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Pick the Perfect Destination and Ship for Your Crew

by Terry Ward

May 2, 2023
Age Specific / Multigenerational

For families who love to cruise, gathering their entire gang for time together exploring new destinations aboard an ocean or river cruise can seem like the ideal way to turn a family reunion into the vacation of a lifetime. And the demand for multigenerational cruising is booming. But with so many traveler types and age ranges potentially in your extended family’s mix, you might find narrowing down the right cruise ship and ports of call for your multigenerational entourage a serious challenge.


If you’re traveling with more than just your immediate family, keen attention to planning and the different needs of different travelers proves critical to pulling off a great cruise. Early in the process, it helps to delegate a committee of responsible family members to present options to the group for cruise lines and destinations to consider; the types of shore excursions on offer; and to help field questions from family members with age, mobility and diet-related concerns.



Once you have an idea where everyone stands regarding how much they can afford to spend on a cruise and the type of onboard experience they prefer — from a small, intimate ship with fewer than 200 passengers to veritable floating cities where you can find plenty of diversions away from family when you need a break from each other — it’s time to decide on the destination.


Here we round up four great places for multigenerational cruises and suggest some of the best cruise lines sailing there, too, so you can be sure to find a little something for everyone in your extended family.


A cruise in Alaska makes a perfect choice for a multigenerational group because it can truly be as adventurous or as sit-by- the-window-and-be-wowed-by-passing-glaciers-and-whales as you like. From April into early fall in September, there’s no shortage of small, adventure-oriented cruise ships and the big-name lines to consider in this inimitable part of the world.


If your family is looking for a more adventurous cruise and doesn’t need onboard child care and all the bells and whistles of nightly shows, shopping and casinos, consider a small-ship outfit like UnCruise Adventures, which offers seven-night itineraries in southwest Alaska aboard the 76-guest Wilderness Discoverer. The Alaskan-owned Alaskan Dream Cruises proves another excellent small-ship operator perfect for adventurous families who want to spend their shore excursions hiking and kayaking on remote Alaskan islands rather than shopping for trinkets in touristy towns.


For a larger ship experience with all the entertainment and dining options you’d expect, Holland America Line is one of the few cruise lines allowed to sail into Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve and also offers supervised onboard kids’ programs and family-friendly shore excursions. And if your group craves extra time on land in Alaska, consider Princess Cruises’ Alaska Cruisetours, which combine three- to 10-night stays at lodges on land (in addition to the popular seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise) so you can spend time exploring the wilds of Denali National Park, too.


Balmy temperatures; familiar ports of call in places like The Bahamas, Key West, Cozumel and beyond; and a multitude of cruise lines serving those ports all combine to make a Caribbean cruise a perennial favorite. And the Caribbean boasts broad appeal as a destination when it comes to multigenerational families. People whose varied interests range from taking in a Broadway-style show to trying a new water sport, lounging on a beautiful beach, sidling up to a buzzing beach bar or just warming winter-weary bones under the tropical sun can find it all on a Caribbean cruise.


For families with young kids in tow and plenty of grownup kids to entertain, too, Disney Cruise Line ranks high, especially if you set sail on a new ship like the 4,000-passenger Disney Wish. With complimentary childcare at onboard facilities guaranteed to wow kids as much as any theme park on land, you might have to beg your littles to come join the rest of the family for meals. Specialty dining awaits at gourmet onboard restaurants, and there are waterslides and pools galore to enjoy when you’re not calling into tropical ports or relaxing on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.


Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Prima ship hits all the notes for full-family fun with its stylish onboard food hall, extensive outdoor spaces along Ocean Boulevard, waterslides and pools galore (as well as the first three-level race track at sea). And for a more wallet- friendly Caribbean cruise, Carnival Cruise Line sails to the Western Caribbean and The Bahamas from Tampa, Florida, and offers a wide range of staterooms to appeal to different budgets.


Sure, you could rent a villa in Tuscany or Provence with the whole extended family one summer (then debate whose night it is to cook). But one of the easiest ways to cover more than one city or region in Europe together as a group is by embarking on a river cruise from destinations in France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal and beyond.


River cruises remain a popular option in Europe because they tend to cover a lot of ground and pass through the most beautiful waterfront cities, usually coming into port right in the heart of town, making it easy to explore on your own or as part of a group excursion. If you’re traveling with young children, be aware onboard childcare is almost never part of the equation on a river cruise, and some lines are even adults-only, like Viking.



AmaWaterways, which allows children on board and is a family favorite in the river cruising niche, offers connecting staterooms and triple occupancy aboard its AmaKristina, AmaViola, AmaStella and AmaLea ships. Itineraries range from voyaging along the Danube River and through Provence and Burgundy to exploring in Portugal’s Douro Valley and Spain, too. Adventures by Disney runs trips along the Seine, Rhine and Danube rivers with AmaWaterways that prove particularly good when you have younger family members in the mix.


Another favorite river cruise line for multigenerational trips, Emerald Cruises offers eight-day European itineraries geared toward families along the Danube and Rhine rivers. They offer activities such as cable car rides, family cooking classes and archery lessons among the shore excursions and onboard entertainment.


When you’re traveling with a large group, embarking on a cruise from a city with ample airlift options, like Los Angeles, is one way to keep some of the costs down. And cruising south out of California for Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and Western Mexico’s Pacific Coast makes for an exciting multigenerational trip with a tantalizing mix of culture, wildlife (migrating whales come through in winter) and jaw-dropping coastal scenery.



Royal Caribbean’s huge cruise ships promise ample entertainment, childcare and dining options for everyone during four-, five- and seven-night itineraries from Los Angeles. They call into port in places like California’s Catalina Island and Mexico’s Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán, depending on the length of your cruise. And Princess Cruises offers another good option for cruising the region with family-friendly shore excursions like snorkeling, scuba diving and deep- sea fishing to entertain everyone who doesn’t stay back, enjoying the onboard amenities.



• Discuss budgets from the outset to get a clear picture regarding what each family or family member can afford to spend.


• Delegate a committee of two or three family members to spearhead the planning phase and consider everyone’s different needs when it comes to the right cruise line and destination.


• Consider working with shore-based excursion operators independent from the cruise line to arrange private tours just for your group, and don’t be afraid to ask for a group rate.


• Most cruise lines have messaging apps you can download and use to communicate privately or in a group chat with your family while at sea, even if you don’t purchase the onboard WiFi plan.


• Be open to some families and family members needing downtime away from group activities or group dinners. You might be on the same ship, but you don’t have to spend every waking moment together.


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