If you are taking your children on a Family Cruise Package holiday with you it is important to check and to choose a ship with the right facilities. The advantage of family cruise travel and taking children with you is that you will hardly see them at all as there are so many organised activities to keep them busy and away from adults. And of course you will have peace of mind, knowing that they are somewhere on the ship.
Some cruises have limited activities with limited staff dedicated to children but others have a team of staff dedicated only to children. If you are cruising with very young children, baby sitting services are available. On the QE2 you will find qualified children's nurses and even a night nursery.On most cruise lines children under two travel for free. Some ships have separate swimming pools and play areas for children only.
Each ship sets it's own age limits; some take children from birth, others stipulate a minimum age of five - or even seven, so do check before booking. And remember, some lines only take children or arrange appropriate activities during school holidays.
Most cruise lines will offer special rates for children sharing cabin with their parents but to get the best possible rate it is wise to book early. Many ships now offer family cruise travel. Some of the larger vessels have superb facilities for children, with huge playrooms, art and craft centres, computer labs and dedicated children's pools. For teenagers, there are video arcades, teen bars and discos. Many of the mid-sized, more traditional ships are also very child-friendly, with welcoming, well-run playrooms.
Ships like those offered by P&O and MSC have a cosier feel than the state-of-the-art mega-ships run by companies like Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and Princess Cruises, and their prices are lower - a key consideration for a family on a budget.
Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest cruise line in the world with a modern fleet of 'fun' ships or 'floating resorts', Carnival offers informal cruising appealing to all ages and lifestyles.They also have year-round Caribbean fly cruises, ideal to combine with a stay in Florida.
Celebrity Cruises Launched in 1990, Celebrity Cruises is a five star, luxury cruise line offering an elegant and sophisticated holiday experience with an emphasis on high standards of service and excellent cruising.
Costa Cruises offers excellent facilities for children, particularly in the Mediterranean but also on board its Florida based ships - Costa Victoria and Costa Romantica. During the school holidays, the ships run supervised clubs for children, offering a range of activities and entertainment. A communal baby-sitting service is also available.
Crystal Cruises offer family cruise travel aboard both six-rated ships Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony. Suitable facilities include: a selections of three-berth staterooms; 'Waves' and 'Fantasia' rooms dedicated for children's entertainment with toys and video games; a choice of indoor and outdoor pools; table tennis and informal dining areas - burger and ice cream bars. If more than fifteen children are travelling, special programmes are created with staff supervision, who can also provide a baby-sitting service by special arrangement. Children under 12 years pay fifty per cent of the minimum cruise fare when accompanied by two full-fare paying guests.
Cunard Lines is one of the oldest and most famous names in cruising. Itineraries range from 2-day Party Cruises to three-month World Cruises as well as the only scheduled transatlantic service on one of the world's most famous ships, Queen Elizabeth 2.
Disney Cruise Lines Perfect for families, kids and adults alike, Disney Cruise Line has something for everyone and is specifically designed to offer facilities for all tastes and requirements. Guests can combine a stay at Walt Disney World with either a three, four or seven-night cruise. Cruises include calls to Disney's private Bahamian island paradise, Castaway Cay, the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean.
MSC is Italy's largest privately owned cruise line and it operates four traditional cruiseliners. Melody offers special facilities for children. There is a special children's area with paddling pool. During the school holidays there are special staff onboard purely to look after young children, arrange entertainment etc.
P & O With up to eight cruises from UK a month from and cruises ranging from four days to over three weeks, P&O offers a vast array of itineraries encompassing the Mediterranean, Baltic's, Atlantic Islands, Canary Islands and Norwegian Fjords. With P&O's Family Savers and Family Savers Plus offers, children can benefit from discounts of up to 90 per cent.
Princess Cruises To make a family cruise package easier than ever, children can now travel aboard all Princess ships in the Caribbean and Alaska from the age of six months, with youngsters over twelve months old being welcomed on cruises in Europe and 18 month olds on voyages to more exotic destinations. All nine Princess ships can cater for junior cruisers, while the three newest 'Grand Class' superliners offer fully equipped children's facilities.
Royal Caribbean International operates four kids clubs on board its fleet under the umbrella name of 'Adventure Ocean'. Each club is specially formulated for each different age group with activities arranged accordingly. The six Vision-class ships each have two specially designed club rooms, one for younger children and a 'teen lounge; area for older kids featuring its own disco and juice bar. The company has introduced a new 'Adventure Science' programme designed to make education fun through a blend of science and entertainment. Kids of all ages are involved in making rockets, 'Flubber' (slime) and bubbling potions.