Cruises aren’t just about sun-kissed beaches and sparkling waters. They’re also about the peace of mind that lends to a true vacation—enjoying the destinations and the journey without having to worry about the nitty-gritty details. Hot stops aside, you get to indulge in luxe accommodations, scrumptious dining, and high-energy entertainment all aboard one glorious mobile resort. Here are a few cruise lines that we love for their special attention to family fun. Hop on!
Carnival Cruise Lines (carnival.com)
You know a ship is all about kids when Hasbro is onboard. New to three of Carnival’s ever-evolving cruise lines, the “Fun Ship 2.0” partnership brings shuffleboard courts, bowling, and skee-ball to the seas. The same campaign also fills up hungry seafarers with made-to-order patties from Guy Fieri’s famed Burger Joint—onion rings, secret Donkey Sauce, and all.
Of course, that’s not to leave out the older kids and grown-ups. On EA SPORTS-partnered cruises, older fans delight in real-time sports coverage and video game tournaments, while adults kick back with libations from a long list of domestic and imported beers. For whole-family bonding time, catch a 30-minute music show created by the masterminds behind beloved Broadway productions.
More to love: 24 of Carnival’s cruise ships, setting out for 16 different regions, have docking points in NYC—saving travelers both money and time.
Royal Caribbean International (royalcaribbean.com)
Calling all hyperactive families: Royal Caribbean International is just for you. We challenge you to find another roving cruiser decked out with a rock climbing wall, a zip line, ice skating facilities, and surf simulators—with age-appropriate coaching for all kids.
Not an athlete? Royal Caribbean’s 22 gargantuan vessels cast a wide net. Budding performers can rock their hearts out at open mic events or find inspiration at Broadway musicals, while big-screen enthusiasts can look forward to dining with DreamWorks characters. Thanks to playgroups and nursery programs for the tots, parents get the chance to sneak off to piano sing-alongs, salsa nights, and more.
More to love: If you’re looking for a quick getaway, try the port in Bayonne, New Jersey, just seven miles from Manhattan.
MSC Cruises (msccruisesusa.com)
High-end sailing becomes affordable with MSC Cruises, which offers special rates for ages 12-17 and complimentary sailing for kids 11 and under. Free kids clubs are divided into three age groups for safe and engaging fun. Formula 1 race simulations, 4-D interactive films, and water rides are just the beginning.
MSC’s destinations focus on the Mediterranean, and the cruise cuisine follows the suit. We encourage getting kids to try all the international tastes they can, but chefs will cook meals to order if hamburgers and pizzas fail to do their usual magic.
More to love: Eco-conscious minds can rest assured knowing that MSC Cruises is dedicated to making their ships as green as possible, implementing state-of-the-art technology to reduce fuel consumption and gas emissions.
Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com)
Foodie families can join over 25,000 gourmands in an adventure for the taste buds with Holland America. While parents appreciate a rotating schedule of guest chefs as prestigious as Gabriel Kreuther, Executive Chef at NYC’s The Modern, the onboard Culinary Arts Center leads complimentary classes for kids of all ages—think pizzas, shrimp scampi, and veggie art.
When you’ve had your fill, plenty of active fun is to be had. Three- to 12-year-olds can hop over to Club HAL for painting, pajama parties, and T-shirt tie-dying, and teens can hang out on an exclusive sun deck with a waterfall, juice bar, and games.
More to love: Each of HAL’s ships house over tens of millions dollars of art and collectors items, from contemporary pieces to signed football jerseys.
American Cruise Lines (americancruiselines.com)
It’s all about family bonding on American Cruise Lines’ smaller, more intimate ships, none of which will crowd more than 150 passengers on board. If you’re looking for a memorable multi-generational reunion, guides provide special assistance in creating individualized destination experiences offshore.
While the popular Hudson River fall foliage trips are winding down, young and old explorers alike have plenty of time to dive into the popular Alaska itineraries. Whether you’re interested in glacier tours, lake kayaking, or tribal dance performances, ACL will match you to your perfect adventure.
More to love: Most of the ships’ staterooms feature private balconies and are among the most spacious of their kind.
Disney Cruise Line (disneycruise.com)
As cheesy as it sounds, braving the seas with Disney is nothing short of magical. From giant touch-screen human board games to animated shows that incorporate characters cruisers may draw, revolutionary technology creates an otherworldly experience. Other stand-out attractions include a larger-than-life Toy Story playroom, science projects like putty-making, and decked-out teen and tween lounges and clubs.
There’s no arguing that the cruises are theme parks in their own right, but parents have no reason to fear—the ships’ designs boast a modern-classic aesthetic, with plenty of elegant adults-only spaces on board. You’ll find respite in speakeasy-inspired bars, serene spas, and more.
More to love: Spanning weekend cruises to eight-night adventures, Disney Cruise Lines has options for any kind of traveling family with any kind of schedule. The Disney Magic sails from New York.
Nickelodeon at Sea Norwegian Cruise Line (ncl.com)
Like Disney’s maritime offerings, Nickelodeon at Sea lets kids go wild with slime and cartoon characters, without driving parents bonkers. While themed activities like Dora’s Music Party and breakfast with SpongeBob SquarePants abound, the usual classics like basketball and ultimate Frisbee keep you grounded. A Splash Academy for kids ages 2 to 12 years gives parents time to enjoy the usual suspects—bar concoctions, casino classics, and spa treatments.
Spontaneous families who love making plans on the spur of the moment will appreciate NCL’s “freestyle cruising.” You can eat what and when you want without being tied to a timetable; activities start early in the day and run late into the night.
More to love: If you have the time for an extended trip, look for NCL’s “combined itineraries,” which packs two consecutive cruises into one jaunt.
Princess Cruise Line (princess.com)
Beach bums, rejoice: Caribbean-bound Princess Cruise Line ships now leave from NYC, taking you straight to the sand without the need to schlep onto a plane. Perks like free popcorn and blankets for outdoor movies and hot tub bashes channel the true spirit of balmy weather fun.
Indoors, the festivity stays alive with ice cream parties, arts and crafts, and other kids activities in the Fun Zone. Older children can participate in backstage tours of the ship’s theater and join the California Science Center for whale watching, squid dissection, and more.
More to love: Want to see it all? World Cruises stop at up to 40 ports on six continents in one fell swoop—if you can carve out 107 days for the trip.