CruiseCompete Issues Guide to Best Cruiseline Children’s Programs

Frolicking on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. CruiseCompete has produced a guide to the best children’s programs afloat © 2013 Karen Rubin/

If your family is planning a summer cruise, one of the most important considerations in choosing a cruiseline and an itinerary is the children’s program that is available. Children’s programs on cruiselines range from nonexistent to truly stellar, so it’s worth doing careful research before booking a family cruise.

To that end, the cruise experts at CruiseCompete have compiled a list of the best cruise line children’s programs and detailed their highlights. For a comprehensive listing of the lines and their full children’s program information, including the minimum ages accepted by each line please click here.

(Note: Cruise line children’s program information is direct from the lines and is subject to change, so confirm details when you book your cruise. The age parameters may vary by line so be sure to check each one individually.)

The cruise lines do not offer a children’s program, per se, for older teens (organized children’s programs generally stop at age 17) and college-aged children; however, they do offer many activities and amenities for this age group. Please click here for tips and tricks on traveling with young adult children.

Here are highlights of what each line offers (an asterisk * indicates that a complete children’s program is available for toddlers to teenagers):

Carnival Cruises’ Children’s Programs: Camp Carnival designs its children’s activities for three age groups: 2-5 years, 6-8 years and 9-11 years. Our counselors, each with education or childcare experience, make sure everyone has fun. At mealtime, kids get their own menus, with faves like mac & cheese, chicken nuggets and more. Camp Carnival Night Owls (fees apply) enable kids to stay up late having fun while their parents also enjoy themselves well into the night. (*)

Celebrity Cruises’ Children’s Programs: The Fun Factory, available 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, has the latest gaming technology and kids can participate in various sports, crafts, music, karaoke, treasure hunts, theme parties and movies. (*)

Crystal Cruises’ Children’s Program: Space dedicated to children is rare on luxury lines, yet Crystal has designed its ships to accommodate multiple generations. They offer spacious staterooms in a range of categories as well as suites, third berths and connecting staterooms, child-friendly cuisine, activity programs on select sailings for ages 3-17, a Fantasia playroom and a video arcade for teens.

Cunard’s Children’s Programs: Cunard offers something for all ages and the program is broken down into 3 categories; the Play Zone (ages 1-7) the Kids Zone (ages 8-12) and the Teen Zone (ages 13-17). The line also features a Night Nursery, which is available to children aged 12-23 months and is open from 6:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m. (*)

Disney Cruise Line’s Children’s Programs: Disney is all about family cruising and its programs are probably the best offered; accordingly, their prices tend to be higher than other lines. They offer excellent daycare centers for ages 3 months to 3 years. The Oceaneer Club offers four distinct play areas for older children. Special needs children are welcome. Edge is a “tweens” club and Vibe is for teenagers 14-17. (*)

Holland America Line’s Children’s programs: Tweens aged 8-12 can take part in Club HAL’s video game tournaments, scavenger hunts and karaoke disco parties. They also have the option of taking part in Holland’s National Park Service Jr. Ranger Program on Alaska cruises. (*)

MSC Cruises’ Children’s Programs: MSC offers two clubs for younger children (Mini Club 3 to 6 years; Junior’s Club 7 to 11 years) and focuses on offering age-appropriate activities such as arts and crafts, swimming, sports tournaments, parties, talent contests and onboard adventures. Teens ages 13 to 17 can meet up at the teen club and participate in planned activities and parties. The line also has dedicated areas for teens like the Graffiti teen disco, where events include MTV competitions, the teens hit list and a variety of other themed evenings.

Princess Cruises’ Children’s Programs: Passengers ages 13-17 can enjoy all of the coolest amenities in Princess’s teen lounges. The teen lounges feature all of the latest tech, like PS2/PS3 and Wii games, movies and music. Teens can also participate in activities such as Casino Night, hip hop dance lessons, sports tournaments, teen makeovers and more. (*)

Royal Caribbean International’s Children’s Programs: The minimum age to sail is 6-months’ old, with a 12-month age requirement for some cruises. Royal Caribbean has a dedicated nursery for children aged 6-36 months that holds interactive playgroup sessions. Daytime and evening drop-off is available for $8 an hour. (*)

You can book a cruise on one of these family-friendly lines at

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