Best Cruise Lines For Families?


When you begin to plan your family’s cruise, you may find yourself wondering, “Why are there so many options?! What’s the difference? Is one of these really three times better than another?!”

Well, buckle up (or should I say, ‘batten down the hatches’?) because we’re about to dive deep into three family cruise giants: Disney, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.

What does each have to offer? How are they different? Which is the best choice for your family? We’ll help you answer all those questions and more!

Let’s dive in!

Each cruise line has its own “vibes,” if you will. Here’s a bit more about each of them.

Disney Cruise Line

How many of you know a vacation to Disney isn’t actually a vacation at all? It’s an exhausting experience! Sure, it’s magical, but you leave tired.

What if I told you that you could have the magic of Disney and come home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated?

That’s what you get with Disney Cruise Line! There is top-notch entertainment, your favorite characters roaming the ship, and you’re fully immersed in environments that will charm and enchant the young and young at heart!

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian may not be on your radar, but let me tell you... it should be! They are all about flexibility and making your cruise exactly what you want it to be.

There’s more than one dining room, so your family can choose when and where to eat each night. Instead of a single entertainment venue at nighttime, there are several to pick from. There are relaxing indoor activities and exciting outdoor adventures to be had every day, too!

They’re also regularly running a “Free at Sea” promo, which includes a drink package, wifi, and credits for specialty dining and excursions.

Royal Caribbean

Royal is all about fun and new. Their ships offer things no other ships have– outdoor courtyards, diving shows, ice skating rinks, onboard escape rooms, and so much more!

There really is something for everyone in your family on an Royal ship. They’ve got thrills and chills, relaxing spas, and adult areas, along with Broadway-caliber shows.

They’re kind of the quintessential cruise ship experience.

Family Accommodations

Each cruise line does a good job of making rooms comfortable for families.

Disney is unique in that they separate the bathroom into two spaces. One has a sink and toilet, while the other has a tub (perfect for families with babies/toddlers)/shower and another sink. This makes getting ready for dinner and bedtime a piece of cake.

On Royal, make sure you take a good look at the bed setups before boarding the ship. My family didn’t do that, and we ended up with a weird bunk bed on top of the king-sized bed situation on a trip with our son that was quite unexpected!

Norwegian is great for bigger families, as their family rooms are set up with a couch that turns into a double bed and a twin that comes down from the ceiling. Our family of five fit very comfortably!

Youth Clubs

Youth clubs on cruise ships are a win-win for everyone! Kids get to have a blast and make new friends while mom and dad get some kid-free time.

Believe it or not, Splash Academy on Norwegian has been my kids’ favorite! I was nervous they’d be unimpressed after cruising on Disney before, but they all raved about how much fun they had doing crafts and winning Just Dance battles.

Speaking of Disney, they know what they’re doing in their Oceaneer Club. Their kid spaces are like being transported into their movies. They’re fantastical and magical and have special guests stop by regularly.

Royal’s Adventure Ocean has a lot of structure and organized activities. Their hours seemed to be slightly more limited than the other cruise lines, but they packed a big punch of fun!


The entertainment on every ship is fantastic, yet very different!

On Norwegian, the variety is hard to beat. There are singers, magicians, jugglers, comedians, and Broadway-level musicals on every ship. I was nervous my kids wouldn’t be into the musical because it wasn’t about a Disney character, but they loved Choir of Man on Norwegian’s Escape. They still giggle and dance every time they hear, “If you like pina coladas...”

Royal ships have entertainment you can’t find on any other cruise lines. In addition to their theater shows, there are shows in the Aqua Theater and ice skating shows in Studio B! Every ship is different in what they have to offer, but the entertainment is something your whole family will love.

Disney’s Walt Disney Theater is full of absolute Disney magic. On top of their cruise-themed musicals to kick off each sailing and another show stuffed with Disney classics, each ship has its own movie-specific musical on board. I’ve seen Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and can confidently say they’re as good as most of the shows you’d see on Broadway.


Each of these cruise lines has its own specialty restaurants that are amazing, but for the sake of comparing them for a family cruise, we’re going to stick to the included “main dining rooms.”

As I said earlier, Norwegian is all about flexibility and cruising your own way. That translates to “My Time Dining” on their ships—no main dining room or set dining times. You can choose between any of their three dining rooms and go at whatever time you’d like to eat. I love the concept, but I didn’t love that we didn’t get to know a single waiter like we did on other cruise lines.

Disney is by far the most unique. Their ships have three main restaurants, but you and your waiters rotate through them together. These restaurants are themed down to the tiniest details, like the butter knife in Animator’s Palate, which looks like a paintbrush! Whether you’re talking to Crush from Finding Nemo or singing along with Anna and Elsa, each meal will be an immersive experience. Disney is also the easiest one to eat dinner and make it to an early show with no problem because they’ve got it down to such a science.

Royal’s dining is relatively traditional. There’s a main dining room, an early dining time, a late dining time, and you’ve got the same waiter every night. The food is delicious, and the service is fantastic, but the timing of the shows sometimes made dinner feel like a rush. On most nights, you had the choice of a 7 PM or a 9/10 PM show. Dinner doesn’t start until 5:30, so it makes it a challenge to get a seat for the 7 PM show, and the late one isn’t doable for most kiddos.


Now, maybe this is why you came here and possibly all you’re even reading. Let’s get down to it. Why is there such a cost difference, and is it actually worth it?

The not-so-little elephant in the room is that Disney is often times at least twice, sometimes three times as expensive as any other cruise line. Is it worth it?

Bottom line– yes. If you’ve got the money to spend, it’s worth it. It’s magical and amazing and wonderful.

But does that mean Norwegian or Royal aren’t worth it?

Absolutely not!

For our family of five, we had to come to the point where we realized we could save up for years for one cruise with DCL, or we could take several cruises in that time with Royal and Norwegian. We decided on quantity while still keeping a high level of quality!

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, you can’t pick a bad cruise line to vacation with your family on. Any one of these three is going to give you memories that will last a lifetime, and I can say that because I’ve taken family on every one of them! There’s not one I wouldn’t cruise with again.

Whether you’re looking for magic, adventure, or a laid-back cruise, there’s a cruise line that you’re going to love.

Here at Hill Family Travel, we love helping families create memories that will last a lifetime. Ready to start planning your next family cruise? Click here to schedule a Discovery Call and then leave the rest to us!