Holidays & Travel

Why a family cruise is an economical holiday for all ages

Cruise holidays are growing in popularity with families, but which are the best ones to choose? By Sarah Marshall.

There are now lots of family-friendly options for holidays at sea
Family cruise in Greece (Norwegian Cruise Line/PA) There are now lots of family-friendly options for holidays at sea

The idea that cruising solely suits elderly travellers is a misconception. Increasingly, ships are being built to attract younger customers, and all-inclusive prices can be an economical option for families on a budget.

Thrilling zipwires and flumes rival anything found in a theme park, and there are enough games to absorb impatient minds for 24 hours a day.

But it’s not only kids who benefit – the experience is relaxing for parents too. With trained staff on hand, children can run wild while adults dine or relax in the spa. Activities aimed at elderly travellers also make cruises viable for a multi-generational break, if grandparents are keen to tag along.

Best of all, there are ships and destinations to suit all types of travellers. Here are a few likely to please everyone in the clan…

Best for… making dreams come true


A Disney trip to France

‘Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular’ takes the stage on the Disney Fantasy
“Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” takes the stage on the Disney Fantasy (Disney Cruise Line/PA) ‘Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular’ takes the stage on the Disney Fantasy (Steven Diaz)

Eat, sleep and revel in childhood fantasies on one of Disney Cruise Line’s ships. Once onboard, kids aged between three and 12 can meet their favourite characters from the worlds of Marvel, Star Wars, Disney and Pixar, while having fun at deck parties, playing games and watching musicals.

From late July to September 2025, the Disney Fantasy will spend a season in Europe doing three, four and five-night voyages from Southampton. Enjoy a full-length retelling of Anna and Elsa’s adventures in Frozen, featuring state-of-the-art technology, elaborate costumes and puppetry, and sing-a-long to favourite tunes from Aladdin, The Lion King and Mary Poppins.

Goofy’s Sports Deck features miniature golf, basketball and shuffleboard, and there are eight pools for making a splash – including one shaped like Mickey Mouse and a twisting water coaster that extends over the side of the boat. Expect explosive entertainment with the first fireworks at sea.

How: A three-night cruise to Cherbourg, France costs from £3,102.90 for a family of four. Departs August 22, 2025. Visit disneycruise.disney.go.com

Best for… island hopping


A Greek odyssey on Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway
Norwegian Getaway (Norwegian/PA) Norwegian Getaway

With a cluster of stops all different in style but equally enchanting, the Greek Islands are best explored by boat. Children with short attention spans can be easily entertained with a different port every day. Step back several thousand years by delving into archaeological sites on Heraklion on the east coast of Crete, including the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Wander through narrow lanes with beaming white houses on Mykonos, and learn about Greek mythology while exploring the semi-submerged, crescent-shaped caldera of Santorini.

Between shore visits, there’s plenty to enjoy onboard with an Aquapark featuring five waterslides, video arcade, and multi-level sports complex with a rope course and games courts. Extend the holiday with stays on the Greek mainland at capital city Athens and Thessaloniki on the Aegean coast.

How: A 14-night holiday including a B&B stay in Athens, a seven-night cruise on Norwegian Getaway and five nights’ half board in Thessaloniki and flights from Gatwick costs from £2,299pp (based on a family of two adults and two children under 11 sharing). Departs August 16. Visit cooptravel.co.uk

Best for… a stress-free break


An exotic adventure with Ambassador Cruise Line


Cadiz in Spain
Cadiz in Spain (Alamy/PA) Cadiz in Spain (Alamy Stock Photo)

If taking young children on planes is a headache, opt for a hassle-free no-fly cruise. Departing from eight regional UK ports, including Belfast, Bristol, Falmouth, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dundee, Newcastle and London, Ambassador Cruise Line aims to please all ages, with themed party nights, fancy dress competitions, crafting, a Taylor Swift tribute act, and Festival Deck Fest.

Departing from London Tilbury, flagship vessel Ambience also hosts twice-nightly shows at two-tier entertainment venue The Palladium, choir classes and game shows – making it ideal for a multi-generational break, if granny and grandpa want to pop along. Up the ante by covering off two continents on a 12-night Iberian Treasures & North Africa voyage, stopping in Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, and Morocco.

How: From £1,719 per adult based on two adults sharing an inside cabin, plus kids go for £99 each. Visit ambassadorcruiseline.com

Best for… natural discoveries


An expedition cruise to Patagonia

The glaciers of Patagonia
The glaciers of Patagonia (Swoop/PA) The glaciers of Patagonia

Cruises can be educational as well as being entertaining, especially for older children. Next year, Natural History will be introduced into the GCSE curriculum – the perfect justification for a trip focussed on wildlife and the environment. The glaciers of Patagonia provide the ideal context for discussions about climate change, coupled with stories of great explorers in the era of European discoveries.

Departing from Punta Arenas in Chile, a five-night small ship expedition cruise visits the dramatic landscapes of glaciers, mountains and wind-beaten forests in Tierra del Fuego, rounding Cape Horn and ending up in Argentinian city Ushuaia at the end of the earth. Sail through the Strait of Magellan (named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who led the first successful expedition to navigate the strait in 1520), and take a zodiac boat excursion to the Tucker Islets where Magellanic penguins nest from October to March.

How: A five-day voyage costs from starts from £2,151pp, cruise only. Children aged between 3 and 12-year-olds receive a 50% discount when sharing a cabin with an adult. Visit swoop-patagonia.com

Best for… new to cruise families


A gentle introduction to Croatia

Mijet’s Pozura Bay
Mljet's Pozura Bay (Alamy/PA) Mijet’s Pozura Bay (Alamy Stock Photo)

Ideal for families embarking on their first cruise, this voyage along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast balances time at sea with excursions on land. Start in UNESCO World Heritage city Split, dominated by the 1700-year-old ruins of Diocletian’s Palace – a labyrinth of walls and gates built by the Romans. Continue to Hvar, an island claiming to be the sunniest spot in Europe, and on to Croatia’s greenest island Miljet, covered largely by a national park.

Used as a backdrop for King’s Landing in Game Of Thrones, much of Dubrovnik’s old town – the next destination on the voyage – will be recognisable to fans of the cult TV show. Along with discovering historical sites, there’s plenty of time to swim and snorkel in clear, warm water.

How: From £1,195 per adult and £1,165 per child, including seven nights’ B&B accommodation, seven lunches and return flights from the UK. Visit familiesworldwide.co.uk