The statistics tell the story: multi-generational vacationing is the hottest thing on the high seas.

A recent cruise industry survey showed that two million kids younger than 15 sailed on cruise lines in 2013 and we’re betting they weren’t sailing alone! To get you enthused, cruise companies are rolling out ever-more exciting itineraries and on-board entertainment, expansive accommodations, appealing shore excursion credits, and savings incentives. Is this is your family’s year to set sail? We hope you’ll enjoy our best-of list for multi-generational cruisers that touches on everything from suites to shows, spas to character parades, surf simulators to cooking classes and more.

The Family Nest

Family on Deck

Choose adjoining suites, a loft, or a three-bedroom floating condo, but before deciding, remember the words of Khalil Gibran in The Prophet and “Let there be space in your togetherness.”

Showing a clever understanding of the true nature of family cruising, Norwegian Cruise Line not only offers The Haven with butler-serviced suites featuring three bedrooms (each with king or queen bed) three full and one half bathrooms, spacious living and dining rooms and an outdoor garden area with hot tub and second dining area, but also a unique, one-person stateroom for those needing to escape the togetherness! (Available on Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway. Spacious Garden and Courtyard Villas are available other ships in the Norwegian fleet).

On Disney Cruises’ megaships Fantasy and Dream, there are numerous adjacent staterooms, each featuring the line’s signature bath-and-a-half facilities. Veranda can be made to disappear, creating shared balconies.

Celebrity Cruises offers your clan a ‘backyard at sea’, with 242-sq.ft. verandas in their Family Ocean View staterooms on Millennium-class ships: Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Infinity. There’s plenty of sleeping space as well: two lower beds that convert to a queen, a sitting area with two sofa beds that convert to doubles, and sliding doors and partitions to offer everyone a bit of privacy.

The two-deck high Sky Loft Suites on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas as well as the soon-to-arrive, Quantum of the Seas and sister ship Anthem of the Seas are not only larger than standard lofts and feature separate dining rooms and private balconies but can also be joined together.

Virtually every cruise line offers accommodation suitable for kids and parents or for multi-generational travel making this kind of special trip far easier to plan.

Delightful Dining

Dinner

Today’s ships also offer a giant smorgasbord of choices to suit the pickiest palate. To make mealtime relaxing, many lines offer open seating, so guests can dine within a three or four-hour window. Especially brilliant for multi-generational meal enjoyment is the My Family Time Dining on Royal Caribbean’s ships. Younger kids finish dinner within 45 minutes, are collected by youth program counselors and taken to the Kids Club, leaving the older crowd to enjoy the rest of their meal.

What makes cruise travel so convenient for families is the huge selection of dining options – from the ultra-casual younger vibe of hamburger joints to Celebrity’s innovative Q-sine® restaurant dining, an experiential culinary expedition for the most discerning gourmet.

The casual atmosphere on Norwegian's ships attracts many families with teens. Its newest ships offer highly teen-friendly dining choices, ranging from Teppanyaki and sushi to French. There is also pizza – any day, any time. This terrific flexibility means teens can eat with - or without - their families as their mood dictates!

Lido dining on many ships offers a quiet outdoor escape for the any members of the family who’ve had their fill of togetherness!

Sharing the Experience

Night

Cruise ships are floating entertainment and education centers offering everything from Broadway shows, to luxury spas, fitness and sports centers, casinos, and more. While food lovers dig into a culinary or wine appreciation class at Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center, bridge aficionados join in tournaments and dance lovers take hot salsa classes. Food and wine pairing workshops are a favorite feature on Celebrity Cruises, as is their hands-on Mixology 101 Experience that teaches "chef-inspired" bartending.

On board some Royal Caribbean ships, the whole family can see Tony Award-winning musicals such as Hairspray, Chicago, and Saturday Night Fever as well as custom-designed production extravaganzas, comedians, singers and dance troupes. On Oasis, Freedom and Voyager-class ships, guests enjoy the world’s only at-sea ice shows while on Oasis-class, AquaTheater dive shows dazzle with dancers, divers, acrobats, backlit fountains and gigantic screens.

For more all-ages entertainment options, the line-up on Norwegian is spectacular, including the Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Rock of Ages, Burn the Floor, and “Legends in Concert”, the longest running live musical tribute show in entertainment history.

Adults can stay every bit as busy as the kids with the CelebrityLifeSM Activities on Celebrity’s ships. From Zumba to the Oceans Ahead ecotourism programming, self-guided iPad art tours of the ships and Rosetta Stone language classes, there are endless experiences to share.

Holiday America believes the family that relaxes together, stays together – at least on a cruise ship – and so offers the blissful escape of the Greenhouse Spa and Salon where you can not only enjoy heavenly treatments but also soak in hydrotherapy pools or steam together like happy clams in a heated ceramic Turkish lounge. Once you’ve relaxed your bodies, you can all learn to stay in touch after the cruise by sharing a fascinating Digital Workshop on social media skills.

All Ashore

When it comes to shore excursions, the choices are endless. Kids may want to loll on a beach (especially on private island port calls) with the Grandparents enjoying a cocktail and good book in the shade nearby. Teens might go whitewater rafting, there may be a garden or plantation tour for those who prefer to stay dry and Mum and Dad might take time for themselves, going shopping or sight-seeing, or enjoying a wine-tasting tour. Paul Gauguin Cruises offers customized family eco-excursions in French Polynesia, a part of the youth program designed by explorer and environmentalist Jean Michel Cousteau. Tauck and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offer specific European river cruise departures for families and tailor the shore excursions to facilitate shared adventures.
 

Happy Kids

Climbing

Select a ship that offers a range of activities and entertainment to keep everyone happy – from the smallest fry to the most world-weary teen.

In addition to themed pools and Chill, the teens-only spa, one of the charms of a Disney ship is that you’ll always find the usual suspects onboard – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Snow White to name just a few. Also great is the Royal Court Tea on Disney Fantasy where the Royal Pastry Chef and Royal Tea Hostess sing, dance and serve fancy kid-friendly tea treats.

Teaming up with Nickelodeon has created a world of interactive onboard entertainment to thrill younger kids. Themed cruises on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Jewel include appearances by SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer. Kids clubs are available, most with large outdoor play areas, while on Norwegian Getaway, a three-story sports complex boasts two swimming pools, five water slides, a rock-climbing wall, nine-hole mini golf course, bungee trampoline, spider web and ropes course with a zip track.

Not to be outdone in the wandering character category, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas all offer the "DreamWorks Experience" featuring Shrek and Po (the Kung Fu Panda). Other onboard features include the DreamWorks Animation movie “Turbo”, parades, the “Madagascar Aqua Show”, the “How to Train Your Dragon” ice show, the FlowRider® surf simulator, rock-climbing wall, bumper cars, carousels, zip lines, and more.

Aboard the Royal Princess, families enjoy two fresh water pools, “Movies Under the Stars” on a poolside jumbo screen and a nightly water and light show. There’s a batting cage, laser shooting range, teens-only ‘mocktail’ parties and formal dinners, and an aerobics studio offering Pilates, yoga, spinning and TRX. The Remix Teens Club has an outdoor lounge with a teens-only wading pool and open-sky party area while the indoor space has a D.J. booth and lounge with foosball, hip-hop dance classes, Skee-ball and video games. There’s also an all-ages sports area, with a golf driving facility, basketball, volleyball, tennis and an upper deck with artificial grass for bocce, croquet and lawn bowling.

Multi-generational cruising could be the best thing ever for your extended family, offering a means of sharing not only time, but also some very special experiences. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone birthday, anniversary or family reunion, hoping for time with the grandkids or reconnecting with your parents, a cruise will keep all members of the tribe involved, engaged and entertained.

Written by Liz Fleming

First published in Dream Voyages Magazine, Fall 2014

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