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

From a relaxing Caribbean cruise to an offbeat expedition to Patagonia, these sailings offer an all-ages appeal, with activities and amenities tailored to all interests and generations. Getty Images/Purestock

With summer behind us and the fall and winter holidays just around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to start planning the next family vacation. Instead of a beach break or ski getaway, a family cruise offers a convenient and cost-effective alternative winter vacation. After all, there are a variety of innovative cruise lines increasing their product offerings and showcasing itineraries to exotic destinations to excite even the most well-traveled broods. However, picking a ship and itinerary that's tailored to all family members' needs and interests can feel like an elusive task. That's why we've pinpointed enticing voyages that cater to all age groups with versatile diversions and enrichment options. Whether you're traveling with toddlers, tweens or teens, here are enticing at-sea vacation ideas to consider this winter.

[See: 10 Amazing Cruise Ship Amenities.]

Explore Asian Metropolises with Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas' high-end, all-inclusive ships take visitors to world-class destinations. This winter, discover top destinations across Asia, from Hong Kong to Beijing, aboard the Regent Seven Seas Voyager. Departing on Dec. 17, this 12-day cruise offers plenty of outdoor activities. Kids will enjoy the waterfalls of Miyazaki, Japan, and the legendary street food scene in Hong Kong. Back on the ship, families can expect enrichment programs and all-inclusive meals and beverages. Even better, the ship's spacious cabins can easily fit two adults and two children. As for onboard cuisine, families can choose from a variety of dining options, from fast food (think: burgers and French fries) at the pool deck to a sophisticated Italian eatery to a popular steakhouse.

[See: 10 Top Cruises for Health Nuts.]

Tour Australia with Princess Cruises

For a far-flung family vacation this winter, consider exploring Australia aboard the Sea Princess this winter. Leaving Brisbane on Dec. 17, the Sea Princess will take passengers to Airlie Beach, a launching pad to the Whitsunday Archipelago and the Great Barrier Reef. And on the ship, little ones can enjoy a variety of onboard activities and entertainment, from dance classes to volleyball to enrichment classes. Best of all, kids are divided into three different clubs with age-appropriate programming (think: pajama movie nights, talent shows and treasure hunts). In the evening, parents can retrieve their kids and enjoy "Movies Under the Stars" kid- and teen-friendly film screenings or check out one of the ship's versatile dining venues.

Cruise to the Caribbean with Disney

Disney Cruise Line's four ships offer plenty of bells and whistles for families. Aboard each Disney ship, you'll find numerous kid-friendly activities and services that are well-suited for the young – and the young at heart. Disney characters pop up frequently throughout the kids club and in communal spaces. Spend a day at sea with beloved different characters and enjoy family-friendly activities like Pirate Night soirees. Best of all, there are plenty of family-friendly stateroom category options that cater to budget-conscious broods. Depart from Port Canaveral, Florida, on a four-night cruise aboard the Disney Dream on Dec. 22 for a fun and action-packed adventure through the Bahamas, with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney's privately owned isle.

[See: 10 Things You Shouldn't Do on a Cruise.]

Discover Patagonia with Seabourn

Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Seabourn offers one of the most unique family-friendly trips in winter. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, start planning next year's winter trip early. The epic journey to Antarctica and Patagonia aboard the Seabourn Quest departs on Nov. 29, 2018, and includes a jampacked agenda. Animal lovers of all ages can admire penguins, seals and other fascinating wildlife up close via daily Zodiac boat trips. Back onboard the ship, kids can unwind in the hot tub, catch shows, play board games and curl up with a book at the library. What's more, the onboard dining options are versatile and include kid-friendly offerings.


12 Tricks to Save Money (and Sanity) on a Family Cruise


Photo Gallery
Family Children Beach Cruise Ship Relaxation Concept
Bermuda, St. George's, cruise ship in port.
Mature woman sitting on a lounge chair while staring into the ocean, while vacationing on a cruise ship
Couple looking at map and laptop.
A cruise ship in moorea harbour
family looking at Santorini, Greece. Travel concept
Close up of female accountant or banker making calculations. Savings, finances and economy concept
Low angle view of parents with their daughter standing on the deck of a cruise ship
Woman leaving entrance door carrying two suitcases, low section
16-month old baby boy
Chef cooking- in front customer
Family browsing and buying souvernirs at street market stand at Majorca. Can Picafort, Mallorca, Spain.
|

Stretch your dollars and dodge stress-inducing experiences at sea with these pro tips.
Cruising can offer an enriching family vacation. With high values, whiz-bang features (zip-lining or surf simulator, anyone?), designated kids clubs and family-friendly entertainment options, cruising offers plenty of enticements for wayfaring broods. But while cruising can be fun for the whole gang, keeping your savings – and sanity – intact can be a challenge. That's why we asked seasoned cruisers to share their secrets for trimming costs and getting the most value out of a family cruise. Whether you're traveling with toddlers or teens, here are tips and tactics for smooth, anxiety-free sailing.
(Getty Images)

Snag special discounts and promotions by sailing at off-peak times.
School breaks tend to be prime time for family cruises, making it difficult to score significantly discounted prices, explains Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. If you have some flexibility, consider cruising at a less popular time, like hurricane season, from late summer through fall. "The beauty of taking a cruise in the Caribbean during hurricane season is that ships are able to quickly adjust itineraries and port stops, so you most likely won’t be affected, and you have a better chance of your vacation not being a complete washout," she explains. But if you decide to roll the dice, make sure to arm yourself with travel insurance, she says.
(Getty Images)

Look for cruise lines offering complimentary perks and add-ons.
Some cruise lines lure budget-minded families with attractive extras. To trim costs, search for cruise companies offering complimentary perks "to sweeten the booking pot – things like onboard credit, drink packages and Wi-Fi packages," Brown says. Another bonus to seek out: cabin upgrades, especially if you're traveling with a large group and want extra space to sprawl out and get quality sleep. You'll also likely score a more desirable location on an upper deck near public areas, pools, the buffet and kids clubs. These extras are "costs that families would incur on top of the base fare, so while you're not saving upfront, you can save hundreds on your final bill," she explains.
(Getty Images)

Get an early start on planning.
"For families, things like sail dates, cabin selections and ships are incredibly important," Brown says, cautioning that the most popular itineraries and room categories fill up quickly, particularly during school breaks. Though there are a variety of kid-friendly lodging options well-suited for families, including interconnecting rooms and suites, she stresses, "these accommodations are in high demand, so plan ahead if you can." Brown also advises booking your vacation between six and nine months ahead of your desired departure date – or as soon as an itinerary becomes available – to get the greatest selection and optimal added benefits.
(Getty Images)

Pick the right cabin.
To secure your desired cabin category and location – the key for planning a successful family cruise – book early with a reputable cruise travel specialist. This pro should have extensive connections to secure added benefits and the best cabin value for your dollar based on your family's needs, says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. A trusted agent will also weigh the pros and cons of your ship, and can suggest the cabin type and location that offer the greatest bang for your buck – and cater to your family's unique needs, she adds. "The larger the ship, the more confusing the cabin choices. And the cabin that works best for your family will depend on your children's ages," Perrin explains.
(Getty Images)

Choose the right ship and itinerary by working with a trusted agent.
"Cruises are quite complex purchases," Brown says, emphasizing that a travel agent can not only help you net the best price, but also help you wade through dozens of options, from ship to itinerary to cabin type. Even better, you don't need to pay an extra fee to work with an agent and leverage his or her expertise, explains Charles Sylvia, vice president of membership and trade relations at the Cruise Lines International Association. An agent will help direct you to the best vacation value propositions and ensure you're matched up with a cruise line that caters to your needs with age-appropriate programming and amenities such as kids clubs and shore excursions, he adds. Plus, if the price drops, an agent can secure a refund of the price difference for you, Perrin explains.
(Getty Images)

Book shore excursions in advance.
It's wise to finalize shore excursions to guarantee availability and avoid sticker shock before climbing aboard. First, see what tours your cruise line offers. Then, "look at the websites of local tourism boards, check museum and monument websites for exhibitions and hours and find out what’s happening in port on the day your ship is stopping there," Perrin says. Keep in mind, excursions are priced per person, so if you're traveling with a family of four or more companions, you can often trim costs by making private arrangements through a reputable independent company or on your own, Perrin explains. She advises hiring a driver for the day or renting a car for shoreside sightseeing.
(Getty Images)

Create a budget – and stick to it.
“To help stretch dollars onboard, be sure to budget in advance," Brown says. Anticipate out-of-pocket expenses, such as soda, specialty dining and internet, and factor those costs into the price of your vacation, she adds. "For families traveling with older kids, put a spending limit on your onboard account at the start of the cruise. This will help you stay on budget and keep kids from purchasing too many add-ons," she says.
(Getty Images)

Consider all family members' ages, needs and interests.
When picking an itinerary, consider cruises that are well-suited for your children's ages, "such as those with many outdoor adventures like zip-lining for teens, or even river cruises that take kids to castles and palaces in Europe that they’ve only read about in their history books," says Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. Also, consider onboard services and programs to pare down your choices. Younger children will want amenities like waterslides and a robust club where they can play with kids their own age, Poirot explains. Meanwhile, older kids crave things to do onboard, including rock climbing and testing their skills on a surf simulator; a club where they can hang with other teens also doesn't hurt, Perrin says.
Getty Images/Purestock

Pack smart.
Arm yourself – and youngsters – with a few key essentials for a worry-free vacation. Perrin suggests bringing swimsuits in your carry-on, so youngsters can head straight to the pool on embarkation day. If your kids are old enough to explore the ship on their own, Perrin suggests bringing Post-it Notes, so they can leave messages for parents before heading out, along with a lanyard to ensure they won't lose their room keys. Another staple is a highlighter, so kiddos can flag the onboard activities they are interested in attending. For older kids, bring watches to ensure they meet you at a designated time, since there are few onboard clocks, Perrin adds.
(Getty Images)

Traveling with an infant? Make a plan.
If you're planning to travel with a baby, don't forget to review your cruise line's policies, Poirot says. "Cruise lines have age restrictions, and some may not have the means to accommodate an infant," she explains. "If you want to travel with a little one and still be able to see and do activities, turn to a ship that offers infant care on board. Also, check options for cribs, diaper containers, formula and other needs," she adds. When selecting your cruise line and ship, make sure you consider facilities and services available for young kids, Perrin says. "Some ships have waterslides, some don't. Some have splash features for toddlers, some don't."
(Getty Images)

Consider all meal options.
When it comes to dining, skip signing up for the early seating in the main dining room, Perrin says. If you sign up for the later seating, you can feed your kids at the buffet, drop them off at the kids club and enjoy a date night. Eating some casual meals at the buffet can also trim costs. "A ship's alternative restaurants may cost $15 to $25 to $40 per person, which really adds up for a family," she says. Meanwhile, "buffets allow kids to choose what they want, to eat without long waits and to try small amounts of a new food without ordering a whole entree of it," she adds.
(Getty Images)

Create long-lasting memories with trip mementos.
"Let your kid collect a souvenir – preferably one handmade by a local, or one that your child finds or makes himself out of local materials – in each port," Perrin advises. Every memento tells a story, "and my kids remember all about the place where they procured each souvenir and the people they met doing so," she explains. It's also a great idea to snap pictures of your kids while in port, to retain the memory long after your journey, she says. "Take a photo of your child with each little treasure and the artisan whom they watched make it."
(Getty Images)

Family Children Beach Cruise Ship Relaxation Concept
Bermuda, St. George's, cruise ship in port.
Mature woman sitting on a lounge chair while staring into the ocean, while vacationing on a cruise ship
Couple looking at map and laptop.
A cruise ship in moorea harbour
family looking at Santorini, Greece. Travel concept
Close up of female accountant or banker making calculations. Savings, finances and economy concept
Low angle view of parents with their daughter standing on the deck of a cruise ship
Woman leaving entrance door carrying two suitcases, low section
16-month old baby boy
Chef cooking- in front customer
Family browsing and buying souvernirs at street market stand at Majorca. Can Picafort, Mallorca, Spain.

Stretch your dollars and dodge stress-inducing experiences at sea with these pro tips.
Cruising can offer an enriching family vacation. With high values, whiz-bang features (zip-lining or surf simulator, anyone?), designated kids clubs and family-friendly entertainment options, cruising offers plenty of enticements for wayfaring broods. But while cruising can be fun for the whole gang, keeping your savings – and sanity – intact can be a challenge. That's why we asked seasoned cruisers to share their secrets for trimming costs and getting the most value out of a family cruise. Whether you're traveling with toddlers or teens, here are tips and tactics for smooth, anxiety-free sailing.
(Getty Images)

Snag special discounts and promotions by sailing at off-peak times.
School breaks tend to be prime time for family cruises, making it difficult to score significantly discounted prices, explains Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. If you have some flexibility, consider cruising at a less popular time, like hurricane season, from late summer through fall. "The beauty of taking a cruise in the Caribbean during hurricane season is that ships are able to quickly adjust itineraries and port stops, so you most likely won’t be affected, and you have a better chance of your vacation not being a complete washout," she explains. But if you decide to roll the dice, make sure to arm yourself with travel insurance, she says.
(Getty Images)

Look for cruise lines offering complimentary perks and add-ons.
Some cruise lines lure budget-minded families with attractive extras. To trim costs, search for cruise companies offering complimentary perks "to sweeten the booking pot – things like onboard credit, drink packages and Wi-Fi packages," Brown says. Another bonus to seek out: cabin upgrades, especially if you're traveling with a large group and want extra space to sprawl out and get quality sleep. You'll also likely score a more desirable location on an upper deck near public areas, pools, the buffet and kids clubs. These extras are "costs that families would incur on top of the base fare, so while you're not saving upfront, you can save hundreds on your final bill," she explains.
(Getty Images)

Get an early start on planning.
"For families, things like sail dates, cabin selections and ships are incredibly important," Brown says, cautioning that the most popular itineraries and room categories fill up quickly, particularly during school breaks. Though there are a variety of kid-friendly lodging options well-suited for families, including interconnecting rooms and suites, she stresses, "these accommodations are in high demand, so plan ahead if you can." Brown also advises booking your vacation between six and nine months ahead of your desired departure date – or as soon as an itinerary becomes available – to get the greatest selection and optimal added benefits.
(Getty Images)

Pick the right cabin.
To secure your desired cabin category and location – the key for planning a successful family cruise – book early with a reputable cruise travel specialist. This pro should have extensive connections to secure added benefits and the best cabin value for your dollar based on your family's needs, says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. A trusted agent will also weigh the pros and cons of your ship, and can suggest the cabin type and location that offer the greatest bang for your buck – and cater to your family's unique needs, she adds. "The larger the ship, the more confusing the cabin choices. And the cabin that works best for your family will depend on your children's ages," Perrin explains.
(Getty Images)

Choose the right ship and itinerary by working with a trusted agent.
"Cruises are quite complex purchases," Brown says, emphasizing that a travel agent can not only help you net the best price, but also help you wade through dozens of options, from ship to itinerary to cabin type. Even better, you don't need to pay an extra fee to work with an agent and leverage his or her expertise, explains Charles Sylvia, vice president of membership and trade relations at the Cruise Lines International Association. An agent will help direct you to the best vacation value propositions and ensure you're matched up with a cruise line that caters to your needs with age-appropriate programming and amenities such as kids clubs and shore excursions, he adds. Plus, if the price drops, an agent can secure a refund of the price difference for you, Perrin explains.
(Getty Images)

Book shore excursions in advance.
It's wise to finalize shore excursions to guarantee availability and avoid sticker shock before climbing aboard. First, see what tours your cruise line offers. Then, "look at the websites of local tourism boards, check museum and monument websites for exhibitions and hours and find out what’s happening in port on the day your ship is stopping there," Perrin says. Keep in mind, excursions are priced per person, so if you're traveling with a family of four or more companions, you can often trim costs by making private arrangements through a reputable independent company or on your own, Perrin explains. She advises hiring a driver for the day or renting a car for shoreside sightseeing.
(Getty Images)

Create a budget – and stick to it.
“To help stretch dollars onboard, be sure to budget in advance," Brown says. Anticipate out-of-pocket expenses, such as soda, specialty dining and internet, and factor those costs into the price of your vacation, she adds. "For families traveling with older kids, put a spending limit on your onboard account at the start of the cruise. This will help you stay on budget and keep kids from purchasing too many add-ons," she says.
(Getty Images)

Consider all family members' ages, needs and interests.
When picking an itinerary, consider cruises that are well-suited for your children's ages, "such as those with many outdoor adventures like zip-lining for teens, or even river cruises that take kids to castles and palaces in Europe that they’ve only read about in their history books," says Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. Also, consider onboard services and programs to pare down your choices. Younger children will want amenities like waterslides and a robust club where they can play with kids their own age, Poirot explains. Meanwhile, older kids crave things to do onboard, including rock climbing and testing their skills on a surf simulator; a club where they can hang with other teens also doesn't hurt, Perrin says.
Getty Images/Purestock

Pack smart.
Arm yourself – and youngsters – with a few key essentials for a worry-free vacation. Perrin suggests bringing swimsuits in your carry-on, so youngsters can head straight to the pool on embarkation day. If your kids are old enough to explore the ship on their own, Perrin suggests bringing Post-it Notes, so they can leave messages for parents before heading out, along with a lanyard to ensure they won't lose their room keys. Another staple is a highlighter, so kiddos can flag the onboard activities they are interested in attending. For older kids, bring watches to ensure they meet you at a designated time, since there are few onboard clocks, Perrin adds.
(Getty Images)

Traveling with an infant? Make a plan.
If you're planning to travel with a baby, don't forget to review your cruise line's policies, Poirot says. "Cruise lines have age restrictions, and some may not have the means to accommodate an infant," she explains. "If you want to travel with a little one and still be able to see and do activities, turn to a ship that offers infant care on board. Also, check options for cribs, diaper containers, formula and other needs," she adds. When selecting your cruise line and ship, make sure you consider facilities and services available for young kids, Perrin says. "Some ships have waterslides, some don't. Some have splash features for toddlers, some don't."
(Getty Images)

Consider all meal options.
When it comes to dining, skip signing up for the early seating in the main dining room, Perrin says. If you sign up for the later seating, you can feed your kids at the buffet, drop them off at the kids club and enjoy a date night. Eating some casual meals at the buffet can also trim costs. "A ship's alternative restaurants may cost $15 to $25 to $40 per person, which really adds up for a family," she says. Meanwhile, "buffets allow kids to choose what they want, to eat without long waits and to try small amounts of a new food without ordering a whole entree of it," she adds.
(Getty Images)

Create long-lasting memories with trip mementos.
"Let your kid collect a souvenir – preferably one handmade by a local, or one that your child finds or makes himself out of local materials – in each port," Perrin advises. Every memento tells a story, "and my kids remember all about the place where they procured each souvenir and the people they met doing so," she explains. It's also a great idea to snap pictures of your kids while in port, to retain the memory long after your journey, she says. "Take a photo of your child with each little treasure and the artisan whom they watched make it."
(Getty Images)

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Tags: travel, vacations, cruises


Sery Kim , trained as an attorney at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law, has written for U.S. News Travel since 2015. Additionally, she currently appears on-air each month for ABC and FOX while writing stories for several publications including the prestigious Travel and Leisure Magazine, Food and Wine Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, Manifesto's Brand USA and Brand America, as well as Washington Life Magazine, Business Traveler USA and Fairmont Raffles Swisshotel Magazine. Recently, Sery also began writing for Fox News National Travel, as well as Town and Country Magazine and Washingtonian Magazine. You can find out more information about Sery on her personal blog www.AdventuresInSery.com.

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