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When you take your family on a cruise, no one ever, ever says “I’m bored.” Cruise ships offer an almost endless variety of entertainment and activities for kids from tiny to teen. Parents, too, can find opportunities to escape, as most ships offer kids’ clubs and babysitting services.

When planning a cruise for the family, think about:

  • Vibe: Nonstop activities, or a slower pace?
  • Budget: How much do you want to spend per person? What’s most important to you: a nicer stateroom or exciting excursions?
  • Length: For younger kids, a short cruise might be best.
  • Needed accommodations: Make sure your cruise line can accommodate any dietary restrictions or other needs for your family. Royal Caribbean, for instance, has resources for kids with autism and offers special staff-assisted cruises for passengers with developmental disabilities.1

The best cruise lines for families

When booking a cruise, don’t just consider the kids! Look for cruise lines that offer activities for the entire family as well as opportunities for everyone to have fun or relax on their own.

  1. Disney Cruise Lines
    Disney consistently wins accolades as the top family-friendly cruise line, and for good reason. There’s playtime for toddlers and babies. Younger kids love the costumed characters and kids’ club activities. Tweens 11-14 get their own video game lounge and hangout space, while older teens congregate in the Vibe club and teen-only spa (on some ships).2 Beyond the activities, Disney Cruise Line is renowned for its service. One fun perk: You’ll have the same servers at dinner each night, even as you dine in different restaurants.The only downsides to Disney cruises? They can be expensive, and if you’re not a Disney super-fan, you might get fatigued by the Mickey-fication of everything.
  2. Carnival Cruise Lines
    Affordable family cruising is Carnival’s specialty. Camp Ocean, offered on all Carnival ships, entertains kids aged 2-11 with fun, marine-themed activities. Carnival’s newer ships have some of the largest waterparks at sea, plus a Sky Zone trampoline park on the Carnival Panorama.3 The Seuss at Sea program adds zany fun with a character parade, story time, and the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast.4
  3. Hurtigruten Expeditions
    This Norwegian line might not be as familiar as the big American brands, but Travel + Leisure names Hurtigruten one of the best cruise lines for families who are looking for an educational adventure. Cruise the Norwegian coast, see the Northern Lights, cross the Arctic Circle and explore picturesque towns. Curious kids will love the free Young Explorers’ Programme, in which on-board experts teach them about the wildlife, nature and culture they experience on the cruise.

The best cruise line activities for families

Rock climbing. Go-karting. Simulated surfing. Cruise lines are constantly upping the ante on their shipboard attractions with ever more extravagant offerings. These are a few standouts:

  1. Trapeze School on Royal Caribbean
    On Anthem of the Seas, adults and kids aged 6 and up can learn how to swing like a circus performer on the flying trapeze. With safety harnesses and mats below, they can practice their most daring moves!
  2. Ropes course on Norwegian Cruise Line
    Norwegian’s Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-class ships feature elaborate ropes courses. The largest, on the Norwegian Escape, promises an adrenaline rush for adults and older kids (48” and taller). Wearing safety harnesses, you can walk out on a plank over the water and ride a zipline high above the deck.
  3. BOLT roller coaster on Carnival
    Carnival is the first and, so far, the only cruise line to install a roller coaster on a ship. Carnival’s Mardi Gras and Celebration ships both feature the BOLT coaster, which zips around the ship 87 feet above the sea. Riders control the speed, so you can floor it (reaching speeds of up to 40 mph) or take it slow.

The best cruise destinations for families

Where’s the best destination for a family cruise? That depends on your budget, your interests, and the age of your kids. Here are three possibilities to consider.

  1. The Bahamas
    The Bahamas’ proximity to Florida makes this island nation one of the best destinations for short cruises. Many cruise lines operate private islands here, including Disney’s Castaway Cay and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay. Atlantis, the massive resort in Nassau, offers day passes for cruise visitors to enjoy the water park, aquarium and beach.
  2. Alaska
    For school-aged children and teens, a cruise to Alaska is one they’ll never forget. Go on a whale-watching tour, a glacier hike, a fishing expedition or a dog-sledding adventure. Smaller Alaskan cruise ships, such as those operated by Lindblad Expeditions or Windstar Cruises, have fewer on-board amenities but offer more intimate experiences. Read our destination guide for coastal Alaska.
  3. Europe
    European river cruises have long been a favorite of older travelers, but cruise lines have recently rolled out more family-friendly cruise ships and itineraries. The pace of river cruising will appeal to active kids, because every day there’s a new town to explore. Plan cycling trips, castle tours, cooking lessons and countryside hikes. AmaWaterways has partnered with Disney to offer Adventures by Disney, river cruises for families on the Seine, Rhine and Danube.

The best cruise travel insurance for families

When you’re cruising with children, travel insurance is a must. Why?

  • When you have kids, stuff happens. If you have to cancel your cruise last-minute because someone in the family gets injured or falls ill, you could lose all of the money you spent. Most cruise lines have strict cancellation policies, with little or no refund if you cancel close to the sailing date. Trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits can reimburse your unused, prepaid, non-refundable cruise expenses—including excursions!—if you have to cancel your vacation (or cut it short) for a covered reason.
  • Medical emergencies at sea are expensive. If anyone in your family needs emergency medical care while you’re on a cruise, they may have to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. The cruise line won’t pay for emergency medical expenses, but your travel insurance can.
  • For cruise vacations, travel delays can be dire. If a late flight or other travel delay makes you miss your cruise departure, travel delay benefits can reimburse you for reasonable transportation expenses to help you catch up with the ship. Travel insurance also can reimburse your extra lodging, food and transportation expenses during a covered delay.

One popular travel insurance plan for family cruises is OneTrip Prime, which includes a generous array of benefits and also covers kids 17 and under for free when traveling with a parent or grandparent (not available on policies issued to Pennsylvania residents). Like all Allianz Travel Insurance plans, OneTrip Prime includes 24-hour assistance: round-the-clock access to our multilingual assistance team for help with covered travel emergencies.

Planning a cruise? Don’t wait to protect it! Get a quote for travel insurance today.

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