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Cruising with Kids: 7 Family Travel Tips

Not only is cruising with kids possible, but it's also one of the most memorable, action-packed experiences you can plan as a family. In fact, Norwegian Cruise Line makes it easier than ever before to cruise with kids of all ages thanks to Norwegian’s complimentary youth programs.

Still, a little planning will make the cruise more enjoyable for kids and parents alike. If you've booked a family cruise and wonder what you've gotten yourself into, don't worry! We've got you covered. Follow these seven tips for cruising with kids, and get ready to enjoy an unforgettable family vacation.

1. Maximize the Free Cruise Benefits

Some people hold back from booking a family cruise because they assume it will not be affordable. If that's you, take the time to browse Norwegian's cruise deals. Among them is an offer that allows the third and fourth guest in your stateroom to sail for free on select cruises. That means a family of four would only need to pay for the parents' fare. Additionally, kids 12 and under dine for free at specialty restaurants. Norwegian even offers complimentary youth programs that provide free supervised age-appropriate fun for kids.

2. Don't Over- or Under-Pack

One of the biggest challenges of a family cruise comes during the packing phase. It can be difficult to strike the right balance between packing way too much and forgetting to pack cruise essentials.

If you want to keep your luggage to a minimum, consider packing about half as many clothes as you need for a week. You can pay to have your laundry done on board, saving you space in your suitcase for more important things. For instance, you may want to pack an extra swimsuit or two so that your gear has time to dry between swims. Kids may also appreciate items like glow-stick jewelry, a camera, and inflatable pool toys.

3. Let Your Kids Make Some Choices

Maybe at home, you stick to a strict schedule — complete with a weekly meal plan and non-negotiable bedtimes. Let your cruise be an exciting break from routine. Let your kids help you choose a couple of shore excursions, and prioritize activities that grab their interest during sea days. Let them stay up late while you go on a romantic date (more on that in a minute), and take full advantage of your ship's complimentary dining options. Giving them some say in what you do will make their memories of the cruise even fonder.

Norwegian's Splash Academy Kids Activities

4. Sign Up Young Kids for Splash Academy

Splash Academy is designed for younger kids and divided up into four age groups:

  • Guppies (6 months to under 3 years) — Guppies must be accompanied by a parent for the available activities, which include music and movement, sensory play, and colors of the rainbow. A fee-based Guppies Nursery is also available on Norwegian Escape. In the nursery, Guppies can experience self-exploration, messy play, and crafty creations.
  • Turtles (3 to 5 years) — The highlights of our Turtles itinerary include parades, treasure hunts, and Circus School. Turtles will also enjoy arts and crafts, sensory play, developmental activities, and storytelling.
  • Seals (6 to 9 years) — Seals will have the chance to learn circus skills such as scarf juggling, plate spinning, devil sticks, and rope spinning. They can also enjoy theme nights, sports, games, team-building challenges, treasure hunts, parades, and painting. 
  • Dolphins (10 to 12 years) — Dolphins experience similar activities, including theme nights, team-building challenges, video games, sports, and circus skills. Treasure hunts turn into scavenger hunts for this age group, though, and they'll love the Entourage takeover.

During the Splashtacular Extravaganza, kids will get to show off the circus skills they learned throughout the week.

5. Take Your Teens to Entourage

Entourage is the name of the teen center on Norwegian Cruise Line ships. It gives teenagers a supervised place to hang out and is free of charge. A wide variety of activities — from arts and crafts to movies and video games — are offered throughout the cruise, so your teens will never be bored. Entourage even hosts themed activities, such as College Night, Glow, and the White Hot Party. Specific themes and activities vary from ship to ship.

6. Attend Family-Friendly Activities

As much as your kids will love Entourage and Splash Academy, we know you'll want to create some family memories, too. That's why Norwegian offers several workshops and activities designed to engage the entire family. Participate in one of our family game shows, take a pizza-making class, test your trivia knowledge, or show off your sports skills. And if you ever run out of organized activities to try, you can always spend some time splashing around on the pool deck.

Norwegian's Splash Academy Offers Family Activities

7. Schedule Some Alone Time

Even though you'll have a blast cruising with your kids, it's still a good idea to schedule a few kid-free activities. Fortunately, Norwegian offers two programs specifically designed to keep kids entertained while the grown-ups savor some alone time. You can drop your kids off at Port Play for a small fee during breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours while you go on a date or enjoy a shore excursion. Be sure to double-check when mealtimes are, since the hours vary depending on your ship and itinerary.

If you want to experience the ship's nightlife, take advantage of the Late Night Fun Zone. This center is open from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. each night, but it will close early if no kids are registered or dropped off by 11:30 p.m. To ensure availability, we recommend registering your kids by 8 p.m. the night before. As with Port Play, a small fee applies for child supervision. Both options are available for kids ages 3 through 12.

You won't regret booking a family cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line and creating spectacular memories at sea and on shore together.

Cruise Tips for Family Vacations with Norwegian

For more tips on cruising with kids, read 3 Essential Tips on Cruising with a Toddler and 3 Things to Know About Cruising with Kids. What are some of your favorite tips for making your family cruise vacation the best?