Cruise Activities That Will Thrill Your Children and Transform Your Idea of the Family Cruise Experience

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The Magical Fairytale of Hobbiton, Adventures With Pirates, Shark Week at Sea, Dog Sledding, Royal Tea and Giant Board Games

Family-friendly cruising has risen to new levels in recent years, with scores of new programs and amenities designed with families in mind. From giant-sized versions of board games, to sled dog camp, Royal Court Tea and scuba expeditions, the lines have something to match every family’s ideas of fun and adventure.

CruiseCompete member-agents are the most well-educated, forward-thinking and trusted cruise specialists in the industry, and they assist every day in helping their clients create the ultimate family cruise vacation. Part of this process involves asking CruiseCompete users about the most exciting part of their family cruise vacation. Survey feedback indicates that the cruise lines’ family-specific programs and activities top the list.

Here are just some of the CruiseCompete users’ favorite programs and activities by type of cruise line:

Ultra-Luxury Cruise Lines:

Crystal Cruises: Crystal Cruises offers swimming pools and a theater onboard their ships and has a variety of exciting shore excursions that families will love. Perhaps the top of the list is Crystal Cruises “Exclusive Evening in “Middle-Earth”: The Hobbiton Movie Set After Hours” where participants travel 90 minutes from the pier in Auckland, New Zealand, to the Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm.

A description of the excursion, straight from Crystal Cruises, reads:

Upon arrival, you will be treated to a guided walking exploration of the picturesque countryside, which has been opened “after hours” for Crystal guests. Admiring the beautiful setting, you will come to understand why director Peter Jackson, when flying over the Alexander family farm during a search for filming locations in 1998, selected this spot for Hobbiton.

Without roads, buildings or power lines, this location was indeed ideal for the portrayal of Middle-earth. For filming, however, much was needed to be done. Site construction began in March 1999. Heavy earthmoving equipment provided by the New Zealand Army was pressed into service to build a road into the site. Hedges and trees were brought in, gardens were planted, 37 hobbit holes were created, and even the artificial leaves for the oak tree overlooking Bag End were painstakingly put in place, one by one.

The result, as you will see, is both fanciful and stunning. The set was rebuilt in 2011 for The Hobbit prequel, complete with hobbit holes, gardens, the bridge, the Mill and the Green Dragon. During your visit, you surely will be impressed by the skill of the set makers as you step into this spectacular world with views across the verdant landscape to the Kaimai Ranges.

After your guided exploration, take a seat in the area outside the Green Dragon Inn, overlooking the small lake and the Mill. Stepping deeper into the World of The Hobbit and Middle Earth, enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner served by locals adorned in Lord of the Rings inspired attire.

With dusk falling, your magical evening draws to a close as you re-join your motor coach and return to civilization.

Crystal Cruises is also offering a new Crystal Family Memories Program on select sailings.

The offer (complimentary with 6 full-fare, full-payment guests) is as follows:

  • $200 per person shipboard credit (maximum 2 per stateroom)
  • One 8” x 10” activity photo and a USB memory drive with digital photo files of all purchased photography, one set per stateroom
  • Third-berth kids sail free (17 years and under with waiver)
  • $500 credit for a minimum $2,500 Crystal Private Adventure®; $100 nonrefundable service fee applies; $500 credit is applied at time of payment; Standard request procedures apply
  • All guests in staterooms must be full fare; applies to first two full-fare guests in a stateroom or Suite
  • To be eligible for the Crystal Family Memories program benefits, guests must be booked as a family/friends group at the same time with the same travel agency; Restrictions apply.

Paul Gauguin Cruises:
Paul Gauguin Cruises offers the Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program, developed by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, which introduces children ages 9 to 17 to the natural wonders of French Polynesia. Participants learn about the environment through hands-on experiences with marine and island ecosystems. This program is open to other family members for the additional cost of the shore excursions. 

Water-loving families will also adore the m/s Paul Gauguin’s pool and retractable watersports platform for paddle boarding, kayaking or optional SCUBA diving expeditions.

Premium Cruise Lines:

Disney Cruise Line: Disney is designed with families in mind. The line incorporates live theater shows staring favorite Disney characters, themed deck parties and Royal Court Tea with the Disney Princesses aboard the Disney Fantasy. Studio Sea, a family entertainment center on the Disney Wonder, is a television studio-themed area where families can sing, dance, play games and watch live entertainment together.

Disney Cruise Line Shore excursions are also geared toward families, with options such as a Fairytale Canal Cruise in Copenhagen led by “Hans Christian Andersen,” or an Alaskan Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing excursion.

Princess Cruises: Princess Cruises offers the popular Movies Under the Stars, complete with complimentary blankets and popcorn, an outdoor movie theatre on deck. The line also offers the Discovery at Sea program, which includes Shark Week At Sea, Discovery and Animal Planet shore excursions, Stargazing at Sea and Discovery at Sea Trivia Challenge.

Upscale Contemporary Cruise Lines:

MSC Cruises: Kids 11 and under (who share a stateroom with their parents) sail for free on MSC Cruises. The ships have swimming pools, water slides and a 4-D cinema. The line also offers cooking classes and a family disco, among other family-friendly activities.

Royal Caribbean International: Royal Caribbean offers a myriad of family activities. The adventuresome will love RipcordSM by iFLY®, the first sky simulator on any cruise line; NorthStarSM, a jewel-shaped capsule with 360-degree views, rock-climbing walls; FlowRider® and surf simulators The line also offers SeaPlexSM an activities complex with the first bumper cars, roller skating rink and circus school at sea. For families who love professional level entertainment there’s Broadway At SeaSM shows and AquaTheater shows. Plus there is a 3D movie theater, ice shows, outdoor movies and their exclusive DreamWork’s Experiences.

A family adventure can be had in Juneau, Alaska, with Royal Caribbean’s Dog Sled Summer Camp shore excursion. Join an educational tour of the remote Sheep Creek Dog Camp, see a replica of an Iditarod Race checkpoint, and learn about how important dog care and the dogs’ health are to the Iditarod racers Board a wheeled dog cart and mush approx. 1.5 miles through Sheep Creek Valley.

Contemporary Cruise Lines:

Carnival Cruise Line: Guests aboard Carnival Cruise Line will delight in their many family options.

The line offers: Hasbro, The Game Show, which lets participants play giant-sized versions of Hasbro’s most popular games (Fun filled options include: Sorry!, Sliders, Yahtzee Bowling, Connect 4 Basketball, Operation Sam Dunk and Simon Flash All.) Carnival also offers an IMAX Theater for family viewings and the ever popular SkyRide pedal powered zip line.

In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Carnival’s Pirate Cruise shore excursion is a must-do. This high-intensity activity takes you on an adventure where pirates swing from the highest masts, walk the plank and jump straight into the ocean! There are also beach games and a special treasure hunt for kids to find a buried treasure chest.

CruiseCompete member-agents are the most well-educated, forward-thinking and trusted cruise specialists in the industry. If you’d like more information or assistance planning a future cruise, please visit

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