Family Cruises.

They're not just about getting away. They're about getting together.

 

This Summer Families can revel in Alaska's most charming towns and set sight on Alaska's abundant wildlife in their natural habitats, from breaching 40-ton humpback whales, roaming bears and soaring bald eagles. Your family can see Majestic Glaciers & Denali on a Land & Sea Vacation! It's a journey equal parts exhilarating and inspiring. Consider the ultimate Alaska land and sea vacation for families, featuring a tour director escort, personal service and most meals on land included. Spend 5 to 8 nights on land at Princess wilderness lodges visiting Denali and perhaps, sensational places like Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and/or the Kenai Peninsula. Plus great advice from Certified Alaska Cruise Experts!


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Cruise Tips:

Best Cruise Ships For The Family Vacation
 

Choosing the best cruise for your family is a lot more complicated these days than it used to be. Key factors to evaluate are ages (some ships are better for infants than others, and ditto for teens) and itineraries (Alaska and Caribbean are super destinations that tend to be kid-friendly). Add to the mix the fact that not all cruise lines' ships are identical -- and some are better than others in terms of onboard accouterments (we tend to recommend cruise lines' newer ships because these vessels' kid facilities were designed for families, not just adapted).

Check out your favorite family options -- keeping in mind that while these are their favorite choices, by no means do we mean to imply that unmentioned cruise lines (and ships) won't offer your family an excellent vacation.

Disney's Disney Magic and Disney Wonder
You have to start with Disney because it (naturally) revolutionized family cruising when it launched Disney Magic in 1998. That's because the Disney fleet has the most imaginative play space afloat, with plenty of activities for kids from 6 weeks old to 17 years of age. Parents stay connected to their child with a standard issue Motorola Text Pager for messages and reminders about their child's schedule including pick-up times. An entire deck is dedicated to two large playrooms, where kids can dress up in Disney costumes and climb on playground equipment. The Flounder's Reef Nursery is the largest baby center at sea geared for children aged 6 weeks to 3 years, loaded with toys, cribs, swings and everything else baby needs for a fun time at sea. A limited number of infants are accepted each cruise, so get there early to reserve a space; there's an additional charge. There is a teens-only coffeehouse and disco, and even parents get some time alone in adult-only venues, ranging from a dedicated pool area to a fabulous spa to the romantic Palo's restaurant. The major differences between the two ships are more than cosmetic -- Disney Magic sails seven-night alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises (and next summer will spend a few months in the Mexican Riviera), while Disney Wonder handles the three- and four-day itineraries.

 

Royal Caribbean's
Voyager of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas Voyager, Adventure, Explorer, Navigator and Mariner of the Seas --
Royal Caribbean's ships are fantastic for kids of all ages, but particularly for older children (10-plus). That's because they're equipped with fantastic recreational features, including an ice rink, rock-climbing wall, miniature golf, and roller-blading. Adventure Ocean offers supervised programs for ages 3 - 17 divided into four groups -- and the facilities are super and state of the art. Teens have their own disco, DJ booth and soda bar. Plus there's miniature golf, a full basketball court, ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall and in-line skating. Another major plus? Johnny Rocket's, a fun national chain of hamburger eateries, has restaurants onboard Voyager-class ships -- they're big kid-pleasers.

Crystal's Cruises Symphony and Harmony
Crystal is really marketing itself to the multi-generational family traveler, offering top-notch kids programs (facilities have been revamped and upgraded on both ships) -- particularly on sailings in destinations like Alaska and generally during school holiday seasons. As a result, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Harmony are great choices for grandparents, parents and kids all traveling together. The cruise line's Junior Activities Program divides kids into three categories (3 - 7, 8 - 12, and 13 - 17). Ships offer a teen's video arcade beyond the usual kid-oriented facilities.

Carnival Cruise Line's Spirit, Pride, Legend and Miracle
Carnival's Spirit-class ships (Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend and Carnival Miracle) introduce some crowd-pleasing firsts for Carnival. Camp Carnival is centered on a 2,400-square ft. enclosed play area on Deck 5, away from adult activities. The Fun House is headquarters to a supervised program, divided by age groups, offering children's activities for kids aged 2 - 15. Three areas are connected by tunnels: one area for crafts, a second one for computer games and a third for games; there's also a video wall for movies and cartoons. One deck below is an arcade with both virtual-reality and video games. An outdoor play area offers mini-basketball, jungle gyms and other playground equipment. A children's wading pool and a corkscrew water slide are also available for fun at sea. Carnival offers a Fountain Fun card, good for unlimited soft drinks during a one-week voyage for $19.95. Baby-sitting for children ages 2 and older from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. at the Fun House ($5 per hour for the first child, $3 for each additional child in the same family). We love these ships' Supper Clubs; Carnival's first "alternative" restaurant, they're great for a "mom and dad" night out.

Princess Cruises' Golden Princess, Grand Princess, Star Princess, and Caribbean Princess
Sisters Golden, Grand, Star and Caribbean Princess are big, and filled with appealing public spaces -- including graceful three-story open decks with colorful mosaic-tiled pools and whirlpools. Their charm and abundant activity programs keep these ships a cut above the mass-market competition. These elegant ships offer many activities for kids from ages 3 - 16. Younger children keep busy in the Fun Zone, a cheerful two-deck play area with games, arts and crafts, and a splash pool, while teens enjoy a mini-golf course, a private disco and separate area for sunbathing -- plus a pizzeria and an ice cream shop. Princess' "Adventures Ashore" tour program offers a wide range of excursions appealing to families, with special rates for children 12 and under. Caribbean Princess has a unique-to-cruising feature that's worth booking this ship alone -- Movies Under the Stars, a drive-in style outdoor film area. Entertainment staffers put on family matinees during the afternoon.

Carnival Cruise Line's  Conquest, Victory, Glory and Carnival Valor
Conquest-class ships Carnival Conquest, Carnival Victory, Carnival Glory and Carnival Valor -- Carnival's biggest -- attract the most families, with a large variety of entertainment and dining options, spacious and comfortable cabins, friendly and professional service, and an exceptional value for the dollar. The Camp Carnival program includes an outdoor area with a kid pool and playhouse for younger children, plus Children's World featuring arts and crafts, an activity wall and a bank of educational computer games. Teens enjoy 214-foot water slides, 24-hour pizzerias and video arcades and their own Internet stations in a coffeehouse environment.

Celebrity Cruises' Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation
Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation, Celebrity's "newest models," have garnered rave reviews from Cruise Critic's readers. Constellation's Fun Factory program is divided into four categories: Shipmates (3 - 6), Cadets (7 - 9), Ensigns (10 - 12) and Admiral T's (13 - 17). Activities for the first three are slated for mornings and afternoons (on port days too) and break for mealtimes (though some feature special kid-only meals). Teens have their own "space" called The Tower.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Star, Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Breakaway
This line's "Freestyle Cruising" program offers families an unregimented voyage with a good price tag. Sun and Dawn offer a kids' buffet is a highlight where wee ones can serve themselves and sit at child-size tables and chairs. There are numerous activities for kids ages 3 - 17, including a playroom, movie theater, jungle gym, computer area, painting area, and Water World -- with slides, a toddler-size slide and a wading pool stocked with kid-size lounge chairs. The Teen Club has a disco strictly for teenagers, a cinema and Video Zone with 25 video games.


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