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Family Cruises

  Family Snorkel   Family in Pool


American families have begun to choose cruise vacations in increasing numbers. Cruise lines have experienced a 50% increase in families aboard with all indications that the trend will continue its upward climb.

Do the cruise lines have Family Rates?
What ages do cruise lines provide supervised activities for children?
Do the cruiselines offer baby-sitting services?
What types of cabin accommodations are available?
What cruise lines specialize in children's activities?

Do the cruise lines have Family Rates?

Family rates are programs that cruise lines use to fill the third and fourth berths on cruises on soft sailings. For example, the third and fourth person in a cabin may pay $499 per person on a typical seven-night cruise. However, to help fill a ship, the cruise line may reduce this rate to $99 on select sailings.

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What ages do cruise lines provide supervised activities for children?

The large mega-ships cater more to families, with supervised activities generally provided for children from about age 2 through 17. Activities are typically divided into several age categories.

The youngest frolic in the playroom with toys, storytelling and treasure hunts. In almost every playroom, there is at least one television with a VCR playing kids' favorite cartoons, Disney films and other family oriented films. Older kids participate in arts and crafts, lip-sync competitions, pool games and volleyball; and teenagers go snorkeling, mingle at parties or hang out at the video arcade.

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Do the cruiselines offer baby-sitting services?

To ensure parents have a good time, too, most of these ships have adults-only nightspots. Many offer group baby-sitting (for about $4 per hour, per child) and private in-cabin baby-sitting by a crewmember (about $8 per hour, per child) on a first-come, first-served basis, until as late as 1 or 2 a.m.

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What types of cabin accommodations are available?

Family style accommodations offer the convenience of choice. A family of four can share a regular cabin. Many have bunk-style third and fourth berths that pull out of the walls. They're perfect for kids. Whether occupied by children or adults, the third and fourth person rates are usually about half of the lowest adult rates. Some lines, such as Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Premier Cruises and Royal Olympic Cruises, allow children under 2 years old to sail for free (except for port charges); and on American Hawaii Cruises, kids under 17 go for free.

If you've got a bigger budget and think space equals sanity, suites on many ships have two separate bedrooms or at least a pullout couch in the living room. The suites usually accommodate up to three children. You can also book two connecting cabins, which are offered on most of the major lines, including Carnival Cruise Lines (on Carnival Destiny), Princess Cruises (on Grand Princess), Cunard Line (on the QE2), Premier Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Line.

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What cruise lines specialize in children's activities?

Overall, the family friendliest ships are those of Disney Cruise Line offering 3, 4, and 7 day cruises from Cape Canaveral (1 hour from Disneyworld).  You can also combine a 3 or 4 night cruise with a 3 or 4 night land package at Disney for 7 nights of Disney Magic!

In keeping with Disney tradition, its ships boast a multitude of fanciful and high-tech wizardry geared to kids of all ages. As expected, the ships have come up with the largest facilities for children at sea and have devoted nearly an entire deck to the under 13-year old crowd. Another first for Disney is the spacious cabins, most of which include 1 bathrooms.

Other cruiselines that have dedicated children's' programs for various age groups include Carnival Cruise Line (Camp Carnival program), Princess Cruises (Love Boat Kids program), Norwegian Cruise Line (Kids Crew), Holland America (Club HAL), Royal Caribbean International (Adventure Ocean Youth Program), Celebrity (Cruising with the Kids), Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (Jammers Kids Club). Ultra-deluxe cruiselines offer more limited programs. One exception may be Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2. These programs are British-nanny supervised and have separate facilities for infants to teenagers. And, families on the QE2's Trans-Atlantic crossings can even bring the dog along. There's a kennel topside and babysitting available in port and into the wee hours of the night.

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