Family Vacation Ideas For Cruises Everyone Will Love

Travel on a Family Vacation Cruise like Never Before

By Sherri Eisenberg | Published on April 25, 2022

Choosing a vacation destination both you and your kids will love may sound like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. The best family vacation ideas are the ones that are a joy for everyone individually and as a group. After all, most families share some similar interests like beaches and sunshine, the great outdoors and adventure, or museums and culture, so there's sure to be a perfect destination for you.

Vacation With The Whole Family

Perfect Day Island CocoCay Bahamas Snorkeling Family
A family of four snorkeling with fish at CocoCay

As far as family vacation ideas go, give us a day of fun in the sun and keep the frothy beverages coming — and everyone in my family is thrilled. The good news is that cruise ships deliver these things in spades, all day long.

Case in point: My family of five may have somewhat diverse interests when it comes to movies or how to spend a weekend at home, but we can all rally around a trip that includes plenty of pool splashing and wave-jumping, sandcastle building, and endless frozen drinks — virgin beverages for the "little ones," naturally.

I say "little ones" with tongue firmly in cheek because my teenage stepsons are easily a foot taller than I am. They love the comforts of home while traveling, especially when it comes to food — from pancakes to pizza, chicken fingers, French fries, and soft-serve — these teenagers love their American delights. These guys also marvel at the idea of watching superhero movies on deck under the stars, playing arcade games at sea, and all the amusement park-style rides. For my toddler on the other hand, who hasn't gotten to travel much yet, he loves live music and splash parks, so a warm-weather cruise ticks all the boxes for my family.

As for my husband? Well, the good Dad that he is, he's just happy when we're all together and all three kids are content. And me? This frazzled working mom is as thrilled as the pigs that swim off the coast of the Bahamas when I can leave the cooking, cleaning, and straightening up to someone else. And luckily, the best family cruises have kids' clubs, so there's always the chance for my husband and me to slip away for an evening "out" or at least a post-dinner toast on the balcony while the rest of the family is safely and happily entertained.

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Share In Outdoor Cruise Activities & Adventures

Family Roasting Marshmallows, Juneau, Alaska
Family Roasting Marshmallows, Juneau, Alaska
If your kids love animals and you love to get outside, then an Alaska vacation may be a good fit for both the children and adults in your family. From watching whales breach and sea otters swim the backstroke to attending salmon bakes or panning for gold like a prospector, there's more to see and do in Alaska than you can even imagine. And if you take to Alaska by cruise, you'll be greeted each morning by the most spectacular scenery. Just picture your whole family standing on the deck in awe, cameras in hand, while the glaciers calve and the porpoises chase the ship's wake. Cruising in Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that offers new experiences at each port, like hiking or dog sledding through otherworldly landscapes to the unforgettable peace of stopping and watching salmon run in the river as eagles soar overhead.
Anchorage, Alaska Glaciers
Skyline of Anchorage, Alaska with Glaciers in the Background
Back onboard, you can eat dinner together as a family — locally caught salmon followed by baked Alaska, anyone? — followed by a stage or ice skating show. Or, head to bed early so you don't miss a moment of the dazzling sunrise as you pull into the next port.
When you talk about family vacation ideas, give us a day of fun in the sun and keep the frothy beverages coming — and everyone in my family is thrilled. The good news is that cruise ships deliver these things in spades, all day long.

Make Cultural Tourism An Exploration Of Fun

Greece Athens Family Selfie with Greek Temple in the Background
Greece Athens Family Selfie with Greek Temple in the Background

For passport-filling families, a Mediterranean adventure may just be the trip you all talk about for years to come. Set sail from Barcelona or Venice, and you can rack up most of the countries in one thrilling week with calls in Italy, France, Spain, and even Greece, Slovenia, or Croatia.

Every day on a Mediterranean cruise is filled with experiences that are the stuff of history-loving families' dreams: Bend your head back as far as it goes to ogle the ceilings of Barcelona's Gaudi-designed cathedral before setting off for a feast of tapas. And to keep the young kids engaged, race up the steps to the Acropolis of Athens and take turns posing as the missing statue of a Greek goddess — it's currently in The British Museum in London, but you can fill in for her and pose for pictures while she's abroad.

Share an unforgettably good pizza in the city that celebrates this culinary art form the most — Naples. Then, set off on a multi-mile trek around the Sicilian port of Palermo while you learn about the history and culture and map out some of the world's best bakeries to sample crisp, creamy cannoli from along the way. From famous art to fascinating historical sites to delicious regional dishes, a cruise here will expand the minds — and palettes — of everyone in your family.

Take In The Moment Soak Up The Sunny Experiences

Tulum Beach in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Tulum Beach in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

If your family is anything like mine, you'll agree that the best family vacation ideas are the ones that give you a taste of summer when it's frigid back home. Mexican Riviera cruises offer their own magic. With underground cenotes that are perfect for a swim to exploring the clifftop Mayan ruins followed by mind-blowingly good fried fish tacos served up at roadside stands and chips with salsas that will redefine the condiment for you, there's truly something for everyone here.

And, after a week of toasting with margaritas and aquas fresca, you'll probably end up coming home with maracas and piñatas for your little ones and tequila and hot sauce for the grown-ups to remember the adventure by. Sure, everyone will bemoan the fact for years to come that the tacos are just not as good in your hometown, but that means you'll just have to plan another trip back.

Hawaii Oahu Honolulu Coast Waimea Beach
Hawaii Oahu Honolulu Coast Waimea Beach
If lazing on the beach all day is more your speed, a cruise around the balmy Hawaiian Islands is a great option. It's an easy way to see a larger swathe of this destination than your crew would get to if you booked a single-resort holiday. And booking a cruise means only unpacking once, and leaving the "driving" to the cruise line, with no inter-island flights required to see more of the region. That's a reality that's even more appreciated when you have small kids (and all their stuff — including a whole suitcase of diapers and bottles) in tow. Plus, you can wow the kids with days filled with enjoying shaved ice, watching surfers catch big waves, sampling the sweetest locally grown pineapples, and enjoying a traditional luau — complete with hula dancers and fire-eaters.

Cruise To A Private Island Water Park

Bahamas Nassau Woman Enjoying the Sunny Beach
Bahamas Nassau Woman Enjoying the Sunny Beach
When it comes to the Caribbean, cruises to the Bahamas or the Eastern and Western Caribbean are easy choices with magical results. You'll sail from one sun-dappled island to another, enjoying the pools, whirlpools, and water park on sea days, and breathing in the scent of cocoa butter as you stretch out on the sand on port days. Leave from a port in the Northeast, such as Cape Liberty in New Jersey, and you can watch the weather change over the course of a day —from gray and cold "gloves-and-hats-required" to hot and sunny "bring-on-the-bathing-suits!" Book a cruise that calls in Port Canaveral, and you can spend a day at the theme parks, which is sure to be a hit with the littlest cruisers.
Perfect Day at Coco Cay Daredevil Peaks Family Running Towards Thrill Water Park
Perfect Day at Coco Cay Daredevil Peaks Family Running Towards Thrill Water Park

One port you won't want to miss when cruising with your kids is the "private island" — a land-based water park filled with all the sun-drenched fun you've been dreaming of since the snow started falling back home. On Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay, for example, you'll hop a tram from the ship that takes you around the Bahamian island. There, the family can relax in the lagoon or at the pool — which is actually the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean. Or, if you're feeling brave, you and the older kids can sail down the largest waterslide in North America — it's two times taller than the Golden Gate Bridge! If not, the good news is there are 12 other water slides to choose from.

You'll also find a splash park more suited for the little ones, with zip lines, a floating bar, cabanas, a wing bar with live music, snorkeling tours, and even a helium balloon ride. For families like mine, who like their toes in the sand and the breeze in the palm trees, a pool and water park day like this one really is our idea of perfect.

Intrigued by the idea of a Perfect Day at CocoCay with your crew? Book your next family adventure.

Written By

Sherri Eisenberg is a New York City-based travel and food writer who has written about travel for Condé Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Bon Appétit, and The Los Angeles Times and has served as cruise editor for Travel + Leisure and, before that, for Travel Holiday. As senior travel editor of Condé Nast’s Brides, she won the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for best travel coverage in a non-travel magazine. Sherri has been on more than 100 cruises and today she keeps a bag packed at all times so she can hop on a plane — or a ship — at a moment’s notice.

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