June 18, 2024

Kids and Cruise Ships

Pint-sized passengers enjoy cruising as much as adults.

Gone are the days when my husband and I would board a ship with our three-year-old son only to discover there was no playroom on board. That was back in the 1990s, when the premium cruise lines were just starting to embrace family travel. Not all ships had a playroom in those days or, if they did, it was often a windowless room tucked away on one of the lower decks.

How the times have changed. Today, nearly all of the large premium and contemporary ships have youth centres on board, usually located on an upper deck with floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious play areas with ball pits and computer games. Supervised activities are geared to specific age groups and outlined in a daily program.

Dining has become easier as well. Should the parents wish to dine alone, they can take their little ones to the casual, buffet-style lido for a simple kid-friendly meal, then drop them off at the youth centre while mom and dad go for dinner in the main dining room or at one of the specialty restaurants.

We’ve cruised with our kids on most of the major cruise lines and the onboard staff have always made us feel welcome and our children doted upon. To this day, the ship’s personnel are often the deciding factor in whether children will enjoy their time in the ship’s playroom.

The facilities and organized activities for young passengers will vary, so check with a cruisespecialist before deciding on a cruise line. Carnival and Disney are well known for their extensive children’s programs and activities, as are Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line. However, the premium brands of Celebrity, Holland America and Princess also cater to youngsters on most of their ships. HAL’s Indonesian staff adore little children, and the abundance of bath tubs in HAL staterooms are handy for bathing toddlers.

On Princess ships, the Italian love for children came through loud and clear for us when our maître d’ and his staff bent over backwards to accommodate our two small boys whenever they joined us for dessert in the dining room. “Children bring life to a ship,” he said with his warm Italian accent. And couples who bring their youngsters cruising will find this an ideal way to travel as a family.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.