It’s a question we get frequently: Can kids take a luxury cruise? In most cases, the answer is yes, they can — but the question these parents need to ask is: SHOULD kids take a luxury cruise?
While a luxury cruise isn’t designed or priced for kids, there may be some situations where it is a viable option for some families.
We’ll look at each age group and see how advisable a luxury sailing is for families with kids of that age.
What is a Luxury Cruise?
To be clear, when referring to a luxury cruise, we mean a sailing on a luxury cruise line like Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Seabourn or similar, generally priced at $350 per person, per night, or higher. While some people and articles refer to cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity as “luxury cruises,” we’re not considering them in the context of this question. Those mainstream cruise lines generally make an excellent cruise choice for a family with kids.
It’s important to note that luxury cruise lines generally don’t offer children’s pricing or discounts. So if you bring your kids, you’ll likely be paying full, adult fare for them. Mainstream lines, who often feature Kids Sail Free or Kids Sail for $99-type promotions, are a much better value for a family cruise.
Kids Under 9
The first age group we’ll examine is kids under 9 years old. This includes infants, toddlers, and young elementary-school aged children. It’s kids this age that are most likely to take advantage of the organized kids club activities on a cruise, and the group least likely to spend time exploring the ship independently with their siblings or friends. Parents who take younger children on a luxury cruise need to be with them at all times; that means no late nights in the bar or casino, no romantic candlelight dinners in the steakhouse, and no break whatsoever.
Luxury cruise ships have, without exception, no amenities suitable for this age group. There are no kids clubs, no children’s pools or water play areas, and no “kids buffet” with hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and pizza. The staterooms do not have bunk beds, or child-friendly TV channels.
The older, upscale passengers on luxury cruises will not take kindly to the presence of even the most well-behaved children in this age range, and will often make their displeasure known, even for minor misbehavior or noise.
Some cruise lines even prohibit, or reserve the right to prohibit, younger kids from booking a cruise. In short, kids under 9 years old should not take a luxury cruise.
Tweens, or kids of the awkward ages between 9 and 12, is the next group we’ll evaluate for suitability for a luxury cruise. While kids of this age do take advantage of the kids club programs on mainstream lines, you’d be just as likely to find them roaming the ship in small groups, socializing, looking for fun, and often looking for trouble.
Much of what we wrote above for younger kids applies here: there are no kids clubs, bunk beds, kids buffet or shore excursions designed to appeal to kids, and older passengers on a luxury cruise will not be any happier to hear a 12 year old making noise in the dining room than they would be a 6 year old.
The biggest difference for this age group is that, depending on the maturity level of the child and the comfort level of the parents, it may be possible to leave the kids to their own amusement for limited time periods. Suddenly, late night dancing or enjoying the string trio playing in the lounge becomes a possibility, while the kid(s) go to bed early in the room, or parents can enjoy a little quiet time poolside while the kids swim without needing to be supervised for every moment.
Keep in mind though, there’s still going to be very few external elements to amuse the kids, so it’s really incumbent on the parents to know their children and how well they’d do in a situation like this before bringing them on a luxury cruise.
Teens, or kids from 13 to 17, are the final age group we’ll consider for a luxury cruise. While there are “teen clubs” on most mainstream cruise lines, many kids of this age take advantage of the trust and freedom to keep themselves entertained on a cruise.
Teens are probably the safest bet to bring on a luxury cruise, but as with tweens, parents need to carefully consider their kids’ personalities and interests before booking them.
Mature teens with an interest in culture and history might just love a luxury cruise. These smaller-ship cruises often go to unique ports that big ships can’t reach, making for excellent opportunities for exploring new places and getting a unique look at history that might not be possible on a larger ship.
Well-behaved teens will generally be tolerated by luxury cruise passengers, and while there won’t be any activities specifically targeted to them, they may be more inclined to enjoy port lectures and other entertainment and activities that wouldn’t be suitable for younger kids.
A Luxury Cruise Alternative for Families
If you have your heart set on a more upscale cruise experience, but don’t think the kids would feel at home on a luxury ship, consider the “ship within a ship” concepts offered by the mainstream lines Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.
These key-card restricted enclaves, known as The Haven on Norwegian and The Yacht Club on MSC, offer a private, exclusive section of the ship with all-suite accommodations, typically with a private pool, restaurant, lounge, concierge service, and other amenities. The Haven and Yacht Club passengers have full run of the entire ship (often with priority seating in shows, priority dining reservations, and more), access to kids programs, and entertainment and activity options that far exceed the choices on a luxury ship.
Kids will be the rule, rather than the exception in these areas, and unless your little one is exceptionally poorly behaved, they’re much less likely to attract angry gazes or derision from other passengers.
A ship within a ship is the best option for parents of younger kids, and a viable choice for families with tweens and teens.
While it might be feasible to bring some tweens or teens on a luxury cruise, it’s not the best option for most families. Parents with kids under 9 should definitely explore other options, but for those with mature, well-behaved older children, a luxury sailing is a potential, if expensive, option.
Mainstream “ship within a ship” complexes will serve as a better option for most families with kids.
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