I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to go out of my way to find family vacations where kids stay for free. Saving on hotel rooms helps me allocate money toward more family activities for an even more memorable vacation.
Well, guess what? The good fortune doesn’t stop at hotels and resorts. Some cruise lines let kids of a certain age sail for free, making your vacation cost-effective.
Which ones are they? Join me and get ready to set sail as I select six of the best cruise lines where you won’t pay for the kids.
It’s time to explore an incredible world of adventure through Star Clippers. You can travel to the Suez Canal, Caribbean, Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal, and Eastern Mediterranean on a ship in the Star Clippers fleet, which consists of the Star Flyer, Star Clipper, and Royal Clipper.
Life on a Star Clippers ship is unregimented, granting you and your family the freedom to do what you want. You can witness the live arts and entertainment from local performers, listen to stories about life at sea from the ship’s captain, partake in water sports, and gather ‘round for family activities.
Your suite has all the luxuries you need for an incredible vacation, including flat-screen televisions and DVD players (with complimentary movie rentals available), king-sized beds, marble bathrooms, and twin beds for the kids. The upscale nautical décor will set the mood.
Start your day with a continental breakfast that includes eggs, grilled meats, fresh fruit, pastries, and croissants. You’ll feel fueled up and ready for fun.
When lunchtime rolls around, it’s time to sit down to a barbecue. You can also fill your plate to your heart’s content at the lunch buffet.
Snacks are available between lunch and dinner, but make sure to save room. The a la carte dinner menu updates every evening, so something fresh and sumptuous is always in store.
Kids under 18 can sail for free through Star Clippers.
2. MSC Cruises
Take the vacation of a lifetime on MSC Cruises. This cruise’s far-spanning destinations include stops at Bermuda, the Mediterranean, Egypt, South America, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Canada, North Europe, New England, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Asia.
MSC has five ships in its impressive fleet: the MSC Seascape, MSC Meraviglia, MSC World America, MSC Divina, and MSC Seashore. World America and Seascape are the latest additions.
Life on board an MSC Cruise is tinged with luxury. All ships in the fleet have staterooms that cater to your every whim, with plush bedding, luxe surfaces, and premium comfort.
MSC Cruises won the 2018 Wave Awards prize for the Best Family Cruise Line and the Cruise Critic UK Editors’ Picks in 2019 for the Best Cruise Line for Families, so you’ve made a great choice for your family getaway.
Kids Clubs and Baby Clubs offer a range of age-appropriate activities if you and your sweetie wish to explore the spa and beauty treatments or the fitness facilities onboard. MSC cruises have educational toys courtesy of Osservatorio Chicco that foster fun, exploration, and development.
You can also spend meaningful family time together with events and activities like the Doremi family disco, quizzes, and sports tournaments.
Some ships within the MSC fleet offer full-sized formula racers, ziplining, XD cinemas, and VR. All boast an aqua park with kiddie slides and a spiraling water slide for your braver children. Pools throughout the ship also promote fun in the sun.
One of the premier kid-friendly services to anticipate on an MSC Cruise is the LEGO Experience on Board. Everything is LEGO-themed for this program, including LEGO mascots, a LEGO play area, LEGO building activities, and a themed parade.
The LEGO Tech Experience for kids seven to 11 years old lets them explore their creativity with the latest LEGO toys and video games. The LEGO vertical play wall challenges the children’s climbing skills.
Building Happening for kids six to 11 is a competition between two teams to see who can build the best LEGO structure. The DUPLO Play Pen for children under five lets them build noncompetitively.
The family dining plan includes menus with award-winning international flavors aplenty so kids can explore what they like. Open breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack buffets are perfect for picky eaters, and youth staff are available during dining.
Explore Europe by river on CroisiEurope Cruises. You can sail across France, Central, Southern, or Northern Europe.
Do you wish to expand your horizons even further? The worldwide river cruises venture to Egypt, the Mekong in South East Asia, and Southern Africa.
You can also take a coastal cruise, exploring parts of the world such as Malaga, Greece, Morocco, Italy, Spain, Egypt, the Suez Canal, Cyprus, Croatia, and the Canary Islands.
CroisiEurope Cruises is an independently owned, French-based family company with a legacy spanning over 40 years. Your all-inclusive family vacation will include French-themed gastronomic dining experiences, thrilling excursions, and sizable cabins.
Your cabin has a private terrace or French balcony, panoramic views, and temperature control. Common spaces like the sun deck, sun loungers, lounge area, and gift shop are available throughout the day, and a buffet offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner at select times.
Kids under 16 sail free on CroisiEurope Cruises.
A Royal Caribbean International vacation is a cut above the rest. This cruise ship is catered to fun and visits more than 300 worldwide destinations.
A smattering of them is the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Bermuda, Belize, Mexico, Alaska, the Mediterranean, Spain, Greece, Italy, the Canary Islands, Portugal, Croatia, France, Norway, Ireland, Japan, and New Zealand.
Royal Caribbean International has an incredibly large fleet, with Utopia of the Seas and Icon of the Seas two of its largest, most towering, immersive, and fun cruise ships yet.
Icon of the Seas smashes all sorts of records and reimagines what a cruise ship can be. Category 6 is its on-ship water park.
Six of the slides break records, while the park itself is the biggest on a cruise ship. The Pressure Drop is the first of its kind, as no other cruise ship has yet to feature an open freefall waterslide. Oh, and Frightening Bolt is the tallest waterslide on a cruise ship.
Surfside is a child-friendly mini neighborhood on the ship with small bites, swimming pools, and its own aquapark. Plenty of other pools are available, including the record-breaking Royal Bay, the biggest pool on a cruise ship.
The next-level dining experiences include options like the Empire Supper Club, Chops Grille, and Celebration Table for the adults.
Kid-approved fare like smiley-face pancakes at Surfside Eatery, tacos at Pier 7, juicy burgers at Surfside Bites, and Izumi Hibachi & Sushi are yummy enough that Mom and Dad won’t mind dining there.
The family rooms aboard include Surfside Family Suites, some of which boast a balcony overlooking the ocean. You might consider booking the ultra-exclusive Ultimate Family Townhouse, a tri-leveled VIP suite where you have to take a bright red tube slide to reach the bottom level. It’s a kids’ paradise!
Kids 12 and under sail free on Royal Caribbean International.
Explore the world on a Holland America Line cruise.
Voted the Best Itineraries by the 2019 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards, the Best World Cruise Itinerary by the 2021 Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Awards, and the Best World Cruise by the 2020 Travelage West Wave Awards Editors’ Pick, Holland America is a renowned choice for your family getaway.
The range of destinations is sure to impress. You can visit Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, New England, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Sri Lanka, China, India, Japan, and so much more.
The staterooms and suites are packed with amenities that make family vacation planning hands-off and effortless. Store your valuables in a safe to confidently explore the cruise ship. Enjoy complimentary 24-hour dining in your room, daily housekeeping, and complimentary shoe shining.
Your lodging options are the Pinnacle, Neptune, Signature, and Vista Suites. They include large beds, a sofa bed for additional guests, floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a sitting area, and Whirlpool baths. Some suites offer a dining and living area.
See why Holland America Line won awards for its itineraries as you explore its range of onboard activities. You can play in the family game room, watch movies, enjoy a competitive game of pickleball, or do some shopping.
Kids Programs for children three to six invite your kiddos to join in on pirate treasure hunts and dinosaur-themed parties.
The Tweens Program for older kids between seven and 12 features gaming tournaments, sporting events, and age-appropriate arts and crafts.
A Teen Program for kids 13 to 17 has nightly video game and poker tournaments.
When the sun goes down, Holland America Line ships come alive with entertainment on the World Stage. The stage has a two-story wraparound LED screen for a perfect view no matter where you sit.
Prepare for exquisite dining by celeb chefs at Canaletto, Pinnacle Grill, and The Dining Room. Casual dining is more family-friendly, with options such as Lido Market, New York Pizza, and Dive-In.
See why life is more fun on a Norwegian Cruise Line.
Adventure is calling to sought-after destinations like Asia, New Zealand, Alaska, the Bahamas, Africa, Canada, Australia, New England, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Greece, the Mediterranean, Hawaii, Northern Europe, Mexico, the Pacific Coast, the Panama Canal, and South America.
Norwegian Cruise Line is all about freestyling, which means no rigid itineraries or travel plans.
Travel Weekly called Norwegian Cruise Line the Best Family Experience, and I think you’ll agree!
Youth programs include a Guppies Program for children six months to four years old, a Splash Academy for kids three to 12, an Entourage Program for children 13 to 17, and late nights between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. for kids three to 12.
Spend your sunny days ziplining, riding thrilling waterslides, competing at the Sports Complex, or swimming in the myriad pools. Family togetherness has never been so fun.
Treat your taste buds to something yummy, as the family-friendly dining atmosphere on a Norwegian Cruise Line has something for everyone. Freestyle Dining allows families to eat where they wish, whether it’s something fast and casual like pizza or posher, like dinner at a sit-down establishment.
Better yet, kids three and under eat for free. Kids menus are available for children four to 12.
Penthouses, suites, and staterooms are sufficiently large enough for even bigger families, with some offering accommodations for eight.