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Cruising with kids no longer means joining the hordes on three-star ships. Luxury cruise lines are coming on board with a range of new children’s facilities. We explore some of the best in luxury family cruising.

WORDS Louise Goldsbury

What could be more luxurious than a holiday where all meals, entertainment, transportation, accommodation (and often, free child care and butlers) are rolled into one; where the destination changes from city to village to private island, with no effort required? The concept of cruising is as family-friendly as it gets, and finally, an increasing number of five-star ships are welcoming all ages.

This award-winning cruise line offers a huge range of family-friendly activities for kids 3 - 17. Kids-only play areas, including Fantasia, host games, crafts, televisions equipped with gaming consoles, and computers, while Waves is like an old-fashioned video arcade. Guests are also able to organise scavenger hunts, cooking classes, fashion shows, trivia, and sports to keep the little ones busy.


Created in collaboration with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, the Ambassadors of the Environment Youth program introduces kids 9 - 17 to the amazing ecological wonders of French Polynesia and Tahiti. Junior Ambassadors are able to hike through rainforests, investigate ancient Polynesian temples, and explore coral reefs.

Main image: Crystal Cruising in Moorea
Above: On deck on Hapag Lloyd

On Hapag-Lloyd’s MS EUROPA 2, kids are fully catered for. Little ones aged 2–3 can join the Knopf Club and ages 4–10 have their own Kids’ Club, while the older crowd, aged 11–15, gain access to the Teens’ Club. Both offer younger guests the chance to get creative via cooking courses, sports, and games.

The world’s most all-inclusive luxury line, Regent offers the Club Mariner program, which is split into age groups (5–8, 9–12 and 13–17) on selected departures in Europe. On some of these cruises in 2013, predominantly in the Baltic and Mediterranean, kids can sail for a reduced fare. Seven Seas Voyager and Mariner have among the most expansive pool decks found on luxury ships, with outdoor hot tubs and table tennis.

For children interested in traditional sailing, these four-masted replica clipper ships open up a different kind of nautical experience. Older kids and teens are allowed to get involved hands-on, from raising the sails to climbing the mast.

In the absence of dedicated children’s facilities, they tend to hang out with the younger crewmembers and enjoy the sports offered from the ships’ marina platform.

Above: Crystal Cruises junior captain

From above: Snorkelling fun with Paul Gauguin’s Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program
Activities are organised by Kids’ Officers on-board Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony
Kids on the deck of Crystal Cruises



River cruising is another option to consider if you are concerned about seasickness or travelling with a large crowd of passengers. Though there are no children's facilities available, bicycles and board games are available.

Special discounts have also been released to lure families. Kids (aged up to 13) sail for free when sharing a cabin with their parents, while two teenagers (aged 13-18) can have their own cabin for 65% of the advertised rate. Other discounts are offered a single parent travelling with one or two children. In addition, all shore excursions are free for kids.

A spokesperson said Seabourn attracts families during certain periods, usually on seven-day Med cruises in the northern hemisphere summer. At that time, the line employs youth counsellors to organise ‘mocktail’ parties, scavenger hunts and performances of plays and concerts. The ships also have Wii consoles and board games.

Although it is does not have any kids clubs or child care staff, a spokesperson said Silversea welcomes families and it is becoming “quite common” for multi-generational groups to cruise together.


Stay: Crystal Cruises 
 Paul Gauguin Cruises
 Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  Wiltrans International
  Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
 Sea Cloud Cruises
 Star Clippers
 Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

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