15 Fun Family Activities To Do On A Cruise Ship
by Daniel | Last Updated October 20th, 2019
With 28.2 million people going on a cruise in 2018, it's clearly a popular vacation option for all ages. Cruise ships of all sizes offer fun family activities to keep your youngest and oldest cruisers happy.
Most activities are free as part of your cruise package. Take advantage of those complementary activities to keep your kids entertained, but don't forget some downtime to keep kids rested, too.
The specific activity options vary significantly by the cruise line. Even different cruise ships from the same line vary in the on-board activities and amenities. Do your research before booking a cruise to find an itinerary with the best selection of activities that fit your kids' ages and preferences.
Check out these popular cruise ship activity options the whole family can enjoy.
1. Decorate Your State Room Door
A fun tradition for families on cruise ships is decorating stateroom doors. The long hallways of staterooms all look the same, so it can be tough to find your room. Kids may have trouble remembering the room number, but they'll remember the distinct decorations on the door.
Decorating your stateroom door is also a fun way to kick off the cruise. Everyone gets creative and works together to create a design that fits your family. If you're on the cruise for a special occasion, such as a child's birthday, you can incorporate that event into the decorating.
Choose a theme and plan your idea before leaving for your cruise. This is a fun pre-cruise activity to get your kids excited. Pick up decorating supplies to bring with you, as well as ways to hang the items, so you can include them when you pack for your trip.
Check the rules for decorating doors on your specific cruise line before you depart. Some cruise lines might limit the type and location of decorations or the types of adhesives and hanging methods you can use.
2. Enjoy Pool Time
One of the highlights of any cruise ship for kids is the pool area. You can expect at least one family-friendly pool aboard your cruise ship, and possibly more.
Scope out the pool options when you board to find out where kids can hang out. Some cruise ships have adults-only pools, hot tubs, or lounge areas. You can enjoy those while your kids hit the kids' clubs or babysitting services.
Since the family-friendly pools stay busy with lots of loud, splashing kids, you may want to pack some noise-canceling headphones or a book for yourself. You can lounge poolside while the kids play, or make memories with your kids and jump into the pool with them.
Enjoy special treats by the pool. You might sip on milkshakes or enjoy special desserts while you take a little break from the pool. Many cruise ships offer free ice cream, so you can splurge and let your kids have a few extra desserts during the trip.
Family-friendly pool areas tend to get busy during the day, so keep an eye on things to find the least busy pool times. That often includes meal times, showtimes, at night, and at times when the ship is in port.
3. Look at the Stars
If you live in the city, your view of the stars is likely limited due to all the light pollution and buildings in the way. The deck of a cruise ship is the perfect vantage point for looking at the stars with your kids. You don't have to worry about any buildings being in the way.
Pick a clear night and head up to the top deck of the cruise ship for the best views. If possible, find a quiet area where your kids won't be distracted. Look up to see which stars and constellations you can spot.
If you're not familiar with constellations, download a star map app for your phone. You can point your phone to the sky, and the app shows you what you're looking at. You may even spot a planet while you're stargazing about your cruise ship.
During the day, you can watch the clouds pass by the ship. Play the classic game of saying what you think clouds look like as you spot them. These options are quiet, relaxing options when you want to keep the kids entertained without getting them too excited.
The deck is also the perfect spot to catch sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. Snap some family photos during those times.
4. Go to On-Board Parties
Cruise ships offer robust entertainment programs that often include onboard parties. Those fun parties usually start before you even leave the port with an on-deck sail away party to wave good-bye to land.
Dance parties throughout the ship are also popular. You can often hear music cranking from speakers on the deck with plenty of space to dance. You may even catch a laser show or other special effects that go along with the dance party.
Check the agenda for your cruise to look for special themed parties. Popular themes include pirates, different decades, and glow parties. Pack the right accessories to go with the themes to make it even more fun for your family.
Some cruises also have fireworks shows nightly or on certain nights. Check the agenda to make sure you don't miss the opportunity to watch fireworks over the ocean.
5. Go Skydiving
If you cruise on Royal Caribbean's Quantum or Anthem of the Seas ships, you can enjoy a skydiving experience. They use the iFly skydiving simulators to make you feel like you're skydiving even though you'll stay close to the ground. They use enclosed wind tunnels to create a feeling of flying.
6. Play Mini Golf or Other Sports
Amenities vary on each ship, but you'll often find mini-golf, shuffleboard, and other sports options to keep your kids busy. These options are fun and help burn off energy, which can help everyone fall asleep easily.
Mini golf is an activity suitable for all ages. Courses on cruise ships are typically nine holes, which is long enough to have fun without kids losing interest. Plus, since it's free, you can go back and do it again another day.
Some cruise ships host tournaments throughout the trip. Your kids may even earn points to exchange for little treats or win prizes for participating. You can find mini-golf on all Carnival cruise ships, all Royal Caribbean ships in the Radiance class and larger, and most Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
7. Watch a Movie
Cruise ships often screen multiple movies throughout the trip, which gives you a free way to catch some flicks and have some relaxing time. You likely won't catch first-run flicks on the ship, but you can enjoy free movies that are still enjoyable.
If you need a quiet break, head to your stateroom to watch a movie on your TV. This is a good way to unwind and give your kids some downtime while cuddling up in bed.
Some cruise ships have large movie screens on the deck near the pool area. These outdoor screens give you a drive-in type experience on the cruise ship. It may be difficult to hear the movie and focus on what's happening, though, with all the other on-deck action.
Other cruise ships have dedicated movie theaters inside the ship. The Carnival Horizon and Vista ships both feature IMAX theaters. Some ships even offer 4-D theater experiences that include vibration in the seats, fans, and mist to enhance the experience of a 3-D movie.
8. Go Rock Climbing
For older kids, look for a cruise ship with more thrilling activity options. Many ships offer tall rock climbing walls. Making it to the top gives your kids an even higher view of the ocean.
Royal Caribbean cruises are known for their massive 40-foot rock climbing walls for guests ages 6 and up. They offer different tracks for different skill levels so kids and adults in your family can get a higher view.
Another way to get an aerial view is to challenge your family to a ropes course onboard the ship. You'll navigate narrow passages above the deck while secured to a harness.
Many of these thrill-type activities are free as part of your cruise package. Keep in mind that this means there could be high demand and long lines for using them. If the lines are long when you go, check out other activities and try back again later.
9. Try Surf Simulators and Water Slides
Another way to get your heart racing is with water-based thrill activities. Many Royal Caribbean cruise ships feature FlowRider surfing.
Surfing simulators let you ride the waves without leaving the ship. Your kids will get a kick out of seeing you trying to surf the faux waves, and they'll enjoy taking a turn, too.
Most cruise ships have water slides on deck. Some are more thrilling than others with clear tubes or slides that jut out over the ocean. You'll find some of the larger cruise ships have enough water features and water slides to feel like a full water park right on board the ship.
Disney Dream and Fantasy cruises feature the Aqua Duck water roller coaster raft ride. The 765-foot slide spans four decks and takes you out over the ocean through a clear tube.
10. Attend Nightly Shows
Don't miss out on the nightly entertainment on the stages of the cruise ship. The entertainment varies based on the cruise ship, but it often involves music, dancing, comedians, theatrical productions, and other types of entertainment.
Most cruise ships have a main stage with a show each night. Larger ships may have additional stages with smaller activities and shows. Some are very interactive entertainment while others let you sit back and watch.
Some cruise lines offer an option for seeing Broadway productions on board. Royal Caribbean offers its Broadway at Sea series on many of its ships with a range of Broadway shows available. You may need to reserve your spot for these special performances. You also don't want to miss the Tony Award Nominated Rock of Ages show on Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway, a ship that also features Velvet and Burn The Floor.
Many cruise shows are free of charge for all cruisers. Don't forget to arrive early because the shows are on a first-come basis. Sitting closer to the front makes the shows more fun for kids, but you may want to sit near the back if you think you'll have to make an early exit.
Cruise ships often have two times for their main shows. They also have early and late dinner seatings. Your family can still catch the shows whether you prefer to eat early or late.
11. Experience Special Dining Options
Cruise ships typically offer a variety of dining options. Some family-friendly ships may have character dining options that your kids can enjoy. Others may have special entertainment while you dine.
Most cruises also have at least one formal night where the whole family dresses up for a special meal. Make a big deal out of the event with your kids. Let them pick out special outfits and do special hairstyles for the meal.
Some itineraries might include themed nights. Some Disney cruises have pirate nights where everyone is encouraged to wear their best pirate gear. These are also fun opportunities for kids to dress up to make dinner a little more exciting.
One of the most popular cruise ship dining options is Wonderland on Royal Caribbean Cruises. Chefs take classic favorites and turn them into culinary and visual masterpieces.
If your family needs a little quiet time, consider ordering room service to your stateroom. You may even have access to free room service. Eating in bed or dining in your stateroom is a fun break for kids, and you don't have to worry about embarrassing table manners or meltdowns if dinner takes too long to arrive.
12. Go Zip Lining
The zip line on Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas ship lets you sail across the ship from 10 decks up. Several other ships on the cruise line also have zip lines. This activity usually has restrictions for height and weight, so check on those requirements before your kids get too excited about it.
A slightly different option is the SkyRide on Carnival's Horizon and Vista ships. It's a suspended bike-style ride that you pedal along the 800-foot track.
13. Race on Go-Karts
The Norwegian Bliss ship features a go-kart track that goes along two decks. Your family can race each other at speeds up to 30 miles per hour on the thrilling go-kart track.
For a different driving experience, book a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas. It includes bumper cars as part of its SeaPlex family entertainment center.
14. Go Ice Skating
Your cruise ship may be sailing on open waters, but indoors you can glide across the ice with the onboard ice rink. Many Royal Caribbean ships include ice rinks with complimentary skating and helmets for safety. They require long pants to use the rink, so pack a pair for every family member if you want to ice skate.
15. Attend a Cirque du Soleil Show
If you want a unique show option, book your next trip with MSC Cruises. The cruise line partnered with Cirque du Soleil to create special shows just for their cruises.
MSC Meraviglia offers two different shows, SONOR, and VIAGGIO. MSC Bellisima offers SYMA Sail Beyond Imagination and VARELIA Love in Full Color.
The Norwegian Epic also offers Cirque and dinner, an ambitious show that began in 2010. You can find it at the Spiegel Tent located on Deck 6. Get ready for an amazing show that will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Enjoy Fun Family Activities
Cruises are fun for all ages, no matter what activities your ship has onboard. Consider your kids' ages and interests when choosing a cruise line and itinerary to ensure it has plenty of fun family activities to enjoy together. Check out our blog for even more travel ideas for your family.
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My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.