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Cruising is at an all-time high, and family cruise offerings keep getting better and better. If your vacation includes a family-friendly trip where all ages can feel special and catered to, you’ll want to check out the best Caribbean cruises around. Read on to discover some amazing itineraries and let us help with your cruise planning needs.
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15 Best Caribbean Cruises for Families for 2020
As a veteran cruiser, I love sharing my love for cruising the high seas with anyone and everyone. With over more than 50 cruises under my belt, I love seeing how the cruise lines keep up with trends and strive to lure more passengers with bigger and better offerings.
My family (husband and daughters, now adults) have been cruising since together for the past 22 years. We are pleasantly surprised by the many amazing offerings today’s cruises have for all ages. It’s so different than just a few short years ago! While Princess Cruises remains my family’s favorite, we have tried all of the popular cruise lines. Here are our picks for families cruises to the Caribbean.
#1 Carnival Fantasy, Western Caribbean from Mobile, AL (5-day)
Carnival’s Fantasy ship (the oldest on our list) features Seuss at Sea, a themed host of activities kids are sure to love. Meet the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 while participating in an interactive story time. Then join the Dr. Seuss Seuss-A-Palooza Parade, do arts and crafts, and dine at a character breakfast featuring Green Eggs and Ham and piled-high pancake stacks. A nine-hole mini-golf course, ping-pong tables, line dancing by the pool, and Vegas-style family-friendly nighttime shows are other fun on board.
Camp Carnival, a Night Owls nighttime slumber party style experience, is available for kids 6 months to 11 years old. They’ll watch movies, play with toys, eat snacks, and cuddle with pillows and blankets, all for a low fee (and gratuity), from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Fantasy’s biggest draw is the 320-foot long Twister Waterslide at Carnival WaterWorks. WaterWorks also has a power drencher bucket drop, Speedway Splash (side-by-side water slides where you can race one another), and DrainPipe slide. Please note that lifeguards are not on duty at WaterWorks, so parents must watch their children. The Fantasy’s pricing is budget-friendly; both a great value and great itinerary for a newbie cruiser.
This ships sails to the cruise ports of Cozumel and Yucatan, Mexico. Book this cruise here.
#2 Carnival Pride, Eastern Caribbean from Baltimore (7-day)
Carnival knows kids and draws them like a magnet. One kiddie favorite (and maybe adults too) is the Hasbro Game Show. Competitors play games like Yahtzee, Connect 4 and Operation in front of a live audience. Ships also have SportsSquare, a fantastic collection of mini-golf, exercise equipment, basketball, pool, foosball, and ping pong. And don’t miss its SkyCourse, a high ropes challenge (height and weight restrictions). Kids also love Cherry on Top, an ice cream bar and candy store that’s just yummy!
The Pride is a smaller-sized Carnival ship, holding only 2124 guests. It stops at Half Moon Cay, a private port owned by Carnival Corporation. Enjoy secluded beaches, lounge chairs, and plenty of fun things to do for free. Lunch is provided for all guests at an outdoor pavilion, featuring a taste of the Bahamas with the menu. An additional fee is required for many of the outdoor options, such as snorkeling, horseback riding, private cabanas, and bicycling.
Itinerary options are Grand Turk, Princess Cays, and Freeport (Bahamas) or Grand Turk, Freeport, and Half Moon Cay. Book this cruise here.
#3 Carnival Freedom, Western Caribbean from Galveston (7-day)
Carnival’s Freedom ship, holding just under 3,000 passengers, also features Seuss at Sea. Carnival also has the most in-depth kid’s programs at sea with three Camp Ocean clubs to entertain the youngsters.
The first, Sharks Club (9 to 11), offers age-appropriate games, crafts, dancing, and cool toys. Stingrays Club (6 to 8) has parties, games, and fun space for hanging out. The last club in Camp Ocean is Penguin Club, for fully potty-trained 2- to 5-year-olds.
Got older kids? Circle C is for 12- to 14-year-olds and features outdoor movies, dancing, and energetic parties. Club O2 is for 15- to 17-year-olds, with movies, music, video games, karaoke, and sporting events.
Kids will be paired with others close to their own age in Carnival’s programs. That means they will quite possibly have the best vacation of their lives while trying new things and making friends.
The Freedom sails to Belize, Mahogany Bay, and Cozumel, Mexico. Book your cruise here.
New to cruising? Let us help you with your planning with our cruise packing list.
#4 Carnival Horizon, Southern Caribbean from Miami (8-day)
One of Horizon’s best features, for both kids and adults, is the SkyRide. You’ll get strapped in a contraption that dangles from a track and goes around the ship and out over the ocean. You pedal your way to cross the finish line. There are side-by-side lanes, so you can race someone, too.
An IMAX Theatre offers first-run box office movies and IMAX formatted documentaries. The Dr. Seuss offerings and WaterWorks is on all Carnival ships.
For food, there’s the fun-for-kids Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint restaurant by the pool. But perhaps the biggest draw is The Warehouse Arcade on Deck 6, filled with arcade games from several genres. This is an extra charge, so parents can set limits on the cards (used for swiping to play), to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the cruise.
Camp Ocean, the multi-level kids’ clubs on board the Horizon, is the same as in other Carnival entries above. Planning a family cruise on this beautiful ship includes a visit to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic on the itinerary. Carnival Corporation owns the port, and there is a bounty of fun things to do just steps from the cruise ships. From zip-lining to the complimentary seaside pools and kid’s splash area, there’s something for just about everyone at this port.
Depending on your cruise date, ports could be Amber Cove (Dominican Republic), La Romana (Dominican Republic), Aruba, Curaçao, Grand Turk, San Juan (Puerto Rico), or Bonaire. My top picks would be Amber Cove, Curaçao, and Bonaire from this list. This is one of my favorite Southern Caribbean cruise choices. Book this cruise here.
#5 Celebrity Summit, Southern Caribbean from San Juan (7-night)
This itinerary is limited in number, but offers a chance to tack on extra days in Puerto Rico. Summit, with 2218 possible cruisers, is more affordable than the lavish new Celebrity ships. Families will have many amenity options, including movies under the stars, basketball court, ping-pong tables, cornhole, silent disco parties, hot glass classes, and a teen spa for ages 13 to 17.
For 11 consecutive years, Celebrity has been named “Best Premium Cruise Line” by Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards. Celebrity also offers autism-friendly interactive initiatives for families. Those include trained counselors at Camp at Sea and sensory-friendly toys. Camp at Sea also offers traditional kids’ camp fun, including Fat Brain Toys (through a partnership with Lonely Planet), Xbox, pizza making, scavenger hunts, and a plethora of activities.
Campers are broken down by age groups: Shipmates (ages 3 to 5), Cadets (ages 6 to 8), Ensigns (ages 9 to 11), Junior Teens (ages 12 to 14), and Senior Teens (ages 15 to 17). Those under 3 can participate in Toddler Times at specific times but must have an adult with them. Celebrity also offers private in-room babysitting for three or fewer children (12 months minimum age) for $19 per hour.
Cruise ports include Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas), Philipsburg (St. Maarten – the Dutch side of the dual-nation island), Roseau (Dominica), Bridgetown (Barbados), and St. George’s (Grenada). It is my favorite itinerary of all 15 listed. Ideas for family excursions are snorkeling in St. Thomas, seeing both sides of the island in St. Maarten, river tubing in Dominica, Atlantis Submarine in Barbados, and waterfalls in Grenada. Book this cruise here.
#6 Caribbean Princess, Eastern or Western Caribbean, from Fort Lauderdale (7-day)
This Princess Cruises ship holds 3,140 passengers and has outside interests such as freshwater pools, a hot tub, basketball and tennis courts, and a volleyball area. Another real treat is live animal experiences in the ship’s atrium, brought to you by Animal Planet.
The Reef, on deck 17, is usually the less crowded pool to choose for children. It features a sea life-themed splash pad, wading pool, and kid-safe temperatures hot tub. The Reef menu also has special mocktails for the little ones. Watch for the announcement of breakfast with Princess mascot, Stanley the Bear, throughout your cruise.
Two newer family offerings with Princess include Discovery at SEA experiences and Discovery/Animal Planet shore excursions. For the Discovery at Sea, kids can learn about the stars and sky through the indoor planetarium and stargazing events. Tours include Animal Planet recommended Dolphin Encounter and Turtle Centre in Grand Cayman and Discovery recommended Passion Island Beach and Lunch in Cozumel. Excursions like this gave Princess the edge in winning the “Best Cruise Line for Multi-Generational Family Travel” in the Porthole Cruise Magazine 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards.
Caribbean Princess ports of call are Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten for Eastern and Falmouth, Jamaica, Princess Cays, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman for Western. Book this cruise here.
#7 Regal Princess, Eastern Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale (7-day or 14-day)
Princess has really changed its kids’ programming since our cruising days with them. Rock Band, video game competitions, music, a batting cage, and laser shooting range are some of the newer offerings on this ship.
The Regal Princess (and Royal) also has a treehouse-themed outdoor playground with jungle gyms, specially created for 3- to 7-year-olds. Here, they can watch cartoons, do arts and crafts, and learn about animals through the partnership with Discovery, Inc. and Animal Planet. Kids 8 to 10 can enjoy dancing, games, stargazing, and California Science Center designed-activities, such as rocket building. Teens 13 to 17 hang out at a beach house style venue that offers hip hop dance classes, video game tournaments, dodge ball, and Rock the Boat teens-only party with awards and mocktails.
Kids can learn to appreciate afternoon tea with Princess Cruises’ daily 3 p.m. service. White gloved servers, live musicians and passed scones, clotted cream, and jam put this afternoon tea leap years ahead of the other ships’ offerings.
The Jr. Chef at Sea program offered by Princess is very impressive in my book. Kids learn cooking techniques from a Chef-led program in a shipboard kitchen. I also liked the SeaWalk, a cantilevered glass walkway that extends from the Lido Deck for views of the sea below.
The Bahamas is a stop on this itinerary, and families LOVE Atlantis. You can buy a day pass to use the pools and slides, or go by cab and visit for the day, admiring the aquarium, resort, and having a delicious lunch.
Royal Caribbean Cruises
#8 Royal Caribbean Symphony, Western Caribbean from Miami (7-night)
This masterpiece, one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, includes 10 stories of thrills on Ultimate Abyss, the highest waterslide at sea, and solving puzzles in Puzzle Break: Escape the Rubicon, an onboard escape room that takes 60 minutes (for those 12 and older) to participate in. Nightly production shows push the envelope for at-sea adventures with high-flying acrobatics at the AquaTheater’s HiRO. Talented singers and dancers also perform the tween and teen favorite Broadway hit, Hairspray.
A new production, iSkate, is an ice show featuring award-winning skaters. Families can opt to skate in the ice rink throughout the cruise, as well. Glow-in-the-dark laser tag is another feature on this sparkly new Oasis-class ship. Got a sweet tooth? Sugar Beach is sure to satisfy.
Families will love having 20 different dining options and having a spin on the retro carousel in the Boardwalk neighborhood. Kids 6 to 11 can enjoy their individual space, Imagination Studio, where they can create crafts, paintings, and other works of art.
If all that isn’t enough, Symphony also has a 40-foot rock climbing wall and Splashaway Bay water park with water cannons, slides, fountains, and pools. Only potty-trained children can use these facilities.
Your ports of call feature Cozumel and Costa Maya (Mexico), Key West (Florida), and Belize City (Belize). Book this cruise here.
#9 Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, Eastern Caribbean & Bahamas, from Miami (5-night)
This cruise is priced just right, and kids sail free on this itinerary (4 dates only). It also has a thrilling resort-style pool area with The Perfect Storm twin see-through waterslides, FlowRider surf simulator, and quite possibly the best water attraction at sea. Besides water attractions, kids can participate in cupcake decorating classes, scrapbooking, and three age-appropriate youth programs. Explorer of the Seas offers 16,000 square feet devoted to kids’ venues and spaces.
Adventure Ocean, the on board kids club, includes the Aquanauts (3 to 5), Explorers (6 to 8), and Voyagers (9 to 11) groups with themed parties, toys, video games, and age-appropriate activities. The clubs are included with cruise price, but for $7 per hour, they can be utilized after hours. Some special events include science experiments, circus-themed activities, Space Night, bingo, and scavenger hunts.
Ice skating is also an onboard option on Explorer of the Seas, as well as the family favorite Johnny Rockets, a 50s style luncheonette with killer burgers, fries, and shakes.
This itinerary includes Nassau (Bahamas) and Labadee (Haiti). Book this cruise here.
Holland America Line
#10 Holland America Nieuw Statendam, Eastern Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale (7-day)
While Holland America line doesn’t sail in the prime summer months, you should consider them for a family cruise when they do offer Caribbean sailing. The ships (2,666 passengers) are not overrun with kids, but those on board do appear to have a great time with what HA offers. Club HAL is the youth program for cruisers 3 to 17 years old with full-time supervision. Younger kids can enjoy painting, sing-alongs, storytime, a wall of musical instruments, art tables, and themed parties with treasure hunts.
Tweens 7- to 12-years-old, will make new friends through ice cream eating contests, games, and parties. Teen activities feature trivia contests, karaoke, jewelry making, video games, and staff vs. teens sporting events. Please note, Club HAL staff is trained to work with special needs children, something I haven’t seen across all cruise lines.
Nieuw Statendam has a music corridor with great music from several different venues. Families can bond over the different genres night after night on this sailing. They can also check out an X-Box system for in-cabin use.
Itinerary includes Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Book this cruise here.
#11 Disney Magic, Bahamas from Miami (4-night)
Disney has thought of everything your kid would need and want when vacationing at sea. From swashbuckling pirate live-action deck parties to fireworks under the stars, the memories made on a Disney cruise will be those of a lifetime. Broadway-caliber musicals entice those of all ages with performances such as “Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic” or “Tangled, the Musical.” First-run movies at Buena Vista Theatre are another perk. Kids can also get dolled up in favorite princess looks or super hero make-up at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique onboard all Disney ships.
The best option when cruising with Disney is that Castaway Cay is hands down the best Caribbean island cruise port with white sand beaches and beauty all around. Truly exclusive, there are no other cruise ships at the port other than Disney cruise lines. You’ll have the beautiful island all to yourself, lunch included, as you float, swim, snorkel, fish, bicycle, boat, or parasail your way to paradise. Teens 14 to 17 can participate in a unique “Wild Side Teen Adventure” excursion ($54) with others in the same age bracket. Teens also get to experience their own club, Vibe, onboard the Magic that has a coffee house feel to it.
Besides kids clubs, Disney has opportunities galore to have meet and greets with your favorite characters, autograph sessions, and even take themed cruises such as Star Wars and Marvel. You can also watch any and every Disney movie on your stateroom TV, and have access to first-run Disney movies on board. We were lucky to see Coco when it first came out. Book this cruise here.
#12 Disney Dream, Eastern Caribbean from Port Canaveral (7-night)
While Disney cruise prices come in around double that of competitors for Caribbean itineraries, the attention to family details may be worth the splurge. Disney cruise ships feature the Oceaneer Club and Lab (3 to 12-year-olds) across all four ships. The club offers a unique space for experimenting and activities.
Babes 6-36 months have the “it’s a small world” nursery, while Vibe is the spot for teens-only, with group games, music, a chill atmosphere, and part nightclub/part sundeck activity space that is very cool. Edge is for ‘tweens, giving them an area that even can even make the teens jealous. Edge includes a fun dance floor, instructor-led activities, movie trivia, photo booth, DJ lessons, and even a comedy show and camera tricks from That’s Hilarious TV show.
TravelingMom Tip: Florida residents can often get discounts for cruising with Disney.
Sign up everyone you are cruising with (10 and over) for Disney’s 5K on Castaway Cay. Then walk/run your way to medals for everyone in the family! Other ports you will stop at are St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Tortola (British Virgin Islands). I recommend exploring The Baths at Virgin Gorda for your day in the BVI.
If your child is into Disney pin trading, don’t miss the special trading times and Officer’s Pin Trading event. Book this cruise here.
Norwegian Cruise Line
#13 Norwegian Getaway, Western Caribbean from New Orleans (7-day)
Norwegian, the ships with the bold colored murals painted on them, offers a premium cruising experience. Family-friendly attractions include basketball, volleyball, movies, games, and nightly shows. Getaway’s Entourage teen club is one of the best for its age at sea (foosball, jukebox, air hockey). It even doubles as a teen disco at night.
For the little ones, a super cute attraction is the T-Rex themed pool with slides and other dinosaur-themed toys and paddling pool. Youngsters also enjoy the hot tub, video arcade, and Sprinkles Ice Cream bar by the Oasis main pool. Splash Academy is a kids-only area on the Getaway for movies, games, and hanging out.
Families love the game shows played in the Getaway Theater, which offers 3-D movies each evening. Some of the ship’s activities include water slides, a water park, and a pirate-themed high ropes course. There’s also a short zip line, basketball, 33-foot tall rock climbing wall (height restriction), and miniature golf. Kids will enjoy getting their faces made up with glow face paint for the Glow 80’s dance party.
One of the cruise ports on this itinerary is Roatan, Honduras. My kids especially loved the ecotourism offerings on the island, the uncrowded sand beaches, and water sports. They also raved about Gumbalimba Preserve, where they were up close and personal with sloths and white-faced monkeys.
Norwegian Getaway sails to Mexico (Cozumel and Costa Maya), Belize (Harvest Caye), and Honduras (Roatán). Book this cruise here.
#14 Norwegian Pearl, Southern Caribbean from Miami to New York (12-day)
This is another “kids sail free” cruise opportunity, and there is plenty to do on board the Norwegian Pearl. Splash Academy, Norwegian’s kids’ programs, is split up into four groups. There’s Guppies (6 months to 3), Turtles (3 to 5), Seals (6 to 9) and Dolphins (10 to 12). Activities might include arts and crafts, face painting, game shows, Wii challenges, and Disney movie trivia. The on board teen club, Entourage, is for ages 13 to 17. It mimics a colorful disco with furnishings they will adore. A teen-only brunch is offered on sea days at 11 a.m.
The Pearl was the first of Norwegian’s fleet to have a rock-climbing wall. It stands 18 stories above sea level and offers three distinct routes for climbing based on skill level.
The Pearl’s sailing has a killer itinerary for those looking for a longer cruise. It sails from Miami to Aruba, Curaçao, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, US Virgin Islands, and disembarks in New York. You could easily add on a day or two in the city, as well. The cruise price is relatively in line with many of the other 6 to 7 day offerings. Book this cruise here.
#15 Norwegian Sun, Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral (5-day)
Kid’s will love NCL’s Royal Tots and Royal Babies areas that are just for their ages. For the older kids, Norwegian also has rappelling walls, climbing walls and cages, 24-hour video arcade, bowling lanes, and a five-story waterslide. One of them even extends off the cruise ship for a stellar ocean view. The theater productions are noteworthy on Norwegian cruises. On the Sun, they feature Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a show kids will enjoy, particularly the music.
Norwegian has recently rolled out two-bedroom villas. These sleep up to six people, making cruising with larger families more comfortable and accessible. Best new of all, cruise deals you can’t pass up are kids sail free on this itinerary! Families will adore the manatee, dolphin, and sea lion experiences on Cozumel, Mexico excursions.
Leaving from Port Canaveral will bring you into Orlando for your trip. You can easily add a day or two in a Disney park or Universal Orlando Resort. I’m sure no family would object to that!
You can preorder diapers and wipes to be delivered to your Norwegian Sun stateroom. Easy peasy!
You’ll visit the cruise ports of Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico on the Norwegian Sun. Book this cruise here.
If you’re thinking Caribbean in 2020 – and you should – this list should give you some great ideas on how to choose the best Caribbean cruise for your family.
How to Book Your Cruise
TravelingMom recommends booking your next cruise through cruisedirect.com. The reason we encourage you to book with them is that they offer the lowest rate possible with a best price guarantee. You won’t have to worry about being charged any hidden booking fees and you can also enjoy their flexible payment plans. Plan your next cruise at the best rate!