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- #1Disney Cruise Line#1 in Best Cruises for Families
Disney’s newest ship, Disney Fantasy, launched in 2012 and underwent a dry dock in 2017 to introduce new features like the Marvel Super Heroes Academy, a "Star Wars"-themed command post and a Tiffany & Co. retail store.
Staterooms are designed with families in mind. Inside staterooms can accommodate up to four guests, and over 85 percent of the ship's cabins have an ocean view or a veranda. All cabins are outfitted with flat-screen TVs, minifridges and iPod docking stations.
Onboard entertainment is just as family-oriented, with Goofy’s Sports Deck activity center, a virtual sports simulator (for an extra fee), nightly live performances and 3-D movies. While younger guests play in age-appropriate youth clubs, adults can relax at the Quiet Cove Pool or enjoy an evening at one of the six adults-only bars and lounges.
When it comes to dining, the ship offers 10 themed dining venues, including two adults-only specialty venues, three main dining rooms and a new ice cream shop, Sweet on You.
- #2Disney Cruise Line#2 in Best Cruises for Families
The 2,713-passenger Disney Magic is the oldest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet (it first launched in 1998) but it received some updates in 2018, including "Rapunzel's Royal Dining Experience." The ship features family favorites such as the AquaDuck waterslide, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique dress-up shop and Edge, an interactive game center for tweens.
Disney Magic features diverse entertainment, including live shows, an open-air Wide World of Sports deck, three pools and a splash area for children younger than 3. Unique to the Magic is the teens-only Chill Spa. When it comes to dining, the ship offers eight eateries, including an adults-only specialty restaurant and buffet options. Recent cruisers gave the food quality mixed reviews.
In terms of lodging, 70 percent of cabins offer ocean views or verandas. All cabins are outfitted with flat-screen TVs, sitting areas and bathrooms with separate showers and tubs. Suites include extra perks such as concierge service and media libraries. Past cruisers noted that the service on this ship is up to Disney's standards, but so is the price tag.
In 2018-19, Disney Magic sails from Miami, New York City, San Juan, Puerto Rico and a variety of spots across Europe. It completes a number of transatlantic cruises, as well as sailings to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe.
- #3Disney Cruise Line#3 in Best Cruises for Families (tie)
The 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder first debuted in 1999 and was updated in fall 2016, rolling out new family-oriented amenities and entertainment offerings like meet and greets with Disney characters and Frozen, A Musical Spectacular.
The ship offers plenty of onboard activities, with 10 designated family areas, six youth clubs and seven adults-only spaces. While younger passengers play at age-appropriate clubs, grown-ups can relax at the adults-only Quiet Cove Pool. Infants and toddlers in swim diapers are limited to specified kids' wet play and splash areas (this is a requirement by the United States Public Health Service, not a Disney-specific rule).
In terms of dining, Disney Wonder offers six options, including one adults-only specialty restaurant. At night, adults can unwind and enjoy After Hours, a section of the ship that features three nightclubs and lounges.
Like the majority of the ship, staterooms are designed with families in mind. Interior staterooms can accommodate up to four passengers, while larger Suites can sleep up to seven. All cabins come equipped with flat-screen TVs, seating areas and classic Disney designs. Recent cruisers noted the expensive cost of a trip on the Disney Wonder, but most felt the quality of service was top-notch.
In 2018-19, Disney Wonder departs from a range of ports, including Galveston, Texas, Port Canaveral (Orlando), Florida, Canada and California. It sails to destinations in Alaska, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and more.
- #3Disney Cruise Line#3 in Best Cruises for Families (tie)
Last renovated in 2015 (after being introduced in 2011), the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream is one of Disney's largest, newest ships. Highlights include the 765-foot AquaDuck water coaster, a virtual sports simulator (for an extra fee) and theatrical performances that bring Disney animated favorites – like "Beauty and the Beast" – to life.
While the ship emphasizes family-focused entertainment with five specialized kids clubs, parents can enjoy the adults-only Quiet Cove pool and the Senses Spa & Salon. At night, a section of the ship called The District transforms into an adult oasis with host of bars and lounges. In terms of dining, the ship offers nine themed venues including two specialty adults-only restaurants.
Staterooms also cater to cruising clans, offering perks like sofa beds. Over 85 percent of cabins have ocean views or verandas. Those looking for extra space can opt for Concierge Suites, which range from 622 to 1,781 square feet.
While some recent cruisers commented that the ship is more expensive than other mainstream competitors, most said it was well worth the price due to the personalized attention they received from the staff.
- #3Royal Caribbean International#3 in Best Cruises for Families (tie)
The 6,680-passenger Symphony of the Seas is the newest ship in Royal Caribbean's Oasis fleet. This massive ship – which set sail in 2018 and is the largest cruise ship in the world – has 2,200 crew members and features 18 decks packed with activities.
For heart-pounding fun, travelers will find a surf simulator, an indoor ice skating rink, two 40-foot rock walls, a zip line and a 10-story slide. Meanwhile, relaxation seekers can unwind in the spa, sip cocktails made by robotic bartenders or stroll through the Central Park-inspired neighborhood.
Onboard snacks and meals are served at more than 15 quick-service and sit-down eateries. The Main Dining Room is where the ship's traditional, complimentary dinners are provided nightly, but specialty options like a steakhouse, a bistro and a Johnny Rockets outpost are also available. What's more, cruisers can dine at Jamie's Italian, a restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
After filling up on gourmet fare, passengers can retreat to their cabins, all of which include work desks, flat-screen TVs and minibars. Guests can choose from 258-square-foot Interior Staterooms, some of which have virtual balconies with real-time views of the ocean, or opt for upgraded cabins with furnished balconies and up to 2,367 square feet of space. Select suites also feature two bedrooms, whirlpool tubs and dining rooms.
- #6Royal Caribbean International#6 in Best Cruises for Families
Introduced in 2003 and recently refurbished in mid-2018, Mariner of the Seas features passenger favorites like the SkyPad virtual reality trampoline, an Escape Room, the Izumi Japanese restaurant and a surf simulator. During the ship's refurbishment, Royal Caribbean also added 100 new staterooms, removed the DreamWorks experience, updated cabins and public spaces and replaced Giovanni's Table with Jamie's Italian Restaurant.
Though the 4,000-passenger ship features a 1-to-3 crew-to-passenger ratio, recent cruisers said the vessel still maintains a high level of customer service. When it comes to dining, the ship offers 11 venues, including a multilevel main dining room. The ship's nine bars and lounges and onboard entertainment, which includes from Broadway-style shows, earn a consistent nod of approval from past cruisers. Kids have plenty of age-appropriate entertainment, too, including youth programs and teen lounges. Mariner of the Seas touts three pools and six whirlpools. These areas of the ship attract a high concentration of children.
Past travelers were generally complimentary of the staterooms. Similar to its sister ships, Mariner of the Seas offers four stateroom categories: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. All staterooms include flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi accessibility.
- #7Royal Caribbean International#7 in Best Cruises for Families
New to the fleet in 2009 (and last updated in 2014), the 6,780-passenger Oasis of the Seas offers a bevy of unique amenities, such as a carousel, a zip line, two surf simulators and its own sprawling onboard green space known as Central Park.
While this ship is not for those seeking secluded spaces, most cruisers say the seven distinct onboard neighborhoods make up for that. The behemoth ship features designer boutiques, 17 dining venues and larger staterooms than other ships in the fleet.
Like other Royal Caribbean vessels, Oasis of the Seas offers four cabin categories: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. Interior rooms average about 150 square feet, while Suite category cabins can span anywhere from 287 to 1,524 square feet and include added amenities like Jacuzzis and expansive balconies.
While recent cruisers were impressed with the ship's abundant amenities, they noted that with 2,100 crew members, there aren't many tailored onboard experiences – especially when the ship is filled to capacity. Oasis of the Seas caters to those looking for nonstop onboard action.
- #8Carnival Cruise Line#8 in Best Cruises for Families (tie)
The 2,054-passenger Carnival Inspiration was last refurbished in 2016 (it originally launched in 1996) to include more "Fun Ship 2.0" features, such as the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and Guy's Burger Joint. It is set to receive another update in mid-November 2018.
The ship appeals to multiple traveler types, with a variety of activities and amenities ranging from the Punchliner Comedy Club and six bars and lounges to a mini-golf course, video game arcade and WaterWorks water park. During the day, younger guests can participate in age-appropriate kids clubs while parents relax and sip cocktails at the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat.
When it’s time to dine, guests can choose between two main dining rooms, a coffee bar and the Lido buffet, which offers everything from pizza to salad. However, passengers won’t find any specialty dining venues. Past cruisers gave mixed reviews of the food quality.
Carnival Inspiration offers fewer cabin categories than newer Carnival ships, but cruisers can still choose from Interior, Ocean View and Suite category accommodations. All cabins come appointed with flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
- #8Carnival Cruise Line#8 in Best Cruises for Families (tie)
Carnival Horizon – which set sail in April 2018 – is the fleet's newest ship. It accommodates 1,450 crew members and a maximum of 5,101 passengers, and it offers a plethora of amenities for travelers of all ages. Children can ride the SkyRide suspended bike, play at the Dr. Seuss-themed water park and climb the ropes course, while parents can lounge on an adults-only deck and pamper themselves at the Cloud 9 Spa. At night, the whole family can enjoy live performances and lip-syncing competitions.
Onboard dining options are also plentiful, with 11 eateries that serve everything from steaks to Italian classics to burgers. Carnival Horizon is the first in Carnival's fleet to offer a teppanyaki-style restaurant and Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse and Brewhouse.
The ship also has a variety of cabins for passengers to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly Interior Staterooms to specialty suites with spa, nautical and Havana themes. Each comes with modern conveniences like a minibar, a flat-screen TV and a Carnival Comfort bed.
- #8Norwegian Cruise Line#8 in Best Cruises for Families (tie)
The 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel (the namesake of the line's Jewel-class ships) has been cruising since 2005 and recently underwent an extensive renovation. It reemerges in December 2018 boasting refreshed dining venues, updated lounges, premier entertainment and redesigned staterooms. With its low 1-to-2 crew-to-guest ratio, the ship makes tailored experiences a priority.
With 15 eateries and 13 bars and lounges, every guest has plenty of elbow room. Passenger favorites include O'Sheehan's 24-hour bar and grill and the specialty Brazilian steakhouse.
While Jewel appeals to a variety of traveler types, it's especially well-suited for families thanks to its age-appropriate kids clubs, a video arcade and waterslides. But there are plenty of diversions to keep grown-ups occupied as well, such as a full-service spa, a casino and sports facilities.
As for lodging, cruisers can choose between Inside, Oceanview, Balcony, Mini-Suite and Suite category cabins. Those looking for even more space and luxury should opt for a cabin in The Haven, which offers multiple bedrooms and access to a private sun deck.
Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.
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