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3 Cruise Lines That Let Kids Sail Free

Plan a memorable getaway with the gang that won't break the bank.

U.S. News & World Report

3 Cruise Lines That Let Kids Sail Free

Low angle view of parents with their daughter standing on the deck of a cruise ship

Shave hundreds off your next vacation by picking one of these lines offering "kids sail free" promotions and family-friendly perks.Getty Images/Purestock

Cruising has been a popular vacation option for families for decades, and for good reason. By opting for a cruise, families can enjoy a wide range of onboard activities that run the gamut, from live entertainment to onboard bingo, dancing lessons and even yoga. And since food and entertainment are typically included the nightly rate, families can enjoy themselves without worrying over the intricacies of their vacation budget.

But, what about the kids? While an all-inclusive cruise can help you save on your vacation, that doesn't always translate to a cost-effective trip with kids in tow. Plus, some cruise lines charge for kids as if they were adults, translating to a steep final bill for the average family of four. If you're angling for an affordable family cruise, it helps to know which cruise lines let kids sail for free – at least part of the year.

Here are a few cruise lines to consider as you navigate the murky, and potentially costly, waters in 2017.

MSC Cruises

If you're looking for a cruise line that lets kids sail free for select sailings throughout the year, look no further than MSC Cruises. With MSC, kids 12 and under traveling with their parents in the same cabin can sail free on select cruises all over the globe. The promotion is available on sailings to 150 different destinations in regions such as the Middle East, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. With the kids in tow, you could sail to dazzling and diverse cities such as Barcelona, Spain, Cape Town, South Africa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Venice, Italy. And even though MSC Cruises is a European-based cruise line, you can still depart from Miami to enjoy a Caribbean cruise with stops in Jamaica, St. Maarten, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and more.

As if letting kids sail free on select voyages wasn't enough, MSC Cruises also offers leisure activities and amenities designed specifically for kids. Onboard features and activities include everything from water parks with slides to swimming pools, kids and teen clubs and interactive dinners. The line's "Kelly and Kloe On Board" web series also lets kids explore their cruise vacation online before their trip.

[Find the best value cruise sailings on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]

Royal Caribbean International

While Royal Caribbean doesn't always let kids sail free, the cruise line does offer occasional promotions that let kids tag along with a paid adult. With Royal Caribbean's current promotion, kids under 12 can cruise for free on certain 2017 and 2018 sailings. Itineraries that qualify include cruises to tropical hot spots such as Key West, Nassau and Cozumel. Cruises offering "kids sail free" promotions throughout Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Asia are also available. Best of all, back on board Royal Caribbean's ships, the whole gang can enjoy plenty of shows and entertainment, along with kid-themed activities created just for little ones. Royal Caribbean's award-winning Adventure Ocean® youth program can also keep the kids entertained while the adults play.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is yet another cruise line that extends specific promotions to families. And right now, Norwegian is offering a promotion that lets kids sail free with free balcony upgrades on select itineraries. The "kids sail free" promotion is available on select sailings to all destinations Norwegian's ships visit. Some itineraries also offer up to $100 in onboard credits, which can be used for specialty dinners, cruise excursions, spa treatments and more. And with its kids clubs carefully crafted for all ages, and family dining, entertainment and activities included in one bundled rate, planning a kid-approved vacation with Norwegian is easy.

The Bottom Line

Cruising remains a popular vacation for families who want more than a simple hotel getaway. With a cruise, families with kids – from toddlers to preteens and teens – can explore exciting destinations, enjoy an array of onboard activities and get excited at the prospect of waking up somewhere new each day. But cruising is even better when the kids can come along for free. Before you book your next cruise, make sure to check for "kids sail free" deals and special promotions that help make family travel much more affordable.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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