Sue Bryant discusses the cruise lines shortlisted as Best for Kids in the Cruise International Awards

Sue Bryant, Associate Editor Cruise International and freelance journalist

Although people tend to judge the suitability of a ship for families based solely on its kids club, the formula for a cruise that pleases everybody is more complex!

For example, how good is the children’s food? What are the family cabins like? Does the ship offer evening babysitting, should parents fancy a night ‘out’? Are the shore excursions child-friendly? What are the additional attractions that give a ship the ‘wow’ that will turn kids into the cruisers of tomorrow?

Our shortlist of family-friendly cruise lines goes way beyond the kids’ clubs.

Carnival does have a superb kids’ cruise  programme, Camp Carnival, but offers so much more. The line’s two newest ships, for example, have cabins that sleep five, with two bathrooms. Carnival Magic has a fantastic family Italian restaurant, Cucina del Capitano, with a cover charge of just $10 for adults, $5 for children. And we haven’t even talked about the waterslides yet, or the first high ropes course at sea!

Cunard Line is often a pleasant surprise to families, with its great cruising heritage and reputation for formal dressing and posh afternoon teas. But each of the three ships actually has an excellent children’s club with highly-qualified nannies and all the latest toys and games; an excellent choice for parents of younger children who are likely to spend a lot of time in the kids’ club.

Disney presses all the right buttons for kids, with its fun clubs, beloved character breakfasts, colourful, themed restaurants and innovative ideas. An inside cabin has never been so covetable as on Disney Dream, with its virtual portholes, at which favourite aquatic cartoon characters appear from time to time!

MSC Cruises, being Italian, welcomes children all over its ships and manages to combine gorgeous Italian design with family-friendliness. Join the Italian families on board in going ‘out’ for gelato after dinner – a time-honoured tradition in Italy. This is a great line for teens, who can have their own charge cards on board (parents beware!), and also offers great value in that kids travel free when sharing with their parents.

NCL’s Norwegian Epic is another great family ship, notable for its amazing entertainment, namely the Blue Man Group, which kids will love, and the constant buzz on deck – check out those waterslides! What’s good about NCL is the huge choice of restaurants, from fine French dining to Teppanyaki, a Japanese show kitchen that children love, complete with juggling chefs who catch eggs in their hats.

P&O Cruises is traditional British cruising with a contemporary twist. Teens will love Rock School, and the bungee trampolines on Ventura are always popular. Toddlers always enjoy meeting Noddy, too. One thing all families love about P&O Cruises is the fact that you sail from Southampton on most voyages, so there’s no limit on luggage – and  no airport hassle.

Princess Cruises caters to children of all ages but has a particularly good teen club, with pool parties, pizza parties, pyjama parties – and a chance to dress up on formal nights, which teens love. Kids of all ages enjoy Movies Under The Stars, too, curling up on a sunlounger in the moonlight with a bucket of popcorn, watching favourite movies on a giant screen.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean club adds an educational twist to kids’ entertainment, without compromising on fun. Oasis of the Seas, one of the line’s biggest ships, even has its own science lab. There’s plenty more on board, from parades to ice skating and on Oasis and its sister, Allure of the Seas, ziplining. Royal Caribbean’s partnership with Dreamworks means kids can meet Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona on board – in person.

Uniworld is the only river cruise line in our category and one of the few to experiment with family-friendly river cruising. And why not? Scavenger hunts, visits to castles along the Rhine, lessons in sausage-making in a riverside village and a boat trip through Paris are all on the menu this summer, on a fleet of smart, new river cruisers offering an all-inclusive product.

The Cruise International Awards are the first dedicated cruise awards voted for by you the passenger.

This is your chance to vote for the cruise or river line that you feel has provided the best experience.

Vote for your favourite Luxury Cruise Line  in the Cruise International Awards