deck offers a complex and heart-stopping rope course and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mini-golf course—for those who want a little retro in their putt-putt, I suppose.
Fun dining additions include the District Brew House, with 24 beers on tap (apparently a lot for a cruise ship), kid-friendly pub food and evening sing-alongs that might amuse or mortify your kids. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville has Cheeseburgers and (of course) margs. And kids will find noodles to slurp on Food Republic’s Asian fusion menu.
Princess Cruises Is In Discovery Mode
Princess partners with the Discovery Channel to create some innovative activities across its fleet of ships. Animal Planet, and shows such as MythBusters, Velocity and Gold Rush inspire activities in the kids and teen centers. Animal Planet and Shark Week provide themes for shore excursions. This seems like good option when kids start outgrowing kids clubs but still want engagement.
If you aren’t a Discovery fan, try new star gazing with a guide from the top deck of ships leaving Fort Lauderdale or testing your nerve on a transparent sea walk over the water on the Regal when it comes out this fall.
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