Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed May 13 2015

Opinion Home | Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

  • Amber Nolan | May 13, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    The Best Family Cruise Programs at Sea

    The Best Family Cruise Programs at Sea

    Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

    Historically, mainstream cruise ships have offered some form of kid-friendly entertainment, but newer ships have evolved into family-friendly playlands with outstanding children’s programs and outrageous amenities. Not every ship is the same, but these standout vessels are going the extra mile for families with kids of all ages.

    Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Quantum Class Ships

    Royal Caribbean is known for being extremely family-friendly, but its Oasis Class ships (Allure of the Seas, Oasis) and Quantum class (Quantum of the Seas and Anthem) are really going overboard with amenities ranging from carousels, surf simulators, and even indoor sky diving. The Dreamworks Experience features costumed characters from “Madagascar,” “Shrek,” and “Kung Fu Panda.”

    In addition to these kid-friendly amenities, Adventure Ocean has three dedicated kids clubs for ages 3 to 11 with science and educational-themed activities (think dinosaurs and fossils). A nursery (fee applies) is open late for parents to have a night off. For the older kids, there are teen-only lounges, nightclubs, rock climbing competitions, dodgeball, barbecues, talent shows, and movie nights. Special spa treatments are offered just for teens, and a video arcade has all the latest gaming fads.

    P&O Ventura

    Ventura is a British-owned cruise liner, P&O’s most family-friendly vessel. A complimentary nursery is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. so parents can enjoy an evening out and will be paged if any issues arise. The Reef is a massive space consisting of five individual kids clubs that are broken down into age groups (with playrooms for each). There’s also a splash pool and kids pool, themed quizzes, game shows, drama workshops for the younger crowd and video games, DJ decks, and a lounge areas for teens.

    The Disney Dream

    Always a family favorite, the Disney Dream has an outstanding children’s program that infuses favorite Disney movies and characters into the ship itself. The Oceaneer Club has separate movie-themed “lands” such as Andy's Room and Monster's Academy. At the center is a giant plasma screen for watching movies with Crush, the animated sea turtle from Disney Pixar's “Finding Nemo.” Connecting to the club is the Oceaneer Lab with a stage for the kid’s performances and an animator’s studio.

    “D Lounge” is a gathering place for families where everyone can take part in games and entertainment, and teens and tweens also have their own designated spaces. Dream also boasts AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea.

    The Carnival Magic

    Launched in 2011, the Carnival Magic boasts more than 19,000 square feet dedicated to kids, and has special family accommodations fitted with two bathrooms. Camp Carnival is divided into three age groups: 2 to 5, 6 to 8, and 9 to 11. The camps last almost the entire day, and there are also “night owl parties” that are designed as a babysitting program. Club 02 is set aside for older teens, while tweens can enjoy Circle C.

    In addition, there’s also a massive seaside theater with a jumbo screen, a sports area with the first suspended ropes course at sea, and one of the largest water parks on a vessel that includes a 312-foot-long twisting slide.

    Regal Princess

    The newest member of the Princess fleet comes with three kids clubs as well as some favorite kids programs like “Junior Chefs at Sea,” educational workshops, and pajama parties. Kids aged 3 to 7 will have a play structure and indoor play area, while ages 8 to 12 can enjoy air hockey, skeeball, a DJ booth, and kids-only dinners. Teens can head to Remix, where they can create their own musical playlist, or hang out in the outdoor lounge. There are also late-night movies, hip-hop dance classes, teens-only “mocktail” parties, and video game competitions.

    NCL’s Breakaway Class

    On Norwegian’s newest vessels, Getaway and Breakaway, the sprawling kids club, Splash Academy, is the largest in the fleet. Spanning two decks, it is broken up into specific age groups: Turtles (ages 3 to 5), Seals (6 to 9) and Dolphins (10 to 12). Splash Club is conveniently located near the family staterooms. Activities range from team building exercises to glow parties, and Mardi Gras night. There’s also a teen club for ages 13 to 17 with a dance floor, large screen television, and a video jukebox — just steps away from the video arcade. A dedicated space is available for babies and toddlers — but they must be accompanied by parents.


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
Journey on an Avalon River Cruise

Cruise Lines & Cruise Ships