Over the past month, I've posted an informal poll on the family cruising message board here at CruiseMates.com, asking which cruise lines are your favorites for traveling with your kids and teens. While the number of respondents was not large, the results were not surprising since they were consistent with comments that I've been seeing from our active message board posters throughout the past few years. The comments below are from the poll as well as various posts from 2004 regarding favorite family cruise lines in various categories.
Royal Caribbean International led in the most categories, with Carnival Cruise Lines taking second in a number of instances, followed by Disney Cruise Line. Following are the details, along with comments you wrote in the poll -- and throughout the past year -- to support your votes.
FAVORITE FAMILY CRUISE LINE
Royal Caribbean International placed first in the category of overall favorite family cruise line. Comments ranged from "loved the youth counselors" to "kids aren't confined to the youth facilities, even though those facilities are wonderful." One parent summed it up by saying, "My vote is for RCI. Why? The food, kids' program and great youth staff." Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line came in second and third, respectively.
BEST FOR INFANTS AND TODDLERS
Disney Cruise Line takes the number one spot in this category and rightly so. As one parent said, Disney has "outstanding facilities" for babies and toddlers. In fact, Disney is the only line offering daily group care for infants and toddlers during the day and evening. (You must make reservations once aboard ship; hourly fees apply.) Flounder's Reef Nursery is very well equipped, complete with cribs, age-appropriate toys, refrigerators to store milk bottles, etc. The ears of the Mickey Mouse splash pool even have a separate water filtration system so that tots in diapers can enjoy the water, unlike most other splash pools at sea.
Carnival Cruise Lines was the second-favorite line for those under three years, since it offers group babysitting for tots a few days and evenings during each cruise. However, Carnival counselors will watch infants and toddlers for fewer hours compared to Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival's ships have no dedicated nursery facilities.
By the end of March, Royal Caribbean – which came in third in this category -- will have in place its new, free infant and toddler play sessions for little ones and their caregivers. Designed by Fisher-Price, these daily 45-minute sessions combine learning with fun. In addition, the line will still offer its private babysitting services.
BEST FOR TEENS
It's unanimous. Almost all who participated in the poll felt that Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships (Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Mariner and Navigator of the Seas) are the best ships for teens. Not only do the Mariner and Navigator have the most extensive teens-only areas of any ships at sea, but all the Voyager-class ships have so many active things for teens to do, such as ice skating, in-line skating, basketball courts, mini-golf, rock wall climbing, pool and whirlpool facilities. One parent noted that "the sheer size of these ships give teens lots of places to hang out on their own."
BEST HANDS-ON LEARNING ACTIVITIES
Royal Caribbean just edged out Carnival and Disney in this category. The various Adventure Science and Adventure Art by Crayola programs on RCI ships were cited as "outstanding." Other hands-on learning programs mentioned as favorites include Carnival's program in Alaska, Disney's fun science lab experiments, and Princess' Science At Sea.
BEST YOUTH COUNSELORS
Royal Caribbean International's youth counselors repeatedly go the "extra mile" with kids on board, according to one respondent. One parent remarked, "Royal Caribbean's youth counselors are so positive, upbeat and they really enjoy the kids." Another said, "They went the extra mile when my youngster turned four on our cruise, with a birthday candy scavenger hunt and entertainers serenading the birthday boy." I had the same experience -- we were on an RCI ship when my daughter turned 10, and the youth counselors decorated the youth room and had a birthday cake delivered to the kids' room for her. This is something my daughter will never forget!
Similar to the overall favorite family cruise line category, Carnival came in second and Disney third.
BEST PUBLIC FACILITIES FOR FAMILIES
Similar to the winner of the best ships for teens category, Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships win this section hands-down. One reader said that the Voyager-class ships seem to attract many families and with good reason. She cited the fun youth program and active sports facilities as prime reasons for the popularity, adding that there "is virtually something for everyone" on these ships, along with extensive pool deck space.
Once again, Carnival and Disney came in second and third place regarding best public facilities for families.
MOST ECONOMICAL FOR FAMILIES
Carnival won in this category. A number of readers pointed out that while Royal Caribbean's rates for the first and second person may be similar to Carnival's, "RCI's third and fourth person rates are pretty high" -- a key factor when traveling with a family of four. Thus, Carnival tends to offer lower rates for a family of four.
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