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Here are the absolute best cruises for families

09 Jul 2022

Ready to take your family on a great cruise vacation but want to know the best cruise ships for families?

Kids at the pool on Wonder of the Seas

From water slides and pools to rock climbing walls and ice skating rinks, there is no shortage of fun and exciting things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Additionally, the company offers a variety of family-friendly dining options and stateroom accommodations, making it easy for families to travel together and enjoy all that the ship has to offer.

In considering the perfect cruise for families, we're not just talking kids. Which ship has something for mom, grandpa, the older cousins, and your brother's girlfriend. Not an easy task for any vacation choice.

Royal Caribbean offers a range of itineraries that cater to families, with destinations that include popular family vacation spots such as the Caribbean and Mexico.

Whether you're looking for "wows", a multitude of things for the kids to do, or just a family vacation that won't break the bank, here's my top picks for the best cruises for families.

Why Royal Caribbean is good for families

Adventure Ocean

It's important to talk about why Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line for families before we pick a ship. Someone new to cruising may not be aware of how Royal Caribbean separates itself from other lines in the family travel market.

Royal Caribbean is known in the cruise industry for building cruise ships that are floating destinations, with lots of amazing things to do onboard.

Every Royal Caribbean ship has a supervised kids club, fun activities on the pool deck, and visits to private islands in the Caribbean. Many ships have babysitting for younger children, water slides, surf simulators, bumper cars and more.

Bumper cars

Royal Caribbean doesn't put things on its ships just for kids, rather, they design experiences that kids and their parents can enjoy together. FlowRider, bumper cars, carousels, laser tag are all things guests of all age can find fun.

If getting your adrenaline pumping isn't your idea of fun, Royal Caribbean also has Broadway musicals on select ships, parades, ice skating shows, and expansive pool decks.

Arguably as important for parent and child alike is Adventure Ocean. Every day of your cruise there's a kids club where kids can go to meet other kids and play together in a supervised environment. Adventure Ocean isn't just a large room that kids get put in. There's activities, art, games, video games, and books for kids to enjoy. 

Revamped Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean revised its Adventure Ocean program on its newest ships and a few amplified ships, which revamped the spaces and greatly expanded the offerings.

Adventure Ocean is included in your cruise fare, with the exception of late night (after 10pm), so your vacation budget won't break.

There's even teen spaces on many ships, including dedicated lounges for teens and tweens to go and find their own enclave. The teens club is less programmed as the younger kids club, but there's still fun activities for them.  In fact, Royal Caribbean will dedicate certain times of the day at the FlowRider or other signature activities just for teens.

If you have toddlers, the nursery program is a fantastic offering for parents and kids alike. The nursery has an additional hourly cost to it, but it provides a safe place for children between 6 - 36 months to go and play, nap, eat, and play some more. For parents to have a place to drop infants off and be able to enjoy dinner and evening entertainment while their baby gets to play and be put down for sleep is a boon.

If all of this sounds great, you might be wondering how much this will cost you.  Royal Caribbean's prices are quite reasonable, with cabins and cruise fares to match nearly any family vacation budget.

Family in waterpark

Another ace Royal Caribbean has up its sleeve for families are its private islands of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

These are ports your ship can visit on a Caribbean itinerary that are run by Royal Caribbean, which means lots of activities, beaches and a freshwater pool (at CocoCay) included with your cruise fare. A visit to either island is a highlight for nearly any family.

Other cruise lines may be more synonymous with kids, but Royal Caribbean's onboard programming stacks up favorably and offers more for children of all ages without compromising on the adult experience. Plus, Royal Caribbean routinely offers a kids sail free deal where children in the same cabin as the adults pay nothing for their cruise fare.

Best ship for families of all ages: Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas aerial rear

If you want something for everyone, look no further than Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship.

Wonder of the Seas (as well as the other Oasis Class cruise ships) is not just the largest cruise ship in the world, but it has just about everything kids, teens, and grandma will find enjoyable.

Read moreSee how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size

Playscape on Wonder of the Seas

Oasis Class ships are packed with the best offerings Royal Caribbean has, and there's very few activities or amenities found on other ships that you can't find on these vessels.

You've got water slides, a giant aqua park, surf simulator, two rock walls, playscape, and a carousel if you need to burn some energy. Then there's the zip line, ice skating, hot tubs, and 10-story dry slide.

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

The adults-only solarium pool area is found on every Royal Caribbean ship, but like everything on an Oasis Class ship, the solarium on Wonder is just bigger.

Another great amenity on Wonder of the Seas are the shows. There are three entertainment venues with shows almost every night: AquaTheater, Royal Theater, and Studio B.

You can expect to see comedy shows, ice skating show, diving show and more.

AquaTheater on Wonder of the Seas

If you're new to cruising, or are traveling with a wide variety of ages, it's hard to go wrong with an Oasis Class cruise ship like Wonder.

If there's a downside to going on Wonder of the Seas, it's that you'll pay more on average for a cruise on Wonder of the Seas compared to other ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ship classes guide & explanation

Wonder of the Seas at night aerial

If your budget is tight, perhaps one of the other ships in this list might be a better fit, but that isn't to say Wonder will cost you an arm and a leg either. Relatively speaking, newer ships tend to cost more.

You can save money on just about every cruise by taking advantage of certain planning tips for getting the lowest price, so there's no excuse for paying top dollar, even for a cruise on Wonder of the Seas.

Best ship for families with older kids: Odyssey of the Seas

Let's say you have tweens or teen in your family and want to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise that caters more to them than younger children.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class ships have always been the best choice for families with older children because of the more sophisticated offerings onboard.

Just like Wonder of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas is the newest ship in its class and has the latest offerings available. Moreover, Odyssey is a very new ship too, which means you're going to find lots to enjoy.

If you have a teen, be sure to start off by showing them the teen club and teen sun deck.  Teens not only have an indoor area for them, but they have a reserved area of the pool deck just for them.

Read more6 things you can only do on Odyssey of the Seas

Then there's the SeaPlex on Odyssey of the Seas, where throughout the day activities are swapped that include bumper cars, roller skating, basketball, and more. Parents can "observe" from the nearby Playmakers sports bar located on the upper level of the SeaPlex.

Something to do with your teens would be Zone Zero, an immersive virtual reality experience where you put on a full virtual reality suit.

Everyone will be able to also check out North Star observational pod, which is a glass capsule that takes you 300 feet above the ocean.  

If your teens ever wanted to try skydiving, Odyssey has a sky diving simulator too!

Seniors and parents

Grandparents and parents will find their enclave in the Solarium, which is as beautiful to look at as it is to relax in and enjoy.

For your evening entertainment, head to Two70, which has performances that incorporate amazing technology at the rear of the ship.  You'll be wowed by how Royal Caribbean has taken traditional stage productions and infused tech enhancements.

Best ship for families on a budget: Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas aerial at CocoCay

You want to take your family on a fabulous cruise but also need to make every dollar count? Check out Freedom of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean revamped this ship in early 2020, and it offers plenty to do without the price tag newer cruise ships come with.

Freedom is still a "big ship", so there's no compromising on what there is to do onboard. You're going to find a surf simulator, beautiful pool area, aqua park, water slides, rock climbing wall, and much more.

Freedom of the Seas pool

In fact, the resort-style pool deck stands out as a big win for families. Kids can enjoy time at Splashaway Bay aqua park while adults will find serenity at the Solarium. The Lime & Coconut spans 3 decks, which creates a fun party atmosphere onboard.

Freedom has Royal Caribbean's new take on kids club and teen area, just like the newer ships.

Since Freedom sails 3- and 4-night cruises from Miami, you can find an inexpensive price tag along with all the cruise fun.

Freedom of the Seas docked in CocoCay

Best yet, every single one of Freedom's itineraries visits Perfect Day at CocoCay, which means a full day of fun in the sun. So much of what you can do at CocoCay is included with your cruise fare, which is more money saved.

Read moreDo's & Don'ts of Perfect Day at CocoCay

In short, Freedom of the Seas delivers on the promise of something for everyone, but at far less of a cost than newer ships.

Best cruise for families visiting Alaska: Ovation of the Seas

There's simply nothing like an Alaska cruise, and families will love everything Alaska has to offer as well as onboard Ovation of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Alaska on four ships, but I like Ovation the best for families, especially if it's your first Alaska cruise.

RelatedComparing the Royal Caribbean ships sailing to Alaska in 2022 and 2023

Based out of Seattle, you'll be able to find more direct flights to get you onboard and if you're an American, at a lower price than if you flew to a ship departing from Canada.

Once onboard, there is lots to do and most of the activities are indoors. Just like Odyssey of the Seas, Ovation has a North Star, Flowrider, SeaPlex, indoor Solarium and more.

Since Ovation has an indoor pool for guests of all ages (in addition to the Solarium), it's the perfect ship for Alaska.

While Alaska is worthy of dedicating as much time as you can on shore, once you get back to the ship, there's no compromise with things to do aboard.

Best cruise to take your parents: Brilliance of the Seas

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Whether your kids are with your or not, if you are ready to take mom and dad on a cruise too, you might look at a ship that focuses more on the classic cruise experience.

Brilliance of the Seas is a Radiance Class ship, which is actually one of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships in the fleet.

Don't let her size fool you, there's still activities onboard to enjoy.  There's still the rock climbing wall and a fun pool deck. If you do bring young kids with you, there's a water slide on the back of the ship too.

Solarium in Brilliance of the Seas

The adults-only solarium might be my favorite solarium across the entire fleet. It's enclosed and climate controlled, and has lots of great seating for reading, napping, or both.

Something I've always loved about the Radiance Class are the floor-to-ceiling views, which are perfect for taking in the sunsets and watching your destinations come into view.

In addition to the main dining room, you'll find three great specialty restaurants worthy of a visit.  After dinner, take a show in at the Royal Theater.

Theater on Brilliance of the Seas

So why Brilliance over her sister ships? The upgrades Brilliance received a few years ago stand out from her sister vessels (although Serenade has very similar features). Sailing from Tampa in the winter, there's also a good chance mom and dad are nearby.

Something else you'll love when you invite your parents to sail with you is the price. Quite often the value of Brilliance is unmatched.

Money saving tips for cruising with family

Splashaway Bay on Wonder of the Seas

No matter which cruise ship you sail on, there's a few ways you can make your money go further.

Book two cabins instead of one


My favorite family cruise hack is to get two connecting cabins rather than one room.

I love my kids, but sleeping in the same room as them is not enjoyable.  Plus, sharing one bathroom is not a great experience.

Instead of booking a suite that will cost lots, or cramming into a smaller room, book two cabins that have a connecting inside door.

You'd be surprised how affordable two cabins are, especially when compared to a suite.

Soda packages for the teens

Odyssey of the Seas pool deck

If your children drink a lot of soda, you may be better off with a soda package for them than paying for soft drinks individually.

Royal Caribbean has unlimited drink packages that help keep your budget intact. 

The price per night of the Classic Soda Package is $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity). If your kids can drink 3-4 sodas every day, then it can really save you money.

Look for kids sail free deals

Kids in splashaway Bay

Royal Caribbean regularly runs kids sail free deals that include the cruise fare of the third or fourth passenger in the same cabin as first two people paying normal price.

The "catch" with kids sail free are the blackout dates.  If you can find a qualifying sale, it can really save you a lot, especially if you book a suite.

Bring more baby supplies than you think you'll need


If you're cruising with a child still in diapers or drinking formula, be sure to pack much more than you think you'll need.

One lesson I learned from my kids is they go through a lot more baby supplies on a cruise than at home. 

Baby wipes, diapers, and other essentials are hard to come by on a ship or in the ports you visit.

Feed your kids at the complimentary restaurants

If you want to dine at a specialty restaurant, don't feel like your children have to eat there too.

If your kids are picky eaters, you might consider simply taking them to get a slice of pizza at Sorrento's or something to eat at the Windjammer first.  They can dine with you at the restaurant and nibble while you eat without paying for a cover charge for them.

Or drop them off at Adventure Ocean and then schedule your specialty restaurant meal after.  This tip works even for the main dining room if you have a later seating time.

Disable your kids spending ability

Kids at arcade

You have the option of disabling spending on your kids' SeaPass cards to avoid a potential problem later.

Just stop by Guest Relations and ask them to cut off your kids ability to spend.

Royal Caribbean changes its minimum age infant policy

03 May 2022

Royal Caribbean recently updated its infant policy to expand the definition of a sea day as it relates to its minimum age for infant cruisers.

Royal Caribbean allows infants between the ages of six months and 12 months to sail, provided there aren't too many sea days.

The amended policy now considers visits to Perfect Day at CocoCay or St. Kitts and Nevis as a sea day as it relates to infants. As a result, sailings with three consecutive sea days require infants to be 12 months or older at the beginning of the cruise.

Families traveling with infants who do not meet this age requirement for sailings with 3 consecutive sea days within this new definition will be unable to board the ship.

Previous policy language

Updated policy language

This is a significant update as many families select Royal Caribbean for its family friendly environment as well as amenities and services that cater to kids.

What’s considered a sea day?

For parents traveling with infants, specifically under 12 months of age, Royal Caribbean has a number of policies that families need to be aware of. As part of its operational rules, Royal Caribbean had previously required infants to be 12 months or older for cruises with three sea days.

The infant policy as detailed on Royal Caribbean’s website states:

“For the purposes of this policy, any cruise that has 3 or more days consecutive at sea will require infants to be 12 months old on the first day of the cruise/CruiseTour.”

Port stops considered a sea day

A significant modification to the policy, the cruise line has added: “Stops at Perfect Day at CocoCay and Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis, are considered sea days under this policy. “

To provide cruisers with further clarity, they elaborate with examples: “…an itinerary with a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay followed (or preceded) by two consecutive days at sea, or a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay between days at sea, actually is considered to have three consecutive days at sea.”

What does this mean for families who have already booked?

This is a significant policy update, especially as it relates to cruisers who may lose their money on a cruise that is already booked. The site lists no exemptions for those cruisers with an existing booking or are able to provide a doctor’s note or medical waiver.

Royal Caribbean states: “Please be aware that guests traveling with a young infant that does not meet the infant policy will be denied boarding. “

The policy adds: “No refunds or other compensation shall be due from the cruise line to anyone as a result of the denial of boarding to an underage infant or other accompanying guests.”

Why did they make the change?

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the updated policy in a press release, but many understand the rationale for these restrictions to be related to access to pediatric care and the overall well being of its youngest passengers.    

Beyond workers, Perfect Day at CocoCay is a largely uninhabited island without major hospital facilities. The best medical care in the Bahamas is located in the capital Nassau, which is over 55 miles away by boat or plane.

The dual island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis has a population of just over 54,000 and has a few public hospitals. For some health care needs, inhabitants need to travel off island for more specialized care. Specific details on the level of pediatric care and beds are not readily available.

Impact on itineraries

Many of the cruise line’s four and five day sailings to the Bahamas that include Perfect Day at CocoCay also include a stop in Nassau before or after, which appears to be acceptable under the new policy.

Additionally, numerous cruises leave from Miami and Port Canaveral and arrive at Perfect Day at CocoCay the following day, causing no apparent impacts to these short term sailings.

A review of some of Royal Caribbean’s current itineraries show an 8 night cruise from Baltimore on the Enchantment of the Seas, with three consecutive sea days based on the new interpretation. With a stop in Bermuda, followed by a sea day, stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay and then another sea day, it would be an issue for infants under 12 months of age.

Other policies that relate to infants

In addition to this recent change, other policies that relate to infants remain in place. Specifically, infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise.

Additionally, transatlantic and transpacific cruises and those to Hawaii and select South American itineraries also require infants to be at least 12 months old as of the first day of the cruise/tour.  

For those families concerned, it is advised to reach out to their travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly to ensure a clear understanding of the impacts on any future cruise bookings as it relates to the new infant policy and sea days.

The myth of the "perfect" vacation

29 Jan 2022

From the moment we book a trip, we start dreaming about the “perfect vacation” we are going to have.  We imagine all the fun we are going to have, the things we will do and all the places we are going to see.  While this may sound like a reasonable expectation, expecting the “perfect vacation” is a set up for disappointment.  Last I checked, no one is perfect, so extremely high expectations can lead to “disenchantment” while on Enchantment of the Seas.  

How to choose the right Caribbean cruise sailing | Royal Caribbean Blog

When I dream about my vacations, I dream about sun and sand, and my happy, smiling children who are eternally grateful for this wonderful experience that I have given them. 

Instead sometimes the reality is my kids are fighting and throwing sand at each other, the ocean water is freezing cold, and it starts to rain.

Somewhere in there I realize I forgot to pack the sunscreen and my husband becomes “hangry” because we miss-read the hours of the Windjammer and got back to the ship too late.  

40 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks and secrets | Royal Caribbean Blog

It is times like this where I used to throw up my hands in despair and lament that this is NOT how my vacation “should be”!  This is where I need to step back, take a few breaths and remember my kids fight like siblings at home as well.  They will be best friends again by supper time. 

Too much togetherness isn’t good and sometimes they need a little time apart.  This may be some alone time with each parent or a trip to the room for one and Adventure Ocean for the other.  

When my husband is “hangry” I’m eternally grateful for Sorrentos Pizza or the hot dog stand on Oasis and Quantum class ships.  A slice of pizza or a hot dog can make a world of difference and we usually have some emergency cookies stashed in the room for just such occasions.  

Seaplex Dog House | Royal Caribbean Blog

When I forget to pack something, I remind myself that beside my passport (and now vaccine cards), there isn’t anything I need that cannot be replaced on the ship or port.  The price may be higher for my forgetfulness, but it is not the end of the world.  Sometimes this is something that I need to remind myself.  We have never been turned away from the main dining room because my husband forgot to bring black dress shoes and dress socks… again.

Thankfully my embarrassment is saved once his feet are tucked under the table cloth hiding his “dress Keens” sandals.  

Traveling with extended family is not an exception to the “perfect vacation”.  The way they behave at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings is not going to magically change during a cruise.  While cruises are a great way for multiple generations to vacation together; it can provide numerous opportunities for opinions on how children should be raised and behave.  

Eight lessons I learned by going on a cruise with kids | Royal Caribbean Blog

It is so easy to forget when you watch the commercials of the happy and perfect looking people that vacations are still real life.  When you see people’s vacation photos posted on social media, trust me when I say they likely only posted the “good pictures” where everyone is smiling and happy.  They don’t take pictures when someone is crying or an excursion gets cancelled.  

Vacation can be a great time to work on table manners with kids; unfortunately I have seen adults who could use some remedial training.  On one cruise several years ago there was an elderly woman in her late 70’s who was seated at our table.  She was impossible to please. We watched the crew do everything in their power to try to appease her and make her happy.  It became a game to see how soon into the dinner service she would send something back to the kitchen.  

She received mashed potatoes one evening and insisted on a baked potato after her plate arrived.  When the crew brought it out, she gently touched it with one finger and announced that it was cold.  She then turned her nose up and waved a dismissive hand telling them to “take it away.”  When asked if she would like a different one, she tersely responded that it was “too late” and she didn’t want anything anymore.  

New vegan menu to be added to Royal Caribbean's main dining room | Royal Caribbean Blog

While there is nothing wrong with asking the waiter to fix an order, there is a way to do so with grace and compassion.  Sometimes I’ve left mistakes in place and didn’t point them out.  They ended up being “happy accidents” where I tried something new that I would not have otherwise done.  These are times when I found something new on the menu that I liked.  Also I have some empathy for the crew.  The amount of meals that are going out in such a short order of time means that things will not always be perfect.  Even with a 99.9% accuracy rate, on an Oasis class ship that would mean at least 5 dinners each night being messed up.  

We have had excursions cancelled in the past due to bad weather. One instance was the waves were too high at “Sting Ray City” in Grand Cayman for my children.  Royal Caribbean staff were wonderful in helping us find a substitute excursion on the spot at the Turtle Sanctuary and the Dolphin Encounter.  This has been one of my (and my children’s) favorite excursions to date and it is not one that I would have picked.  Speaking with people that elected to go to “Sting Ray City” despite the waves, said they had a disappointing experience as they were pushed around by the waves and the water was cloudy with poor visibility from all the sand stirred up.  

I could have been disappointed and upset that I didn’t get to go to “Sting Ray City” which was a main reason for picking this itinerary.  On the other hand, I could be thrilled that we had this amazing excursion and have an excuse to come back to this port of call on another cruise, although I might have to convince my children to try an excursion other than the turtles. Sometimes the anticipation is just as satisfying as the actual experience.  

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

Covid and the related changes have complicated cruising, with onboard shows, ports of call, or even entire cruises cancelled with little notice.  Instead of complaining and asking “Why did this happen to me?!?” instead ask “How is this happening FOR me?” 

Try to find any glimmer of good that can come out of this situation.  It may take some work to come up with a silver lining for a missed cruise, but when you find it, it will feel much better to hold on to that instead of the disappointment and anger. 

We had a cruise that was cancelled in 2020 and instead of being upset, we adjusted directions. We ended up taking a trip to Yellowstone and Utah to visit friends. It was amazing!  We had another one that was cancelled in November 2021.  However, we were able to use the future cruise credits from both of those trips in order to upgrade to a suite for our cruise this past December.  

My 2021 Royal Caribbean bucket list | Royal Caribbean Blog

Just remember wonderful memories and great stories from any vacation rarely start with the phrase “Everything went exactly as planned.”  Many of our most memorable stories and adventures are when things went wrong, we got lost, someone got seasick, or there was some other hardship at the time that we had to overcome.  Our lives are made up of stories and the hero needs to overcome some adversity on their adventure.  

Just picture yourself as the hero of your story and find a way to win the day with an amazing adventure.  Heed the words attributed to Captain Jack Sparrow, who also spent time on a ship and faced many adventures that did not go as planned; “The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude about the problem.”  What story do you want to tell when you get home?  Make it an amazing one since you get to write it, problems and all.      

Why your teens (and you) will love a cruise vacation

06 Nov 2021

Family vacations change as your kids’ become teens. They have their own likes and dislikes, and odds are your sleeping schedules don’t align. This can create challenges in planning the ideal vacation for your family.

What’s the solution? A cruise. With so many places to visit, endless activities, and food offerings, it is the perfect vacation for families to have fun and reconnect, with something for everyone’s tastes.  

It’s a great opportunity to let your teens venture off on their own, while parents can relax, sit by the pool, listen to live music, or try their luck in the casino. All while their teens are nearby having a great time.

Here are some of the top reasons your family with teens will love cruising.

Teen Club

One of the best things for teens sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise is the teen club. Decorated in fun colors, with a lounge and dance floor, it is a hub to meet new friends and find out about all the great things to do on the ship. Most teens are in the same situation. they don’t have friends onboard but would love to hang out with people their own age, doing stuff they want to do. The teen club is the perfect place for this.

Divided by ages 12-14 and 15-17 for supervised activities, teens can come and go as they wish and participate in what they like. There is everything from organized sports to pool parties, karaoke, themed dances, ping pong, DJ training to guitar hero. A favorite is dedicated teen time at the Flowrider, a surf simulator.

It can also act as a meeting point for informal get togethers with new friends, maybe to grab some food or just stroll around. Information on the teen club can be found in the Cruise Compass (list of daily activities) or on the Royal Caribbean App. There is also a texting feature on the app, so you can chat with them if need be (at a cost of $1.99 per guest per day).

Tons of family activities

Beyond the teen specific programming, there are so many fun activities for teens and their families to enjoy together. In particular, the Oasis class ships, the largest class of ships in the Royal Caribbean's fleet, have so much to offer.   

For sea days, there are plenty of high energy activities including sports like basketball and volleyball, rock climbing, and zip lining. Try out the epic slides including the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea at 216 feet, spanning 10 decks.

Many like to cool off and take a dip in the pool or relax in a hot tub. Enjoy a round of mini golf, try your luck in the escape room, laser tag, or trivia. And probably most surprising, you can even ice skate.

In the evening, take in one of the nightly movies or variety of entertainment options including incredible diving shows at the aqua theatre and renowned Broadway musicals.


Being a family focused cruise line, Royal Caribbean offers plenty of port excursions that span a wide range of interests and ages.

Offered on many sailings, is Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay, located in the stunning blue waters of the Bahamas. The thrill waterpark is a must with its sky high slides such as the Daredevil’s peak (North America’s tallest waterslide) and a large wave pool.  Or you can lounge at one of the many beaches and pools sampling the complimentary food.

Across the Caribbean, many ports offer sailing, snorkeling, scuba among other popular water activities.  For animal lovers, swim with stingrays, sign up for a dolphin encounter, or meet sloths and monkeys in Roatan. Zipline through the lush jungles of Jamaica, or in Costa Maya, see how chocolate is made (with some sampling of course). Leisurely explore port areas, doing some shopping, or trying local cuisine. Whatever fits your family best.

Endless food

Growing teens can eat a lot. The good news is that they won’t go hungry on a cruise. During the day, they can try one of the popular roast beef sandwiches at Park Cafe or indulge in late night pizza at Sorrento’s. Always a good choice, hot dogs and hamburgers by the pool, topped off with self-service ice cream, definitely a teen favorite.

A sit-down dinner in the main dining room is a great way to catch up on your family’s fun filled day. Or for a more casual meal, try the Windjammer. Everyone loves a buffet, and it offers a lot of variety, even a chocolate buffet that can put a smile on any teenager’s face.

To try something a little different, specialty restaurants like Izumi offer traditional sushi or Hibachi, always a good time as the chef entertains the table while cooking. Steak, traditional classics at 150 Central Park, Italian, and the whimsical Wonderland are all popular venues for families wanting to enjoy a special evening out.

Free printable surprise Royal Caribbean cruise ticket template

24 May 2019

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise planned and want to surprise your kids, then we have the perfect way to get them super excited!

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Emily Davis created this ticket template that you can customize and then print to give to anyone in your family and get the cruise hype train started off in style!

All you have to do is save this ticket to your computer, and open in your favorite PDF program (Adobe Acrobat or FoxIt Reader are good choices).  Enter the proper information in the editable spaces, save and then print!

Emily recommends printing the tickets on cardstock to add to the presentation factor. You can get cardstock from most retailers, including Target, Staples or WalMart.  

There are crop lines to cut it down so the color goes to the edge like a real ticket!

Be sure to share in the comments photos of your finished work!

Symphony of the Seas family cruising guide

31 Dec 2018

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas offers a lot for families to enjoy on their Caribbean cruise vacations. When we took our daughters on Symphony of the Seas, we sought to enjoy the very best activities, entertainment and things to do for a family. 

If you have never been on an Oasis Class ship, these are incredible vessels that pack as much into a cruise vacation as any ship in the world.  In fact, it is the largest cruise ship in the world and that means plenty to choose from onboard.  Family cruising on Symphony of the Seas means there is something for everyone and always something else to do or see, regardless of your age. 

Signature Activities

Prior to booking Symphony of the Seas, you may notice certain offerings onboard prominently advertised.  Royal Caribbean has built a reputation for itself by offering some of the best things to do onboard its ships.

A few activities and shows stand out as the premiere options that Symphony is well-known for.  The good news is that many of the activities are available to children of many ages. Some of the physical activities may have a height requirement that are best suited for children who are older elementary-school aged children or older. If your kids do not meet the height requirements, there is no need to worry as there is still plenty of other options to enjoy.

Families can enjoy these wonderful activities together:

  • The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, is a duo of racing slides where guests spiral down a 92-foot drop in about 13 seconds
  • The zipline crosses the open-air Boardwalk neighborhood at nine decks high
  • Two FlowRider surf simulators
  • Perfect Storm: three waterslides
  • Splashaway Bay aquatic adventure park
  • Escape from Planet Z laser tag
  • Escape room

Adventure Ocean

The heart of children's programming on Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's award-winning Adventure Ocean program.  

Adventure Ocean is divided into three age-appropriate groups

  • Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5)
  • Explorers (ages 6 to 8)
  • Voyagers (ages 9 to 11)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary, but kids need to be registered with Adventure Ocean and fully toilet trained to take part in activities. There are dedicated spaces for each age group, plus specialized areas like science labs and a theater for enhanced programming.  

Adventure Ocean is open most of the day, but their hours vary depending on if it is a port day or sea day.  On Sea days, Adventure Ocean can open as early as 6:30am.  Guests that have Royal Caribbean excursions booked and need to drop their children off earlier, can arrange with Adventure Ocean for that benefit.  For lunch, kids are brought to Wipe Out Cafe or Windjammer between noon and 1pm, and then again to the Windjammer for dinner between 5pm and 7pm. Adventure Ocean programming is included with your cruise fare.

Adventure Ocean closes at 10pm, but parents can leave their children with Adventure Ocean until 2am for an hourly fee.  The Late Night Party Zone runs from 10pm to 2am in Adventure Ocean, and is billed at $7 per hour, per child for children who remain after 10pm.

Tweens and teenagers also have their own club, plus a variety of activities onboard such as the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, a mini-golf course and a zip line. Teens meet at the Living Room, on Deck 15 aft and also have exclusive access to their own night club, known as Fuel on deck 15. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.

Royal Babies & Tots Nursery

Any parent with a toddler or infant will find the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery an absolute blessing.  Royal Caribbean offers a nursery for children up to 36 months old.

At the nursery, you can drop off infants and toddlers off in a supervised environment, where the kids can watch TV, play with other children, explore and nap.   

The nursery will offer parents a drop-off option in the daytime and evening, while always maintaining an optimum staff-to-child ratio.

For a modest fee per hour ($8 at the time of this blog post), parents can reserve time for their kids here to give parents some time alone to enjoy what Royal Caribbean offers or explore a port.

The nursery staff are trained child care professionals and they will make sure your child is taken care of in the time they are there.  Parents also get a special mobile phone to use on the ship in case the nursery needs to call them or if the parents want to call and check in on things.

Entertainment & Shows

Symphony of the Seas offers shows that appeal to kids and adults, with its evening shows being real highlights. Depending on your kids ages and preferences, these shows may or may not be of interest to them, but Royal Caribbean designs its evening entertainment shows to be open to be family friendly.

You will find Symphony of the Seas' biggest shows across three venues: The Royal Theater, Studio B and the AquaTheater.

Here are the must-see shows on Symphony of the Seas and where to see each show:

  • Hairspray (Royal Theater)
  • 1977 (Studio B)
  • HiRo (AquaTheater)
  • Flight (Royal Theater)

Prior to your cruise, be sure to make reservations for each of these shows via Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner site.  Reservations for these shows are complimentary and while it does not guarantee a specific seat, it will ensure you will be able to get into the show.  Guests without a reservation can wait in a standby line and take up any remaining seats, but it is simpler (and a whole lot easier for families) to make reservations before the cruise.

If you are wondering when you can make reservations for shows on Symphony of the Seas, it really depends.  If entertainment is available to reserve for your cruise, we have typically seen shows become available for booking around 75-60 days prior to the sail date, but your experience may vary.


Symphony of the Seas offers 23 dining venues for guests to choose between when eating onboard. Some of these restaurants are included with your cruise fare, while others have an additional cost.

Complimentary dining options are included with your cruise fare and guests can enjoy as much food as they like from these locations.  There is at least one complimentary option open at anytime during the day or night, with often quite a number of great choices. 

The alternative dining option are specialty dining, in which there is an additional cost to dine there.  Specialty dining costs can come in the form of cover charges (pay one fee and get all the food included) or a la carte charges (pay for only what you order). In general, specialty dining offers food and cooking styles not available elsewhere on the ship for guests that choose to indulge in them.

If you are looking for great choices for kids to grab something quickly, you will find some great options throughout the day for families at:

  • Windjammer
  • Park Cafe
  • Sorrento's Pizzeria
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Johnny Rockets (breakfast is complimentary, cover charge for lunch and dinner)
  • Boardwalk Dog House
  • Room service ($7.95 per order fee, complimentary for suite guests)

When it comes to dinner, you might want to look into My Family Time Dining. My Family Time Dining is offered in the first seating time in the main dining room for children ages three to eleven.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Prior to the cruise, you can can contact Royal Caribbean or travel agent to book it. Alternatively, guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­-cruise reservations are encouraged.


When booking a Symphony of the Seas cruise, you will need to find the right stateroom for your family. Symphony has staterooms that can accommodate three and four passengers easily, along with some stateroom configurations that can handle even more guests.

Depending on your family size, age of your children, and your comfort level, booking multiple staterooms can often be the same or cheaper than booking a large room.  Multiple rooms provides not only additional living space, but extra restrooms and separation from parents and children. Royal Caribbean does offer some rooms with a connecting inside door between rooms.  

If you are cruising with young children, you should pack your own diapers, bottles, and other supplies.  There is milk available to all guests without an additional charge (skim or regular).  Some parents prefer to bring their own kid-friendly snacks and food, which is permissible by Royal Caribbean. Refer to our Taking an Infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise article for more information.

More cruising with kids info

You may have additional questions about cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean, or simply would like to learn more tips and advice.  Here are some good resources to consider:

Your thoughts

Now that you have read over our guide to taking kids on Symphony of the Seas, let's hear from other parents. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Video: Take a Tour of the Family Adventures on Symphony of the Seas

05 Dec 2018

Royal Caribbean International’s new Symphony of the Seas is a “playground” for guests of all ages. From glow-in-dark laser tag, an escape room adventure and multistory waterslides, to the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite – featuring an in-suite slide, air hockey table and a private cinema – Symphony’s collection of bold, new thrills make this TIME magazine “World’s Greatest Places” winner the ultimate family vacation.

Top 10 Family Friendly Royal Caribbean shore excursions

28 Aug 2018

A cruise vacation is about enjoying a family experience together, and Royal Caribbean shared its top picks for family friendly excurions in the Caribbean.

Here is the list of Royal Caribbean's favorite family friendly shore excursion options.

All Inclusive St. John Beach & Snorkel (St. Thomas)

Cruise from St. Thomas to nearby St. John and visit the stunning beach of Trunk Bay, featuring an underwater reef trail. Enjoy a narrated boat ride complete with photo stops en route to Trunk Bay — famous for its long stretches of white sand and sparkling water. Discover tropical fish and colorful coral on the snorkel trail or simply swim, sunbathe, and relax.

Caribbean Sail to Christmas & Honeymoon Coves (St. Thomas)

Climb aboard a schooner whose friendly crew delivers a fun day of sailing, snorkeling, swimming and beach time. Discover sea turtles, tropical fish and coral while anchored offshore in the waters of Christmas Cove. Sail on to Water Island, where you can relax on the sands of Honeymoon Beach, swim and do more snorkeling before sitting down to a freshly-prepared Caribbean BBQ served overlooking the sparkling blue sea.

5 Star Island Tour (St. Thomas)

Drink in lovely St. Thomas vistas, enjoy spectacular shopping and explore the stunning Magen's Bay Beach on a driving tour of key island landmarks. Stop at the famous Mountain Top, a local institution atop St. Peter Mountain where you can shop or enjoy the views. Then head to heart-shaped Magen's Bay Beach for two hours of sun and fun. Conclude with two more hours shopping in Main Street, downtown Charlotte Amalie.

4x4 St. Maarten and Beach Escape (St. Maarten)

Escape the crowds to discover the island’s scenery and leading sights on an adventurous 4x4 drive, with time in the French capital and on a gorgeous beach. Travel via convoy across the island, through the charming seafront town of Grand Case on route to Marigot, while stopping at scenic lookouts along the way. Enjoy free time to stroll around the quaint and atmospheric city. End your St. Maarten exploration with a refreshing swim and relaxation.

A Golden Eagle Sailaway (St. Maarten)

Walk the red carpet before boarding a catamaran for a pampered sailing excursion to an unspoiled St. Maarten beach. Keep an eye out for flying fish and dolphins as you stretch out in the nets or in the shade of the sail as the boat reaches speeds of up to 20 knots. At the beach, swim, sun, and snorkel. Recharge on the return to Philipsburg with sandwiches and cold drinks served by the friendly crew.

Maho Airplane Experience (St. Maarten)

Experience the thrill of watching, hearing and feeling a commercial airplane as it lands merely feet above you while lounging along the white sands and turquoise waters of Maho Beach. Join a friendly and informative local guide for a 35-minute narrated motor coach ride across the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Upon arrival at Maho Beach, you’ll enjoy over three hours of free time at this popular seaside locale. But beyond all those exciting activities, the most unique aspect of this beach is its proximity to Princess Juliana International Airport, as one of its runways is situated right next to the beach.

Old and New San Juan (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Fall in love with the beauty of Puerto Rico's capital as you go through a guided tour on the historical landmarks in Old and New San Juan. In New San Juan, you'll explore Condado, Isla Verde, and the picturesque residential areas. Step down the fabulous Window of the Seas where the famous Puerto Rican superstars have printed their signatures on the sidewalk resembling Hollywood Boulevard. In Old San Juan, you'll discover the Capitol Building, the 5th Centenary Plaza, and have the opportunity to choose between visiting San Cristobal Fort or the colonial shopping district.

Pirate Treasure Hunt Family Tour (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Get ready for some swash-buckling fun as your family helps a local pirate find his way home while walking along a sweet treat-laden trail around Old San Juan that leads to El Morro fortress. Set out on foot in true buccaneer style on a guided hunt that leads you through blue cobblestone pathways amidst San Juan’s historic colonial district. Discover notable treasures along the way: stone buildings dating back to the 16th century; the marble statues of Plaza de Armas; and the Ballaja Barracks, which once housed a thousand soldiers. Along the way you’ll learn about Puerto Rico’s illustrious history and taste a variety of sugary delights in local shops — frozen yogurt, popcorn or, chocolates and churros. Outside stately El Morro, a 16th-century citadel with a storied wartime legacy, kids can fly a kite into the Puerto Rican air to celebrate the finding of the trail’s final treasure. Take in the view of San Juan Bay before making the trek back through town to your ship.

Campo Rico ATV Adventure (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Hop on an ATV for a “Ride of a lifetime”. “ Experience the thrill of driving an all-terrain vehicle through the Puerto Rican countryside just minutes from San Juan on a 2,200- acre private ranch that leads you to a plantation home, horse stables and ends at the Mojito bar. Meet our experienced guides, receive a safety briefing and get operational instruction of how to drive your ATV. Then hit the gas and follow your guide as you maneuver your 4x4 machine around mountains, mangroves, lagoons, limestone formations and tropical fields. Watch for wildlife along the trails before driving up to Mi Casa, a traditional Spanish sugarcane plantation estate home. During a short break take photos and learn the history of this working ranch. Continue your ride through the ranch stopping at the horse stables and learn the history of the “ Paso Fino “ horse. End your ride at the Mojito Bar, relax and rejuvenate in this hilltop watering hole, where you can purchase beer, mojitos and other tropical drinks.

San Juan Food and Culture Tour (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Satisfy your tastebuds as you experience the best of Old San Juan on a small group walking tour. You’ll venture off the beaten path to discover its delicious foods, fascinating architecture, intriguing cultural traditions and bustling shopping streets of the historical neighborhood of Old San Juan. Your culinary walking tour lets you taste specialties from a variety of favorite local food establishments. You will have the opportunity to get involved in the food preparation by having an active role in some of the food served. You will also receive a coupon savings booklet which allows for additional savings in restaurants and shops throughout Old San Juan.

Top tips for taking a Royal Caribbean family cruise vacation

26 Jul 2018

Taking the family on a Royal Caribbean cruise is something more and more families are doing every year.  A family cruise offers lots of different activities, shows, and places to visit that is sure to cater to everyone's needs.  In fact, a lot of extended families will choose a cruise because it allows them to make wonderful memories together without having to be physically together all the time.

If you are going on a Royal Caribbean cruise for your upcoming family vacation, here are our top tips for ensuring it is the best family vacation ever.

Consider getting two staterooms instead of one

When families look to book a cruise, they will likely start off by trying to find a room that everyone can fit in.  It makes logical sense, but on a cruise, sometimes going for multiple smaller rooms is not only a better value, it can provide much more personal space for everyone involved.

Often, the cost of two staterooms can be cheaper than some of the family staterooms and can offer more separation between family members (a plus for families with teenagers).

Booking two staterooms also allows for connecting staterooms, in which there is a door between the staterooms that allows for easy flow between them.  This can be convenient during the day to keep the doors open, essentially creating a two room stateroom.

Families with younger children will want to get connecting rooms to ensure easy access between the rooms, while older kids can probably be fine in a nearby room. Regardless, a second room is an option to consider for larger groups that need more space.

Pick a ship that offers activities and amenities your family wants

There are a lot of fantastic cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet and each offers something a little different.  When you are trying to decide which ship to sail on, be sure to take into account what sort of options your family will want to enjoy.

What you ought to do is determine if having a water slide, ice skating rink, Broadway show, basketball court, or any other highlight is important and something you would like to enjoy while onboard and then see which ships offer those possibilities.

If you are a cruising with kids, picking a ship with many pools and water play areas might be a good idea.  All Royal Caribbean ships have pools and hot tubs, but only some offer water slides and aqua parks.  Teens would likely find enjoyment with a ship that has a FlowRider surf simulator, or Ripcord by iFly.

Be sure to look at what each ship offers and balance the options offered versus other aspects of what you are looking to get out of the vacation.  

Plan on swimming on embarkation day

The first day of your cruise is filled with excitement, anticipation and energy.  With all the excitement of getting onboard, a really good idea for families is to let everyone start off the cruise with some pool time.  This is an especially good time to hit the pool because a majority of guests do not have their swim suits with them when they board, so you get to enjoy the pools, slides and aqua parks with far less lines.

Either wear your swim suit to the ship, or pack it in your carry-on luggage and then change in a public restroom onboard.  Towels will be provided in the pool area for your use. This is particularly good for kids who want to jump in as soon as possible.

Register children for Adventure Ocean early

On the first day of your Royal Caribbean cruise, guests can register their children in Adventure Ocean prior to Adventure Ocean opening.  While you can register kids at any point in the cruise, take advantage of the open house on embarkation day for an optimal experience.

The Cruise Compass will list times when Adventure Ocean is open for registration.  This time is not when Adventure Ocean is open for kids to stay, but for kids to see the area and for parents to ask questions and get acclimated to the program.

The open house time on embarkation day is the perfect time for the kids to meet the counselors and see the facility.  As a parent, you can talk to the staff about any concerns you might have.  By doing this during the open house time (instead of when Adventure Ocean is operating) is you have much more time and a relaxed atmosphere to go over everything.

It is a good idea to register kids on the first day simply because there is a set time for registration to occur, and it ensures a smooth first night later on.

If you have a baby, make sure you cruise on a ship with a nursery

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6-36 months) program.  Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge. Young children can enjoy soft play areas and age-appropriate toys, as well as cribs and cots for napping or sleeping.

If you have children under the age of three, be sure to book a Royal Caribbean cruise that offers a nursery.  For child and parent alike, the nursery is a wonderful resource. Yes, the nursery does have an additional charge, but having a nursery onboard means you have the option to take advantage of it and provide some adult time when you might need it.

Review the Cruise Compass each evening together

Your stateroom attendant will deliver a copy of the next day's Cruise Compass to your stateroom each evening, and this is a perfect opportunity to comb over what is lined up for the next day.  By reviewing the Cruise Compass together, you will be able to identify which activities or events are of interest and make sure you can plan around the schedule.

A mistake first time cruisers make is to not check the Cruise Compass until after they wake up that morning, and the result can be missing out on an event they would have liked to attend.

A good tip is to ask your stateroom attendant for a copy of the Cruise Compass just before going to dinner and reviewing it in the main dining room (or wherever you happen to dining that evening).  Since everyone will be around for dinner, it is the perfect opportunity to review what is in store for the next day.

Consider taking advantage of My Family Time Dining

My Family Time Dining is offered for the first seating time in the main dining room, for children ages three to 11.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Pre­cruise, guests can call into Reservations, reserve online, contact their travel agent or certified vacation planner. Or guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­cruise reservations are encouraged.

Your thoughts

What advice would you offer to a family going on their first Royal Caribbean cruise together? Are there lessons you would share with others for an even better cruise experience together? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.

Video: Ultimate Family Suite Unveiled on Symphony of the Seas

25 Apr 2018

Imagination brings the one-of-a-kind Ultimate Family Suite to life with swoon-worthy features, whimsical color schemes and a whole lot of awesome. The 1,346-square-foot interactive space is designed for both the young and the young at heart, providing a space for families to come together during their cruise vacation, while also offering enough room and amenities to relax during that special “me time.”

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