Your Guide to the Best Cruise Activities for Kids

Beyond adventuring to new and exciting ports, cruise ships are jam packed with clubs, activities, games and adventures purposely geared towards kids.

A girl jumps into a pool in a waterpark on board a cruise ship

2min read

Published 23 April 2024


Beyond adventuring to new and exciting ports, cruise ships are jam packed with clubs, activities, games and adventures purposely geared towards kids.

Family holidays are epic. No work and no school means a chance to sit back, relax and make memories without the stress of bed times, homework, deadlines and chores. 

As much as we love making memories with our kids, sometimes mums, dads, caregivers and parents need a little "me time" without the constant string of questions. 

If you're keen to find the best of both worlds, combining quality time with the kids and a chance for some adult RnR, look no further than a cruise holiday. With a bounty of activities to keep adults and young guests entertained, a cruise should be at the top of the list for your next family vacay.

Jubilant families walking on the deck of a cruise ship
Jubilant families walking on the deck of a cruise ship
Jubilant families walking on the deck of a cruise ship

Why Are Cruises Great For Kids? 

Beyond adventuring to new and exciting ports, cruise ships are jam packed with clubs, activities, games and adventures purposely geared towards kids. 

Cruise lines have clocked on to the fact that they are a fan favourite among families, and go above and beyond to keep kids and adults alike entertained. Offering everything from kids clubs to family cabins, 18+ areas for parents to escape and a range of family-friendly cruising packages, you can rest assured that your family's needs can be catered for on board. 

Every family has a different travel style, and cruise ships have done the hard work to ensure there is something for all the family to enjoy. That way you don't have to stress about keeping the kids entertained while you duck out for a massage, soak in the hot tubs or enjoy a sleep-in while they're out making new friends. 

Cruises also pride themselves on being relatively safe and self contained. This is a great opportunity for your older kids to gain some independence, exploring and making friends without mum or dad looking over their shoulder. 

Above all else, cruises bring together people from different countries and cultures, meaning your kids will have the chance to make friends with peers from across the globe.

What's the Deal With Kids Clubs?

If you've got little ones aged between 3-12, then finding an epic kids club should be your #1 priority. Think of it like a drop-off program where you can leave the kids for a few hours (or even a whole day) while you're at sea or in port. 

Most mainstream cruise ships will have some form of kids club on board, with activities and games run by trained counselors and educators. As a rule of thumb, kids will generally be divided into age groups so that educators can provide relevant entertainment — think 3-7 years, 8-12 years and often something for the teens. 

Kids clubs are a guaranteed safe space for your kids to make friends and create memories of their own. While some may be a little apprehensive at the start, you'll find that most children love kids clubs (and parents will have a hard time getting them to leave!).

Is Cruising Good For Teenagers?

Hell yeah! Teenage passengers are exclusively catered for on most cruises, with dedicated chill out areas, sporting competitions and night time parties on offer. 

These are a great way for teens and tweens to hang out with their new friends in a safe and supervised way that won't feel like a "kids program" at all.

Baby Sitting and Childminding Services 

If your little one isn't old enough for a kids club, or if you're keen on a late night out and need someone to keep an eye on your munchkins, rest assured that many ships offer in-cabin baby sitting or group child minding services for a fee.

Childminding is usually offered on a pre-book or first-come-first-served basis, so plan ahead as much as possible. 

Cruise Activities That the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Keen to make some memories as a whole family? Here is what you can expect to enjoy on board:

  • Deck parties, theme nights and parades
  • Water parks, swimming pools, splash pads and water shows
  • Video games and arcades
  • Sports courts decked out to play basketball, volleyball, tennis and more
  • Trivia contests, sports tournaments and video game battles
  • Join dance classes and craft workshops
  • Movies in the pool, at the theatre or in your stateroom
  • Onboard libraries packed with kids books and board games
  • Adventure activities like zip lines, rope courses, rock climbing and surf simulators
  • Roller and ice skating rinks, bungee trampolines, bumper cars, laser tag and go karts
  • Mini golf, table tennis and lawn bowls
  • Ping pong, foosball and giant chess

Keep in mind that each ship will have its own amenities, so chat with your travel expert or look online to confirm exactly what you'll be enjoying on board. 

Night Activities For Kids and Teens

The fun doesn't have to stop just because the sun has gone down. Many kids and teen clubs will host drop-off parties and discos so kids can hang out while parents enjoy dinner and a show, or a night out with a few drinks. 

In terms of family-friendly cruise activities at night, consider taking your kids to one of the shows in the main theatre. Here you'll find musicals, dancing, comedians, magicians and more (just check the program to ensure it's kid-friendly). 

You can also wind down with an evening movie in the theatre, or snuggle up in your stateroom with some snacks and watch the latest flicks in bed.

Booking Family Friendly Accommodation and Cabins on a Cruise

Most cruise lines will offer some form of family stateroom or villa with plenty of space and epic views. Depending on the size and age of your family and your budget, you can book staterooms with bunk beds, interconnecting rooms or upscale suites decked out with living rooms, Lego walls, sofas and multiple bathrooms. 

Chat with your local Flight Centre cruising expert to find the best family package to suit your needs.

Do Cruise Ships Offer Kids Menus and Child-friendly Food?

We know kids can be a little picky at mealtimes, and cruise lines have gone above and beyond to ensure you don't have to have a fight at dinner. 

The main dining room, buffets and most complimentary restaurants will include all of your fan favorites like chicken nuggets, burgers, chips, ice cream and more. Some will even offer morning and afternoon tea at the kids club to ensure no tummy is left rumbling while they play games. 

If you're off to the specialty restaurants and your mini-me isn't keen on trying a new cuisine, then ask in advance about their kids menu. Quite often, many paid venues will offer a kids eat free deal with any full paying adult.

A woman rides the Surf-rider with two people in a skydiving simulator onboard a cruise ship
A woman rides the Surf-rider with two people in a skydiving simulator onboard a cruise ship
A woman rides the Surf-rider with two people in a skydiving simulator onboard a cruise ship

Our Top Tips for Cruising with Kids

Coming around to this whole cruising with kids idea? Here are some of our tips to ensure a seamless holiday for all involved. 

  • Do some research in advance to find youth programs that suit your child's interests. 
  • Book a family-friendly cabin and dining package to avoid any extra stress.
  • Pick destinations and cruise ships that the whole family will love. 
  • Watch out for any curfews that prevent kids from roaming the halls late at night. 
  • Involve your kids and teens in choosing a cruise that they'll enjoy just as much as you.
  • Days in port are a great excuse to shake off your sea legs and learn more about a new culture and country. 
  • Go on a scavenger hunt! Huge ships mean plenty of corridors, floors and levels to explore. Check them out deck by deck in the first few days so kids and parents can find their bearings. 
  • Bring any snacks and toys that your kids can't live without to avoid meltdowns on board. 
  • Avoid sea sickness or illness by bringing along any medication and something like Travel Calm or Kids Kwells. 
  • Sign them up for kids club the first day you board the ship. 
  • Research and book kid-friendly shore excursions like kayaking, bike riding and boat tours.
  • Pre-book airport transfers to and from the cruise terminal to avoid extra stress. 
  • Pack carry-on essentials separate to your luggage, as you may not get it until late on the first day. 
  • Overpack nappies, formula and wipes just in case. 
  • Know the rules regarding swim diapers and splash pads. 
  • Request an early dinner seating so it doesn't interfere with bed time. 
  • Be mindful of other travelers to prevent conflict. Everyone is on holiday, so try to avoid your kids impeding on other passengers' experience.
  • Make sure your kids steer clear of 18+ areas like casinos and adults-only retreats.

Our Picks for the Top Kid-friendly Cruises and Youth Programming

Whether you've got younger children or angsty teens, here are some of our top cruise line picks featuring plenty of family time, new youth programming, interactive games and more. 

Carnival Cruises 

Kids will love Carnival's Camp Ocean, a marine themed wonderland where they can play and learn about everything from buoyancy to marine life. Here they will enjoy pirate games nights, create a giant ocean mural and even design their own aquarium. 

Teens can head to 'Circle C', the ultimate place to cruise, chill and connect. Beyond these specialty spaces, keep an eye out for 'Suess at Sea' with green eggs and ham for breakfast, the Waterworks onboard waterpark and the Sports Square activity hub.

If you're cruising on Carnival Vista, make sure you book the Family Harbor Cabins which includes access to the family lounge, buffet breakfast, snacks, unlimited soft serve ice cream, computers and more. 

Royal Caribbean

While offerings will vary between ships, your kids are guaranteed a good time with Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean Youth Program and bevy of activities and entertainment. 

Will it be a day spent splashing in the epic H2O Zone, fit with geysers, water guns, small pools, splash pads and even a FlowRider surf simulator, or perhaps an afternoon spiking your adrenaline with indoor skydiving, ziplines and ice skating? 

Teens are free to come and go from 'The Living Room' - a laid back lounge and teen-only nightclub, while the smallest members of the family are sorted with the Royal Tots and Royal Babies programs.

Select ships offer the exclusive DreamWorks experience, and the newest Oasis Class ships come jam-packed with kid-friendly extras like the Ultimate Abyss slide. If you're really keen to up the ante on fun, book your cruise aboard Anthem of the Seas. Kids will go cray-cray at SeaPlex, with bumper cars and video games, while the whole family can enjoy a bird's eye view of the ocean in the one of a kind 'North Star'.

Disney Cruises

No kids cruise blog would be complete without mentioning Disney Cruises, the perfect option for children between 4 and 11. While the cruise ships have done plenty to accommodate teens, like the Edge and Vibe clubs complete with video games, karaoke and an exclusive cafe, the magic of Disney truly comes alive with the little ones. 

Disney's Oceaneer Kids Club is considered one of the best in cruising, taking a "separate-but-altogether" approach to programming to ensure siblings and friends can stay together. Play areas are divided by theme, with ships featuring the likes of a Marvel Super Hero Academy, Star Wars Cargo Bay and a Fairytale Hall. 

During the day, kids can master lightsaber techniques, learn new skills at the Animator's studio and mini sound studio, get transformed into princesses and pirates at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and get their fix of all the classic Disney films. 

At night, keep your eyes peeled for productions like 'Tangled the Musical' and 'Frozen the Musical' in the Walt Disney Theatre, or head on deck for a Pirates of the Caribbean party complete with fireworks and Jack Sparrow's crazy antics. 

Add in character performances and interactive meal times, and you'll quickly understand why the magic of Disney captures the heart of adults and children alike. 

Princess Cruises

Princess ships have come a long way with their child-friendly offerings, now boasting some of the best programs at sea for curious young minds. 

All cruise ships have paired with the Discovery Channel to offer Camp Discovery. These kid and teen friendly spaces are kitted out with modern decor, boasting schedules inspired by all things Discovery Channel. Think Caribbean shark-themed scavenger hunts, MythBusters-style challenges, science workshops and more. 

Have a budding chef on your hands? Make sure you enroll them in the Junior Chef @ Sea program, where they can join a hands-on cooking class in the shipboard kitchen. 

Beyond these bespoke activities, the fam can also enjoy movies under the stars, story time themed events, dance parties and the top-deck Reef family splash zone on Caribbean Princess.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian's cruise ships boast a casual atmosphere with no strict dining times or dress codes. Relatively affordable rates also make them perfect for families travelling on a budget. 

While onboard, kids will froth the Splash Academy. Home to arts and crafts, karaoke and circus school, you'll have a hard time getting them to leave. We recommend filling their bellies and then sending them to some of the largest kids clubs at sea where they can learn tumbling, juggling, spinning and circus skills that culminate in one big performance for parents. 

Teens can hang out in the Entourage space, fitted out with air hockey, video games, plush couches and flat screen TVs (and also happens to be a teens-only nightclub once the sun goes down). 

Looking for activities for the whole crew? Take your pick from rock climbing, rappelling walls, batting cages, bowling lanes, massive waterslides and a chance to walk the plank over the sea!

P&O Cruises

Kids of all ages will love the bevy of activities available on board P&O ships. The Reef kids club offers programs packed with age appropriate activities, bright spaces and plenty of entertainment.

Outside of kids clubs, big and little kids can try their hand at archery, practice shooting hoops or get wet in the dedicated splash pools. Prefer something with a little more adrenaline? Head to the P&O Edge Adventure Park. Here you can try the Altitude Skywalk high ropes course, or have a putt with Altitude mini-golf.

Take your pick from any of the family cabins and kid-friendly dining options, and be sure to swing by the children's afternoon tea to nibble on some finger sandwiches, cakes and pizza.

Ready to Set sail on a Family Trip Like No Other?

As you can see, there is no shortage of fun activities, sports and entertainment to keep all ages busy on board your next cruise. 

If you need more information, or are ready to lock in your next family holiday, look no further than the Travel Experts at Flight Centre. 

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