1. CRYSTAL CRUISES
Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity offer spacious staterooms in a range of categories, as well as suites and connecting cabins, child-friendly cuisine, and dedicated activities for children aged three to 17 on selected sailings. Both vessels offer in-stateroom babysitting. The Trident Grill & Ice Cream Bar serves complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and sandwiches. Baby food, high chairs and booster seats are available on request.
Book: 020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk
2. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
A range of kids’ and teen clubs are available on Norwegian Cruise Line ships, and these are broken down into age groups so that children can make friends with children their own age. The Splash Academy includes Guppies (six months to two years), Turtles (three to five), Seals (six to nine) and Dolphins (10 to 12). Teen lounges in the Entourage area cater for two distinct age groups – 13- to 14-year-olds and those aged 15 to 17. Entourage boasts facilities for air hockey, pinball and table football, as well as a video jukebox and large flatscreen televisions, several of which are located around a central video-game console. In the evening, Entourage transforms into a nightclub. In addition to these complimentary kids’ clubs, group babysitting programmes (for ages three to 12) are available. The line’s partnership with Nickelodeon also means there’s plenty of brand-name entertainment on offer.
Book: 0845 201 8900; ncl.co.uk
Kids’ happiness is taken seriously by Cunard: children get their own pool and deck area on flagship Queen Mary 2, while on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, one pool is given over entirely to families. A night nursery for children aged 12 to 23 months is open from 6pm to 11pm. The Play Zone and The Zone are complimentary supervised areas, which offer activities throughout the day (and into the night) for two- to seven-year-olds and eight- to 12-year-olds respectively. The Teen Zone, for those aged 13 to 17, offers table-tennis tournaments, team games and deck sports throughout the day; and pizza parties, discos, quizzes and bingo at night.
Book: 0843 374 2222; cunard.com
4. PRINCESS CRUISES
All but two of Princess Cruises’s ships provide facilities for families, and offer a range of clubs for those aged between three and 17. Princess Pelicans (for three- to seven-year-olds) and Shockwaves (for those aged eight to 12) organise activities that include everything from T-shirt painting to scavenger hunts. And, in Remix, Wii games, movies and music, as well as sports competitions and parties, are provided for 13- to 17-year-olds. All family-friendly ships in the fleet run a Junior Chefs at Sea programme together with pyjama and ice cream parties, educational workshops and a special funfair.
Book: 0845 075 0031; princesscruises.co.uk
5. MSC CRUISES
Under-18s sail for free with MSC Cruises when sharing with two full fare-paying adults. And that’s not the only good news for families. The company’s largest Fantasia-class ships have multiple pools, waterslides, a 4D cinema and a Grand Prix simulator. Four kids’ clubs are available: the Mini Club for three- to six-year-olds; the Junior Club for those aged seven to 11; the Y-Team for 12- to 14-year-olds; and the MSC Generation teen club for 15- to 17-year-olds. Babies and toddlers aged 10 to 36 months are catered for at MSC Babytime. A Kids Around the Clock service is also available from 11pm to 2am.
Book: 0844 561 1955; msccruises.co.uk
6. HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
All activities at the Club HAL kids’ clubs are supervised by full-time, qualified Youth Staff. Those aged three to seven can participate in treasure hunts, pizza-making, crafts and parties. Eight- to 12-year-olds take part in Xbox and Wii tournaments, karaoke disco parties and – on Alaska cruises – a junior ranger programme run by the US National Park Service. The Loft and The Oasis are spaces in which teenagers can enjoy mocktail mixology classes, cooking demos and teen-only nightclub events. When the ships are at sea, babysitting services are available for children aged three and over.
Book: 0843 374 2300; hollandamerica.com
7. CELEBRITY CRUISES
The line offers private babysitting in cabins for children aged 12 months and older for £10 an hour. And those with older children (aged three to 11) can take them along to nighttime slumber parties. Under-threes take part in Toddler Time; and three children’s clubs take place in the Fun Factory: Shipmates is for three- to five-year-olds; Cadets for those aged six to eight; and Ensigns for nine- to 11-year-olds. Activities include games, sports, crafts, music, karaoke, treasure hunts, theme parties and movies. Teen entertainment is provided in the X-Club hangout zone.
Book: 0844 493 2043; celebritycruises.co.uk