11 Best Cruises for Families With Young Children—Besides Disney

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happy children playing on the beach
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A NEW COURSE

Cruise lines once might have been known as floating bar-buffets that provided just a few activities for kids as an afterthought. But now almost all cruise lines -- not just pricey Disney cruises -- offer ships that balance entertainment for adults with activities for kids. From multistory waterslides and rock-climbing walls to interactive Nickelodeon shows, these ships offer some of the best value for families with young children. The per-person price ranges listed here are based on weeklong Caribbean itineraries, except where noted.

Carnival Dream
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CARNIVAL DREAM

Typical starting price: $260 to $600
Carnival Dream is an affordable option for families with a few kids in tow. The ship features five-berth, two-bath staterooms, which are cheaper than most suites or adjoining rooms. Other highlights include a large water park and 18-hole miniature golf.

MSC Divina
Photo credit: viajor/flickr.com

MSC DIVINA

Typical starting price: $548 
Known primarily as a European luxury line, MSC Cruises offers family-friendly Caribbean tours on Divina. The ship features four kids' clubs, a waterpark, and the Virtual World video game arcade. MSC's best offer, however, is allowing kids 11 and under to sail free on select itineraries.

Carnival Vista
Photo credit: 50885502@N04/flickr.com

CARNIVAL VISTA

Typical starting price: $364 to $559 
Carnival's newest ship, Vista, boasts the first IMAX theater at sea, an onboard waterpark, and supervised programs for kids 2 and older. The ship's Family Harbor cabins provide spacious digs at affordable rates, making this a solid value for families -- even if it's limited to the Caribbean.

Carnival Breeze
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CARNIVAL BREEZE

Typical starting price: $409 to $539 
Carnival Breeze maintains the line's reputation as a leading affordable family cruise option with its WaterWorks aqua park and a Dr. Seuss-themed play area and character breakfasts -- where they've even served "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast.

Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas
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ALLURE OF THE SEAS AND OASIS OF THE SEAS

Typical starting price: $104 to $147 
This Royal Caribbean ship is among the newest and largest in the world. Kids can find DreamWorks Animation characters such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda roaming the decks, as well as rock-climbing walls, zip lines, and other supervised activities.

Nieuw Amsterdam
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NIEUW AMSTERDAM

Typical starting price: $519 to $699 
Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam isn't the biggest ship, but it offers unique, kid-friendly activities such as the supervised Club HAL with treasure hunts, sundae parties, and games. Older kids can take part in karaoke and culinary classes. Amenities for the whole family include nightly live entertainment, a basketball court, and swimming pools.

Celebrity Summit
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CELEBRITY SUMMIT

Typical starting price: $349 to $499 
Celebrity Summit starts and ends in New Jersey, offering plenty of off-ship activities at stops in Bermuda along the way. A more low-key family option, the 2,000-passenger ship provides five age-specific, supervised kids' programs during the summer and holidays. Activities range from art to Xbox.

Queen Mary 2
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QUEEN MARY 2

Typical starting price: $107 to $179 
Typically sailing between New York and England, this luxury line is known for accommodating staffers who manage kids' activities for toddlers and teens alike. You might spend a bit more on the legendary Queen Mary 2, Cunard's flagship, but if you want a smart balance of amenities for adults and kids, this ship is a good bet.

Norwegian Epic
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NORWEGIAN EPIC

Typical starting price: $379 to $799 
Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic isn't the cheapest option, but it offers special amenities for kids, including an arcade and Splash Academy with play maze and dancing. The ship sails to many destinations -- the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Europe -- and features an aqua park, a basketball court, batting cages, a gigantic "Wii wall," and the first-ever rappelling wall at sea.

Norwegian Escape
Photo credit: guldem/flickr.com

NORWEGIAN ESCAPE

Typical starting price: $399 to $699 
Norwegian's largest ship, Escape, offers a water park, circus school, video game lounge, and a dance club for teenagers. Sure, it's not cheap. But this big ship packs a lot of value in its Caribbean, Bahamas, New England, and Bermuda itineraries.

Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas
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ROYAL CARIBBEAN HARMONY OF THE SEAS

Typical starting price: $656 to $698
With a 10-story thrill slide, ice-skating rink, and miniature golf, there's no shortage of kids' activities on Harmony of the Seas. With a nursery and baby-sitting options, parents can enjoy adult amenities such as musical theater or the Bionic Bar, where robots make cocktails.

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