Cruising with the whole family is getting easier as ships add kid-friendly cabins and features

People watch from the shore as the Harmony of the Seas cruise ship sets sail from Southampton, southern England.
(Adrian Dennis / AFP/Getty Images)

When Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, its newest megaship, set sail May 22 on its first outing, it broke the record for the world’s largest cruise ship.

The 6,000 passengers aboard Harmony can choose from among 20 restaurants, 23 swimming pools and 10-stories-tall water slides.

If passengers are looking for a roomy place to stash a large family, the ship’s Presidential Family Suite is waiting. At 1,142 square feet, the quarters sleep up to 14 people and include two master bedrooms, two master baths (with tubs), two other bedrooms, two more baths, a dining room and a 476-square-foot balcony with a whirlpool, dining area and bar.


The four-day Harmony of the Seas sailing — in essence a shakedown cruise — wasn’t without rough spots, with passengers reporting plumbing problems, long waits at the restaurants and other issues.

But those growing pains don’t alter the fact that Harmony of the Seas has set a size record with the Presidential Family Suite, continuing a trend among cruise lines to offer more options for families and groups.

“While connecting cabins and larger suites aren’t necessarily a new concept in cruising, we are seeing a significant trend in the creation of family-specific cabins,” said Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of CruiseCritic.

Ships haven’t always been as family-friendly. Most cruise line cabins sleep two to four. What’s a family to do if it has more kids, or grandparents traveling with them?

Many cabins are compact, meaning little privacy and, often, small showers, not tubs, which can complicate things if you have young children.

Cruise lines are working to incorporate features that will solve such problems for traveling families.


“Disney was a pioneer in introducing privacy curtains and more expansive baths, and other lines are following suit,” McDaniel said.

“And beyond layout changes, we’re seeing more lines introducing cabins that can accommodate more than four, which is a convenient way to fit a larger group without having to purchase more than one cabin or upgrade to a suite.”

Among the innovations this year:

Carnival Vista, Carnival’s newest ship, has Family Harbor cabins, which accommodate five passengers with two separate bathrooms.

The cabins are in a section of the ship dedicated to families, with a lounge and concierge. There’s also free dining for kids younger than 12 in most of the ship’s specialty restaurants.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers the Haven, a two-bedroom villa with a balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows on its Breakaway, Getaway and Escape vessels. The 543-square-foot cabins have a master bedroom with a king-size bed and a bathroom with tub and separate shower.

The second bedroom has a double sofa bed and a bathroom with shower.

Princess’ Family Suites, which range from 460 to 777 square feet, have large balconies, separate dining areas and baths equipped with tubs and separate showers.


Nearly every restaurant on Princess Cruises also has a kid-friendly menu.

Holland America recently introduced family cabins for five on Koningsdam, its newest ship. It’s a first for the line and is seen as a giant leap for a line not known for catering to families.

Thinking about a river trip? AmaWaterways has entered the family market by partnering with Adventures by Disney to offer family-friendly programming. It also has connecting cabins for larger groups.

“This is a huge step in a river-cruise market that isn’t generally known as being as family-friendly as its ocean-going counterpart,” McDaniel said.

Some cruise lines are more family-friendly than others, just as some itineraries and kid-oriented programs are better than others. It makes choosing a cruise more difficult but ultimately more rewarding when the fit is right.