Water parks at sea, meet-and-greets with Anna and Elsa – a cruise will keep the whole family happy. Here’s our pick of the best family cruises to suit all budgets
6. Princess Cruises
One of the most glamorous but also friendliest cruise lines around, Princess Cruises has gone beyond the usual kids’ club activities to create a fun ‘edutainment’ programme that teaches children to learn and appreciate the world and its wildlife.
While there are the usual pyjama and ice cream parties, how many three to 12 year olds also get the chance to go shark hunting (virtually), whale-watching or searching for sloths on holiday? They can also learn about the California Science Centre, home of the Endeavour Space Shuttle, and discover how to help endangered animals and understand climate change as they sail.
There’s also plenty of old-fashioned fun on board in the three newly revamped youth centres: The Treehouse (ages 3-7), a magical forest-themed oasis; The Lodge (ages 8-12), a relaxed sports centre; and The Beach House (ages 13-17), a laid-back lounge that’s cool enough to make even the sulkiest of teenagers smile. The multi-million pound renovations are being rolled out fleet-wide, with Grand Princess the first ship to have the refurbished children’s facilities on board.
On port days, children can stay on board in the clubs if they choose, but Princes has teamed up with the Discovery Science Channel and the Animal Planet TV show to offer wildly exciting shore excursions where families can interact with animals in their local habitat.
Getting there: A seven-day Majestic Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona, Spain to Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy on Majestic Princess is £1,196 for four sharing an interior room or £1,816 for a balcony room on April 16 2017, excluding flights (princess.com).
7. Thomson Cruises
Thomson Cruises has mastered the almost impossible – pampering exhausted parents while wearing out children with non-stop fun.
Several times during a cruise, staff collect children from cabins for a supervised kids’ breakfast so parents can have a lie-in. There’s also a packed programme of superhero parties, scavenger hunts, DJ lessons, salsa dancing and behind-the-scenes tours.
And for an extra £35 per child, budding thespians aged 9-16 can go to stage school. Excursions include scuba-diving (for over-10s), while little explorers can whizz across cables suspended high in the rainforest. Back on deck, there are Splash Live shows, movie nights and a karaoke booth.
Getting there: A seven-night, all-inclusive Canarian Flavours cruise on Thomson Majesty departing from London Gatwick on 1 April 2017 for a family of four with an inside room is £3,606, including flights (thomson.co.uk/cruise).
8. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
With its small but perfectly formed fleet, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is one of the world’s most luxurious lines, and yet it is as family-friendly as it is stylish, with a teens’ spa and
kids-only shore excursion.
While the kids’ club isn’t large, the line boasts ships with seven restaurants, a pool area with retractable roof, culinary school, spa, gym and art gallery. Fresh air is pumped into cabins, owners’ suites come with a whirlpool and children aged up to 11 travel free when staying with two paying passengers.
Getting there: A 11-day Metropolises with Style cruise (from Bilbao to Hamburg) on board Europa 2 in a family suite for four departing 1 August 2017 is €10,901 cruise-only (hl-cruises.de).
9. Royal Caribbean
Active families will love high-octane adventures on board Royal Caribbean’s ships. Whether it’s the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing wall, dodgems, nine-deck zip line or white-knuckle water slides with a 100ft plunge – the tallest slide at sea – there’s never a dull moment. If that’s not enough there’s also SeaPlex, the first sky-diving attraction at sea on Anthem of the Seas, and North Star, a London Eye-style ride that takes passengers 300 feet above the ocean.
Younger children can enjoy a host of gentler fun such as the H2O Zone at the clubs, which include Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8s) and Voyagers (9-11s), and are some of the largest kids’ facilities in cruising.
Tweens and teens have access to lounges, while older teenagers have the Living Room. There’s a pizza parlour, Johnny Rockets, a 50s-style diner, as well as meet and greets with Shrek and Kung Fu Panda for smaller children.
Getting there: A seven-night Western Caribbean cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas departing Tampa on 1 April 2017 and staying in a large interior cabin is £2,216 for a family of four cruise-only (cruisenation.com).
10. Celebrity Cruises
Known for its award-winning luxury cruises, Celebrity offers an innovative and sophisticated programme of kids’ activities based around science, technology, art, fun and food. It’s also an autism-friendly cruise line having been awarded status and a certificate from Autism at Sea after introducing services specifically for children with autism and developmental disabilities.
This complements its terrific ‘adventure through science’ Anturus Explorer Academy, Lonely Planet for Kids and film-making using GoPro Hero 3 cameras, which are free on all of its 11 ships. Add to that some of the most spacious family staterooms at sea, kids’ menus with complimentary room service, slumber parties, mocktail mixology and behind-the-scenes tours of the galley, and it’s easy to see why Celebrity is a family favourite.
Getting there: An eight-day Northern Europe cruise on Celebrity Eclipse departing Southampton on 26 August 2017 staying in a balcony stateroom costs £1799pp for adults and £749pp for children (jetlinecruise.com).
Read part one of Top 10 Family Cruises 2017 here.