September 22, 2014

5 Great Ships for a Family Cruise

From tots and teens to Mom, Dad and grandparents,
these ships offer something for everyone

By Elizabeth Armstrong and Alexis Hilts

Vacations Magazine: 5 Great Ships for a Family Cruise
Katherine/Wessel/ Royal Caribbean International
There's no doubt that cruising can be a family affair, as modern ships are designed to please travelers of all ages. Kid-friendly features range from pizzerias and ice cream parlors to complimentary, structured children's activities supervised by trained youth counselors. Meanwhile, there are spas, decked-out fitness centers, sophisticated dining venues and serene, adults-only pool areas that cater to the grown-ups in the group.

Below, we break down five fantastic ships for a vacation with the extended family. To learn more about these vessels -- and other great options for a multigenerational getaway -- call the cruise experts at (800) 338-4962 or visit Vacations To Go.

Allure of the Seas


The latest 5,400-guest megaship from Royal Caribbean International debuted in 2010. Passengers can choose from 37 categories of accommodations, including family staterooms and suites. Twenty-six dining and snack options -- from a doughnut shop and cupcake bakery to an Italian trattoria and Brazilian churrascaria -- ensure that all palates are pleased.

Tots to tweens: The Adventure Ocean program is divided into three age tiers -- 3 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11. Kids can experiment in the Adventure Science lab, get creative with Crayola art projects, snuggle into story time and embark on scavenger hunts. Meanwhile, Royal Babies (6 to 18 months) and Royal Tots (18 to 35 months) are entertained in a variety of interactive classes developed by Fisher-Price. A parent must accompany toddlers during these sessions, which are designed to encourage discovery, movement and play. Little ones also might like to try out the full-size carousel on board.

Teens: Those with energy to burn can scale the rock-climbing wall, whiz down the zip line, hang 10 on one of two FlowRider surf simulators and dance the night away at their own disco, Fuel. Other teen-only spaces include The Living Room lounge and a private deck area.

For the adults: The 2,160-seat Amber Theater stages productions of "Chicago: The Musical," Broadway's song-and-dance tale of murder and mischief in the 1920s. The Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center offers couples' massages and classes in Pilates, yoga and spinning, while the Solarium offers a quiet, kids-free retreat at the fore of decks 15 and 16.

Together time: Catch a flick at the 3-D theater or a show on ice at the Studio B rink. At the ship's stern, the outdoor AquaTheater hosts displays of dancing, diving and acrobatics. Or, stroll the ship's Central Park together; it's a lush, meandering green space that takes up much of Deck 8.

Itinerary: The Allure of the Seas alternates weeklong Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Ports of call include Labadee -- Royal Caribbean's private stretch of beach in Haiti -- Cozumel in Mexico, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dutch-influenced St. Maarten.

Disney Dream


Everyone is made to feel special the moment they step aboard the newest 4,000-passenger vessel from Disney Cruise Line, whose horn bellows the first seven notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star." Each family is announced as they enter the opulent lobby for the first time: "Please welcome aboard the Smith family!" For the rest of their voyage, they're immersed in a Disney experience that delights the kids and likely delivers a sea of nostalgia to many of the adults on board, too.

Tots to tweens: Spaces dedicated to young passengers include the Oceaneer Club, where children ages 3 to 10 can play with the characters from "Toy Story" in Andy's Room or visit Tinker Bell's fairy forest. Oceaneer Lab aims to unlock their imaginations, whether they're steering a ship through digital seas or creating their own piece of animation. A place called Edge entertains the 11-to-13 set with video karaoke.

Teens: Vibe lets those 14 to 17 create their own videos, play computer games and mix dance tracks. Teens also have their own Chill Spa, where they can indulge in a "Fabulously Fruity Facial" or a "Surfer's Scrub" with lemon, lime and ginger.

For the adults: Follow the red carpet to The District, a complex of five lounges at the aft of Deck 4. Pink is a cozy cocoon that showcases Champagne and sparkling wines, while Skyline serves cocktails against a seven-screen LCD backdrop that depicts the cityscape of a different metropolis every night, like Paris, New York and Hong Kong. There also are alternative dining venues for adults: French-inspired Remy -- where the menu is designed by two award-winning chefs, including one that's garnered two stars from Michelin -- and Venetian-themed Palo, which serves northern Italian cuisine.

Together time: "The Golden Mickeys" is a musical tribute to Disney classics, from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to "Mulan." During Pirates in the Caribbean Night, grab your party and head to the top deck to catch Disney's spectacular fireworks display at sea. And daredevils of all ages might be tempted by the AquaDuck water coaster, a cruise industry first. This 765-foot-long flume ride propels riders through twists, turns and drops high above the deck.

Itinerary: The Disney Dream, which launched this January, sails three-, four- and five-night Bahamian itineraries from Port Canaveral, FL, calling at Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.

Norwegian Epic


This new Norwegian Cruise Line vessel is packed with entertainment for all ages, from bingo games to Blue Man Group. The 4,100-passenger ship, which debuted in 2010, has upped the ante with daily shows and freestyle dining in 20 venues. A casual dress code and two-bedroom villa accommodations add to the ease of family sailing.

Tots to tweens: The Epic hosts Nickelodeon at Sea year-round, keeping kids happy with interactive experiences like Slime Time Live shows and character meet and greets. And if the chance to come across SpongeBob doesn't make their eyes bulge, the Aqua Park will: Three onboard waterslides twist on Deck 15, including the 200-foot Epic Plunge, along with a wading area and kiddie pool. Children's club Recess boasts a light-up dance floor, Wii and PlayStation 3 gaming areas and a karaoke performance stage just for tweens.

Teens: Neon-lighted stairs declare various versions of "No adults allowed" at the stylish, under-21 Entourage. Modern furnishings, including nine flat-screen televisions, a video jukebox, PlayStation 3 consoles, air hockey, pinball and foosball await teenagers here.

For the adults: Cruisers looking to unwind can pick their poison at several nighttime spots, including a whiskey bar, a cigar lounge and a bar made of ice. Spice H20 is a kids-free zone that transforms from a pool during the day to a dance club at night. Villa guests also can escape to Posh, an exclusive adults-only hideaway on Deck 18 complete with daybeds, drinks and sweeping views.

Together time: Showtime is family time on the Epic. Sing along at the early show of Howl at the Moon, be part of the fun at a performance of Blue Man Group or admire the Cirque Dreams acrobats. Other pursuits include bonding over bowling or meeting up for a movie in the Atrium.

Itinerary: Through October, the Epic is sailing seven-day Western Mediterranean itineraries round trip from Barcelona, Spain, with calls at the Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Naples. The vessel returns to Miami for Caribbean cruises starting in November and continuing through April of next year.

Celebrity Silhouette


The brand-new addition to Celebrity Cruises' Solstice class sets sail for the first time this July. Debuting features like the interactive Lawn Club Grill with cooking classes and demos, and the secluded Alcoves retreat, the stunning 2,886-passenger Celebrity Silhouette is set to wow passengers of all ages.

Tots to tweens: The littlest guests can play with educational LeapFrog toys at Toddler Time. Junior cruisers ages 3 to 11 take part in an array of activities in Deck 15's Fun Factory, such as relay races, T-shirt decorating, ship tours, team challenges and sports. Dinner gatherings and slumber parties are also available throughout the trip.

Teens: Older kids can kick back and make friends in Silhouette's sleek X Club on Deck 15, set up with video games, a popcorn maker and a coffee bar. Theme parties, late-night dancing, karaoke, talent shows, trivia and pool Olympics keep teens occupied all cruise long.

For the adults: Brewery geeks can sample more than 50 beers at Michael's Club, while wine lovers explore vintages at Cellar Masters. Those in a livelier mood head to colorful Quasar to move to the music, and gamers can roll the dice at Fortunes Casino. For stress release, travelers find solace in the Solarium at the AquaSpa, an adults-only indoor lap pool and lounge.

Together time: In the Art Studio -- the latest add-on to the Lawn Club -- families get hands-on help from artists in creative projects of all kinds, from beading to painting. This open-air expanse also provides a day-at-the-park feel with a half-acre of real grass. Tech-savvy clans should stop at the Celebrity iLounge, an Internet cafe equipped with the latest Apple products. Broadway-style productions and live music add to fun group time.

Itinerary: A seven-night inaugural sailing from Hamburg, Germany, to Rome kicks off the Silhouette's season at sea. August through October, the vessel sails the Med round trip from Rome, visiting ports in Spain, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Italy. The vessel then repositions to Bayonne, NJ, where through spring 2012 it embarks on 12-day sailings to Caribbean ports including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Antigua.

Ruby Princess


The 2008 sister ship of Crown Princess and Emerald Princess, 3,080-passenger Ruby Princess boasts enrichment on the seas for everyone. Kids focus on subjects from endangered animals to cake decorating, while adults can take up art history and more. Age-appropriate group activities designed by Princess Cruises also take pressure off parents and grandparents throughout the cruise.

Tots to tweens: For ages 3 to 7, there are arts and crafts, pajama parties, scavenger hunts and talent shows with the Princess Pelicans program. Those 8 to 12 have their own group, Shockwaves, with PlayStation 2 and Wii games, disco nights and pizza parties. Inquisitive kids can opt for lessons in the kitchen as junior chefs or participate in ventures provided by the California Science Center. Kids of all ages (including teens) can stretch out their sea legs with complimentary yoga classes designed just for them.

Teens: The hardest-to-please set can play it cool at hot tub parties, mocktail socials, hip-hop dance classes and DJ workshops. The Remix lounge is outfitted with karaoke machines, PlayStation consoles, air hockey, foosball and big-screen TVs. Young fashionistas can consult a beauty expert during a makeover or get dolled up for special teen formal nights.

For the adults: Retreat to Deck 17's Sanctuary, a swimming pool, whirlpool and sunning area reserved for the older crowd. Practice your game at the nine-hole putting green or the virtual golf simulator on Deck 19, or learn something new (mixology or ship navigation, perhaps?). Culinary connoisseurs will want to sign up for Chef's Table: cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a multicourse tasting with the chef. Make it an adults-only night with Gatsby's Casino, Crooners bar or the Speakeasy cigar lounge.

Together time: Take it easy for the evening at the outdoor theater for Movies Under the Stars, with films on the big screen beneath sparkly skies. Check out a singing and dancing revue, splash around at one of the pools or get a little friendly competition going with a family Wii tournament.

Itinerary: From May through October, the Ruby travels between Venice, Italy, and Barcelona, Spain, on 12-day cruises to ports in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Monaco. Then the ship heads back to Fort Lauderdale for weeklong itineraries visiting Caribbean spots including Princess Cays in the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in May/June 2011. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.


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