What’s New in Family Cruising

Indulge in hot-stone massages and Bordeaux wine tastings while the kids shout gleefully from roller coasters and water parks. Later, they gobble burgers while you savor duck breast. Small wonder family cruising is trending huge, both at sea and on rivers. Here, new ships (plus one makeover) and new routes that artfully promote both meaningful family togetherness and joyful age-appropriate activities apart.

BY JANICE WALD HENDERSON — Summer 2019

OCEAN CRUISING

NEW SHIPS

SkyRide attraction. PHOTO BY ANDY NEWMAN.

Carnival Panorama

Carnival’s first new ship to home port in California in 20 years, this 4,008-passenger vessel enchants with a spine-tingling bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction; jump on a pedal-powered recumbentlike bike and cycle around an 800-foot suspended track with 360-degree ocean views. On SkyCourse, swing over rope bridges, steps, and beams suspended nearly150 feet in the air. Or bounce around at the first Sky Zone trampoline park at sea. Book a family stateroom or suite and receive complimentary amenities such as one night of baby-sitting services, specialty dining for children, and family-lounge access.
More to like: The adult-only Serenity retreat beckons with chaise longues for two and a sweeping sea view, plus a bar and extensive salad bar.
Sails: The first seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise sails round-trip Long Beach, Calif., departing Dec. 14, with multiple voyages year-round.
More info: 800-227-6482; carnival.com

MSC Bellissima, MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Suite. PHOTO BY IVAN SARFATTI.

MSC Bellissima

Who needs Alexa? Zoe, the first virtual cruise assistant at sea, delivers ship info in seven languages on this 5,686-guest vessel. She stays calm even if kids bombard her with questions. Aboard this floating resort, count on six Broadway-style productions; two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows; an XD (extreme digital) cinema; a shopping gallery, a two-story promenade hawking some 200 brands with a 262-foot LED sky screen overhead; and a spa offering 77 tempting treatments. A Michelin two-star award-winning Spanish chef masterminded Hola! Tapas Bar — impressively designed with communal wood tables and stools, and hanging copper pots overhead — only for Bellissima.
More to like: The 7,534-square-foot children’s play area showcases a new School of Magic program and a weekly magic talent show. Also, the GrandCanyon-themed aquapark touts three awesome waterslides.
Sails: Seven-day cruises round-trip from the Genoa, Italy, home port launched in March, with multiple voyages through November. Repositions to the United Arab Emirates and India at the end of November, before traveling to China next spring.
More info: 877-665-4655; msccruisesusa.com

MSC Cruises’ new flagship, the MSC Gandiosa. PHOTO BY IVAN SARFATTI.

MSC Grandiosa

Expect nonstop action onboard MSC Cruises’ new 6,334-passenger flagship. Families revel in Formula 1 virtual reality racing, full-size bowling lanes, a sports-plex, two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, and a water park with three twisting slides.
More to like: Teen-minders wisely separate younger teens from older ones, fine-tuning activities. Any wannabe rock stars in the family? In an MSC first, kids can record songs and star in music videos in a new studio.
Sails: The first eight-day cruise sails round-trip Genoa, Italy, departing Nov. 23, with multiple voyages through 2020.
More info: 877-665-4655; msccruisesusa.com


SHIP MAKEOVER

Navigator of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s $115 million reimagination of this 3,386-passenger ship introduces the Blaster, a hair-raising aqua-coaster starring the longest waterslide at sea. Jump aboard a raft to rush through more than 800 feet of inclines, drops, and straightaways; the raft briefly extends over the ship’s side, feeling like forever to grown-ups and a mere second to kids. The bravest attempt the Rip Tide waterslide, plunging headfirst down on a mat through a translucent tube. Later, glam up at To Dry For, the first standalone blow-dry bar at sea, serving wine and bubbly.
More to like: Park wee ones, from 6 months old to age 3, in a nursery staffed by professional caregivers. Older kids can partake in glow-in-the-dark laser tag. Teens hang at a dedicated lounge with a new secret entrance and backyard hangout. Come together for a heart-pounding escape-room challenge, as the clock ticks maddeningly.
Sails: In May, began cruising three- and four-night jaunts to the Bahamas, visiting CocoCay, the line’s private island on which it unveiled a $250 million transformation project, also in May.
More info: 866-562-7625; royalcaribbean.com


NEW ROUTES

Abercrombie & Kent

Explore culturally rich Quito, Ecuador, then board the chartered 48-passenger La Pinta, sailing the bucket-list-topper Galapagos Islands. For mega-thrills, snap close-ups of blue-footed boobies and frolicking sea lions. Glass-bottom boat rides, hiking, sea kayaking, and snorkeling enchant, too. Feel safe and pampered with three Galapagos-certified naturalist guides and an A&K resident tour director onboard.
More to like: Consider the Cordon Bleu-trained chef equally adept at creating polished Ecuadorian cuisine and kid-friendly fare. Appealing amenities include a fitness center and hot tub.
Sails: The eight-day journey sails round-trip Quito, Ecuador, departing June 18, July 2 and 16, and Dec. 17.
More info: 800-554-7094; abercrombiekent.com

Disney Cruise Line returns to Greece. PHOTO BY MATT STROSHANE.

Disney Magic

After a five-year hiatus, Disney Magic returns to the Greek isles next summer. Take group selfies on iconic islands such as Mykonos and Santorini. Go Instagram-wild at must-see sites such as the Acropolis.
More to like: Children, split into four groups between ages 6 months and 17, enjoy age-appropriate care and activities. Count on Broadway-style shows, deck parties, and meet-and-greets with Disney characters. Dine at adults-only restaurants, such as Northern Italian Palo, secure that young ones enjoy attention, too. Butternut agnolotti, anyone?
Sails: Cruises 10 days, round-trip Rome, departing June 13 and 22, 2020. Cruises 13 days from Rome to Barcelona, departing July 1, 2020.
More info: 888-325-2500; disneycruise.com

PHOTO BY DREAMSTIME

MSC Armonia

MSC Cruises launched its first Caribbean cruises from Miami with a Havana overnight last December on this 2,679-passenger ship. Among family-friendly excursions, take a real joy ride in a vintage 1950s American car. Adults can sip local rum, hand-roll cigars, and dance the night away at the famed Tropicana Club. Onboard, munch on tasty Cuban sandwiches new to the pub’s menu, drink up at a new Havana-inspired mojito bar, and sink your teeth into juicy steaks at the new Surf & Turf specialty restaurant.
More to like: Evening performances feature a new family-friendly lineup; check out Abyss, depicting a mermaid’s undersea adventures. On Saturday nights in Havana, local Cuban magicians perform onboard.
Sails: Cruises eight days round-trip Miami year-round.
More info: 877-665-4655; msccruisesusa.com

Electric car racetrack. PHOTO BY RICK DIAZ.

Norwegian Joy

After a $50 million renovation, the 3,802-passenger vessel relocates from China for Alaskan and primarily West Coast-based sails. Book a concierge suite for personalized pampering and priority embarkation and debarkation. Some minisuites connect to other minisuites or balcony staterooms and offer a queen or two beds, sofa bed, and additional bedding for one.
More to like: Race electric cars on a two-level track, and continue the adrenaline rush in a virtual-reality complex and outdoor laser tag arena. Two aquaparks, one for little ones only, delight families.
Sails: Multiple seven-day Alaskan cruises round-trip Seattle began in May and continue until October. Joy then begins Mexican Riviera and Panama Canal cruises before heading back to Alaska in mid-April 2020.
More info: 888-625-2784; ncl.com

Skydiving simulator aboard Ovation of the Seas. PHOTO BY WAGNER SOARES/PEXELS.

Ovation of the Seas

This 4,180-passenger Royal Caribbean ship debuts Alaskan cruises this summer. Kids can climb a rock wall, skydive in a simulator, swing away at trapeze school, and race bumper cars. The kids water park, featuring interactive geysers, water cannons, and climbable sculptures, also entertains for hours. Parents unwind in the adults-only pool before amping up in the glitzy casino.
More to like: Let the bionic bartender shake your cocktails, then dine in Wonderland on multiple courses of edgy molecular creations, such as liquid lobster with bone marrow and caviar.
Sails: Multiple seven-night round-trip Seattle departures until mid-September.
More info: 866-562-7625; royalcaribbean.com

RIVER CRUISING

NEW BOAT

AmaMagna

A rare double-wide, AmaWaterways’ new 196-guest riverboat tempts with spacious family suites — many a generous 355 to 710 square feet. All accommodations feature full outside balconies, adding extra living space. Take a class such as circuit training in the expansive fitness studio, or do family laps on the walking track. Sundowner 14-passenger boat rides launch from a new-for-Ama watersports platform, ideal for families.
More to like: Choose between four fine-dining restaurants; in each venue, children can devour faves such as burgers, pasta, or pizza while you go gourmet. For weekly family ice-cream parties, a local purveyor comes onboard, bringing four flavors, 10 toppings, and whipped cream galore.
Sails: Danube cruises sail eight days between Budapest and Vilshofen, Germany, year-round.
More info: 800-626-0126; amawaterways.com


NEW ROUTES

Monet’s Garden. PHOTO BY MARZENA HMIELEWICZ/ADVENTURE PICTURES/ALAMY

Adventures by Disney

What a masterful balance between family and individual activities on this Seine River sail aboard AmaWaterways’ AmaLyra. Winning adult activities include wine and cheese tastings and a macaron cooking class. During a Monet’s Garden excursion in Giverny, France, kids find their inner painter when handed an easel and a brush.
More to like: Family bonding time comes via biking, canoeing, hiking, and contemplating World War II history on Normandy beaches.
Sails: The cruise sails 10 days round-trip Paris, departing June 20, Aug. 6, and Oct. 1 and 8.
More info: 800-543-0865; adventuresbydisney.com

PHOTO BY DREAMSTIME

Tauck

Tauck’s new sails on twin 130-passenger ships — Joy and Savor — spotlight holiday festivities in Austria, Germany, and Hungary. Karaoke, Viennese dinner with waltz lessons in a private palace, medieval games in Bratislava, and a visit to one of the world’s oldest amusement parks in Vienna top the cruises’ allures.
More to like: Family-friendly accommodations include 300-square-foot suites with pullout couches for children and split-level loft cabins.
Sails: Savor sails eight days between Budapest and Regensburg, Germany, departing Dec. 22; Joy sails eight days between Regensburg and Budapest, departing Dec. 23.
More info: 800-788-7885; tauck.com

Uniworld

Consider castles and cathedrals the calling cards for this new family-friendly Rhine cruise on the 130-passenger River Empress. Dedicated hosts mind the kids, with onboard activities and excursions custom-tailored to three age groups — children, tweens, and teens.
More to like:: In mixology classes, teens learn to make virgin cocktails as if they were bartenders. Junior foodies prepare both savory dishes and sweets in cooking classes.
Sails: Cruise eight days between Basel and Amsterdam, departing June 28 and July 5 and 12.
More info: 800-257-2407; uniworld.com

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