If you are looking for a vacation where your children will be endlessly entertained and you can relax at the spa or by the pool look no further than a cruise.
But not all cruise kids programs are created equal…
So I am breaking them down for you.
DCL year after year continues to be the leader in family cruising. Their kids programming is the best at sea, I mean on what other cruise line can children have storytime with their favorite characters, learn how to be a superhero, pilot the Millenium Falcon or play with Andy’s toys in his room. The theming of the clubs is slightly different on each of the four ships and offer unique experiences. Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab are the two main clubs for kids ages 3 to12. While they are two different clubs, they are also connected so that kids can explore and visit friends and family members.
At “it’s a small world” nursery!, youngsters from 6 months to 3 years old can play games, make crafts, watch movies or even take a nap while you embark on adventures of your own. The nursery features paid care by expert Disney counselors in three distinct areas: an acclimation zone, designed to help youngsters adjust to their new environment, a main play area featuring a 3D façade of the “small world” attraction, filled with hidden interactive delights, and a separate quiet room for naps
Children 3 to 12 years old can interact with Disney characters—and each other—as they explore multi-themed magical lands.Character-driven performances, special storytelling sessions, larger-than-life play areas, dress-up opportunities and cool interactive activities are sure to delight tiny tots and older kids alike. Toys and games, an open seating area for arts and crafts, and ongoing Disney movies mean there’s never a dull moment.
At this highly interactive space, play games, perform crazy experiments and discover all kinds of activities! Toys, Disney movies and creatively themed areas with hands-on experiences will keep children 3 to 12 years of age engaged and entertained while adults embark on their own high-seas adventures.
This teen only space offers your 13 to 17 year old a place to chill out, listen to music, watch TV, play group games and mingle with cruisers their own age. Vibe hosts a range of fun-filled daily activities that teens choose themselves at the beginning of their cruise. Designed to encourage active participation, peer bonding and teamwork, these interactive games are a great way for teens to break the ice and get to know one another.
Aboard the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Magic, the Lab has a seafaring theme, with a hearty splash of pirate skullduggery thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, on the Disney Wonder, young voyagers blast off “to infinity and beyond” in a futuristic setting starring a giant Buzz Lightyear. Whichever ship you’re sailing on, your little ones will participate in magical, memorable guided experiences, with unstructured free time to explore and make new friends as well.
Already know Disney Cruise Line is the one for you? Makes sure you don’t forget a thing and check out my blog post on What to Pack for a Disney Cruise with a Free Printable Packing List!
In my opinion MSC is the undiscovered gem of cruises for families. They offer five distinct kids’ areas on their ships. Each club offers a range of activities designed specifically for the relevant age group, ensuring everyone will be happy, from toddlers to teenagers. The clubs are open every day, so you can schedule your family time around your preferences.
Their partnership with leading baby care brand Chicco provides a dedicated play area with facilities for babies and toddlers under 3 years old. You can leave your toddlers with the MSC Babycare staff, or stay with them and enjoy the special Chicco toys and games. They’ll love the music and rhythm activities, designed to awaken their curiosity.
The Mini Club welcomes children aged between 3 and 6 years old, bringing them new friends and lots of fun, enriched by the stimulating toys of their partnership with LEGO®. The club offers games, events and activities like arts & crafts to free their imagination and make every day special. Not to mention the whole family is invited to the Doremi Family Disco!
The Junior Club inspires connection and cooperation among 7 to 11-year-olds, through a wide variety of activities. Highlights range from Juniors Masterchef at Sea and Dorebro Sport competitions to Fire & Ice live video game. Do you like acting, dancing or singing? Enjoy the thrill of filming with the Kelly & Kloe On Board Green Screen Experience!
Tweens ages 12 to 14 can dive into a world of discovery, involvement and interaction with the Young Club. Each day holds the promise of new experiences with a dedicated program of sports tournaments, hi-tech games and lots of other activities and opportunities to make new friends.
Teenagers from 15-17 can look forward to the time of their lives on board with activities ranging from sports competitions, dance contests, social network games and video game tournaments. They even offer a fast-flying Drone Academy where your teen can test their skills on a night-time obstacle course.
Royal Caribbean is known for having some of the biggest ships in the industry, so of course with all of that space their childrens’ programs do not fall short. Their award winning Adventure Ocean Youth program will not only entertain your children but educate them too! From movie theaters to libraries, arcades to adventure science, these ships have something for kids of all ages to enjoy.
The Royal Babies and Tots Nursery provides a drop-off child care service for ages 6 to 36 months at an additional cost of the cruise price (Not available on The Empress, Majesty, Jewel, Adventure, Explorer, or Voyager of the Seas). They also offer interactive programs with enriching activities developed by early childhood experts with age appropriate activities and toys. These programs are hosted by trained youth professionals but require a parent or caregiver present during the activity sessions.
Children ages 3 to 5 are invited to the Aquanauts program where they will encounter bubbling science experiments and Dino-sized secrets waiting to be uncovered. They also have structured activities that include story time, coloring, face painting, and pirate night as well as plenty of free-play time with the toys and fun facilities included in the area.
Hands-on science experiments, arts and crafts, a glow in the dark dance party, and even the opportunity to perform at the Adventure Theater are just a few of the activities that engage the imaginations of your child ages 6 to 8 in the Explorers group. This kids club includes indoor soccer, computer games, and a family movie theater to keep your child entertained while onboard.
The Voyager group ages 9 to 12 stokes the competitive spirit with activities such as sports tournaments, video game showdowns, talent competitions and scavenger hunts with prizes up for grabs. Not to mention the Adventure Science Lab where your child can become a junior chemist or fossil expert all while having the time of their lives! Oh and the late night pizza parties are pretty fun too.
Let’s face it, teens ages 13 to 17 want the freedom to choose how they spend their time onboard. That is why Royal Caribbean has created a teen only lounge with music, movies, gaming and even an outdoor patio space where your teen can socialize with others their age. They’ll stay out later than the parents at Teen Disco where there are dance parties and a Scratch DJ Academy for the ones who want to be the entertainment, not just entertained.
In partnership with Discovery™ Princess has developed engaging new youth programming and uniquely themed wonder-filled centers for guests of all ages. Go expert guided stargazing on the top deck or in the indoor planetarium, uncover the truth behind popular shark myths using scientific methods from MythBusters, or learn squid anatomy in Animal Planet™ powered Just Squiddin’ Around. Their diverse activities offer every child what they need to spark curiosity, fuel creativity and inspire an active life. Be sure to check out all of the activities this partnership with Discovery™ has to offer for the whole family while onboard your Princess Cruise.
The youngest program participants will hangout in The Treehouse which welcomes ages 3 to 7. This bright, whimsical, forest-themed center for children features hands-on activities and programs surrounded by captivating creatures. With t-shirt coloring, pajama parties, kids-only dinners, game tables, cartoons and more they’ve got your toddler covered to make sure they have the best time on their first cruise experience.
This pre-teen program offers 8 to 12 year olds not-stop activities in The Lodge. Inspired by the great outdoors, this cozy center is filled with sports activities and comfortable places for kids to explore, hang out and lounge. Here your child will enjoy the latest movies, yoga classes, pizza and ice cream bashes, and scavenger hunts just to name a few activities. Plus their amazing JrCHEF@Sea program where they will learn cake decorating and get to enjoy the results with the whole family.
Teens ages 13 to 17 will enjoy The Beach House, a contemporary beach-themed lounge filled with video games, karaoke machines, and foosball/air hockey tables for teens to hang out, socialize and connect. Evenings will feature dance parties, late-night movies, teen formals and casino night, and they even offer mocktails.
Even though Celebrity Cruise line is known for their luxury cruise experience that attracts a more sophisticated crowd, don’t let that fool you because they have some amazing kids programs. Their Camp at Sea program has over 500 activities from arts and recreation to science and technology, they cover all types of subjects and hobbies, making sure every kid feels entertained and engaged during their family cruise.
At Toddler Time, you’ll find fun games for even the littlest ones in your family. Parents of young toddlers ages 2 and under can spend the afternoon playing with toys and mingling with other children. While the Camp at Sea staff are there to lend a hand, parents and guardians must accompany their children during Toddler Time.
Younger cruisers ages 3 to 5 that are fully potty trained can enroll as Shipmates at their Camp at Sea program, where they’ll work on their art skills at the Creation Station, learn new camp songs, and interact with other kids under the supervision of the Celebrity Cruise Line experienced youth staff.
Adventure awaits on board for their Cadets, ages 6 to 9, who can enroll in a one-of-a-kind nautical program, where they’ll learn the basics of sailing including navigation, time, weather patterns, and more. Cadets can also participate in activities spread throughout various venues, including Lawn Club games, campouts, and movie nights.
Older kids ages 10 to 12 are known as Captains in their Camp at Sea program, and they enjoy more freedom while on board. You can spot captain cruisers on scavenger hunts throughout the ship, mastering the art of pizza making on one of their culinary experiences, and competing in various sports and gaming tournaments.
Teens ages 13-17 can hang out at the Teen Club, a space designed exclusively for young adults, where they can socialize with other cruisers in their same age group. Teen-focused activities and events include sports competitions, silent disco parties, culinary classes and Xbox tournaments.
Last but certainly not least, Norwegian Cruise Line has an amazing team of youth staff specially trained in courses like confidence building and communication skills to give your child a well rounded educational experience while onboard. The Splash Academy for Kids and Entourage for Teens include circus activities, crafts, parades, treasure hunts and more ensuring a fun filled week at sea for all ages.
The Guppies program invites children ages 6 months to 3 years old and their parents to interactive sensory play, music and movement, and colors of the rainbow classes that promote growth and development. They also have a fee based drop nursery with self-exploration and crafty creation toys for the times when you want an adult day/night out.
Children ages 3 to 5 are invited to the turtle program from the week. Here your child will have the opportunity to go to Circus School and learn their Tiger Act as well as encounter developmental activities and sensory play. They also offer storytelling and arts and crafts everyday!
Your 6 to 9 year old will have a blast in the Seal Program where the Circus experience offers scarf juggling, plate spinning, devil sticks and rope spinning. There are theme nights, sports games, treasure hunts and team building activities here too, keeping your child entertained throughout their time at sea.
Dolphins ages 10 to 12 will have their own chance at Circus time with stilts, ball juggling and Chinese yo-yo. Plus their fare share of fun with video games, themed nights, pizza making, and scavenger hunts. They even have one night to themselves reserved in the Entourage teen hangout space, because what makes a child feel cooler than being a little older.
Run off and play while your teenagers, ages 13 to 17, hangout in a place filled with video games, movies, arts, music, sports and people their own age. From the lounge to hip dance club at night, there is always something going on in the teen center. Best of all, it’s all supervised.
All of these cruise lines have done the research to make sure your child not only has fun but an educational experience as well during their time on the high seas. Cruises are truly the one of the most valuable vacations with something different for the whole family to enjoy. If you are ready for the perfect family cruise but don’t know where your family wants to go don’t worry because I have a blog post to help with that too! Check out my Choosing a Cruise based on Region blog post to make sure your family has the best experience possible on your next cruise.
Will you enjoy your vacation if you are woken up by dragging pool chairs above you in the morning?
Kept up late at night by an adults only dance party?
The Right or Wrong Stateroom can really have an effect on your trip.
DOWNLOAD the Guide to Choosing the Right Stateroom to understand the differences between stateroom types, discover the pros and cons of different locations on the ship, and see recommendations on the BEST STATEROOM for your family.
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