1. Home
  2. Cruise Styles
  3. Family Cruises
  4. 7 Cruise Lines That Offer Free Cruises for Kids
7 Cruise Lines That Offer Free Cruises for Kids (Photo: Holland America Line)

7 Cruise Lines That Offer Free Cruises for Kids

Even with accommodations, meals and entertainment wrapped up in its fares, cruising can still be pricy if you're taking the entire family on an oceangoing getaway. Just when you thought that bringing the brood would break the bank, we've come up with a list of lines that let kids sail free.

If the idea of free cruises for kids gets your heart racing with excitement, be aware of a few caveats: With most lines, free kids fares are only available as limited-time promotions, require applicable taxes and fees to be paid for each passenger and necessitate sharing a cabin with the junior travelers as the third and/or fourth passengers in the room. (Contact a travel agent or your cruise line for specific information before booking any cruise.)

Updated January 16, 2019

1. MSC Cruises

LEGO Experience

This Mediterranean line is splashy and elegant -- and it's also affordable. With colorful, fun children's facilities, onboard arcade games and partnerships with LEGO and European brand Chicco, MSC ships are decidedly kid-friendly. Bonus: MSC vessels cater to an international passenger base, so they're ideal for children who are curious about other languages and cultures. Kids younger than 12 generally cruise gratis when they share a cabin with their parents; however, the offer will be subject to availability for children older than 2. Children ages 12 to 17 can also sail free during low and shoulder seasons, availability permitting. (Taxes and fees must still be paid on all free cruise fares.)


2. Norwegian Cruise Line

Ropes course

Norwegian Cruise Line sometimes offers "friends and family sail free" deals as part of its Free at Sea pick-your-perk promotion; this means that third and fourth passengers in a cabin (e.g., your kids) don't have to pay the cruise fare. The line's newer ships have a dizzying array of options that include arcade games, onboard bowling, top-deck ropes courses, circus school and dinner theater with acrobats and magicians. Additionally, all ships provide programming especially for the kiddos via Splash Academy, the line's kids club.


3. Royal Caribbean

Dreamworks experience

Royal Caribbean achieves consistently high marks for its children's offerings. Newer ships boast youth clubs with onboard science labs, art studios and stages for kids, as well as nurseries and play areas for babies and toddlers. Beyond specific programs, ships throughout the fleet offer kid-friendly pastimes like DreamWorks character parades, water play areas, rock climbing and surfing/boogie boarding. Royal Caribbean frequently releases "third and fourth passenger" or "kids sail free" deals, allowing parents to bring their kids for free or for a lower cost.


Find a Cruise

4. Holland America Line

Ice cream

Although HAL is known for drawing a somewhat older crowd, its shorter cruises and holiday sailings are excellent options for multigenerational family travel groups. All ships in the fleet offer dedicated kids clubs and family-friendly theater shows that will appeal to younger cruisers. The line also occasionally runs "third and fourth passenger" sales, with free or discounted fares. (These sales apply to any passenger, regardless of age, but they can be used for children sharing a cabin with their parents.)


5. CroisiEurope

La Belle de L'Adriatique

The passenger base for this French-owned river line skews slightly older, and its ships -- most with less than 200 passengers -- don't have all the flashy bells and whistles found on much larger ocean ships. However, river cruises are a solid option for well-behaved older kids and teens who enjoy cultural immersion and history. River itineraries often include more than one port call per day, complete with in-depth (and complimentary) shore excursions that dive deep into the local customs and cuisine. Plus, kids 15 and younger sail free or at a discounted rate on select voyages.


6. Crystal Cruises

Tea time

All-inclusive luxury line Crystal provides the highest end of everything, from service and dining to accommodations. Alcohol and soft drinks, some specialty dining, Wi-Fi and gratuities are included in cruise fares, which can be expensive. However, children younger than 12 always sail at a 50 percent discount when they share a cabin with two paying adults; the occasional "kids sail free" promotions allow cruisers younger than 18 to book a third berth in a cabin free of charge. Although you won't find as many children onboard as you would on more mainstream ships, Crystal's two ocean cruise ships offer programs for kids and teens in dedicated facilities that include video and arcade games. It's one of the most kid-friendly of all the luxury lines.


7. Paul Gauguin Cruises

Young cruisers

Luxury line Paul Gauguin, whose ships sail exotic itineraries in French Polynesia, always allows third passengers ages 17 and under to sail free when sharing a cabin with two paying cruisers. (The offer is for the cruise only, and airfare and taxes are additional.) The ships in this fleet don't have dedicated facilities for kids, but they do offer the complimentary Moana Explorer program on summer and December holiday sailings. Children ages 7 to 17 can participate in nature-themed activities, such as naturalist-led island excursions, star-gazing through an onboard telescope and learning about marine life through ocean-themed games. If your child is mature, well-behaved, curious about the environment and a fan of water sports, there's no reason why a cruise with this line wouldn't be enjoyable.

Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.
8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.