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Find You Way Round Family Cruising

28 March 2011

Family at Beach

Family Cruising can be a little daunting to organise for some as there is so much to consider. Will there be suitable cabins, is there childcare or a kids club and can I still get a decent cocktail?

Cruising for adults is much easier — you choose the ship, itinerary and cabin you fancy and off you go. For families there is a lot more to consider so here are a few tips to picking the perfect family cruise.

Who To Cruise With?

There is a massive selection of cruise lines these days and they all offer something a little different. The one thing I have to say is there isn't one, perfect, family cruise line, but several cruise lines who do family cruising incredibly well.

The biggest choice of cruising is Americans-style cruising. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines offer vibrant ships with recognisable children's entertainment — Royal Caribbean have teamed up with DreamWorks and NCL work with Nickelodeon. Both these cruise lines offer loads of choice for kids, with their kids clubs, famous characters and fun activities — such as rock climbing and water slides. For the adults there are Broadway-style shows, a huge selection of dining and bars (especially on both Oasis Class & Freedom Class ships and the Norwegian Epic). For young families these cruise lines are incredibly popular.

Family by Pool

For those looking for something a little more relaxing or affordable luxury, but still fancy a bit of American glam Princess Cruise and Celebrity Cruises offer a great option. These ships are for the grown-ups, but still offer childcare and kids clubs of a very good standard, they just choose to offer relaxing venues such as The Sanctuary and the Lawn Club, as opposed to rock climbing walls and huge water slides. They offer superb cocktails bars, elegant entertainment and ships where nearly everyone dresses up for the fab formal nights. These cruise lines are best for spa days and cocktail parties.

British-style P&O Cruises remain the most popular cruise line in the UK, and for good reason. When travelling around the world they offer a home from home, they have adult-only ships and family friendly vessels, so people know what to expect onboard. Azura and Ventura are both gaining a great reputation for family cruising. They again offer kids clubs and child care, but they are quintessentially British, so expect afternoon tea as opposed to SpongeBob Squarepants.

Where To Cruise?

Drinks

There are now more itinerary variations and ports on offer than ever before, so take your time and decide what is more important. Are you happy to fly, or would you prefer to cruise from Southampton? Are you looking for sunshine and beaches, ancient culture or natural beauty?

With most cruise lines, parents are no longer allowed to leave their kids onboard all day, so plan your places of interest around the whole family. There's no point doing a nine hour shore excursion if you have young children. At the same time, it's your credit card not theirs, so if Europe's cafe culture or Alaska's fjords are what you would like to see, then go for it.

Cruises from the UK or with short flights are obviously popular with families. The Med can be just as stunning and hot as the Caribbean and day trips to Ibiza or the Greek Isles offer amazing beaches, so don't worry about flying too far on your first cruise.

Choosing Your Cabin

Family cabins do exist, but are like gold dust. Next year's cruises have just gone on sale and during the school holidays these precious cabins are already filling, so if you really want a family stateroom or suite you have to book early.

If booking early isn't a choice, then don't worry, there are plenty of other options. If you are on a budget or have a young family there are a great selection of cabins that will take families. Many inside cabins have pull-down beds, though you might miss out on your double in these, and balcony cabins often offer a sofa bed behind a curtain or small partition. These sofa beds are not a £300 effort from Argos, they are American-style sofa beds, so if you need twins, they are more than suitable for two adults and comfortable at that (just remember to book on a more modern ship). For families with older children, interconnecting rooms are an option, but again need to be booked in advance.

Disney Cruise Lines offer more traditional styled ships, but this can often mean more space in their cabins and suites, as they are not trying to cram on record numbers of people. The balcony cabins are particularly great for families, though their outside and inside staterooms are both very spacious for what they are.

If money is less of an issue, suites and minis-suites are a great option. Most suites offer a living area, giving much more room for families, and somewhere to dine as well as somewhere to relax other than the lounges, pools and bedrooms.

It is worth considering your accommodation costs and cabin type before getting too excited on the destination if you are on a budget. And remember pay pennies, get bunk beds, spend sensibly to save yourself a lot of hassle.

Ship

At the end of the day cruise holidays offer more variety than ever before, so you have to look for what your family are after. For me I'd take a young family onboard a Disney cruise and once they are older I'd brave the bright lights of Royal Caribbean, once they are old enough to entertain themselves the cruising, cocktails and Spas onboard Princess would grab my attention. But what is right for me could be wrong for you, I mean you might not like cocktails!

Also, check out our blog about the Best Family Cruises Summer 2024 for some holiday inspiration!

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