With an exotic cocktail of tropical islands and aquamarine seas that make it the world’s top cruising destination, the Caribbean bursts with flavour that appeals to all ages – and especially families.
They can choose from child-friendly ships and sailings departing Florida, where it’s easy to tag on-land stays, or fly directly to the islands to join their ship. Sara Macefield rounds up the best family-friendly Caribbean cruises.
Roller-coaster at sea
What? Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras
Why? Kids will be clamouring to try this adrenalin-fuelled ride on Carnival’s Mardi Gras, an electric “Ultimate Sea Coaster” called Bolt that races across the top deck at speeds of up to 40mph. Add to that the Carnival WaterWorks aqua park with its trio of waterslides and SportSquare where youngsters can weave across the ropes course.
Book it: Carnival offers a one-week Eastern Caribbean round-trip voyage from Port Canaveral that promises zipline adventures in Puerto Rico, waterfall-climbing at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and a beach day in Grand Turk, departs August 26, 2023. From £598 per adult and £251 per child.
Feel the magic to the Bahamas
What? Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wish
Why? For a trip sprinkled with fairy dust, families can stay at Walt Disney World before boarding Disney’s newest ship Disney Wish to join Captains Minnie and Mickey Mouse. Youngsters can splash down the new AquaMouse water ride that transports riders across the deck, join Anna and Elsa in a Frozen-themed dining experience or Ant-Man and the Wasp in an Avengers encounter, while adults can go intergalactic in a Star Wars themed Hyperspace lounge.
Book it: Disney Cruise Line offers a 10-night package comprising one-week at Walt Disney World and three-night round-trip Bahamas cruise from Port Canaveral, including Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, costs from £2,822pp, on July 7, 2023.
Thrills and spills to St Maarten
What? Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas
Why? More floating resort than cruise ship, this ocean-going titan is packed with diversions to captivate the most demanding teens. They can fly on a zipwire, ride the waves on a surf simulator or plunge down the Ultimate Abyss slide, while younger tots can splash about in the Splashaway Bay water park. With ice shows on the ship’s ice-rink, aquabatic extravaganzas in AquaTheater, plus 20 dining spots and 11 bars and lounges, it promises non-stop action.
Book it: Royal Caribbean offers a one-week Bahamas & St Maarten round-trip Miami sailing, including RCI’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, with its waterpark containing the tallest waterslide in North America, departs on April 2, 2023. From £663pp ().
Tall ship adventure to the BVIs
What? Star Clippers’ Star Flyer
Why? Just the ticket for salty seadogs wanting an authentic taste of life on the waves aboard a four-masted sailing ship. These cruises are best suited to children aged eight years and above who can enjoy the two small pools onboard, climb to the Crow’s Nest more than 60ft up and lie in the bowsprit nets which give a perfect view of dolphins diving in the prow wave. Accommodating only 170 passengers, Star Flyer sails away from regular cruising routes to smaller Caribbean hideaways.
Book it: Star Clippers offers a week-long round-trip sailing from St Maarten through the British Virgin Islands, St Kitts and St Barts departs December 17, costing from £3,099 per adult and £2,399 per child, including flights.
Race to the Dutch Antilles
What? Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore
Why? Petrol-heads of all ages can roar off on the ship’s racetrack in electric Formula 1-style go-karts, battle aliens in a giant virtual reality complex or fight with foes in an open-air laser tag arena. There are waterslides too and NCL’s freestyle cruising approach, which means guests can eat when and where they want to at 19 dining spots, adds to the family-friendly feel.
Book it An 11-night Curacao, Aruba & Dominican Republic round-trip voyage from Miami on December 23 offers the chance to swim with stingrays in Antigua, go snorkelling in St Thomas and ride a rainforest aerial tram in St Lucia. From £1,370 for adults, while kids pay just port taxes under its Free at Sea promotion (norwegiancentral.com).
*Prices cruise-only unless otherwise stated.