A guide to family cruises in the Mediterranean
With 2 kids of my own, I would highly recommend the Mediterranean for family cruises. My kids aged 8 and 6 love cruising – what better way to let them loose and give them a bit of independence.
It is a very safe environment which they love to explore without Mom and Dad. We bought walkie talkies for communicating with them, which they used constantly (with no call costs!).
And we were able to relax knowing where they were and that they were happy exploring or having fun in the kids club.
If you have children of any age, there are a wealth of activities awaiting them. From huge ships with ice skating rinks and surfing simulators to smaller ships with more traditional kids activities, cruise lines are really targeting the family cruise market, even the more difficult teen group.
Its always best to review the options yourself and choose a child friendly cruise that most suits your family needs. Here's a quick guide to help sift through it all.
Most of the major Mediterranean cruise lines have children's programs of events and activities, one of my favourites being Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean program.
With its choice of 7 different age groups, they certainly cater for every possible wish for family cruises.
The large cruise lines have big swimming pool areas and facilities that most kids would dream of. Carnival’s Dream ship has a new Waterworks Aqua park and a mini golf course.
Royal Caribbean's Voyager ships have rock climbing walls, ice rinks and inline skate tracks. Disney’s ships have giant outdoor movie screens and Princess cruises offer Nintendo Wii tournaments.
The variety of menus on cruise ships today is astonishing. And you don’t have to stick to the formal dining room schedule if you have impatient tots. Carnival, Disney, Princess and Royal Caribbean all have child friendly alternatives.
There really is something for everyone, even the most fussy of eaters. My daughter is particularly fussy but never seems to go hungry on a cruise! She loves the free ice-cream machines on the Royal Caribbean ships.
On most large cruise ships the family entertainment is second to none. My kids adore the shows onboard the major cruise ships. They run down to the front in excitement while we watch from the bar at the back! We have seen everything from Broadway style musicals to Ice Dance shows and Illusionists.
These do vary by ship and budget. Carnival and Disney have some of the largest cabins for 4, while Royal Caribbean and Disney have family staterooms sleeping up to 6. Always compare the cost of taking 2 staterooms alongside each other to a family room.
Cruising with kids means visiting places with them too. Most Mediterranean cruise ports of call have something that will interest the kids.
In each port description I have listed family friendly options. Be careful about sightseeing excursions, however, as they can be torture for small children! A 10 hour day looking at the sights in Rome in the scorching summer heat with your little ones might be a day you won't want to remember.
Cruise lines are catching on to offering more family friendly outings, such as Carnival's Family Fun Tours and Disney's Lucca Treasure Hunt and Narnia trip from Civitavecchia (Rome).
For the under 2's, all facilities do vary. Disney are way ahead for this age group, offering a Little Mermaid style nursery (12wks to 3 yrs) and cabin delivered room service for everything baby related.
Other lines' kids clubs vary in policy for those not potty trained, so check them out before you book.
Some cruise lines offer in-cabin babysitting services, but do make sure you are happy with the staff they are providing. Others offer children’s clubs that go on to midnight and beyond (for the older ones) so that you can have the evening to yourselves.
Carnival staff are allowed to change nappies/diapers for the 2's and up and offers group babysitting for babies from 4 months up.
Children aged 2-12
Cruising with kids this age is a joy. Most family cruises are specifically geared up to the over 2's, generally broken down into appropriate age groups. Check the facilities and activities offered on each cruise line (and by ship as they do vary).
This is a group that has traditionally been ignored in the family cruise offering. But things are definitely changing. Check out Royal Caribbean’s teen clubs split into 12-14 yr olds and 15-17 yr olds for activities like karaoke, toga parties and competitions.
Carnival also have dedicated teen discos and activities, while Disney Magic has a 'no parents allowed' teen centre with sofas, computers, a soft drinks bar and a big screen TV. Or how about a makeover in the Spa on the Crown Princess?
They also have a Remix facility with really cool things for teens and have introduced young hip teen patrols to encourage good behaviour on board.
Grandparents or elderly relatives
Cruises are a great way to take the whole family away together, including the more senior members. There are many activities designed for the generations to do together from bingo to arts and crafts. Alternatively the older ones can relax and do their own thing while the younger ones are happy doing theirs!