Which Cruise is Right for Your Family?

Cruise lines have long been ahead of the curve in appealing to families, and that trend extends from mainstream lines to some of the priciest companies in the industry. How do you know which ship is right for you? Factors to consider are the ages of your children and whether or not you want a full-service supervised kid’s program or just an occasional spot of babysitting. You should also consider what dining venues are available on board, the cabin size and configuration and, of course, price and destination.

You can also check out consumer surveys to see what appeals to other parents. This year, for example, CruiseCompete, an online cruise marketplace, tapped into its database to come up with its 2017 Family Friendly Cruise Planner, a list of the most requested cruise lines by category. In other words, while not all these requests for information resulted in bookings, they show the trends today’s families are looking for on the high seas.

In the category Contemporary & Upscale Contemporary Cruise Lines, for example, the most requested line was Royal Caribbean International, followed by Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.

In the Premium Cruise Lines category, Disney Cruise Line came out on top, followed by Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Viking Ocean Cruises.

And while the more expensive, exclusive lines don’t draw the same crowds of families with young children as the mainstream lines do — don’t expect to find supervised children’s programs with age-appropriate activities on most of them, for example — it’s interesting to note they are nonetheless popular with some family groups. Think multi-generational families, for example, and families with older children.

Among the Ultra-Premium lines, Cunard topped the list, followed by Windstar Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises, while SeaDream Yacht Club snagged the No. 1 spot among Ultra-Luxury Cruise Lines, followed by Silversea Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Seabourn.

Keep in mind, though, that while other people’s opinions can be helpful, you know your family dynamics best and should make your choice based on your unique group. It’s also important not to overlook the needs of the adults in the group. If you love gourmet food and wine with flexible timing, and a great spa experience is important to you, don’t be too quick to jump on a ship that offers standard fare, assigned dining and a routine fitness center just because there’s a fun kids’ program. The good news is, in today’s cruise environment, savvy parents can find the right ship that has it all.