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Set Sail on Cruises that Appeal to All Ages

by Susan Barnes

Nov 9, 2022

My nephew and I could hear him before we could see him, his familiar breathing — long, steady inhale; long, steady exhale — sending chills down my spine. All of a sudden, I was a little girl again, steeling myself to meet the ruler of the dark side. With a flip of his cloak, we came face to face — or, more realistically, face to armor — with none other than Darth Vader. Just where did we encounter the Sith Lord, not to mention his stormtroopers and good guys like R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca? None other than on a Star Wars Day at Sea cruise aboard Disney Fantasy.

Cruising has long been a popular way to travel for people of all ages, including families. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, 29.7 million passengers set sail in 2019. Though cruising paused at the onset of the global pandemic, numbers are rising again, and CLIA reports 6 million passengers embarked since cruising resumed in July 2020. The association forecasts nearly 100 percent of cruise lines will be in operation by August 2022.

When it comes to the best cruises for families, Disney Cruise Line naturally takes center stage. Though the line’s Star Wars Day at Sea remains on hiatus for the time being, other special sailings this year and next include Marvel Day at Sea, Pixar Day at Sea, Halloween on the High Seas and Very Merrytime around the holidays. Whether on a themed voyage or not, all guests can be assured they’ll receive the highest level of service Disney is known for, as well as onboard activities that will keep kids and kids-at-heart, no matter the age, entertained around the clock. Character experiences, pirate nights, Broadway-style shows highlighting favorite Disney stories, age-specific kids’ clubs, pools with waterslides and top-deck dance parties complete with fireworks offer just a sampling of what’s in store on a Disney Cruise Line cruise. Now is a terrific time to book a Disney cruise: Save up to 35 percent on select sailings from Miami and up to 25 percent on select sailings from San Diego and Port Canaveral.


Speaking of waterslides, Carnival’s fleet of ships makes quite a splash with its WaterWorks. The Twister Waterslide soars hundreds of feet in the air and plunges down for one of the fastest rides at sea. Speedway Splash celebrates the fastest sliders with special lighting effects, and the DrainPipe swirls to the finish. Some of Carnival’s ships feature side-by-side racing slides so your family can have its own competition to see who’s the fastest … maybe the loser has to stand under the PowerDrencher, a huge bucket of water that rains down from above. Aside from all the wet fun available on Carnival, the first-ever roller coaster at sea is on board, too. Strap in for a thrilling ride on BOLT, a motorcycle- style machine that swerves around the ship high above sea level. Not too sure about speed? Not to worry: You control how fast — or slow — you go. Onboard games, theaters, dive-in movies, mini golf, a spa and age-specific kids’ clubs will make everyone happy, and all of this can even take place before your first port of call! Carnival offers a number of limited-time offers, so check the website when booking to see what’s on offer when you’re ready to set sail.

Royal Caribbean International’s brand-new Odyssey of the Seas set sail from Fort Lauderdale in March and crosses the pond for voyages from Rome beginning this May. On board, challenge your family to a game of laser tag or ride around in bumper cars in SeaPlex on the top deck, hang 10 on FlowRider, or watch a live show in the Music Hall. Of course, this is but one of the 26 ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet; there’s definitely a ship for everyone. And if you’ve only got a few days to sail away, Royal Caribbean’s Weekend Getaways prove ideal, sailing from Los Angeles, Miami, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale. Check the cruise line’s specials to find the best fare, like five nights in Alaska for $390, seven-night Mediterranean itineraries from $406, and weekend getaways from $139, all per passenger.

With sailings all around the world and nearly 150 years in the cruising industry, Holland America Line knows how to meet families’ needs while showing them places they may never have dreamed of seeing. Age-appropriate onboard activities will keep kids of all ages entertained, and the entire family can learn to cook together at a live cooking show or be entertained at BBC Earth’s Planet Earth II in Concert. On land, family-friendly shore excursions introduce cultures, natural wonders and enticing soft adventures that appeal to all ages. For example, time travel through Rome, play I Spy with monkeys in Dominica, or walk on a glacier and go whale-spotting in Alaska. Holland America’s Have It All fare offers savings on its most popular amenities, including shore excursions, a signature beverage package, specialty dining and onboard WiFi — all in one premium cruise package.


If adventure is your family’s middle name, UnCruise Adventures may be right up your alley. The small-ship cruise line gears its Family Discoveries program to families with kids ages 8 and up, designed to celebrate the curiosity and wonderment of kids-at-heart of every age to help them reconnect and discover the world around them. With destinations varying from Hawai’i, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Belize — and even the Galápagos — you’ll find a sailing to pique everyone’s interest. On each voyage, onboard and land-side activities will keep your family engaged, from polar plunges and paddleboard races to face >painting with glacial mud and tide pool treasure hunts, from skiff expedition explorations to hiking and snorkeling with sea creatures … and plenty more! Invite the extended family and all of your cousins and save 25 percent on group bookings of eight or more sailing aboard the Wilderness Legacy.


Older children traveling with their families may enjoy sailing on one of Avalon Waterways’ fleet of small riverboat ships that sail through Europe. Though Avalon does not offer child-specific programming, the intimate cruising style proves a terrific approach for families to bond and reconnect with each other while discovering different parts of the world. Avalon’s Active & Discovery itineraries make a fun and unexpected way to experience destinations. Explore an ice cave on a cruise along the Danube; reenact the Roman Games in Roman garb; conduct an orchestra in Vienna; take a painting class à la Van Gogh in Arles, France; or try to spot Dracula in Transylvania. Avalon runs specials throughout the year, so check what’s available for the cruise of your dreams.

Whichever cruise line and destination you choose, in the end the best cruise for your family brings you all together to make memories that will last for years to come.


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