How to do it

How to choose a family cruise

When you think how family-friendly the latest cruise ships are, it seems hard to believe that only a decade ago, cruising had a reputation for stuffiness, formality and being suitable only for pensioners.

Boy in boat. How to choose a family cruise - my top tips on finding the perfect cruise holiday with kids

Having taken my daughter, then newly toddling, on board a cruise around the Caribbean I’m a huge convert.

So if you’re thinking of taking the plunge yourself (not literally), here’s what to consider when you’re booking a cruise with kids.

1. What facilities are there?
These days, there’s far more than just a pool to entertain kids with everything from minigolf and an escape room to a rock climbing wall, like these on Thomson’s new ships TUI Discovery and TUI Discovery II.

You can also find waterslides, surf simulators, zip wires, carousels and sports galore, depending whether you have older thrill seekers or younger water babies. It’s worth remembering that younger kids may need to be potty trained to swim, although there’s often a Splash Zone as well.

Boy on a climbing wall. How to choose a family cruise - my top tips on finding the perfect cruise holiday with kids

2. Kids’ clubs
So good that I’ve seen children pleading with their parents not to make them leave… Some start at age two, others from three, and it’s worth checking what ages the different groups are split into to see whether siblings might end up together. Do register early too.

For younger babies, there’s often a dedicated play area but it may be available for restricted times. Normally you’ll either stay with them or pay extra for crèche facilities. Babysitting is rarely available in staterooms but many ships set up ‘night nurseries’ where kids can snuggle down in sleeping bags or watch films in the evenings.

Kids' club on board Tui Discovery from Thomson. How to choose a family cruise - my top tips on finding the perfect cruise holiday with kids

3. Accommodation
Staterooms, or cabins, are often far more spacious than you might expect with plenty of room for a cot alongside the queen-size doubles – if you’re cruising with a baby, I’d recommend splashing out for a balcony as that way you can lounge in the sunshine while they nap inside.

Others have space for a sofa bed or a cunning set-up with beds folding down from the ceiling or walls, which is great fun for older kids but potentially less ideal with toddlers. If you’re a big group, it’s worth looking at the suites available: some cruises now have family suites with room for up to seven.

4. Food
One thing you’re not short of on board is food! Which makes cruises ideal for picky eaters, especially as it’s all-inclusive. Flexible eating options are often easiest, as you needn’t be stuck to one dining room at the same time every night.

Some cruise lines have additional children’s teas or children’s menus too. Others will heat up baby food or puree something for the littlest passengers and children are usually welcome in any restaurant on board.

Thomson's new cruise ship. How to choose a family cruise - my top tips on finding the perfect cruise holiday with kids

5. Tours
Tempting though it sometimes is to stay onboard throughout, the ports are equally enticing. If you want to explore independently, check how close you’ll be to the destination – some of the largest ships have to dock a little way out.

More and more are now offering child-friendly tours too, whether it’s a simple stress-free trip to the beach, activities or a family city tour.


Compiled in association with Thomson*

Main image courtesy Pixabay. All other images courtesy of Thomson