Adventure Vacations

Where Families Choose to Cruise: Destination Ideas & Tips

Where families choose to cruise
Written by Kirstie

Where Families Choose to Cruise
Destination Ideas & Tips

Kirstie Profile SmallIf you could choose anywhere in the world to sail away with your family where would it be? To celebrate National Plan a Cruise Month we’ve teamed up with CLIA – The Cruise Lines International Association and some experienced family travel bloggers to talk about choosing a family cruise. And from islands in the sun to fjordlands in the midnight sun, there are so many options! Here nine experienced UK and US travel bloggers select their favourite cruises and explain why it worked for their family so you can see how it could work for yours. 

Choosing a family cruise - there are so many options

These days families can cruise almost anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

Where would you like to go?

  1. The Caribbean Islands
  2. On a Transatlantic Cruise
  3. To explore Alaska
  4. Bermuda (avoiding the Triangle)
  5. Panama Canal
  6. The Med
  7. The Baltics
  8. Hawaiian Islands
  9. Around the World
Cruise liner floating away from the Olso harbor at dawn

Cruise liner floating away from the Olso harbor at dawn

1 The Caribbean Island Cruise


Cathy Winston who blogs at Mummy Travels is an occasional cruiser who took a short cruise through the Caribbean with her four year old daughter.

Not too far to the beach on a cruise calling at Grand Turk. Image by Cathy Winston

Not too far to the beach on a cruise calling at Grand Turk. Image by Cathy Winston

Where did you visit?

I sailed from Miami to Grand Turk, Jamaica and Nassau in the Bahamas.

What company did you cruise with? 

Carnival Cruise lines, on Carnival Breeze

When did you go?

It was a five-day cruise in November

Why did you choose to cruise?

I’d become a bit of a cruise convert a few years before my daughter was born, when some friends persuaded us to come along, and I thought it would be a great way to see a few destinations in a week with a toddler, without the stress of lots of journeys and with all the facilities on board.

What made it a great family experience?

It’s an incredibly family-friendly ship, my daughter was welcome everywhere from the specialty restaurants down. There were fun family activities and lovely kids’ club facilities, which also meant she could stay on board when I climbed a waterfall in Jamaica, great food practically 24 hours so there was always something to tempt a fussy toddler, splash zone to play in in the sun and I got to see several new places. I could even relax on my balcony with a book, watching the waves, as my daughter napped.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

It worked perfectly for a relaxed first cruise – some of the islands are small enough to explore in a day, everywhere in the Caribbean is very friendly and welcoming, and there’s sunny beach and sea as well as plenty to discover, depending what you prefer.

Most memorable moment?

For me, it had to be trying a rainforest bobsled ride followed by climbing a waterfall in Jamaica. For her (and a close second for me) was taking her for a swim in the Caribbean, in the shadow of our cruise ship, hearing her delighted squeaks and giggles.

Back to the top

2 The Transatlantic Cruise

Sarah Christie who blogs at Extraordinary Chaos has taken several cruises with her family including a Transatlantic crossing.

Approaching New York on the QM2

Approaching New York on the QM2. Image by Sarah Christie

Where did you visit?

We took a Transatlantic cruise from Southampton to New York

What company did you cruise with?

We cruised with Cunard on the QM2

When did you go?

We travelled in August on a 6-day crossing.

Why did you choose to cruise?

Cruising is our favourite way to travel, and although we had never cruised with Cunard before we decided on that particular crossing it would conclude with a trip to New York.

What made it a great family experience?

It was like no other family cruise experience we have encountered because the cruise was very reserved and laid back. Saying that there were lots of planned activities for the boys. And as every day was a sea day there was lots of chill time and quizzes and interesting lectures to attend.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

There will be no sunbathing, I had visions on spending my days on a sun drenched deck, In reality the cruise take a northern route which meant lots of fog, its too windy and cold to go on deck. Having said that it is a great opportunity to just chill with your family. The food and service were excellent and if you like getting dressed up for formal nights, then this cruise is perfect as Cunard make a real event of them.

Most memorable moment?

Sailing into New York at 5am, New York was just waking up, and sailing in towards the twinkling lights was just magical. A moment we will never forget.

Back to the top

3 The Alaskan Cruise

Lara Dorman who blogs at 2MomsTravel chose an Alaskan sailing for her first time on a cruise ship.

Inspiring scenery on an Alaskan Cruise. Image by Lara Dorman

Inspiring scenery on an Alaskan Cruise. Image by Lara Dorman

Where did you visit?

We embarked on our 7-day Glacier Discovery Northbound cruise in Vancouver, BC. The first day we spent at sea and had fun exploring the ship and of course eating! Our first stop was in the charming town of Ketchikan where we had the opportunity to watch salmon spawning on Creek Street. The second stop was Juneau. Although it was a rainy day and our float plane was cancelled, we still had a marvellous time visiting Mendenhall Glacier. The third stop was Skagway and we spent the day following the Gold Rush on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. Our fourth stop was sailing into Glacier Bay. Although we did not get off the ship, we spent the day sailing through this spectacular 3.3 million acre national park. Park rangers came aboard and hosted talks about the Glacier Bay all while our ship glided past awe inspiring glaciers. We saw wildlife along shore and even brown bears frolicking in the water! We then spent another day at sea and finally on the last day disembarked in Seward, AK.

What company did you cruise with?

Holland America ms Noordam

When did you go?

July 24-31, 2016. 7-days

Why did you choose to cruise?

We chose Holland America for our cruise because we travelled as a multi-generational family. There was 7 of us total: 3 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 young children. We wanted something for everyone: sophistication, luxury and of course fun. Holland America has a wonderful reputation for cruises that appeal to all ages and they didn’t let us down. They offered everything from classical music performances to HAL kids club extravaganzas.

What made it a great family experience?

What made this cruise a great family experience was there were something for everyone. We had fun spending time together as a family and didn’t have to split up to enjoy ourselves. There was a plethora of family friendly activities we could choose from that kept all of us entertained. The highlight of the trip was gliding through Glacier Bay and participating in the ranger program where the kids became junior rangers right aboard the ship!

Tips for others thinking of this route?

This cruise is definitely family friendly and there were lots of other children on this ship. So don’t be scared with the perception it is only geared to an older crowd. Also, be sure to bring layers and good walking shoes. Although we took this cruise in the summer, it rained often and was chilly on the deck. It is not uncommon to encounter this type of weather in this region and you certainly don’t want to be caught off guard. They did sell jackets aboard the ship on the second day, but of course you can save money by bringing your own.

Most memorable moment?

My most memorable moment was getting invited to take a private tour of the “city” – the lifeline of the ship. This is where everything happens to make the cruise run smoothly. The tour consisted of visiting the kitchen and learning how meals are prepped and prepared, the tailor shop where uniforms are made, the laundry area and how they keep it organized, and finally going backstage of the theatre and meeting the cruise ship actors and learning how they rehearse and perform on a moving ship. It really was amazing to see behind the scenes and the amount of work employees and staff are doing to make the customers happy.

Back to the top

4 The Bermuda Cruise

Eileen Gunn who blogs at FamiliesGo! opted for a cruise to Bermuda travelling from her home in New York.

Empty Bermuda beach at Church Bay.

Empty Bermuda beach at Church Bay.

Where did you visit?

NYC to Bermuda and Back

What company did you cruise with?

The Norwegian Dawn and the newer Norwegian Breakaway

When did you go? 

Both were 8 days, 7 nights, in June and August

Why did you choose to cruise?

The first time our in-laws invited us. The second time, we needed an easy, economical vacation at the end of the summer and the price was good. We liked the destination the previous time, wanted to do it again when our daughter was older and could do more, and we wanted to check out the new ship. Also we live in NYC, so didn’t have to get to port which made even more economical and super easy.

What made it a great family experience?

On the second trip our daughter was 6 and a half.  So she really love the kids club and went more than we expected her to, especially at night. She went for 2 hours at every day at sea and for maybe 3 evenings. so at those time we could relax or do something together or each go do our own thing — a cooking class for my husband and a yoga class for me. So we had a good balance of family time and couple time and me time. when she wasn’t at the kids club there was quite a bit to do together and we went to one evening show together and we were on shore together too.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

I like this cruise because you spend 3 days in Bermuda so have a chance to see quite a bit and get to know the island. And Bermuda is easy to get around on your own, so you don’t have to pay for shore excursions. We went to a least one beach, ate locally a little and did some sight-seeing each day. Also, Bermuda is very expensive, even by the compared with Caribbean Islands where most consumer goods are all imported and pricey. Lunch for 3 at a not-touristy hole in the wall (it was good but it was a hole in the wall) was $45 and a draft bear is $8 or $10. I don’t think you can really find a hotel for less than $250 a night. So having the ship to sleep on and have breakfast and dinner on made the destination more more economical than it would be otherwise.

Most memorable moment

I don’t think there was, it’s really one of those vacations where you enjoy everything and have a generally good time.
On the last day we went to a beach not far from the port that we hadn’t been to before and had it to ourselves and did some swimming and snorkelling. My daughter liked playing in the sand and with the rocks. We found a glass beach nearby and she thought that was really cool (it was cool!) and then we walked to the nearest town and had a nice lunch — a good version of the local fish chowder and fish and chips and good English-style beer with a nice water view. So that was a good day.

Back to the top

5 The Panama Canal Cruise

Dana Freeman who blogs at Dana Freeman Travels is an occasional cruiser who enjoyed a Panama Canal cruise with her family.

Dana Freeman and her Grandmother on their Panama Canal Cruise.Image by Dana Freeman.

Dana Freeman and her Grandmother. Image by Dana Freeman

Where did you visit?

Bahia Drake and Golfito, (Costa Rica) Isla de Cobia, Panama Canal Crossing, San Bias and Colon, (Panama.)

What company did you cruise with?

Windstar Cruises, on Windstar.

When did you go?

8 Days/7 Nights, December 29, 2012 – January 5, 2013 (Over New Year’s Eve)

Why did you choose to cruise?

Cruising is a great way to see a lot in a short period of time without having to pack up and move every few days, which can be difficult with children and elders.

What made it a great family experience?

Cruising on small ships was my Grandmother’s preferred way to travel. She went on over 50 cruises in her lifetime. This was a unique opportunity for our children to spend quality time with her and learn about her passion for seeing the world.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

Choose to sail with a cruise line that provides expert educational information about the creation and working of the Panama Canal. It enhances the experiences of the passage.

Most memorable moment

Sailing through the Panama Canal. It was amazing to watch as our our ship was raised and lowered through three sets of locks. Our experienced was enhanced while listening to on-board narration of the history of the canal and its day-to-day working.

Back to the top

6 The Mediterranean Cruise

Nichola West who blogs at Globalmouse Travels is an occasional cruiser who chose The Med for her family holiday.

Playing shuffleboard. Image by Nichola West

Playing shuffleboard. Image by Nichola West

Where did you visit?

Vigo, (Spain) Lisbon, (Portugal) Gibraltar, Monte Carlo, La Spezia and Civitavecchia, (Italy) Ajaccio, (Corsica) Cadiz, (Spain.)

What company did you cruise with?

P&O Cruises, Azura

When did you go?

August. 14 days.

Why did you choose to cruise?

We felt like a European city break but were undecided as to where to go and this felt like a great way to discover lots of cities to maybe return to at another time.

What made it a great family experience?

My children loved the kids clubs so there was plenty of time for us to relax while they were off having fun. I also loved how there were no food quibbles, there was something for everyone so we were all happy.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

Think about which port stops you can do yourself, like Cadiz and Monte Carlo and those you should take an organised tour such as Florence (only do organised tours to Florence, we nearly missed the boat here on another cruise!) and Rome which are harder to get in and out of.

Most memorable moment

Oh so many! One was that P&O offer Food Heroes cruises where some of the celebrity chefs they work with appear and we had Marco Pierre White on ours which was wonderful – my husband learnt to cook some great new dishes with him and the children really enjoyed meeting him.

Back to the top

7 The Baltic Cruise

Lisa Goodmurphy who blogs at Gone With The Family is an occasional cruiser who chose to do Europe with the kids on a Baltic cruise.

st-petersburg-russia-small-girl-at-bronze-horseman. Image by Lisa Goodmurphy

No need to ride to St Petersburg when you can cruise there. Image by Lisa Goodmurphy

Where did you visit?

We visited the Baltic region of Northern Europe starting in Copenhagen with stops in Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk and Oslo.

What company did you cruise with?

We cruised on the Emerald Princess.

When did you go?

We cruised in early August and the cruise was for 10 nights.

Why did you choose to cruise?

We had previously cruised in the Caribbean and Alaska so knew that it was a style of family vacation that we enjoyed. We chose to cruise in the Baltics because it seemed like the ideal way to explore a number of countries that we likely wouldn’t choose to travel to from Canada on a land-based vacation.

What made it a great family experience?

This was our first trip to Europe with the kids and it was a great introduction for them. By day we were able to explore incredible European cities together and in the evening our children were able to hang out with other kids their age while my husband and I enjoyed a show or a quiet drink in one of the ship’s lounges.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

The ports of call on this route are, for the most part, easy to explore on your own. We booked a private tour in St. Petersburg and a ship excursion in Gdansk but in the other ports we just explored on our own with a map and a list of what we wanted to see and do – much friendlier on the budget than booking excursions for a family of four.

Most memorable moment

There were many memorable moments but if I had to choose just one it would be my 6 year-old dancing to the music played by a band outside Catherine’s Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. She had been asking to visit Russia since she was 3 years old and it was wonderful to see her bubbling over with excitement as we waited to enter the palace.

Back to the top

8 The Hawaiian Islands Cruise

Mary Solio, who blogs at The World Is A Book is something of a family cruising professional, having taken twelve cruises, eleven of them with kids. Here she talks about her Hawaiian Islands trip.

hawaiian-islands-cruise. Image by Mary Solio

You can take a year round 7 day cruise to the Hawaiian islands. Image by Mary Solio

Where did you visit?

Hawaiian Islands (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Big island of Hawaii, Kiribati Island) The cruise started and ended in Honolulu, Oahu.

What company did you cruise with?

Norwegian Cruise Lines

When did you go?

The cruise was for 11 days and we went in early October.

Why did you choose to cruise?

We chose to cruise the Hawaiian Islands to get a preview of what each island has to offer. It gave us reasons of which island to prioritize for a land-based vacation. This was the best way to see the other islands in a short amount of time especially when travelling with kids. We unpacked once, enjoyed the ship’s amenities and were also able to enjoy island hopping.

What made it a great family experience?

This was a cruise with the grandparents. It was a fairly longer than average cruise so we enjoyed spending a lot of time as a family. It was wonderful to discover each island’s beauty and unique attractions as a family.

Tips for others thinking of this route?

This 11-day cruise has been discontinued but Norwegian still offers a 7-day cruise around the Hawaiian Islands year-round. We recommend renting a car in each island to have the opportunity to see the islands on your own schedule especially if you’re travelling with kids. We also recommend spending a few days before or after the cruise in Oahu.

Most memorable moment?

There were many unforgettable moments but a visit to Volcanoes National Park in the Big Island of Hawaii stood out on this trip.  Seeing the lava tubes, steam vents and hiking through volcanic crater was incredible.

Back to the top

9 The Crew’s Cruise

Lisa Jane, who blogs at Travel Loving Family, is a cruising professional. Or was. Literally. Working as Shore Excursions Manager for P&O, she coordinated and sold excursions on sea days and escorted passengers on excursions on port days. Ten years on she is taking her own children on their first cruise holiday and has chosen a Mediterranean route.

Lisa Jane can't wait to take her kids cruising in The Med. Image by Lisa Jane.

Lisa Jane can’t wait to take her kids cruising in The Med. Image by Lisa Jane.

Where did you visit?

I worked on board P&O Cruise ships for three years. I started as a Shore Excursions Assistant and was promoted to Shore Excursions Manager. I was paid to scuba dive, snorkel, go on helicopter rides, boat trips, hikes, jeep safaris! During my three years I cruised around the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Canaries, Baltic, Norwegian Fjords and I was fortunate to go on one three month World cruise which was, as you can imagine, incredible! My most memorable cruises were the Norwegian fjords. Sailing through the fjords is quite an experience. On a couple of occasions our cruise sailed as far as Iceland, the land of the midnight sun, with calls into Akureyri and Reykjavik. I was once onboard when we sailed as far north as the North Cape with a call into Honningsvaag. The scenery was amazing. We spotted plenty of wild reindeer and drank vodka from frozen cups in an ice bar!

What company did you cruise with?

P&O Cruises – I worked on all of the ships in the fleet at the time. I started on Oceana (this just so happened to be my last ship too!) Arcadia, Aurora, Artemis, Oriana.

When did you go?

Our cruise itineraries were as short as three days (these were party cruises to Zeebrugge for excursions into Bruges) through to a three month World cruise. The average cruise itinerary to i.e. Caribbean, Med were 1 – 2 weeks.

Why did you choose to cruise?

A friend was working for Disney Cruises. He was absolutely loving the experience and recommended that I try it out. A few months later I had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and jumped at the chance! I applied for P&O Cruises and was delighted to be offered the chance to work in Shore Excursions.

We are currently counting down the weeks until our family cruise around the Med. My husband and I left life at sea nearly ten years ago. We have been keen to introduce our boys to cruising and we now feel they are now the perfect age to appreciate it. (Ages 5 and 2). They can both go to the kids clubs which will give my husband and I some time to enjoy the adult only facilities, i.e. spa and fine dining restaurants! Our youngest is also a good sleeper so we hope to be able to get him to sleep in the night nursery most evenings, whilst our eldest is watching movies with the older children at kids club and we will be free to enjoy evenings to ourselves. We know our boys are going to thoroughly enjoy the facilities on board, especially the west end quality shows, the pools and the fabulous food. We also feel it is a great way to explore several ports/cities with the ship as our base.

What makes it a great family experience?

From my experience working at sea cruising is perfect for families. Ships cater for kids very well with kids entertainment, family friendly shore excursions which take the hassle out of having to plan a day out, kids pools, clubs, night nurseries, buffets which cater for the fussiest of children and food available around the clock too which is perfect for little ones who like to graze!

Tips for others?

Keep an eye out of special offers. Cruising is not as expensive as most people think. You can get deals for as little as £100 per adult per day which when you consider what this includes is exceptional value for money. Accommodation, three meals plus endless snacking opportunities, west end style shows (which alone can cost £50 per ticket) shuttle buses to take you into the main cities when in port, kids clubs and a daily programme of activities including sports tournaments, quizzes, lectures and classes.

Most memorable moment?

Ekkk so many! Feeding the elephants at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka was amazing. As was going into a school in Nha Trang and listening to the children sing Old MacDonald has a farm -the cutest thing I have ever heard:) Waking up at sunrise to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge was also an experience I will never forget.For our first family cruise I am most looking forward to the sail away parties which I think my boys will love and taking them on the cable car in Madeira.

Back to the top

Cruise Ship in the Balkans

Cruise Ship in the Balkans

Disclosure Note: We were compensated for writing and sharing this post by the Cruise Line International Association CLIA. As ever all words, images and thoughts of floating away to islands in the sun belong to us or the contributors included.

About the author

Kirstie

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

5 Comments

  • Thanks for including me in this – it’s making me want to book a cruise again very very soon and discover how different it is with a slightly older child. Fascinating reading Lisa’s account of life as crew too.

  • Hi Kirstie,

    Great destination ideas and tips of family cruising. There are many interesting things to know here about cruising with family. Feeling better get such informative post on cruising and thanks for sharing it.

    You have suggested the very well destination and I think everyone would like to cruising there. Each one is best well recommended for family cruising. Thanks for including the real people cruising experiences at the particular places. It was nice enough to hear their perfect cruising experience. The destinations which you have suggested here, are well find and I’m so glad to know these wonderful places for family cruising.

    Seems like the Bermuda Cruising is full of entertainment and fun and I wish to cruise there. Since, I love hear about cruising with someone and feel pleasure. Meeting and reading the cruising experience of featured people was wonderful for me.
    Thanks for sharing.
    – Ravi.

Leave a Comment

Follow Us

We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...

Trips100 - Travel Blogs   Trips100

Latest You Tube Video

Categories

© Copyright: Stuart Wickes & Kirstie Pelling 2000 - 2017