How to Take a Luxury Cruise with Kids

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Apr 12, 2021
Salerno / iStock / nata_rass

Luxury travel for the entire family is a fast-expanding category and some terrific cruise options do exist – but amenities geared toward kids are definitely more limited than what you’ll find on larger megaships. If you’re wondering how to take a luxury cruise with kids, here are answers to several key questions.

Which luxury cruise ships allow kids?

Most luxury cruise lines allow children to sail, but only a few have kids’ clubs or facilities with organized activities. The others require that kids be supervised by their parents at all times, which could work for families with children content to occupy themselves with reading or technology. Here’s how luxury cruise lines are currently accommodating kids:

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Regent’s 490-750-passenger luxury ships – Seven Seas Voyager, Seven Seas Mariner, Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Explorer, and Seven Seas Splendor – feature a Club Mariner program for kids, overseen by trained counselors. The catch: It’s only available on select sailings, generally summer months and holiday sailings, when kids can cruise for special rates. Activities, such as arts and crafts, games, dance parties, and movie nights, are geared to age groups 5-8, 9-12, and 13-17. Children must be at least a year old to sail.
  • Paul Gauguin Cruises: Families are welcome aboard 330-guest m/s Paul Gauguin, which sails year-round in Tahiti and the South Pacific – and there’s a complimentary Moana Explorer Program for kids ages 7-15 that includes interactive nature discovery during summer and holiday sailings. Kids must be at least one year old to sail, the ship may restrict the number of children onboard, and anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult age 21 or older. The ship features two new Luxury Suites sleeping four guests, as well as eight adjoining balcony staterooms that can become four suites, each sleeping four guests.
  • Windstar Cruises: Small-ship cruise line Windstar welcomes children ages 8 and older aboard its sailing ships (Wind Star, Wind Surf, and Wind Spirit) and yachts (Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend), accommodating 148 to 342 guests, but any passenger under 21 needs to share a cabin or suite with an adult who is at least 25 years old. That means even college-age teens can’t stay in a separate cabin from an accompanying adult. Some cabins also have a third berth to accommodate one child or teen. There are no organized onboard activities for kids aboard Windstar ships.
  • Seabourn: Children need to be six months old to take a non-transocean cruise and 12 months old to take a transocean cruise aboard any all-suite Seabourn ship – Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Encore, and Seabourn Ovation – but kids are few and far between on most cruises. Some Verandah Suites aboard Seabourn’s 450-to-600-guest ships can accommodate one child, while a limited number of Premium Suites can sleep more. The vessels are definitely geared toward couples, however, and there are no organized activities for kids. Guests must be at least 6 years old to sail on any Antarctic or Expedition cruises.
  • Silversea Cruises: Children 6 months and older are allowed on Silversea’s small luxury ships – Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, and Silver Spirit – but those under age 18 must be accompanied, in the same suite or a connecting suite, by a parent or other responsible adult over the age of 21 for the entire voyage and on all shore excursions. Children under 8 may be restricted from participating in certain shore excursions. The line’s expedition ship, Silver Explorer, will not accept children under one year of age and those under 6 will not be allowed to board a Zodiac for any expedition or excursion. There are no programs for kids aboard any Silversea ship.
  • Oceania Cruises: Kids from age 1 to 17 are welcome to cruise aboard Oceania’s six mid-size ships – Oceania Nautica, Oceania Insignia, Oceania Regatta, Oceania Sirena, Oceania Marina, and Oceania Riviera – but they must occupy the same stateroom or suite as an adult who is 18 or older. Worth noting: Third and fourth guests in any stateroom are charged 50% of the cruise fare paid by the first two guests. There are no organized programs for kids or teens, but the 1,250-guest ships (Marina and Riviera) have paddle board tables, a putting green, a fitness track, and an Artist’s Loft.
  • Azamara: This boutique cruise line operates three 690-to-702-guest ships – Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, and Azamara Pursuit – allows children who are 6 months or older (12 months for transoceanic voyages), but as this blog explains, parents are on their own when it comes to packing food for babies and toddlers and entertaining kids of all ages.
  • SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream’s two intimate 112-passenger luxury yachts – SeaDream I and SeaDream II – are geared to couples and groups of friends, but they do welcome children ages 1 to 17 when accompanied by an adult age 18 or older (who must supervise them at all times). Several Yacht Club staterooms on both ships can be connected as Commodore Suites, sleeping four guests. A water sports platform and water toys are fun diversions for older kids.
  • Celebrity Cruises: Although Celebrity is considered a premium cruise line and its ships are larger than most luxury vessels, its cruises are now all-inclusive (meaning beverages, Wi-Fi and gratuities are part of the cruise fare), elevating it closer to the luxury realm – and there are plenty of kids aboard. Kids and teens programs include Camp at Sea (for ages 3-12) and Teen Club (for cruisers ages 13-17). Some cabins sleep up to four, there are many connecting stateroom options, and the Royal Suites On Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex accommodate up to 10 guests.
  • Disney Cruise Line: While not a luxury cruise line per se, Disney does offer upscale amenities geared to creating a fun cruise experience for the entire family. Kids will be entertained aboard Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy – and the ships’ adults-only areas offer a reprieve for mom and dad.

Which luxury cruise ships are good for teens?

Teens can be tough travel companions – especially on luxury cruise ships primarily designed to pamper adults, not entertain kids. But these ships have enough luxurious amenities for mom and dad, while still offering activities, albeit more traditional than cutting-edge, for teens.

  • Celebrity’s Solstice-Class and Edge-Class ships: Celebrity’s ships might not have thrill-seeker amenities, but they have more teen passengers than most smaller luxury ships along with a Teen Club, where those 13 to 17 can hang out with friends and participate in Xbox competitions, teen parties, and culinary classes.
  • Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy: If your teens have outgrown Disney princesses and pirates, but are still entertained by Marvel superheroes and Star Wars characters, look into Disney Magic sailings that feature Marvel Day at Sea or Disney Fantasy sailings with a Star Wars Day at Sea.
  • Norwegian ships with The Haven: An alternative is to go big but book The Haven – the luxury enclave on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway and Breakaway Plus ships – to enjoy spacious suites and elevated amenities, including a pool, lounge and dining area exclusively for Haven guests. Onboard Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy, and Norwegian Encore, adults can enjoy the service and sophisticated ambience of the Haven, while teens can experience the age-designated clubs and onboard thrills of these megaships: waterslides, laser tag, virtual reality gaming, and the only race tracks at sea (aboard Bliss, Joy and Encore).

Which luxury cruise lines do not allow kids?

Two cruise lines are strictly adults-only, with no one under age 18 allowed onboard: All Viking Ocean, Viking River, and Viking Expedition (coming in 2022) cruises, as well as all sailings on Virgin Voyages’ new Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady (debuting later in 2021).

Are kids allowed on river cruises?

For the most part, no – and almost any kid would be bored by traditional river itineraries. But several cruise lines do offer special family sailings timed to summer and holiday vacation periods and tweaked to include kid-friendly excursions and activities.

  • AmaWaterways has partnered with Adventures by Disney to offer family-oriented sailings on the Seine, Rhine, and Danube rivers. Age limits vary by itinerary.
  • Tauck Bridges is a family-friendly program river cruise program by Tauck that welcomes kids ages 4 and older (8 or older is recommended on certain itineraries) on cruises of the Seine, Rhine, Rhone, Danube, and Douro rivers.
  • The Generations Collection by Uniworld is a series of European river cruises designed for multi-generational travel and welcoming kids 4 and up on select summer and holiday sailings.

What luxury cruise itineraries are best for kids?

Because smaller ships don’t have the activities, kids and teen clubs, and entertaining amenities of a megaship, families booking a luxury cruise need to choose an itinerary that offers onshore options appealing to junior sailors. If traveling with kids under age 10, think sun-and-sand itineraries, such as the Eastern Caribbean or Western Caribbean, to enjoy beach days, watersports, and interaction with marine life. Cruises to Alaska, Costa Rica or the Galapagos – offering opportunities for nature-based adventure and wildlife-spotting – are ideal for kids age 10 and above. Older teens will likely enjoy exploring the charming ports and ancient sites of the Mediterranean and Greek Islands. The key is to plan daytime shore activities around what interests your kids, since onboard life on most luxury ships is designed to indulge grown-ups.

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