12 Best Cruises for Families With Young Children—Besides Disney

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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 multi-story 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.
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CARNIVAL DREAM

Typical starting price: $400 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 Carnival Cruise Line's largest water park and 18-hole miniature golf.

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MSC DIVINA

Typical starting price: $400 to $600
Known primarily as a European luxury line, MSC Cruises offers family-friendly Caribbean tours on Divina. The ship features four kids' clubs, a Smurfs-themed 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.

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CARNIVAL VISTA

Typical starting price: $450 to $700
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.

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ISLAND PRINCESS

Typical starting price: $500 to $700
Refurbished in 2015, Princess Cruise Lines' Island Princess offers kid-friendly activities like Nintendo Wii tournaments, indoor and outdoor sports, hip-hop dance classes, supervised programs for three age groups, and a live singing competition called "The Voice of the Ocean."

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CARNIVAL BREEZE

Typical starting price: $500 to $700
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 -- complete with a "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast.

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ALLURE OF THE SEAS AND OASIS OF THE SEAS

Typical starting price: $600 to $700
These two Royal Caribbean ships are among the newest and largest in the world. Kids can find DreamWorks Animation characters like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda roaming the decks, as well as rock-climbing walls, zip lines, and other supervised activities.

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NIEUW AMSTERDAM

Typical starting price: $700 to $800
Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam isn't the biggest ship, but it offers unique, kid-friendly activities like the supervised Club HAL with treasure hunts, karaoke, and games, as well as culinary classes just for children. Amenities for the whole family include nightly live entertainment, a basketball court, and multiple swimming pools.

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CELEBRITY SUMMIT

Typical starting price: $700 to $800
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 different age-specific, supervised kids' programs during the summer and holidays. Activities range from art to Xbox.

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QUEEN MARY 2

Typical starting price: $700 to $900
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.

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NORWEGIAN EPIC

Typical starting price: $700 to $900
Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic isn't the cheapest option, but it offers special amenities for kids, including live, interactive Nickelodeon shows. The ship sails to many destinations -- the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Europe -- and features a rock-climbing wall, a basketball court, batting cages, a movie theater, an outdoor ice rink, and the first-ever rappelling wall at sea.

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NORWEGIAN ESCAPE

Typical starting price: $750 to $900
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.

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ROYAL CARIBBEAN HARMONY OF THE SEAS

Typical starting price: $800 to $1,000
With a 10-story thrill slide, ice-skating rink, miniature golf, baby-sitting programs, and appearances by DreamWorks characters, there's no shortage of kids' activities on Harmony of the Seas. With a nursery and baby-sitting options, parents can enjoy adult amenities like musical theater or the Bionic Bar, where robots make cocktails.