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The 13 Best Cruises for Kids

Swimming pools, unlimited soft serve, chicken fingers and pizza galore, glitzy game rooms… ships designed to be the best cruises for kids really know how to bring the fun.

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Disney Cruise Line, Disney DreamCourtesy Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream

Most Fun Features: It’s hard to pick just one favorite aspect of this ship designed with kids in mind, but the entertainment on Disney Cruise Line is hard to beat. Inside the kids’ club, you’ll find a Star Wars-themed “Millenium Falcon” area, the ship also offers a stage show production of Beauty and the Beast, and you can catch Disney family-favorite movies on the pool deck.

Best Eats: We’re charmed by all the food shaped like Mickey’s ears, from waffles to ice cream pops, but it’s the fun of being able to draw your own cartoon and watch it come to life at Animator’s Palate that stuck with us as to why this is one of the best cruises for kids. Looking for a kids free vacation? Check out these adults-only cruises that will give you exactly that and more.

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Royal CaribbeanCourtesy Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas

Most Fun Features: Not only are there waterslides and a miniature golf course on this brand new ship, but there’s also a giant slide that starts with a terrifying walk across a clear platform and then appears to plunge off the side of the ship, dropping nine decks.

Best Eats: New on this ship is El Loco Fresh, a casual Mexican restaurant serving up tacos and quesadillas by the pool. If that’s not your thing, there’s a sports bar with video arcade games and burgers. Find out the 28 secrets cruise lines won’t tell you.

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Carnival Cruise LineCourtesy Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruises’ Carnival Horizon

Most Fun Features: This ship has a Dr. Seuss-themed water park, an IMAX theater, and SkyRide… which is basically a bicycle suspended above the deck that you can ride through the sky.

Best Eats: There’s so much great, casual food onboard, it’s easy to see why this is one of the best cruises for kids. With a pizzeria, a taco stand, and—get this—both a burger bar and a barbecue spot created with Food Network star Guy Fieri, how will you choose where to eat lunch?

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Norwegian Cruise LineCourtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Bliss

Most Fun Features: During the day, you can hang out by the pool or at the onboard waterpark—and at night there are family-friendly comedy sets on this ship.

Best Eats: Sure, there’s a barbecue restaurant and a more upscale one with tableside guacamole, but the coolest new eatery is Coco, a restaurant where the entire menu is dessert. These are the best all-inclusive cruises.

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Royal CaribbeanCourtesy Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

Most Fun Features: With bumper cars and an amusement park-style ride that takes you into the air for a view out over the ocean, a skydiving simulator, and surfing classes, this ship offers the best mix of high-adrenaline activities at sea to make it one of the best cruises for kids.

Best Eats: The food-truck style hot dog cart by the bumper cars is a fun treat in the middle of a sunny day.

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MSCCourtesy MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside

Most Fun Features: The ship’s 5D movie theater lets you shoot aliens and zombies, and the racing simulator involves climbing into a racecar and steering around the tracks.

Best Eats: On the back deck, there’s a Venchi ice cream shop serving up Italian gelato, including a wide variety of chocolate flavors.

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Princess Cruises - regal princessCourtesy Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess

Most Fun Features: The kids’ club on this ship brings the fun with pizza parties and sleepovers, and there are family-friendly movies on deck under the stars with popcorn and blankets.

Best Eats: The buffet on this ship serves up all the typical kid favorites, plus it has a Neopolitan-style pizza parlor with made to order pies.

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AmaWaterways' AmaViolaCourtesy AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways’ AmaViola

Most Fun Features: Adventures by Disney partnered with AmaWaterways to create select family-friendly river cruises, designed for children ages eight and up—these are easily the best cruise for kids on the river. On their Danube River trips, you can tour castles and bike along the river, and see the sites of The Sound of Music in Salzburg.

Best Eats: In Austria, you’ll visit an apricot farm and, later that night, there’s an ice cream party on the ship. Kids can also take a cooking class and learn to make apple strudel. Check out these cruises to more remote locations.

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carnival breeze cruise lineCourtesy Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruises’ Carnival Breeze

Most Fun Features: This ship has racing water slides, a twister waterslide, and a Dr. Seuss brunch—with green eggs and ham, naturally.

Best Eats: Guy’s Burger Joint serves some of the best burgers at sea, complete with a toppings bar and French fried, too. Best of all, it’s poolside so you don’t have to miss a minute in the sun.

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Disney CruiseCourtesy Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy

Most Fun Features: January through March, this ship hosts the “Star Wars Day at Sea,” an all “Star Wars” extravaganza with photo ops with stormtroopers, Chewbacca and more, plus Jedi training, trivia, movie screenings, and fireworks. The rest of the year, kids and grown-ups will love the stage show version of Aladdin.

Best Eats: The main dining room here is decorated—get this—as a royal palace, and there’s a Royal Court Tea that’s hosted by Disney princesses.

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norwegian escape cruise lineCourtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape

Most Fun Features: With pools, a waterpark, and a ropes course, what’s not to like on one of the best cruises for kids?

Best Eats: The food is fun on this ship, especially the teppanyaki grill—and the Brazilian steakhouse—where the meat is cut off of giant skewers, and you signal that you want more by turning your coaster from the red side to the green side. Make sure to check out our cruise packing list before heading for your cruise vacation.

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Princess Cruises - coral princessCourtesy Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess

Most Fun Features: In the summertime, this ship goes to Alaska, and they bring husky dog puppies—yes, puppies—onboard for you to pet, Or sign up for the Deadliest Catch Crab Fishermen’s Tour, inspired by the Discovery Channel’s show.

Best Eats: You can try local seafood onboard, including crab cakes and fish tacos.

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AmaWaterways' AmaViolaCourtesy AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways’ AmaKristina

Most Fun Features: On this ship, Backroads has partnered with AmaWaterways to create family-friendly biking-focused cruises on the Rhine River. Sailing from Basel to Amsterdam, you will bike along Dutch Canals and past the fortress ruins in the Rhine Gorge. The children’s bikes onboard are designed for ages 9 and up.

Best Eats: OK, even if museums are not your thing, you won’t forget the Chocolate Museum or the macaron-baking class onboard. You’ll also want to check out America’s best river cruises.

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Sherri Eisenberg
Sherri Eisenberg is an award-winning glossy print veteran for top travel, bridal. food, and lifestyle magazines who is equally deft with digital, social, mobile, and branded content. She has written for Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, and Bon Appétit, and has served as cruise editor for Travel and Leisure and Travel Holiday as well as and She has also been a columnist for The Los Angeles Times and, 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 is the author of "The Food Lovers Guide to Brooklyn," which was published by Globe Pequot Press in 2010 and covered by everyone from The New York Times to Time magazine. She keeps a bag packed at all times and has no plants or pets so she can hop on a plane — or a ship — at a moment's notice.