If you are looking for fun in the sun like swimming with the sting rays in the Cayman Islands, river tubing in Jamaica, snorkeling in Cozumel, or just enjoying all the activities and venues on board ship, the Caribbean as a destination offers a great number of family friendly cruises. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean have hundreds of itineraries to choose from.
Yes, the Caribbean offers a lot, but there are also fantastic family friendly, multi-generational cruises available outside this region, all around the world. Here are my top seven:
Alaska is an amazing family destination - an adventure that appeals to all age groups. Nature, in the form of glaciers, mountains and the Inside Passage plus wildlife viewing from whales and orcas to eagles and bears are all a big draw.
Whether you choose a cruise or a cruise and land package, Alaska offers a wide variety of activities suitable for all ages. Whale watching, bear watching, glacier hikes, helicopter rides, dog sledding, fishing, white water rafting, panning for gold or riding the rail up into the Yukon are just a few things one can do on an Alaskan cruise.
Many visitors explore Alaska for the first time on a big ship cruise, a great option for families. Most of the cruise lines have itineraries in the region, and a good number offer onboard programs for children of all ages, a great option for the sea days. Work with travel professional to find the best options for you and your family as the choices are many.
A small ship adventure cruise is another fantastic family friendly option but is often overlooked. Small ships offer a completely different experience than the big ships (and they aren't for everyone). They have fewer than 100 passengers, explore areas where big ships can't, stop in smaller ports or simply anchor in a quiet bay. Join the captain on the bridge while he/she looks for whales, jump in a kayak or take a skiff over to the beach and take a guided hike through pristine forest. Sound like fun? Venture off the beaten path with Alaskan Dream Cruises or Un-Cruise - both offer exceptional multi-generational family experiences.
Antarctica is most often one of the last big bucket list trips of must see destinations and not usually top of mind as a family friendly destination. It should be though, especially given all the nature and wildlife one encounters on such a journey.
Hurtigruten is one cruise line trying to change this mindset. On their Midnatsol explorer itineraries, Hurtigruten is now offering the Young Explorers Program, complimentary for children ages 7-13 traveling with adults. The program's focus is on fun, education and participation. Onboard as well as off ship activities keep the children active and engaged. Children 14 and above are old enough to participate on most of the adult activities and excursions.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC and CUBA
Do you enjoy volunteering? Now you can "Travel With A Purpose". Fathom, a new cruise line under the Carnival umbrella, offers families a fantastic way to give back to communities in need while still having time to enjoy some fun in the sun.
This last April, Fathom launched weeklong sailings from Miami to the Dominican Republic or to Cuba. In the Dominican Republic guests choose from a number of activities to work side by side with local residents, from teaching them English and entrepreneurship to creating water filters so locals can access clean water. In Cuba, guests interact one on one with artists, musicians, small business owners and health workers. Both destinations offer three full days where guests immerse themselves into another culture. What a fabulous combination - several days at sea having "fun in the sun" and several days in port with the family making a big difference in someone's life.
River cruising has the reputation of being "slower travel" and only for older guests, but cruise lines are making big efforts to change this. A number of cruise lines are providing more active options for their guests, including hiking, biking and interactive activities including cooking demonstrations and cultural explorations, just to name a few.
River cruises are perfect for multi-generation families who want to vacation together. Not only do they offer an easy and stress-free way to travel (unpack/pack once, no worries about driving, finding hotels, restaurants, etc.), cruises offer a wide variety of activities and excursions for all types of interests and age groups. River cruises are a perfect way to introduce children and grandchildren to the many wonderful sites Europe has to offer while creating unforgettable memories. Adventures By Disney (in partnership with AmaWaterways), Tauck and Uniworld all have family themed itineraries. Be aware - they sell out quickly. Best to plan 9-12 months in advance.
The Galapagos Islands are ideal for a family vacation. The islands offer amazing wildlife encounters, from the Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin that lives in the northern hemisphere to the blue footed booby and giant tortoises that average over 100 years in age. Families can hike, kayak and snorkel together. Playing with the sea lions will surely be a memory of a lifetime, and the marine iguanas will most certainly catch everyone's attention. A visit to the Galapagos Islands is truly a trip of a lifetime.
The best way to see the Galapagos Islands is on a small ship cruise, of which there are a good number to choose from. Ships vary between 10 to 100 passengers, from small yachts to luxury expeditions, including Celebrity and Silversea .
Hawaii has always been a popular destination for families. The islands offer so much, from fabulous beaches, snorkeling, hiking, golf, whale watching, relaxation and so much more. But did you know that Hawaii also has several cruise options that offer you the opportunity to visit multiple islands? Norwegian offers week long trips which start and end in Honolulu with stops in Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. Un-Cruise offers an authentic, small ship (36 passenger) Hawaiian experience, with itineraries between Molokai and Hawaii.
Tahiti, a family destination? Isn't it a romance destination? Yes, Tahiti typically is known as a romantic getaway, however the area also offers experiential learning programs for families, especially those who enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving and interesting wildlife. Paul Gauguin Cruises has partnered with the Wildlife Conversation Society to offer hands-on interactive learning experiences, including island and beach excursions, games, crafts and other adventures.
Need assistance figuring out the perfect trip for you and your family? Cruising is a wonderful vacation experience, but being on the right type of ship is extremely important. With so many options out there, I can help you find that perfect option.
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Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder