One of the best holidays I’ve had was taking my entire family on a cruise –  eight of us in total; three generations on a swashbuckling Star Clippers cruise around the Aegean. We scrambled up the mast to the crow’s nest (teenagers and grandparents included!) sunbathed in the hammock-like bowsprit nets at the front of the ship, occupied one big table in the dining room and got over-competitive in the music quiz. (We won.) There were no children’s activities whatsoever, but we made our own entertainment. In port this mainly involved beaches, long lunches in waterfront tavernas for the adults and searching for Wi-Fi and ice cream for the teens.

A multi-generational family toasting their voyage in a restaurant on-board a Princess Cruises ship

There are multiple cruising possibilities for big family groups, varying from ships with no special facilities for kids to ships with all-singing, all-dancing childcare, where you say goodbye to your children at breakfast and reconnect again some time around dinner. During the day on this type of cruise, there is enough for everybody to do their own thing. Grandparents can go sightseeing and go to lectures, while parents can have a lie-in, or hit the gym or the spa. Everybody wins.

Suite life

The contemporary living area in a Family Villa on-board a Norwegian Cruise Line ship

Norwegian Cruise Line – Family Villa

A lot of ships offer this kind of holiday, from P&O Cruises’ family-friendly Ventura and Britannia ships to lines like Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. If these have too much of a ‘big ship’ feel for the older generation, there are compromises, particularly for grandparents with deep pockets who might want to treat the whole family. I have always fantasised about taking over the Garden Villa in the posh enclave of The Haven on one of NCL’s ships. With a butler, three bedrooms, your own hot tub, a massive living room and acres of deck, you could take the whole family and never get in one another’s way. With nightclubs, kids’ clubs and dozens of bars and restaurants outside this little paradise, I suppose there is a danger that you would never actually see each other.

MSC Cruises offers a similar concept in the Yacht Club, a little oasis of luxury on a big, busy ship, while Celebrity’s Suite Class is perfect for grandparents who might be used to cruising on their own on a more luxurious ship.

Go your own way

A family walking along a wooden walkway above the trees in South America

A brown bear walking across a forest landscape towards camera in Alaska

Alaskan brown bear

Then there is the other kind of multi-generational cruise – the type where, like my Star Clippers voyage, little or nothing is laid on and you do your own thing. This works better with teenagers (who often turn their noses up at kids’ clubs in any case) who are better travelled, able to sit at the table without playing on a phone and eat adult food. Luxury lines like Crystal, Silversea and Seabourn are very much after this kind of family group.

You don’t have to stay in the Med, lovely though it is – what about a week in Alaska with Crystal Cruises? It is the perfect combination of sightseeing, fresh air, adventure and luxury living.

Fun on the river


A Buddhist monk standing in front of the Mekong River in Cambodia

The Mekong River – Cambodia

River cruises can be great for this kind of holiday, too, especially somewhere exotic like the Mekong, where there are markets, temples, bike rides and river dolphins as distractions for teens and a cool, air-conditioned ship where grandparents can enjoy some down time if they need it. Try Avalon or Uniworld. Or, pick a river cruise that is specifically for multi-generational families: Uniworld and Tauck offer these in Europe, while AmaWaterways has a partnership with Disney on some departures. It is enough to bring out the inner child in anybody.

Are you searching for family cruises that are perfect for everyone from the young to the young at heart? Call our Cruise Concierge team on 0207 980 2847 to plan a multi-generational voyage you will all remember forever.

Sue Bryant
Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer specialising in cruising. She is cruise editor of The Sunday Times and also writes for magazines and websites worldwide. She has written and contributed to several travel guidebooks, including the Insight Guide to Great River Cruises and the Insight Guide to Caribbean Cruising. In 2016, Sue was awarded the coveted ‘Contribution to Cruise Journalism’ award by CLIA for her coverage of the industry. She lives in west London with her teenage children and two dogs.

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