With its soft sandy beaches and warm turquoise waters, the Caribbean is at the top of many people’s family vacation ideas lists. And while you may associate the region’s tropical islands with all-inclusive Caribbean resorts and other Caribbean beach resorts loaded with kid-friendly extras, there’s another way to experience it that’s especially great for families: Aboard one of the top cruise lines for Caribbean family vacations.
The Best Cruise Lines for Caribbean Family Vacations
Family cruises and multigenerational cruises with grandparents have long been a popular way to vacation, but Caribbean cruises for families are even more thrilling today. The proliferation of private Caribbean island escapes, onboard entertainment like water parks and roller coasters, and family-friendly land adventures on beautiful islands like Aruba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas have brought a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” vibe to an already fun family vacation at sea. From Royal Caribbean to Disney Cruise Line, here’s what you need to know about the best cruise lines for Caribbean family vacations.
How we chose these Caribbean lines cruises for families: Read our methodology for recommending family cruise vacations.
1. Royal Caribbean Cruises
Royal Caribbean has more “destination” cruise ships than any other line cruise line for Caribbean family vacations. Each Royal Caribbean family cruise ship is packed with virtually endless activities and entertainment, and then of course there’s the line’s epic private island, Perfect Day at Coco Cay, with its multiple pools, swim-up bars, luxury cabanas, zip line, tethered hot air balloon, and huge water park with the tallest water slide in North America.
In fact, with so much fun at your fingertips, many families (including mine when we’ve cruised on Oasis-class Royal Caribbean ships) will choose to stay onboard and play the day away instead of exploring on land or taking a shore excursion.
When you see the bevy of onboard options, including dry slides, the best water parks at sea, zip lines, surf simulators, laser tag arenas, ice skating rinks, escape rooms, bumper cars, archery, rock climbing walls, and indoor sky diving simulators, you’ll quickly realize that paying for activities on Caribbean islands doesn’t always make the best sense when just about everything you want and everything your kids could ever dream of doing on vacation is right on the ship and already included in the price of your vacation. Throw in Royal Caribbean’s fun kids camps loaded with high-tech games, arts and crafts, dance parties, video gaming consoles, and more, and your children may not even want to disembark.
On the brand new Icon of the Seas, the largest cruise ship at sea which will serve the Caribbean exclusively, big families might consider booking a Family Infinite Balcony stateroom. This cabin can sleep up to six comfortably, thanks to a separate alcove with bunk beds and TVs, headsets, and video game systems. The Icon also has a family neighborhood complete with its own pools, restaurants, bars, and activities to give kids autonomy while also keeping everyone together during your Caribbean family cruise.
Pro tip: If you’re looking to save money, Royal Caribbean offers kids sail free cruise deals throughout the year.
2. Carnival Cruise Line
The original affordable Carnival “fun ships” still bring thousands of families to the Caribbean every year. But now the newest vessels in the Carnival fleet, like Mardi Gras, Jubilee, and Celebration, do so with an elevated level of class, food, entertainment, and, well, fun. The best pizza at sea is served every night until 4:00 a.m. and the self-serve soft serve swirls 24/7 on all of Carnival’s Caribbean cruises. Standard cabins sleep five comfortably thanks to a hideaway bunk bed, while connecting cabins give adults and youngsters the space and privacy needed to have a truly joyful and memorable Caribbean cruise vacation.
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Carnival is the cruise line where my own family’s love of Caribbean cruises began. That first sailing is one of the big reasons we fell in love with cruising in general and the Caribbean specifically. We visited a trio of ports while cruising on the Carnival Sunshine, and I can still see my older daughter smiling wide at the sight of her favorite animal, flamingoes, in the wild. I’ll always remember my youngest kiddo giggling with delight as wild goats ran alongside the car we’d rented for the day too.
Onboard the line’s famed fun ships are massive water parks, roller coasters, and ropes courses, but for families looking to enjoy a cruise vacation together while also experiencing date nights and quiet days alone with a book or at the spa, the Carnival kids clubs are first class. In fact, Carnival’s Camp Ocean is where my two introverted daughters made friends, went on scavenger hunts, played games, enjoyed meals with kids their age, and had late-night dance parties while their mother and I went to the theater, ate at specialty restaurants, and watched movies under the stars. From a value and fun standpoint, Carnival is easily among the best cruise lines for Caribbean family cruises.
Add in a private Caribbean island, the uninhabited nature paradise known as Half Moon Cay, and you have the makings of an epic Caribbean family cruise. On Carnival’s private island, you and the kids can opt for horseback riding along the sandy beach, swimming with stingrays, paddle boarding, or snorkeling. When the warm clear sea water can no longer hold their interest, kids will have a blast at the pirate ship-shaped lagoon water park, a complex that includes slides, a playground, and sports courts.
3. Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line is an upscale Caribbean cruise option that’s an especially good fit for families who love the Disney’s many entertainment brands, including Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, Mickey and Minnie, and all of the Disney princesses. The line has a small fleet of highly immersive ships and does everything first class. This includes dining options, which set Disney apart from other family cruise lines in the Caribbean and beyond. The Disney dining experience includes characters, interactive elements, theater-in-the-round-style live performances, and usually a song or three performed all around you.
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I was fortunate enough to take both of my daughters on their first Disney cruise during a Marvel Day at Sea sailing. Together, we posed with Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Loki, and more of their superhero faves. Throughout the cruise we enjoyed first-run Disney, Pixar, and Marvel movies onboard, too, plus Broadway-style shows infused with genuine Disney magic. The water slides, pools, highly interactive themed kids clubs, and character meet-and-greets were also entertaining.
Like many of the other family cruise lines sailing in the Caribbean, Disney has its own private island escape. Disney’s Castaway Cay is small smile of paradise where your family can snorkel together, enjoy a complimentary BBQ lunch, splash in a water park, and even run a 5K before posing with Donald Duck to show off your medals. A second private island called Lighthouse Point will debut in 2024. If you want your Disney fix without the heat and humidity of Orlando, Disney is the best cruise line for your Caribbean family cruise.
4. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian is a beloved cruise line that sails to the Caribbean and beyond, but some of its ships are more suited to kids than others. Families will want to focus on the Prima class of Norwegian ships, starting with Prima itself, a still-new vessel departing on long lively Caribbean family cruises from New York, Galveston, and Miami, spreading the joy of island hopping in the sunshine to multiple regions of the country.
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What’s most exciting for young cruisers and their adult companions is the presence of a three-story go-kart track, massive VR games and rides in the Galaxy Pavilion, an escape room, and super tall wet and dry slides including The Drop, a 10-story free fall slide. If that feels like a bit too much, the Bulls Eye might be more your family’s speed. It’s a suite of open-air darts rooms that mimic the vibe of 1980s basements complete with leather sofas and wood-paneled walls. It’s one of the coolest activities at sea for families who like to compete against each other, laugh a lot, and make unique memories.
The darts rooms are located at the top of the ship, beneath the go-kart tracks, alongside the neon-clad Tee Time mini golf and The Stadium, an arena of complimentary activities including ping pong, pickle ball, shuffleboard, subsoccer (a hilarious two-person seating soccer game), and beer pong (minus the beer, of course). For families, there’s hardly a better deck of games and fun at sea!
Many of Norwegian’s Caribbean cruises and Bahamas cruises stop at its private island, Great Stirrup Cay, which is family-friendly but has far fewer bells and whistles than other cruise line private islands in the Caribbean.
5. Celebrity Cruises
For families who want fine luxury, remarkable food, and kid-friendly fun all at an affordable price, there’s no cruise line for Caribbean sailings that tops Celebrity. The line’s ships call on destinations like Cozumel, San Juan, Nassau, Bonaire, and Tortola. If you don’t want your kids to miss a lot of school, Celebrity offers three-night getaways to scratch that Caribbean family cruise itch. If time isn’t an issue, invest in a long 12-night Caribbean dream family vacation to chase away the winter blues.
For my money, Celebrity’s Edge class ships are the best cruise ships in the Caribbean from top to bottom. The main dining concept, spread across four distinct restaurants, is so good and diverse that you won’t even need to pay for specialty meals to please everyone’s pallet. Celebrity’s Camp at Sea program is complimentary and will thoroughly entertain children ages three to 12 by dividing them up into three age groups: Shipmates for kids ages three to five, Cadets for six to nine, and Captains for ten to 12. Each group has instructor-led activities, learns and plays songs, makes pizzas, and has exciting scavenger hunts all around the ship.
Best of all, Celebrity ships now spend a day at Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at Coco Cay, on select sailings. This exclusive private island paradise is chock full of fun with a massive waterpark featuring the tallest waterslide in North America, a tethered hot air balloon, a zip line course, pools, swim-up bars, rentable luxury cabins, hammocks for getting away from it all, and miles of perfectly soft sandy beach.
6. Princess Cruises
On Princess Cruises, the Caribbean Princess is the cruise line’s most family-friendly ship (and the original Love Boat from the famed TV series) thanks in no small part to its kiddie splash zone. The ship currently makes seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from Ft. Lauderdale, as well as some select longer sailings.
In November of 2024, Princess will homeport at Cape Canaveral for the first time ever, and offer sailings of four to 14 days, including stops at some ports that many of the bigger ships in the Caribbean simply can’t visit, like Belize City, Amber Cove, and St. Maarten. Princess is the proud owner of a private island in the Caribbean, Princess Cays, allowing families of all ages to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe in sublime solitude.
The glittering Sun Princess will take families all around the Caribbean later in 2024 and dazzle with The Dome, a stunning new entertainment venue concept inspired by the evocative terraces of Santorini, Greece.
More from FamilyVacationist:
- 11 Caribbean Vacations That Have Something for Everyone in the Family
- 10 Caribbean Family Resorts That Belong on Your Bucket List
- 10 Best Caribbean Resorts with Water Parks
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