Cruise Planning Part III: The Family Cruise Lines
More than two-dozen lines sail the seas every day, but, like snowflakes, no two are alike. There are large ships and small ships; ships geared toward older adults; some aimed at young adults and singles; and still others that cater to families.
Five of the most popular family cruise lines -- Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean -- are all larger ships and all sail to the destinations mentioned in Part II of our Cruise Planning Guide. Each line has several ships, so amenities, layout, activities and cabins will differ from ship to ship and, of course, from line to line. So drop anchor and peruse our cruise line roundup.
Carnival Cruise Lines
Party: The emphasis here is on fun. Even though the newer ships tone down the line's famous neon décor a bit, Carnival is still party central.
Fantasy Class (can hold around 2,600 passengers): Carnival Fantasy (1989), Carnival Ecstasy (1991), Carnival Sensation (1993), Carnival Fascination (1994), Carnival Imagination (1995), Carnival Inspiration (1996), Carnival Elation (1998), Carnival Paradise (1998).
Destiny Class (can hold around 2,700 passengers): Carnival Destiny (1996), Carnival Triumph (1999), Carnival Victory (2000)
Spirit Class (can hold almost 2,700 passengers): Carnival Spirit (2001), Carnival Pride (2001), Carnival Legend (2002), Carnival Miracle (2004)
Conquest Class (can hold 2,974 passengers): Carnival Conquest (2002), Carnival Glory (2003), Carnival Valor (2004), Carnival Liberty (2005), Carnival Freedom (2007)
Splendor Class (can hold more than 3,000 passengers): Carnival Splendor (2008)
Dream Class (can hold 3,650 passengers): Carnival Dream (2009), Carnival Magic (2011)
Anchorage, Baltimore, Barbados, Buenos Aires, Charleston, Civitavecchia (Rome), Ensenada, Ft. Lauderdale, Galveston, Honolulu, Jacksonville, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Miami, Mobile, New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, Port Canaveral, San Diego, San Juan, Santiago (Valparaiso), Tampa, Vancouver
Alaska (Glacier Bay, Northbound route, Southbound route), Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean (Eastern, Western and Southern), Hawaii, Mediterranean, Mexico (Baja, Mexican Riviera), Panama Canal, South America, Transatlantic
There are three programs for the under-18 set on Carnival: Camp Carnival (Toddlers ages 2-5; Juniors ages 6-8; and Intermediates ages 9-11), which includes everything from game nights to dance parties; Circle "C" (ages 12-14), which has movie night and shipwide scavenger hunts; and Club 02 (ages 15-17), which offers pool parties and teen-only shore excursions. Each of the three groups has their own "adult-free" hangout.
These aren't called "Fun Ships" for nothing. Take in a show, eat at one of the many restaurants, plunge down the huge waterslide at the pool (the Fantasy fleet is getting this makeover as part of the "Evolutions of Fun") or catch a flick on the 12-foot-high poolside LCD screen on the newer ships). Plus, adults can relax at the Spa Carnival or party the night away at one of the many bars, lounges and clubs.
The prices vary greatly based on the ship, vacation date and the embarkation port. Prices can start as low as $249 per person for an inside stateroom on a four-day trip to the Western Caribbean, $304 for an oceanview and $649 for a suite.
The Web site's cruise finder makes it easy to search based on port, date, destination, and cruise length. Saver fares are available for those who book early and there are special residency rates and senior rates.
Next Cruise Line: Disney