Family cruise, how to pick the right ship when cruising with kids

Cruising With Kids – Picking the right ship

How to pick the right cruise line and cruise ship when cruising with kids.

Picking the right cruise ship is important, especially when travelling with children. 

Picking the right cruise ship is critical especially when cruising with kids.  Here are some top cruise tips to make your family cruise vacation more enjoyable

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As I have said over and over, I love cruising, my kids love cruising, my whole family loves cruising, but picking the right cruise ship is crucial.  Let’s face it, if the kids aren’t having fun, the parents aren’t having fun. 

If you are thinking about taking your kids on a family cruise you probably already have a general destination in mind.  Caribbean, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Europe, etc.

Now start your search by choosing a cruise line.  There are lots of cruise lines out there, but I first start checking (in no particular order) Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess and Celebrity.  They are ones I’ve been on and loved everyone of them.   MSC Cruises and Disney are other ones to check out.  We haven’t sailed on either of them yet but would like to.

My biggest tip – check the ages of the kids’ clubs. 

This is the very first thing I do when cruising with my kids.  These cruise lines all have kids’ clubs, but those clubs are broken down into different age categories and they all have cute names for them.  Those age categories can differ from cruise line to cruise line, and they are usually strict about sticking to those posted ages.

Often the kids will be more comfortable going to check out the kids’ club if they can go together.  After a day or so they will become friends with the other little cruisers but being in the same group definitely helps at first.  At least this has been our experience.

When we last sailed, the kids were 12 and 14.  Carnival was the only cruise line at the time that had those ages together, actually it was perfect because just those aged 12-14 were together.  They call in Circle C.   

How to pick the right ship when cruising with kids. Check the kids club ages. Carnival Circle C is for 12-14 year olds.
Circle C on the Carnival Pride. Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

Before I get hate comments, I don’t want the kids to spend all day every day in the kids’ club.  That isn’t my intent at all.  As I mention in Why I Think a Cruise is the Perfect Family Vacation, it’s nice for them to go to the kids’ club in the evenings.  They enjoy it and look forward to it.  It also then allows us some adult time to catch a show, listen to live music or have a bit of fun in the casino.  I never force them to go, after all it’s their holiday too, I do though ask that they go the first night to check it out. 

Cruise tips to help pick the right cruise ship when cruising with kids
Photo from Load the Luggage

Once you have narrowed down the cruise line, it’s time to choose a ship and a specific itinerary.  Some people prioritize the ship and not care about the ports as much, while others don’t care about the ship, only where it goes.  Start by searching what your options are in the month you want to travel. 

I think that the ship is more important when you are cruising with kids than without. 

The ships are like hotels, their size and amenities can vary greatly.  Some of the newer ships even have activities like laser tag, go carts, ice skating rinks and Carnival’s Mardi Gras even has a roller coaster.  Seriously how cool is that!?!?

Picking the right cruise ship when cruising with kids. Choose a ship with lots of amenities. Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras even has a roller coaster!
Bolt on Carnival Mardi Gras – how cool is that. Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

It is important that when you are looking at the cruise line websites’ that the activities you see and like are available on the ship you are interested in.  They often showcase these awesome activities, but you have to look closely to see exactly what ships they are on, also note which have an additional charge. 

Be sure to look for a ship with lots of activities suitable to your children’s ages. 

21 Reasons Your Teen Will Love Carnival’s Mardi Gras

6 Reasons to Choose 2 Connecting Cabins rather than 1 suite

For example, if you are travelling with toddlers, then you will want to look for ships with a great splash park and kids pool.  Older kids would love some of the activities mentioned earlier, or a basketball court or mini golf.  Also look at the food options, these also vary ship to ship. 

Mini golf is just one of the many fun things to do with kids on a cruise ship.
Photo from Load the Luggage

Check out the food and restaurant options. 

You will never go hungry on a cruise ship but the types and number of food venues varies per ship. My family loves having food options available right on the pool deck, like Guy’s Burgers on Carnival Cruise lines. We spend a lot of time there and having food options so close is so convenient not to mention delicious.

When cruising with kids the ships amenities are critically important. This includes the food venues. Having Guy's Burgers close to the pool is so convenient.
Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise Lines – a big draw for our family. Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Take a look at shore excursions.

To help decide on a specific itinerary, take a look at the shore excursions listed on the cruise line’s website.  It will give you and idea of things to do and see at each port. 

I know not everyone will agree with this next suggestion, but don’t feel you have to get off at each port.  On our last cruise after having incredible days in Grand Cayman and Jamaica, we chose to stay on the ship when we docked in Cozumel. 

It turned out to be our favorite ship day.  We had the water slides to ourselves!  Only my family and the poor water slide attendant got to hear my hoots/squeals as I went down the drainpipe water slide for the first time.    The kids still mock me with that one.

Water slides on a cruise ship are fun for the whole family.
Photo from Load the Luggage

Read: Must do in Grand Cayman

Read: Must do in Jamaica

This is the process we have used to choose our cruises with the kids.  As mentioned, we chose Carnival for our last cruise because the kids were in the same kids club category.  My husband and I had been to the Western Caribbean a few times before kids and wanted the kids to experience our favorite activities in Grand Cayman and Jamaica.  Having done them before we knew the kids would love it.  Click the links above to read those must dos. 

Tips for picking the right cruise when cruising with kids. Check the ages of the cruise line's kids club. Try to find one where your kids will be grouped together, this will up their chance of wanting to go.

The Carnival Dream was sailing the itinerary we wanted.  It also had plenty of activities for us and incredible food options. 

A fun thing to do when cruising with kids is to decorate the outside of your cruise cabin door. Personalized cruise magnets are perfect for this. This post is all about cruise magnets.

Once you have picked your ship and itinerary or narrowed down your choices, give you favorite travel agent a call.

Cruise planning is part of the fun.  Happy planning.

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