Updated August 5, 2021. Our annual cruise guide will be updated with more information for 2021 and beyond as more information on a resumption of sailings is made available.

The cruise industry is coming back—finally.

But it’s certainly different with ships operating at reduced capacity and with extra health protocols. (Think servers at buffets, for example.)

The Centers for Disease Control has mandated that 95 per cent of those on board be vaccinated. Those who aren’t — and that includes kids under 12 — must submit to multi COVID tests at their expense, may be limited in choice of ship excursions and may also be restricted on board.

At this time, CDC still recommends people who are not fully vaccinated avoid any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is high. It is especially important that people who are not fully vaccinated and who are more likely to get severely ill avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. Cruise passengers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at increased risk, since the virus spreads person-to-person, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships because of their congregate (group) settings where COVID-19 spreads easily.

If you get the idea that public health officials and cruise lines want everyone to be vaccinated, you’re right. But, governors in Florida and Texas are fighting them in the courts on vaccination mandates. At the same time, public health experts suggest parents whose kids aren’t vaccinated wait until they are before cruising.

WHY PLAN A CRUISE VACATION NOW?

The good news is ships have started to sail from U.S. ports successfully and more will this fall and winter including Celebrity’s new Apex, currently sailing this summer in the Mediterranean and Carnival’s new Mardi Gras which has just begun sailing from Florida.

Carnival's new ship Mardi Gras
Carnival’s new ship Mardi Gras

Parents and grandparents love cruising because they get a lot of bang for their vacation buck: activities, meals and lodging all for one price, including morning-till-night programming for kids, at considerably less than many resorts charge.

The cohort that’s been called Skip-Gen Travel — grandparents traveling with grandkids and leaving parents behind —  also flock to cruises because they’re an easy way to take the whole gang on vacation (especially in Alaska and Europe), get qualified assistance with the kids and reduce the stress of group travel. That’s why it’s smart to work with a travel advisor who is an expert on cruising. They can help you discern the best line — and ship — for your family and often get you the best deal — as well as perks.

Bucket List Cruises are Trending

Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line are among those who have resumed Bucket List Alaska cruises for guests who have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise. (Guests continue to book the popular Holland American and Princess land tours as an alternative to cruising.)

Cruise companies are also touting bucket list trips to places like Antarctica and the Galapagos. Atlas Ocean Voyages’ Antarctica adventure is ideal for kids as young as 8 as well as active seniors. Another plus: chartered Atlas flights that will help prevent layovers and delays. Get ready to kayak past ice floes!

Quasar Expeditions offers specific family cruises on small yachts with special discounts for kids, child-friendly menus and guides who make every activity an adventure for all ages. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences include swimming with sea turtles, close encounters with Blue-footed boobies, snorkeling in crystal clear waters, star gazing and more. 

Some families are gravitating toward chartering private yachts just for their family say from companies like TravelSmith Expeditions, whether they want to go to Costa Rica, Alaska or the Galapagos Islands.

So, Will Your Family Be Cruising in 2021?

There are good reasons not to cruise in 2021. According to major news outlets, the CDC has said that the “Framework for Conditional Sailing” Order will remain in effect through Nov. 1, 2021. Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review,” the CDC said in a statement to CNN.

Since the Delta Variant is extremely contagious, you won’t want to be far from U.S. medical care should someone in the family fall ill, though the cruise lines have significantly upgraded their medical facilities on board.

With pent up demand and ships operating at reduced capacity, there aren’t many deals to be had, cruise experts suggest, though you may find value-added amenities like included Wi-Fi, gratuities and drinks on 2021 departures.

Does 2022 Sound Better for a Cruise Vacation?

The 2021 Taking the Kids Cruise Guide will help you plan an adventure at sea, and is being updated throughout 2021 as cruise lines announce their plans. Be forewarned that some of the cruise and shore activities, onboard facilities and programs we review below, dating to 2020, will likely be modified to accommodate new regulations.

So it’s not too early to think about booking a cruise for 2022, especially if you want to cruise with extended family. It’s always difficult to find a week that fits everyone’s schedule!  

Parents and grandparents love cruising because they get a lot of bang for their vacation buck: activities, meals and lodging all for one price, including morning-till-night programming for kids, at considerably less than many resorts charge.

The cohort that’s been called Skip-Gen Travel -– grandparents traveling with grandkids and leaving parents behind –- also flock to cruises because they’re an easy way to get the whole gang on vacation (especially in Alaska and Europe), get qualified assistance with the kids and reduce the stress of group travel.

Families are already seeing a surge in value pricing and value-added amenities  for when cruising resumes, particularly for 2022 from major cruise lines including Holland America and Princess.

Cruise Reviews Of Major Family-Friendly Cruises

Here are some of the top family cruise vacation options to consider, in alphabetical order. Please note that facilities and onboard experiences may change when cruising resumes to curb the spread of the pandemic:

Adventures by Disney in Europe
Adventures by Disney in Europe

ADVENTURES BY DISNEY RIVER CRUISES

Adventures by Disney, the escorted tour operation run by the famed family brand, offers European river cruise sailings for families and adults. These luxury, all-inclusive itineraries escorted by expert guides are active, immersive and hassle free. The 2022 season is set to include river cruise departures along the Danube, Rhine and Seine rivers.

What’s New: New for 2022, specialty National Geographic Photography Sailings along the Seine River will offer photo-driven excursions with National Geographic photographers. Sailing with AmaWaterways, a premier luxury river cruise line, these all-inclusive voyages are filled with active and immersive experiences in enchanting European destinations.

For Kids and Teens: All Adventures by Disney river cruises feature the expert services of Disney-trained Adventure Guides, who specialize in creating unforgettable vacation experiences that parents, children and teens can enjoy. These range from active excursions, castle and museum tours and unique onboard activities to a special welcome party, teen and Junior Adventurer dinners and Disney movie nights that young guests can enjoy while adults enjoy wine-tasting and adult-only dinners.

Around the Ship: Sailing with AmaWaterways, a premier luxury river cruise line, these all-inclusive vacations allow guests to explore the heart of Europe with active, hands-on excursions.

ADVENTURES BY DISNEY EXPEDITION CRUISES

What’s New: Adventures by Disney Expedition Cruises. With voyages to Antarctica beginning in late 2021 and to the Galapagos Islands in 2022, guests will embark on adventures across breathtaking, remote landscapes while enjoying a leisurely voyage with family-focused activities curated by the travel experts at Disney while sailing aboard intimate, purpose-built ships specially designed to access remote destinations, guests will discover pristine natural lands and diverse wildlife throughout a broad range of excursions with naturalists and Adventure Guides.

Family Expedition Cruises to the White Continent: With the introduction of the Antarctica expedition cruise, Adventures by Disney now offers family vacation experiences across all seven continents. Scheduled for 2021 and 2022, two 12-day, 11-night Antarctica and Patagonia Expedition Cruises will sail with PONANT, a leader in luxury polar expeditions.

Family Expedition Cruises in the Enchanted Isles: On the Adventures by Disney Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise, families will island-hop from one extraordinary adventure to the next with five nine-day, eight-night sailings aboard the boutique expedition ship, the Galapagos Legend.

Expedition Cruising Designed for the Family: On all Adventures by Disney expedition cruises, families will relax and play together aboard an intimate expedition ship as a team of Adventure Guides lead engaging programming for adults and Junior Adventurers alike. Special presentations by naturalists will further immerse travelers in the stories of the ecosystems around them, and on select sailings, Disney animal and photography experts will host conversations and hands-on workshops about wildlife, conservation and travel photography.

ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES

World Navigator is a newly constructed, small, luxe-adventure ship that will start Antarctica expeditions starting in November 2021.
World Navigator is a newly constructed, small, luxe-adventure ship that will start Antarctica expeditions starting in November 2021.

The winter of 2021, the World Navigator, a newly constructed, small (98 staterooms) expedition ship will launch as the first expedition ship from Atlas Ocean Voyages. Atlas’ signature All Inclusive All The Way program includes complimentary round-trip air travel from major U.S. and Canada gateways, a choice of shore excursion at every port, prepaid gratuities, gourmet dining and premium beverages, Wi-Fi and more perks — with generous refund policies for those who book early. Nine to 12-day cruise expeditions sail only Nov. 2021 to March 2022. And, if you just can’t wait to get aboard this luxeadventure vessel, check out their amazing Egypt and Greek Isles itineraries for Summer 2021. In a last minute promotion, families booking select voyages get up to 30% off — quite a bargain for this adventure!

What’s New: Everything’s new about World Navigator. Her Antarctica observation deck, calledWater’s Edge, is closer to the sea than any other ship currently sailing, meaning you can get closer to the southernmost continent’s unique wildlife. Families will appreciate that benches wrapping around the bow are heated so you can stay outdoors much longer. Near to the shore and in ecologically sensitive areas, hydrojets (a silent impeller system) will be used for navigation to prevent scaring off marine life close to the vessel. New SKF stabilizers promise to reduce turbulence from rough seas along the Drake Passage by up to 15%.

For Kids and Teens: All ages will love that Atlas Ocean Voyages flies guests directly from North America to Ushuaia, Argentina – port of embarkation – via private jet. There will be onboard programming by scientists, explorers and naturalists plus a professional photographer to share tips. Daily excursions by Zodiac inflatable craft let those who are not stand-up paddleboarding explore the icy environment and visit penguins, Elephant seals and exotic birdlife on shore.

Around the ShipWorld Navigator has four dining venues and two lounges to catch up on the day’s adventures. Me time can be spent at the fitness studio or L’OCCITANE spa. Cabins with balconies sleep up to three persons; amenities include binoculars and polar parkas to use on your expeditionary excursions. Expect personalized stocked minibars plus a butler for the suites. This remarkable Antarctica cruise adventure combines luxury with thrills, comfort with exploration, and is designed to be shared with children and grandchildren ages 10+. 

CARNIVAL

Carnival Panorama, the newest class of ship in the fleet
Carnival Panorama, the newest class of ship in the fleet

Carnival Cruise Line resumed service July 3 and is restarting service with additional ships. By October, the line expects that 15 ships—more than half its fleet—will be sailing.

What’s New: Mardi Gras, the line’s newest and most innovative ship, debuted from Port Canaveral July 31. Designed as the ultimate family vacation, Mardi Gras is the first ship to feature an onboard roller coaster and also boasts a host of kid-friendly favorites including a suspended ropes course, massive water park with three slides and a spray area as well as family suites with access to a family lounge, Camp Ocean, Seuss at Sea and more. Mardi Gras also features new restaurants from Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, Rudi Sodamin and Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal along with a variety of accommodations across 11 different categories.

For Kids: Carnival Cruise Line offers complimentary programming and facilities for kids in three age groups: Camp Ocean (ages 2-11) is designed for younger cruisers and features indoor play areas stocked with games and toys along with indoor climbing mazes, computer labs and video walls. Kids can also eat with their counselors so parents can enjoy a night to themselves, and enjoy a Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with Dr. Seuss characters for a nominal fee.

For Tweens: Circle “C” provides 12- to 14-year-olds with a place of their own to dance, watch movies or play games and get together with new friends.

For Teens: Club O2 (ages 15-17) includes a dance floor with a DJ, movies, video games, and late-night pool parties.

Around the Ship: Outdoor games and activities, along with children’s wading pools, and main Lido deck pools offering the line’s signature water slides. Outdoor play areas with mini basketball hoops, jungle gyms and other playground equipment, mini golf, as well as game rooms offering the latest video and arcade games, are available fleet wide. Some ships offer suspended ropes courses as well as a bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide. The line also offers nightly babysitting and Carnival Night Owls featuring a full schedule of activities running as late as 1am (fees apply for babysitting and the Night Owls program).

CELEBRITY CRUISES

The fleet’s 14 ships, including Celebrity Edge, are known for their sophisticated cuisine, upscale ambience, destination-focused itineraries and unrivaled, personalized service. Families enjoy cruising Celebrity because of its contemporary, more luxurious feel compared to its sister Royal Caribbean ships. 

What’s New: The new Celebrity Apex debuted in Greece this summer while her sister ship Celebrity Beyond will make her debut in Europe next spring. All ships currently sailing in the fleet do so with all crew vaccinated and guests above the age of 12 vaccinated against COVID-19, and those under the age of 12 with negative PCR test results. In Florida, being vaccinated is not required, but strongly encouraged in order for the guest to avoid additional protocols, restrictions, and COVID-19 testing. For sailings out of the UK, guests aged 18 and over must be vaccinated..

Try the Family Travel Forum LetsGetChecked test kit which comes with an exclusive 30% discount code; find out more at this discount COVID testing link.

COSTA CRUISES

A cruise vacation with Europe’s leading cruise line will give your family a chance to get to know European families through a Teens Lounge plus the supervised Squok Club (activities grouped by ages 3-6 and 7-11) with Peppa Pig as the mascot. The Costa Crociere company, headquartered in Genoa, Italy and founded in 1948, has 27 ships (six more planned by 2021) which operate under the Costa, AIDA and Costa Asia brands.

CROISIEUROPE RIVER CRUISES

CroisiEurope Vasco De Gama on Duoro River in Portugal
CroisiEurope Vasco De Gama on Duoro River in Portugal

This is one of the world’s largest river cruise companies operating more than 50 River and Small Ship cruises, including River Ships throughout Europe, Canal Barges in France, Mediterranean Cruises, and cruises around the world. International experience with a French Flair means service and food are excellent. There’s a friendly, multilingual staff, and shore excursions (included in rates) emphasize expert guided tours of local arts and history. CroisiEurope, while new to Americans, is very popular among European families because it’s the only river cruise where children under 2 travel free and children under 10 travel at a discount.

What’s New: CroisiEurope has returned to the rivers of Europe this Summer with cruises in Portugal, Croatia, Spain, France, and Germany – with new launches all the time. Special Family Club Cruises with CroisiFamily itineraries in the summer months will sail in Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Croatia, where children 16 and under travel free or half-priced. Multigenerational groups and groups of friends may prefer the privacy of one of their elegant, crewed barges which ply the canals through the gorgeous French countryside. Both options provide wonderful values and unforgettable experiences. You can see in our review of a CroisiEurope cruise. Check out the special deals available to book till the end of the year with up to 45 per cent off the second person on selected cruises.

For Kids: CroisiEurope features river cruises with cycling and hiking shore excursions for families who like to actively explore together, and, with such superb cuisine, you won’t have to feel guilty about sampling everything.

For Teens: Tweens and teens with a cultural bent or an interest in practicing their French will love this river cruise. Look for itineraries offering hiking, biking and other off-beat shore tours for more adventurous travelers.

Around the Ship: CroisiEurope is the global leader in river cruise ship building, so their vessels are extremely comfortable and able to navigate in unusual waters. There’s always a main restaurant, bar, lounges, library and roof deck space for sightseeing. Each ship is unique and designed for the smallest harbors at the destination, with easy access that’s ideal for family elders. Don’t expect constant activities or kids’ clubs because the focus is on the destinations and local culture.

CRYSTAL

The all-inclusive luxury cruise line, Crystal, is popular with multigenerational groups. The ships carry between 900 and 1,100 passengers with all of the amenities you’d expect on a cruise line touting luxury, service, space and enrichment programs.What’s New: Crystal Cruises has added Miami as a port of call and port of embarkation for Crystal Serenity’s Luxury Bahama Escapes, starting Aug. 9, The seven-night voyages have been extended to early November and now include three ports of embarkation: Nassau on Saturdays, Bimini on Sundays and Miami on Mondays. In addition, a new four-night trip will sail Nov.15th round trip from Miami. Crystal has announced that guests 12 and over must be fully inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to boarding any Crystal ship. However, due to Florida state law, the company will adjust this policy for the Miami port of embarkation and will highly recommend, but not require, that all guests be fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated guests must be pre-approved after initial waitlist, are subject to capacity control, and proof of valid travel insurance is required. Unvaccinated guests will need to adhere to specific protocols and further testing requirements in addition to certain restrictions during their journey.

CUNARD LINE

Cunards Queen Elizabeth near the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska
Cunard Queen Elizabeth near the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

Cunard continues the tradition of luxury cruising that began in 1840, complete with fencing and dance classes (on all three Queens), and is the only line offering regularly scheduled transatlantic service between New York and Southampton, England on flagship Queen Mary 2, including a kennel at sea.

What’s New: Cunard will sail an Alaska summer season in 2022, after having returned to the region in 2019, when Queen Elizabeth sails five roundtrip voyages out of Vancouver, each ranging from 7-10 nights. Itineraries feature scenic cruising through the Inside Passage including the awe-inspiring Glacier Bay National Park. Cunard offers full days in several of the region’s ports including Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Victoria and Icy Straight Point.

For Babies: The Night Nursery is available for children ages 6-23 months from 6pm-11pm. It is free-of-charge on a first come, first served basis.

For Kids: Kids ages 2-7 are invited to the Play Zone, an area stocked with books, toys, puzzles, computer games, and more. Tots ages 6 months to 2 years are welcome with a parent in the Play Zone. The Kids Zone is for ages 8-12 and features gaming consoles, sports competitions, arts ‘crafts and karaoke.

For Teens: Teen Zone offers team games and deck sports by day, while evenings bring pizza and dance parties. Game consoles are available. All kids and teen programs are free-of-charge.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE

Disney leads in creative kids’ programming and activities, from character experiences, larger-than-life youth clubs, pools, aqua play areas and waterslides to themed deck parties that culminate with dance parties and fireworks at sea. Cruise Critic, the world’s leading cruise reviews site and online cruise community, has repeatedly named Disney Cruise Line the “Best for Families.”

What’s New: Following the favorite ships: Disney MagicDisney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is Disney Wish, an even more innovative, family-focused ship from the magic-making team at Disney. Bookings are open and the inaugural sailing will take place in June 2022. Disney Wish boasts 1,254 staterooms, including 53 concierge staterooms, many connecting, some with king beds and a sofa bed, third and fourth wall bunks and even four large Royal Suites (two are duplexes!). From the enchanting Grand Atrium watched over by a golden Cinderella to the enhanced children’s programming and dining, including a Frozen dinner theater and upscale French and a modern steak house for adults. This is a ship to wait for. Sign us up for the Walt Disney Imagineering Lab in Disney’s Oceaneer Club, where kids can design thrill rides, then surf the 760-foot-foot-long AquaMouse water coaster above the top deck. While the kids play, adults can head to the adult-only pool and spa, the Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge for a Stars Wars themed drink and interactive tasting experiences inspired by destinations such as Batuu and Mustafar.

For Babies: Children ages 6 months to 3 years (or from 1 to 3-years-old on Transatlantic and Panama Canal itineraries) are welcome at “it’s a small world” nursery, where they’ll be cared for by trained counselors. Nursery space is limited, and reservations are required.

For Kids: Open to kids ages 3-12, Disney’s Oceaneer Club is the ultimate destination for creativity and fun. Step into worlds inhabited by some of your favorite characters on each of the Disney ships, such as Andy’s Room, Star Wars: Millennium Falcon, Star Wars: Command Post, Marvel Superhero Academy and Pixie Hollow.

Disney Cruise Line guests can experience the legendary adventures and iconic characters from the Star Wars saga in a day-long “Star Wars Day at Sea” Photo by Matt Stroshane, c. Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line guests can experience the legendary adventures and iconic characters from the Star Wars saga in a day-long “Star Wars Day at Sea” Photo by Matt Stroshane, c. Disney Cruise Line

For Tweens: The 11 to 14-year-olds have their own Edge club with comedy improv classes, trivia contests, pirate challenges and a lounge with flat-screen TVs, the latest video games, computers and more.

For Teens: Teens 14-17 have their own coffee bar and space in Vibe, a space to chill out, listen to music, watch TV and play group games. On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, teens even have their own sundeck. There are even special teen shore excursions like The Wild Side at Castaway Cay, where teens explore on bikes, snorkel, and ride a high-speed boat around the island.

Around the Ship: There’s everything from character meals and meet-and-greets, first-run movies and Broadway-style entertainment to adult-only restaurants and deck areas. Families love Disney’s private island Castaway Cay with its snorkeling lagoon, bike trails, stingray encounter and beaches for everyone from adults to the entire family. 2022 brings don’t-miss limited engagements of two popular experiences – Star Wars Day at Sea and Marvel Day at Sea. Star Wars sets sail on the Disney Fantasy (seven-night cruises between January and March 2022) and Marvel superheroes rule the Disney Magic (five-night cruises from January to March 2022) on splendid voyages to the Caribbean and Bahamas featuring a special day at sea filled with unique character encounters, live shows and action-packed entertainment.

HOLLAND AMERICA

This line now carries more than 25,000 kids and their families aboard its 14 mid-size ships every year, including so many multi-generational groups that they have designed a special Family Reunion Program (for groups booking eight or more rooms) featuring complimentary room upgrades and more.

What’s New: Holland America Line is sailing in Alaska until the beginning of October and come fall, Holland America Line is gearing up to restart cruising out of Port of San Diego in California with a season of cruises to Mexico, Hawaii and along the California coast,

There is also an emphasis on programs and activities that bring aboard the culture and cuisine of the region where the ship is sailing with cooking demonstrations, port-to-table dishes in the dining room and cultural ambassadors. Holland America recently was recognized by Cruise Critic for having the best dining program at sea.

For Babies: Holland America welcomes infants 6 months and older (12 months on Transocean sailings). By advance request through the Service Department, guests may arrange commercial baby food, diapers and refrigerators for a nominal fee. A limited number of highchairs, booster seats and cribs are available at no charge.

For Kids: The Club HAL program provides supervised activities for kids ages 3-12. All children participating in the youth program must be completely toilet trained and pull-up free. Younger cruisers (ages 3-7) enjoy their own space where they can play, create and make new friends. Club HAL activities include PJ parties, arts and crafts, pirate treasure hunts. kids Olympics, video game tournaments, and more. Children with special needs are invited to attend Club HAL activities under the supervision a trained staff.

For Tweens: The 8-12s have their Club Hal area featuring air hockey, foosball, Kinect for Xbox 360, and large LED screens for video games and movies. Teens also enjoy dance parties, deck sports, trivia nights, karaoke and Xbox tournaments.

For Teens: The Loft is an adult-free lounge where teens ages 13-17 can hang out and enjoy movies, games, and music. The teen-only space, supervised by HAL staff, is where teens enjoy music, games and more. Other activities include volleyball, a steel drum class, jewelry making and mocktail mixologies. Guests aged 16 and older are invited to use the onboard Fitness Center.

Around the Ship: Look for swimming pools, basketball, volleyball and tennis. Families love the private island Half Moon Cay with its array of activities like snorkeling, bicycle tours, water sports, and adventure areas. In addition to Club HAL and teen activities, kids’ programming and cartoons are on the in-cabin television on the HAL entertainment channels.

Holland America Westerdam
Holland America Westerdam in Glacier Bay, Alaska

MSC CRUISES

MSC Cruises offers innovative itineraries, family-friendly deals, single parent specials and a few unexpected luxury perks such as an Aqua Park, water slides and supervised clubs for ages 3-17 to guests from around the world. The world’s third largest and fastest-growing major cruise brand has resumed cruising from PortMiami on the MSC Meraviglia and plans to have more than half the fleet back at sea by fall. MSC Divina will be MSC Cruises’ second ship to return to cruising from the U.S., with three-, four- and seven-night itineraries beginning Sept. 16 from Orlando (Port Canaveral) – a new homeport for the company.

MSC implemented an industry leading health and safety protocol onboard each ship, which includes universal COVID-19 testing at embarkation; vaccination and periodic testing of crew; social distancing; mask-wearing; enhanced sanitation measures and more. MSC Cruises will welcome both vaccinated and not fully vaccinated guests onboard with additional requirements and restrictions for guests who are not fully vaccinated.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

Norwegian Cruise Line invites you to cruise with your kids on 17 ships departing from several U.S., European and Asia-Pacific homeports. The line is distinctive for “Freestyle” Dining meaning you can eat when you want and where you want, although many of the a la carte options carry a premium fee. The newer ships have space dedicated to craft brews and fine wines, Broadway shows, a nursery accepting passengers ages 6 months and up, plus innovative use of outdoor spaces. 

What’s New: Norwegian Jade is sailing seven-day itineraries to the Greek Isles. And Norwegian Encore, the company’s newest innovative ship, is the first in the fleet to return to service from the U.S., for her inaugural season of Alaska cruises. Guests will benefit from the second cruise pier in Icy Strait Point, a collaboration with Alaska Native-owned Huna Totem Corporation that initially was scheduled to open last summer. There will be additional shore excursions, including the world’s largest ZipRider zip line and the most accessible coastal brown bear viewing platforms in Southeast Alaska. 

By the end of 2022, the Company will be the first in the industry to offer the Starbucks experience across all ships. The line will deploy other ships to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic in August. All Norwegian cruise will only board fully vaccinated passengers.

PETER SOMMER TRAVELS

Gulet jumping with Peter Sommer Travels
Gulet jumping with Peter Sommer Travels

Peter Sommer Travels has led cultural explorers around Europe since 1996, and may be best known for their expert guided, small ship cruises which consistently receive five-star reviews from travelers. Typically, these top value gulet cruises on classic small yachts are all-inclusive of airport transfers, meals, beverages, land tours and guides; international airfare is extra.

What’s New: This award-winning tour company offers itineraries to Greece, Croatia, Italy and Turkey, with group or custom private tours by yacht between May and October 2022. Their group family yacht tours, eight-day routes in the Aegean through the Greek Islands and along the Carian Coast of Turkey, have run annually in July.

For Kids: Kids love Peter Sommer Travels’ classic wooden yachts which are traditional Turkish gulets with swashbuckling style! The gulets’ small size and high crew-to-guest ratio mean that even children ages 6 and older are entertained, both by the cruising adventure and the storytelling of expert guides.

For Teens: School-age children and teens will be thrilled by fascinating shore excursions and attention to historical detail. In addition to ports of call and delicious local meals (everyone raves about the fresh food!), families are kept busy at sea, where they can snorkel, go fishing and take out a canoe. Relaxation is always an option. Here are 10 great reasons to choose this family yacht tour.

Around the Ship: Peter Sommer Travels’ gulets are equipped with comfortable double, twin and triple cabins with private bath. There’s Wi-Fi when coverage permits, so it’s easy to share the experience with friends and family back home. You’ll meet like-minded families who, reviewers say, count on the engaging guides to create eye-opening, memorable trips for their children.

PRINCESS

Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess have the line’s first Sky Suites, which feature Princess’ largest balconies at sea and can accommodate up to five guests making them ideal for families. Families love Princess’ private island in the Caribbean and family-friendly shore excursions. 

What’s New: Sky Princess  highlights include the breathtaking Atrium & Piazza, over 50% larger than on other Princess ships, their largest Movies Under the Stars® screen, two deep tank swimming pools, a brick-oven pizzeria, and signature features like The SeaWalk, a dramatic glass-bottom walkway which USA TODAY calls one of the “Top Gee-Whiz Features at Sea.” Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess has The Reef Splash Zone, their first spray park, which is ideal for families. In collaboration with Discovery, Princess expanded its Discovery at SEA partnership with re-imagined youth centers called Camp Discovery. Additionally, cultural activities related to the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe will help young cruisers learn about the customs and nature of where they cruise, and MythBusters science activities will challenge their minds.

For Kids: Princess Youth Programs start at age 3 with The Treehouse, a bright, whimsical forest and animal-themed center including hands-on activities for kids. In-room babysitting is not available, but there is late night group sitting for $5 per child. On shore days, youth programs are offered.

Stargazing aboard a Princess Cruise
Stargazing aboard a Princess Cruise

For Tweens: The Lodge for 8-to 12-year-olds is inspired by the great outdoors and engages kids’ minds and imaginations.

For Teens: The Beach House will offer ages 13-17 a contemporary surf-themed lounge where teens can hang out and socialize. There will be parties, movies, teen makeovers, dance classes and game tournaments.

Around the Ship: Families love the Movies Under the Stars, swimming pools, the line’s private island Princess Cays, video games, basketball courts and more. Afternoon tea is a time-honored tradition on Princess ships. Guests can get moving with Zumba Fitness at sea, the exhilarating dance-fitness program. Discovery at Sea brings some favorite TV shows and hosts on board with programs like Shark Week, Discovery and Animal Planet Shore Excursions and Stargazing with Discovery at Sea.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS

Regent Seven Seas is known for small ships, attentive service, food and amenities. Everything is included—even shore excursions. That’s why the upscale line is a favorite of grandparents who are treating their families to a trip, particularly a bucket list trip in Alaska.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Think of every kind of food and entertainment you want aboard some of the world’s biggest and most innovative ships. And that’s only the beginning — this is not the cruise line for couch potato relaxation. The cruise line has itineraries to more than 270 destinations in 72 countries on six continents, including Royal Caribbean’s private island destination in The Bahamas. 

What’s New: Royal Caribbean International has announced that its complete lineup of ships will be sailing by spring 2022. Spanning cruises from the Big Apple to the Down Under, the next group of returning ships and itineraries will begin to safely set sail in September with Oasis of the Seas’ first sailing from the New York area – a 7-night itinerary to the cruise line’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, The Bahamas. The cruise line’s continued comeback builds on its months-long success in delivering memorable and safe cruise vacations across Alaska, Asia, The Bahamas, the Caribbean and Europe, and each ship now returning will cruise with the health measures that have safeguarded the well-being of guests, crew and destination communities to. Sailing with vaccinated crew, the cruises – at this time – will be available to adult guests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those under the age of 18 with negative test results.

On Nov. 19, Navigator of the Seas will arrive in Los Angeles to set sail with West Coast vacationers on short 3-, 4- and 5-night getaways to Catalina Island, California and Mexico. December will bring Royal Caribbean’s long-awaited return to two popular destinations on opposite sides of the world. Ovation of the Seas will head back to Australia on Dec. 13 to sail domestic cruises from Sydney, and Grandeur of the Seas will cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados on 7- and 14-night sailings to bucket list-worthy islands as soon as Dec. 5.

Travelers can plan their cruise with peace of mind knowing that Royal Caribbean requires all crew members and guests who are of the eligible age for the vaccine to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For travelers sailing on cruises from Florida, it is strongly recommended that all eligible guests be vaccinated. Children younger than the eligible age on any cruise must undergo testing and follow other health and safety measures. Family Travel Forum readers get 20% off LetsGetChecked mail-in test kits with an exclusive discount code; find out more at this discount COVID testing link.

AND SOME PARTING THOUGHTS

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the entire cruise industry, and we expect many innovations and structural changes to emerge once the major cruise lines resume sailing on a more regular basis. We will update this section as we learn more.

Meanwhile, with nine of 10 families surveyed using the environmental record of cruise lines to make their choices, we are closely watching these companies’ self-reported responsible tourism practices. Pool safety continues to be another real concern aboard cruise ships. Please study these pool safety tips and be constantly vigilant aboard ship — and on land — when you’re around water.

Bon voyage!

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