The Voice of the Cruise Industry

Family Cruises – How to choose the perfect one

Disney Dream

Selling cruises to families is not simply done from one set template. Like cruise ships, families come in all shapes and sizes, and they all have very different sets of expectations.

The trick to ensuring that clients are satisfied is invariably in listening to what the customer actually wants, and then tailoring a package together that offers something for everyone.

For example, parents with one or more young children will usually lean towards a product that can offer babysitting services at night, flexible dining times, and at least the option of a children’s creche during the day. Check the itinerary that they are considering; are there any tender ports and, if so, might there be problems getting strollers for the little ones on or off those tenders? Better to iron these things out in advance rather than dealing with complaints later.

For families with teenagers, a different set of priorities tends to surface. Dedicated teen facilities will be paramount, and some parents might want to explore the possibility of a ship that offers interconnecting cabins. And some families these days will also appreciate the option of being able to take private, personalised tours to places of interest, rather than picking from the normal tours menu on board. Here, choice can be key.

Something else to consider these days is the increasing number of multi-generational families that are drawn to cruise holidays. From grandparents down to the little ones, a whole smorgasbord of different expectations come into play here. The seniors might well appreciate a ship that offers real ballroom dancing, for instance, while free soda packages and ice cream for the little ones might be another consideration. More than anything, flexible dining options can really be a deal breaker for such diverse family units.

Quantum of the Seas
Quantum of the Seas

Also, try and consider travel options. Would a luggage-laden family of five really be happy travelling all the way down from, say, Scotland to Southampton, or would they rather endure the transit through one or more airports? I’m always amazed how often the actual physical elements of merely getting to and from the ship get forgotten. The more you can build in inclusivity and convenience, the easier the overall sell should be.

Duration of a cruise also plays a large part. Does your potential family group really want to spend two weeks in the Mediterranean during the height of the school holidays, or would they maybe settle for something shorter, like a week-long run to the Norwegian fjords, or even a twelve-night foray into the Baltic? Offer choices and contrasts; not everybody wants to go back to the same place year in and year out.

When considering a family, it’s always good to emphasise third and fourth rate discounts where these are available, and sometimes even fifth person fares. In this latter respect, the ships of Disney Cruise Line are rare in offering some cabins for up to five people, a feature that has proved to be very popular.

Those points made, here are a few suggestions worth pitching to potential clients.

For younger families, Disney Cruise Line still pretty much covers the board, with separate on board ‘zones’ for adults, teens and toddlers, and the unique option to dine in a different, no extra fee restaurant every night. And, with regular meet and greet photo opportunities with Mickey, Donald and co, the Disney ships are floating ‘enchanted castles’ for all age groups.

One caveat: though Disney is sailing in Europe this year, these are currently only high-season cruises. The line has a strong winter presence in the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Florida, but travelling that far with toddlers is always something you’ll have to factor into your thinking.

For multi-generational families, Cunard is always worth a look. The grandparents might well appreciate the beautiful, formal ballrooms and the evening dances often held there. And all three of the Cunard Queens offer the option of either boarding in Southampton, or convenient fly-cruise packages, mainly in the Mediterranean.

Disney Fantasy
On pirate party nights aboard the Disney Fantasy

Thomson Cruises also has lots to offer families.  There are kids’ clubs and entertainment programmes, plus children’s buffets and family-size rooms that are designed to bring every generation together. All ages are catered for, with everything from Baby Lounges to kids’ clubs,


while teens have their own zone called The Hangout. Meanwhile, parents and grandparents can sign up for a yoga class or relax by the pool. Two cruises that are ideal for families, with only a two-hour flight available from 21 UK airports, are the Mediterranean Medley and Highlights of the Mediterranean on board the Thomson Majesty and Thomson Discovery respectively.

For families with really active teens, there is no denying the irresistible lure of Royal Caribbean. Its ships are great floating theme parks with facilities such as flow riders, dodgem cars, ice skating, and dedicated teen clubs, to name but a few. With a multitude of dining options – from fun to formal – almost around the clock, the entire family can enjoy the cruise at their own pace. And, for the parents, dedicated adults-only areas such as the Solarium will no doubt come as a welcome break.

Another strength of Royal Caribbean is the range and scale of its itineraries. With two ships dedicated to Southampton sailings this year and several others sailing from Barcelona, Rome and Venice, Royal Caribbean offers the most comprehensive range of holiday options of any major cruise company.

And, because no two people are ever in the mood for the same thing every night, it’s worth looking at a big ship that features a few quieter, more laid-back bars and lounges for some genuine relaxation for mum and dad. With a babysitter arranged, some simple one-on-one time for the parents can be hugely important after a day slogging through the sights of Pompeii.

In this respect, all these lines mentioned will come up trumps. And again, for those evenings when parents want to let their hair down just a little, all three lines offer dining, dancing and entertainment venues that leave many shore side establishments in their wake.

In any event, the odds are strong that your potential family booking is going to be looking at a holiday on a big, all singing and dancing resort style ship that offers something for everyone. The sell up from land-based resort to floating one is a simple natural progression.


1 Remember that many ships have cabins that allow a third and fourth passenger in the same room
2 For couples with young children, offer up ships that have babysitting services
3 Emphasise the inclusivity and variety of onboard dining
4 You cannot overstate the value of a cruise as a family holiday


DISNEY CRUISE LINE offers a 12-night fly-cruise on board Disney Magic from Dover to Copenhagen via Iceland and Norway from June 17-29. Accommodation is an inside cabin from £5,542.72 based on four guests sharing. 0800 171 2317 (prices correct at time of publication)

CUNARD offers a 7-night fly cruise from Rome to Venice from July 2-9 Accommodation is an inside cabin. Priced from £1,738 for two, based on Early Saver fares. 0843 374 2224

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL offers a 14-night round trip cruise from Southampton to the western Mediterranean on board Independence of the Seas from June 18 – July 2. Accommodation is an inside cabin from £2,996 based on a family of four (two adults and two children) sharing. 0844 493 4008

THOMSON CRUISES offers a seven-night Moorish Delights cruise on Thomson Majesty from £857 per adult and £649 per child. Departs Palma, visits Gibraltar; Huelva, Tangier, Almeria and Alicante. Based on two adults and two children sharing a deck 3 or 4 inside plus cabin on full-board basis. Departure August 2 from Gatwick or Manchester. Includes flights. 0871 230 2800

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