There are some fantastic cruise holidays for kids; here are our top tips to help you plan your family cruise
1. Happy children make for happy parents, so families are best off sticking with the big and mid-sized ships for their cruise holiday.
2. Although all family-oriented cruise lines offer free clubs for kids and teens, some children might prefer ships where the first language is English.
3. Under-18s sail for free if they are sharing with two adults on MSC Cruises, although flights, transfers and port taxes must be paid. The line’s newest ship, MSC Preziosa, has a whole deck dedicated to children and family fun – and the Vertigo waterslide on board won Best Innovation at the Cruise International Awards 2013. Doremiland has indoor pirate-themed club rooms plus a children’s pool and splash park including the ever-popular bucket-drencher.
4. Carnival Sunshine takes children as young as two on its Camp Carnival children’s programme, which goes up to age 17 and has a “splash-tastic” WaterWorks with Twister water slides, Splash Zone kids’ play area and ropes course. It has a range of Caribbean cruises from New Orleans that include stopovers in Florida, for Orlando’s theme parks, as well as the popular islands.
5. Norwegian Cruise Line offers circus skills classes and PlayStation3 on Norwegian Breakaway, but even better are the twin Free Fall slides that plunge 250ft down a looping tunnel, and a Sky Trail ropes course that ends with an 8ft plank to walk over the side of the ship. And the free child care starts at six months.
6. Look out for Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of The Seas when it launches next year with its 300ft North Star ride – loosely based on London’s Millennium Wheel. It will also have an exhilarating RipCord sky-diving simulator and bumper cars – the first at sea – plus all the usual children’s clubs, pools and sports facilities.
7. Thomson Cruises’ ships have family cabins and all gratuities are included in the holiday price, which is a massive saving for large families. Thomson Dream and Thomson Celebration have had recent refits to give them a more contemporary feel. Both have kids’ clubs and sports courts, and there’s a cinema on Celebration.
8. P&O Cruises’ ships Aurora, Azura, Oceana and Ventura are specifically aimed at families.
9. Princess Cruises have one of the most interesting children’s programmes at sea. They offer California Science Centre’s “Science On The Seas”, to learn about sharks and marine biology and the Yoga for Kids and Teens programme.
10. Even if you want a cultural itinerary, it’s still important to choose a family-friendly ship.
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