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Discover multi-generational cruising: A family affair

Author: Deborah Stone

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If you're looking for a holiday everyone will love, multi-gen cruising is just the ticket. But which lines go the extra mile?

Ever squeezed your parents and young children into the family car to drive through traffic for a week in a holiday cottage? Then you’ll understand why cruise ships win hands-down when it comes to multi-generational holidays.

Yes, we do enjoy each other’s company on a trip – but not every minute. We want to eat together – but without shared cooking and cleaning – and we want to explore new places, but at our own pace.

Cruise ships give you all that and more. The biggest are resorts in their own right, with aqua parks and entertainment to keep children occupied all day, plus adults-only hideaways, where parents relax while children are at kids’ clubs, and quiet corners for grandparents to read or relax with the drink of their choice (unless they fancy the golf simulator or hot tub, of course).

Flexible mealtimes, rather than traditional fixed dining hours, give you even more choice, and some lines allow children to eat early and then go to kids’ clubs, leaving the grown-ups to finish their five-course meals.

There are also casual dining choices, from buffets to take-away pizza, so everyone can eat what they want, then go off to watch a film under the stars, play games on the sports deck, or cards in their interconnecting family staterooms.

Best of all, you can visit those bucket-list destinations together, or choose excursions to suit yourself and then meet up for ice creams on deck to tell each other about your adventures.

So which cruise lines tick all your multi-generational holiday boxes? We've picked nine of the best....

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Royal Caribbean

Something for everyone

The undisputed leader for family cruises, Royal Caribbean operates a huge fleet of resort ships, including new Wonder of the Seas, which debuted in the Caribbean in March and arrives in the Mediterranean in May.

Wonder is the line’s fifth Oasis-class ship and its biggest yet (5,518 guests), with a redesigned pool deck that offers an all-new Wonder Playscape of slides, climbing walls, games and puzzles for all ages.

That’s on top of the attractions you'll find on other Oasis-class ships, including the 10-deck Ultimate Abyss slide, FlowRider surfing, AquaTheater high-diving shows, an ice rink and children's clubs for ages two to 17.

- READ MORE: Your guide to Royal Caribbean cruises -

Wonder’s ground-breaking two-storey Ultimate Family Suite for 10 people has its own slide from bedroom to lounge, plus air hockey and table tennis on the balcony. It comes with a price tag to match, but there are plenty of other interconnecting suites and staterooms for multi-gen groups.

Family Time Dining, available on Royal Caribbean ships, means children aged three to 11 are picked up 40 minutes after early dining starts, so grown-ups can eat while youngsters are looked after by children’s club staff.

Get onboard
Royal Caribbean's seven-night ‘Western Mediterranean’ cruise aboard Wonder of the Seas, round trip from Civitavecchia via Naples, Barcelona, Mallorca and Marseille, departs August 4, 2022, from £1,072pp.

Wonder of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship in the world. Credit: Royal Caribbean

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Disney Cruise Line

The kids' favourite

Disney ships are great for all ages, especially fans of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixel and – of course – Disney films. This July, Disney Wish – the line's first new ship in 10 years – will debut in Florida, with a whole new range of attractions.

- READ MORE: Family cruising: The most child-friendly cruise lines -

AquaMouse is the first Disney ride at sea – an action-packed water ride above the top deck – while the Toy Story district offers a family waterslide and young children’s splash zone.

There are strictly adults-only areas, too. The Quiet Cove has an infinity pool and bar, while the Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge is billed as ‘like a bar on a yacht-class spaceship’.

Take the plunge with AquaMouse, Disney's first ride at sea- an amazing 760ft waterslide. Credit: Disney Cruise Line

This mix of adult and family fun is a feature of all Disney ships, which range in size from the 4,000-passenger Wish, Dream and Fantasy to the 2,713-guest Magic, which sails several cruises from Dover this summer.

All the line’s ships feature amazing themed restaurants. Disney Wish has the world’s first Marvel cinematic dining adventure, where diners get involved with an Avengers mission, and Arendelle, the first Frozen-themed theatrical dining experience. For fine-dining there’s Enchanté by chef Arnaud Lallement, who has three Michelin stars to his name.

- READ MORE: Disney Cruise Line to return to the Caribbean & Mexico -

All ships also feature adults-only dining, children’s clubs, and cabins with interconnecting doors.

Get onboard
Disney Cruise Line's three-night ‘Bahamian Cruise’ aboard Disney Wish, round trip from Port Canaveral via Nassau (Bahamas) and Disney Castaway Cay, departs August 19, 2022, from £1,733pp.

All the family can enjoy Disney's whimsy with a Frozen-themed dining experience. Credit: Disney Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

Sporty thrills and spills

Launching this August, the aptly named 3,215-guest Norwegian Prima is a ship full of amazing first-time experiences, including the first three-level race track at sea and the first freefall dry slide, aka The Drop.

Like all the NCL fleet, Prima will be packed with family entertainment, but it’s the line’s Breakaway-class ships that have won multi-gen and family holiday awards.

- READ MORE: Best cruise ships for sports fans and thrill-seekers -

All vessels have interconnecting staterooms and family mini-suites, and most have two-bedroom family suites conveniently close to children’s play areas.

Breakaway ships also offer free youth programmes, with age-appropriate clubs from six months to 17 years and activities such as circus skills, while late night or port day supervision is available for a fee.

When you book a balcony cabin, you'll have a private outdoor space where you can get a sea view at any time. Credit: NCL

Although there are four BreakawayPlus and two Breakaway-class ships, the original Norwegian Breakaway is much loved for its all-age Aqua Park and Sports Complex, Rock of Ages musical, al fresco dining at The Waterfront and live bands at the popular Beatles-themed Cavern Club.

- READ MORE: What is onboard the new Norwegian Viva? -

A pioneer of flexible dining via its Freestyle programme, Norwegian also offers complimentary kids’ menus in paid-for speciality restaurants for children up to age 12.

Get onboard
Norwegian Cruise Line's seven-night ‘Caribbean Cruise’ aboard Norwegian Breakaway, roundtrip from Miami via Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic), St Thomas, Tortola and Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas), departs August 7, 2022, from £928pp.

You can all sing along to the musical melodies on an NCL cruise. Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line

MSC Cruises

Fun for all the family

MSC may have Swarovski crystal staircases, and Sophia Loren as godmother to all its ships, but this family-owned cruise line is about much more than glamour.

With Lego play areas and Chicco baby clubs, as well as excellent free children’s clubs, aqua parks and sports areas for football, basketball and other games, these ships are brilliant for multi-generational holidays that everyone will enjoy.

- READ MORE: MSC Cruises unveils dining options for MSC World Europa -

Making her debut this December, new ship MSC World Europa has a family district that houses all the kids’ facilities, as well as a Zen district for adults, but all the fleet offer interconnecting cabins and family suites in the exclusive MSC Yacht Club.

Children’s dining includes a Kids’ Corner in all buffet restaurants, and staff whisk junior cruisers off to children’s clubs when they’ve finished eating. MSC Family Explorer Club also offers tailored excursions at half-price for children.

Parents can relax on an MSC cruise- a great place both for children's dining and after-dinner entertainment. Credit: Shutterstock

The line’s dress code is relaxed at all times, and MSC Virtuosa homeports at Southampton in 2022, offering no-fly cruises to save you the hassle of airports and the cost of flights.

Get onboard
MSC's 14-night ‘Western Mediterranean’ cruise aboard MSC Virtuosa, round trip from Southampton via Cadiz, Malaga, Alicante, Mallorca, Villefranche, Barcelona and Lisbon, departs July 16 2022, from £1,399pp (£449 for 12 to 17 year olds; £399 for 2 to 11 year olds).

- READ MORE: Ultimate guide to MSC Virtuosa: From cabins to capacity

Princess Cruises

A voyage of discovery

Princess ships have pools, children’s clubs, sports decks and movies under the stars, but don’t expect too many high-octane thrills to rival NCL’s onboard race tracks.

Families aboard Sky Princess or Island Princess can have fun solving High Seas Heist mysteries. Credit: Princess Cruises

Instead, Princess offers a more thoughtful variety of family fun via its partnership with Discovery Channel, including onboard activities such as stargazing on deck, where experts are on hand to explain the major constellations.

- READ MORE: Princess Cruises: Weird & wonderful skills to learn -

Some ships, including Island Princess and Sky Princess, offer the chance to solve High Seas Heist mysteries in a survival-style game, but Caribbean Princess is probably the best for multi-generational cruises, thanks to its Reef Family Splash Zone with a splash pool, water sprays and Winnie the Whale.

There’s also a Game Zone and family bar serving non-alcoholic cocktails.

Get onboard
Princess Cruises' 13-night ‘Canada & Colonial America’ cruise aboard Caribbean Princess, from Fort Lauderdale to Quebec City via New York City, Rhode Island, Boston, Bar Harbor, St John’s and Halifax, departs July 23, 2022 from £1,299pp (£799 for guests three and four in a family cabin).

See the stars with Princess Cruises as they offer an engrossing programme of family fun. Credit: Shutterstock

The best of the rest

Marella is known for great-value cruises, with Marella Discovery and Discovery II especially good for families. Both have two pools, a climbing wall and minigolf, plus Family Suites with PlayStation 4. Marella Explorer has a Sports & Family Deck but Explorer 2 is adults only.

P&O Cruises offers UK school holiday cruises on its family-friendly ships Britannia, Ventura, Azura and new Iona, which launched last year. All have children’s clubs, pools and excursions for families, while Azura and Ventura have Family Suites that sleep six.

- READ MORE: Top tips for enjoying a family cruise -

A-Rosa is a pioneer of family-friendly river cruising. Sailing on the Rhine, A-Rosa Flora has cabins for four, and there are interconnecting cabins on A-Rosa Luna and A-Rosa Viva, sailing the Rhone and Seine respectively. On the Danube, A-Rosa Bella has cabins with an extra bed. Kids’ clubs are available on selected itineraries, and children under 15 travel free.

CroisiEurope also offers family-friendly European cruises in July and August 2022, with under-16s sailing free in Portugal, Spain, Italy and on the Rhine, and discounts on coastal cruises in Montenegro and Croatia. On board, there are games and sports for children, shows to suit multi-gen families, and excursions are included.

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