If you’re a parent trying to plan a vacation, you may be wondering if a cruise is a kid-friendly option.  Cruises promise low-stress and big fun and provide a balance between family togetherness, kids-only time and adult-only time.  Cruises, which have plenty of activities to keep adults happy, are also great for kids.  Cruises allow you to visit different destinations without having to worry about finding a hotel or figuring out where the family is going to eat.

Cruise lines are targeting the family crowd like never before, and there are plenty of amenities that will keep your children busy all day (and night).  Nearly every cruise line has expanded its kid-friendly offerings in the past several years.  From themed cabins to kids programs, cruises have something that will make every kid happy.  Here’s a look at four of the largest cruise lines and what they’re doing to make kids happy at sea:

Disney Cruise Line
Like it’s land-based theme parks, Disney Cruise Line caters to kids and kids at heart.  Every minute of on a Disney cruise is packed with the full Disney experience.  Between the parties, character autograph sessions, tours, movies, games and water play area, there’s something to make every kid happy.  Disney Cruise Line also offers children’s and teen programs to keep kids occupied while parents have their own fun.

Disney Cruise Lines offers the roomiest family-friendly staterooms on the seas.  The staterooms are Disney-themed and offer bunk beds that descend from the ceiling, fold out couches and spacious bathrooms.

Royal Caribbean
Although Disney is one of the most kid-friendly cruise lines on the sea, Royal Caribbean has gotten into the Hollywood-style cruise business too.  Royal Caribbean has contracted with DreamWorks to bring kid-friendly fun onboard their ships.  The cruise line offers character meet and greets, parades, 3-D film showings and meals with characters.  Royal Caribbean also offers youth programs for every age group that are full of fun activities.  For teenagers, Royal Caribbean also offers activities such as rock climbing walls, surf simulators, mini golf and zip lines.

Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) invented and perfected a great concept for families: freestyle cruising.  That means you can do what you want, when you want, including eating dinner.  So if your child just wants to play or is having a mini-meltdown, there’s no need to stress about if you’ll be late for your dinner seating.  In addition to the freestyle culture, NCL offers youth programs that feature Cirque du Soleil-style activities, arts and crafts and video games.  Their teen program offers a variety of team sports and nighttime events.  Four of their ships also feature Nickelodeon characters

Carnival Cruise Lines
Although Carnival Cruise Lines is known for providing loud, party-like atmospheres, Carnival is also a great cruise line for kids.  Carnival is one of the least expensive cruise lines, so it’s ideal for families on a budget.  Like other cruise lines, Carnival offers youth programs for children of all ages.  One cool feature on Carnival is that some of the ships offer an onboard social networking tool: Fun Hub.  Fun Hub is a shipboard intranet portal that allows teens to learn about daily activities.  The Carnival Magic features an in-air ropes course while other ships have water parks on board, featuring water slides and a kid-friendly play area.

Looking for an itinerary that will make the whole family happy?  Check out our blog post on family-friendly cruise destinations.

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