Thursday, 2 August 2012 2:36 PM
If you've always wanted to take a cruise but worry that your children might be difficult to entertain onboard a ship for a week or so, take a look at family cruises. These voyages are specially designed to cater for the needs of all age groups, so whether your offspring are babies or teenagers, you'll find plenty to keep them busy.
Most of the major cruise lines offer family breaks that travel to a wealth of destinations from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, and often provide a range of kids' clubs where youngsters can be stimulated and entertained. If you want to find out more about what each company offers for your family, read on.
The Adventure Ocean programme run by Royal Caribbean splits children into groups of age nought to three, three to five, six to eight and nine to 11, while those aged 12 and over can make use of a teens-only venue. As well as age-appropriate activities, the cruise line offers climbing walls, FlowRider surf machines and the chance to watch the latest film releases.
Groups of more than five people can use family cabins fitted with separate sleeping areas, while budget options include bunk beds or pull-down alternatives. You can also take advantage of interconnecting cabins, junior suites or higher-spec options, which usually have a bath - a must-have for bathing babies.
Children aged from two upwards and teenagers up to the age of 17 are all looked after on a Carnival cruise. The firm has clubs for toddlers and juniors, where children will get to finger paint, watch puppet shows and enjoy stories, among other activities, while 12 to 14-year-olds can attend swimming parties, play video games and enjoy movie nights.
Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 can take part in a range of spots, have dance parties and take shore excursions, and mum and dad can enjoy doing their own thing thanks to the babysitting service, which runs between 10pm and 3am local time for children of all ages.
Popular line Princess Cruises sells its family cabins early on, so it's worth booking your break in advance if you can. Choose from three or four berth cabins with pull-down beds, or family suites that comprise interconnecting rooms.
Kids' clubs cater for youngsters aged between three and 17, providing activities appropriate for each group, and there is also a babysitting service, which runs between 10pm and 1am local time for an additional charge. Onboard attractions like the California Science Centre and Teen Dinner events also help to keep youths happy.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Many of Norwegian Cruise Line's ships are equipped with amenities that entertain families, such as bowling alleys, climbing walls and aqua parks. Special workshops like Family Pizza Making and the Face-Off Game Show are also run to keep everyone busy while onboard.
A four-tier system operates in terms of kids' clubs, with those aged between two and five attending Juniors, six to nine-year-olds being well looked after at First Mates and ten to 12-year-olds attending Navigators. Teenagers between 13 and 17 can make the most of the Teens Crew and Teens' Center, where they can attend parties, play sports and enjoy karaoke sessions.
For the best family-friendly experience with P&O, choose the line's Ventura vessel, which is renowned as the firm's most family-orientated model, while the Azura, Aurora and Oceana are also options to consider. Standard cabins have twin beds with one or two pull-down alternatives, while staterooms usually include a sofa-bed. Superior staterooms are equipped with a bath.
The Reef is the firm's youth programme and youngsters are split into four age groups so they can get involved with age appropriate activities, in addition to making the most of the children's pools and discos.