12 of the best family cruises to book now for 2022 & 2023 - Cruise International

12 of the best family cruises to book now for 2022 & 2023

By Cruise International | 17 May 2022

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Sky Course on board Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruises

It’s a big world out there and cruising is the ideal way to explore it with children, whether you’re taking a toddler to the Med or a teen to the Poles. Joanna Booth selects 12 of the best family cruises to book now for 2022 and 2023.

Cruise holidays are perfect for families, including multi-generational groups; not only can you take your kids to some of the world’s most exciting destinations, but with all the accommodation, food and entertainment included, they are often good value, too.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing family holiday following a stressful couple of years stuck at home, or the chance to spend quality time with grandchildren who are growing up too fast, there’s a cruise to suit.

12 of the best family cruises to book now for 2022 & 2023

Traditional ocean ships are packed with family-friendly fun to enjoy together, alongside kids’ clubs to give parents a much-needed break. River cruise lines are starting to cater for children too, while adventurous families can consider an expedition cruise to explore some of the most exciting places on Earth.

The bonus they all share? An easy-peasy way to experience a host of different destinations in one trip – the perfect chance to make up for all those missed holidays Just remember to check vaccination and testing requirements before you book and travel as these can vary by line and destination.

February half term in the Caribbean with Carnival Cruises

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Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruises

Make your February half-term fun with a capital F on board Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. This pleasure palace at sea has its own rollercoaster, water park, ropes course, IMAX cinema, deck parties and a live family game show to compete in.

There’s something to suit a whole range of ages, from a Build-a-Bear workshop and Dr Seuss parades to ping-pong, pool tables and a video arcade. Shore excursions are designed to thrill too, whether sliding down waterfalls in the Dominican Republic or frolicking with stingrays in Turks and Caicos.

The seven-day Exotic Eastern Caribbean sailing on Mardi Gras departing February 11, 2023, from Port Canaveral starts from £749 per person when a family of four shares an Oceanview stateroom (carnival.com).

Alternative Andalusia in August with CroisiEurope

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MS La Belle de Cadix, CroisiEurope

Get beyond the Costa del Sol and discover a more authentic side to Andalusia with a river cruise along the Guadalquivir. Relaxed French line CroisiEurope offers Family Club sailings during the summer holidays, with free places for children under 16 (two per fare-paying adult, making it excellent value for solo parents).

There’s a small pool on the sun deck and family-friendly excursions, including a visit to Seville Aquarium, a horse show in Jerez and a trip to the Isla Magica theme park, where the rides and slides nod towards historic explorers such as Columbus and Cortes.

The seven-night Andalusia: Traditions, Gastronomy and Flamenco on La Belle de Cadix departing Seville on August 18, starts from £1,311 for an adult and two children sharing a cabin (croisieurope.co.uk)

Rhine River VIPs in August with A-Rosa

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Family suite on board A Rosa Sena

Sometimes children can feel like an afterthought on a river cruise, but not on new ship A-Rosa Sena. From the onboard Treasure Island playroom and complimentary kids’ club activities during school holidays to the separate children’s pool on the sun deck and a kids’ section in the buffet, facilities tailor-made for young guests abound.

Family cabins sleep up to five with bunk beds and a toy box, and up to three children under 16 can sail for free with two full-paying adults. Special family excursions showcase suitable Rhine highlights, including Amsterdam Zoo and a chocolate tour of Antwerp.

The seven-night Rhine Discovery Amsterdam and Rotterdam departing August 20 on A-Rosa Sena costs from £3,899 for a family of four, including flights from Heathrow and transfers (flexidirectholidays.com).

Norway in August with P&O Cruises

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Lovatnet Lake near Olden, Norway cruise

Parenting very young children can sometimes be relentless. P&O Cruises gives you a genuine break, with complimentary kids’ clubs that start from two years – a year younger than most lines – plus a free night nursery, where under-fives can sleep watched by staff until 2am while you see a show or have an uninterrupted drink.

The Norwegian fjords are great for young families, as you can appreciate the views (book a Balcony cabin) and potter at your own pace in the ports, where berths are often in the centre of things.

The seven-night Norwegian Fjords cruise on Iona, sailing round-trip from Southampton and departing August 13, starts from £1,099 per adult, £749 per child and £49 per infant (under two) in a Balcony cabin (pocruises.com).

Christmas in the Caribbean with Celebrity Cruises

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Grand Cayman Islands, Celebrity Cruises

Teens keen to leave behind the trappings of childhood will love Celebrity Cruises. Instead of waterslides and a splash pool, they’ll find a Teen Club where they can socialise over video game tournaments and silent disco parties. Even the spa has teen treatments.

The only thing cooler than that? Spending Christmas Day in the Cayman Islands on this festive sailing, where you can snorkel with turtles, swim with dolphins and sunbathe on a white-sand beach.

The five-night Grand Cayman and Mexico Holidays on Celebrity Summit departs Miami on December 22 and starts from £2,728 for a family of four sharing an Oceanview stateroom (celebritycruises.com).

October half term Bahamas Halloween cruise with Disney

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Family dining on board Disney Wish

With augmented reality Star Wars challenges, The Incredibles-themed game shows, a Toy Story splash zone, Frozen picnics and a Marvel dining adventure, Disney Wish – launching in July – takes Disney’s cruise experience to new heights.

As well as fun for the whole family, immersive kids’ clubs mean you can retreat to the infinity pool in the adult-only Quiet Cove area for a deserved rest. Take an October half-term cruise and there’ll be added spooky spectacles on board, plus some Bahamas sunshine with days spent in Nassau and on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

The four-night Halloween on the High Seas Bahamian Cruise from Port Canaveral on Disney Wish, departing October 24, starts from £830 per person when a family of four shares a Deluxe Oceanview stateroom (disneycruise.com).

Arctic voyage in July with Aurora Expeditions

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Zodiac cruising in Greenland. Credit: Michael Baynes

Spotting polar bears and walruses along the coast of Svalbard and sailing past skyscraper-high ice in the fjords of eastern Greenland will make this Arctic expedition cruise a showstopper trip for adventurous children aged eight and above.

It’s action-packed, with excursions by Zodiac and sea kayak to find whales, and treks in search of musk ox. While Aurora Expeditions’ ship Greg Mortimer doesn’t have the waterslides and kids’ clubs you find on traditional cruises, the team is very engaged with young passengers and larger cabin types can accommodate a third bed.

The 15-day Jewels of the Arctic Voyage on Greg Mortimer sailing from Longyearbyen to Reykjavik, departing July 19, starts from £8,785 per person in a Balcony stateroom (auroraexpeditions.co.uk).

Caribbean Christmas with Norwegian Cruise Line

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Top deck, Norwegian Prima

New ship Norwegian Prima is designed for the sunshine, with an expansive outdoor deck packed with pools, waterslides, a go-kart racetrack and an outdoor sculpture garden.

Eating al fresco is encouraged too, with an open-air food hall and Italian, Mexican and American speciality restaurants with outdoor seating. Prima is sailing in the Caribbean this winter, so you can make the most of the onboard experiences in the tropical sunshine and spend Christmas Day in Cozumel snorkelling on a coral reef, visiting Mayan ruins or driving an ATV to a cenote.

The seven-day Caribbean: Great Stirrup Cay and Cozumel cruise on Norwegian Prima departing Port Canaveral
on December 23 starts from £7,976 for a family of four staying in a Balcony suite (ncl.com).

Greek odyssey in August with Royal Caribbean

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Bumper cars, Odyssey of the Seas

Even the hardest-to-please teen will be converted to cruising by this week-long Mediterranean voyage on action-packed Odyssey of the Seas. Onboard thrills abound, with a skydiving simulator, bungee trampoline, laser tag, bumper cars and 4D virtual reality gaming, while picky eaters are catered for with 15 different restaurants to choose from.

Sailing out of Rome, ports of call include super-stylish Santorini, Mykonos and Capri, all full of eminently Instagrammable selfie opportunities.

The seven-night Greek Isles Cruise on Odyssey of the Seas departs August 14 from Rome (Civitavecchia), with prices from £888 per person for a family of four sharing an Interior Family Stateroom (royalcaribbean.com).

Christmas in Antarctica with Lindblad Expeditions

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Credit: Cassie Matias via Unsplash

Antarctica isn’t only for adults, particularly if you choose the right cruise line. Lindblad Expeditions runs a Global Explorers programme where adventurous teens can earn a Zodiac ‘drivers licence’ and record sightings of penguins and whales in a field notebook with the crew’s naturalists.

Teens will love spending Christmas among the ice, and you could even be back in Buenos Aires for New Year’s Eve. Expedition cruising is expensive, but Lindblad’s special offers can help, including $500 off for under-18s, fourth guest travels free and triple occupancy on some cabin types.

The 13-day Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent cruise on National Geographic Endurance departing December 19 from Ushuaia starts from $23,190 per person based on two adults and one child sharing a cabin, with a $500 discount for under-18s (world.expeditions.com).

The Mediterranean in July with MSC Cruises

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Lego room, MSC Virtuosa

Cruising with small children needn’t be daunting. Sailing round-trip to the Med from Southampton with MSC Cruises, there’s no need for flights, and with the first couple of days spent at sea there’s time to get accustomed to the ship before trying a port excursion.

MSC Virtuosa has a lot for the littlest to love, from partnerships with familiar toy brands Lego and Chicco in the kids’ clubs and special menus in the restaurants to the onboard splash park. Ports of call include family favourites Alicante, Majorca and Barcelona.

A 14-night cruise on MSC Virtuosa departs July 30 from Southampton, with prices from £1,399 per adult and £399 per child between two and 11. Under-twos cruise free (msccruises.co.uk).

Alaskan adventure in July with Princess Cruises

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Alaska cruise, Discovery Princess

America’s greatest wilderness offers excitement at every turn – Glaciers! Grizzly bears! Totem poles! – making an Alaska cruise perfect for family memory-making. Sleek new ship Discovery Princess is brilliant for multigenerational trips, with onboard experiences to share including cuddles with husky puppies and movies under the stars.

Take a break by sending the little ones to the Camp Discovery kids’ clubs while you relax in the adult-only Sanctuary area, then use the line’s wearable Medallion devices to locate one another again. On shore, the fun continues with activities such as dog-sledding, gold-panning and bear-spotting.

The seven-night Inside Passage (Roundtrip Seattle) on Discovery Princess departs July 24, with prices from £1,264 per person for a family of four sharing a Balcony cabin (princess.com).

More family cruise advice

Kids’ clubs

High chairs are available in all restaurants on all family-friendly cruise lines, with most also offering baby baths and sterilisers, but you should request these when you make your booking because sometimes they are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

All cruise lines catering for families have free children’s clubs, usually for children aged two or three to 17, although activities for younger children are available with parent participation. Paid-for baby-sitting or night nurseries can often be arranged at night.

Disabled children are welcomed to join in kids’ clubs activities, but if they need one-to-one care a parent or carer must be with them.

Food

Buffets are perfect for fussy eaters, while many cruise lines offer complimentary room service which hungry teens can order themselves. You can get vegetable purees and certain baby food brands on most ships if you ask your head waiter in advance, and there are usually children’s menus for the main dining room, plus pizza, hot dogs and ice creams available near the pools.

Convenience

A cruise is an ideal holiday for families who want to explore a variety of destinations, without the hassle of re-packing and travelling in between.

A cruise from the UK is a stress-free holiday option for families. There are no luggage restrictions if you arrive in your own car (paid-for secure parking is available) and you don’t have the strain of airport security followed by cruise terminal boarding in a foreign country.

Entertainment

As well as the non-stop range of daytime activities, evening entertainment for families on most cruise ships ranges from West End-style musicals to magic shows and new-release films. Although night clubs and lounge bars may not be suitable for children, there is usually evening entertainment organised by the kids’ clubs that older children will enjoy.

Excursions

Although many children enjoy seeing places they have learned about at school; for instance Pompeii near Naples, The Colosseum in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens, museum fatigue can set in if you drag them round too many cultural sites. That’s why most cruise lines also have beach transfers and activity-based excursions. And even if an excursion seems like a must, if it involves hours in a coach, you are unlikely to enjoy it much yourself.

Safety

If you sign your kids into children’s clubs then you can be completely assured that once you have dropped them off they will be looked after by experienced staff. Even if older children sometimes wander around the ship without adult supervision there are metal or safety glass barriers on every open deck so that they won’t fall overboard. That’s also true of stateroom balconies, but if you are really worried you can always book an inside cabin.

All cruise ships have medical staff, but one thing to bear in mind is that you have to pay for their services unless it is for seasickness.

Essentials

  • Always read your cruise line’s Before You Go advice as soon as you have booked, in case you have to apply for a visa from the London embassies of countries on your itinerary.
  • Although cruise ships are cashless, you will need money for ports of call. Apart from dollars and euros, ships rarely carry local currencies and although most European countries accept euros you will pay over the odds for souvenirs unless you have local currency.
  • Visas for most countries on itineraries are organised by the cruise lines, but there may be exceptions so check with your travel agent or cruise line when you book. To see which countries require visas visit visacentral.co.uk.
  • Vaccinations are rarely needed for destinations such as the Caribbean or North America, but to check up-to-date travel information visit nathnac.org at least six weeks before you travel.
  • Some cruise lines will not allow babies under six months on board, while some may not allow babies in nappies in the pools. Finally, don’t forget you’ll all need travel insurance.

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