Family cruises

OceanaClose your eyes for a moment (after reading this of course) and just imagine. You're planning a family holiday. You want to visit five different countries and have access to a spa, cinema, theatre, children's club, pool and gym in each of them. Oh, and babysitting facilities.

You certainly don't want to be constantly worrying about making train and plane connections. And you've only got a week. Maybe it's not so surprising that one package holiday in eight is now a cruise and that family cruises are increasing in popularity.

We've looked at what's on offer from P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Thomson Cruises.

Departures | Childcare | Mealtimes | Cabins | Child-free areas | Port days | Advice for families | What's included



P&O Cruises: Caribbean and Southampton (winter) Southampton (summer)

Royal Caribbean: UK to Europe, USA to Caribbean

Thomson Cruises: Mediterranean, Red Sea and Caribbean, all departures from overseas (flights included in price)

Childcare Noddy with children

P&O Cruises


  • Four age groups (2-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-17)
  • Under twos can use soft play and toys with a parent/carer present
  • Open early until late, no booking needed


  • Fully supervised night nursery for up to 5 year olds, 6pm-2am
  • Fully supervised 'slumber time' for 5-8 year olds, 10.30pm-midnight
  • All free of charge - parents are given a pager for easy contact

Royal Caribbean


  • Six clubs split into age groups from 18 months to 17 years 
  • Subject to availability, siblings from different age groups may be able to be together


  • Group babysitting 10pm-2am, US$6 per childFully toilet trained children aged over three only
  • Individual babysitters US$19 per hour for up to 3 children aged over 1 year old within the same family 

Thomson Cruises

No babysitting service.

Mealtimes family dining on ship

P&O Cruises

  • Highchairs and bottle warming service
  • Children's tea (fishfingers, pasta etc), baby food and infant milk available
  • Children are welcome to join adults for dinner and don't have to dress up for black tie dinners (unless they want to, of course)

Royal Caribbean

  • Highchairs must be requested on reservation
  • Hot water available
  • My Family Time Dining: extra-fast meal service for children who are then taken for evening activities, leaving their parents to continue dinner
  • Character breakfasts: including company from Shrek, the cast of Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda

Thomson Cruises

  • Child-friendly menus
  • Breakfast club: children collected from their cabins


P&O Cruises

  • Balcony cabins available
  • Cots and linen available upon request (no additional charge)
  • Four-berth cabins
  • Two-cabin family suites on larger ships

Royal Caribbean

  • Balcony cabins available
  • Rooms for four or suites for 16; option of adjoining or opposite rooms; additional beds and cots for under threes are free

Thomson Cruises

  • Cots available
  • Four-berth cabins

Child-free areas

P&O Cruises: Some bars and public rooms in evenings, one pool

Royal Caribbean: Solarium

Thomson Cruises: Casinos

Port days

All three cruise lines include a number of dedicated shore excursions, including family-friendly trips. You can book these before your cruise, or on board.

If you don't fancy joining a tour, you are free to go and explore on your own (just make sure you're back for sailing time) or stay on board. 

Advice for families

boys on cruise shipP&O Cruises: Dedicated family briefing once on-board. 

Royal Caribbean: Pre-booking holiday advice line, staffed exclusively by parent employees with comprehensive and relevant experience. Call 0844 417 0201.

Thomson Cruises: No dedicated family briefing. 

What's included?

All three cruise lines include all meals and entertainment within their prices. Drinks cost extra.

  • P&O: £3.10 per person aged 12 and over per day added to passengers' on-board accounts for tips.
  • Royal Caribbean: before sailing, pre-paid tips may be arranged online or added to your booking by your travel agent. On board, you may fill in a pre-pay tip form or pay crew members in cash at the end of the cruise.
  • Thomson Cruises includes tips within the cost of the holiday.

What Mumsnetters say about family cruises

  • I was worried that everything would be really formal and stuffy, but honestly it was the most relaxing and child-friendly holiday I have ever been on. GeordieMinx
  • My seven year old thought he'd died and gone to heaven on our cruise. I did nothing, didn't join anything, just ate, went to the gym and watched films. I did eat a LOT though. Kewcumber
  • It seems that any family accommodation where the kids aren't sharing gets booked up very quickly. Rosebag
  • I'd recommend ordering room service breakfast as a lovely treat. It's good for lazy sea days or to save time if you have an early trip. Fluffy1234
  • Definitely think about booking some excursions before you board. Nothing worse than an excursion you really want to do and it's fully booked. But leave yourselves free time for wandering around if you want to. Aftereightsarenolongermine 

Last updated: 20-Sep-2013 at 5:02 PM