Disney Dream Named Best Cruise Ship for Families

Carnival Magic, Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam and Disney's Fantasy and Magic also winners

Families are an expanding demographic in the cruising industry, with more and more kids boarding ships each year. In response cruise companies are coming out with crazy cool amenities especially for families.

  • Freedom of the Seas
    Royal Caribbean

    Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas layers DreamWorks features atop Freedom’s now-classic climbing wall, ice-skating rink, boxing rink and FlowRider surfing simulator, plus happy, splashy H2O Zone waterpark. Kids (and adults with a sweet tooth) appreciate the 30 flavors of cupcakes on offer at the Cupcake Cupboard, and the Royal Babies and Tots nursery programs cater to the 4,515-passenger vessel's youngest guests. A grown-ups only Solarium is a bonus for parents plying Caribbean waters.
    Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

  • Breeze

    Breeze is a breath of fresh air for cruising parents. Kids get happy at Camp Ocean in hang-outs lively with activities, and older kids and teens love the thrill of plummeting down the 320-foot Twister Waterslide at WaterWorks. While the youngins are enjoying thrills at the SportsSquare ropes course or the 5D Thrill Theater, parents can indulge in some R&R at the Cloud 9 Spa.
    Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

  • Wonder

    The “aye-ayes” have it at the pirate-themed deck party that ramps up when invading bad guys rappel from Disney Wonder's funnel. A swashbuckling battle saves the ship, and fireworks celebrate. Kids spin off to age groups in Disney Oceaneers Club. Live musicals and family dance parties, plus a sob-in-your-beer final Pub Night for adults, add up to a sweet sail on this 2,700-passenger ship that visits Alaska in summer.
    Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

  • Breakaway

    The 4,028-passenger Norwegian Breakaway sails from New York to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Florida and Bermuda. It's a hit with families for its two-bedroom suites, Splash Academy and Nickelodeon entertainment (breakfast in your jammies with SpongeBob!). Older kids flock to Free Fall – the fastest drop slide at sea – for a major adrenaline rush. The three level Sports Complex features a rock wall, ropes course (also the largest at sea), nine holes of mini golf and The Plank, a platform extending out over the side of the ship inviting a walk by daredevil passengers.
    Photo courtesy of sainaniritu

  • Allure of the Seas
    Royal Caribbean

    The world’s largest cruise ship sails the Mediterranean summer through fall, and it also features one of the most robust and diverse kids programs. A highlight for young passengers is the DreamWorks Experience, where kids can interact with their favorite characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and the penguins of Madagascar. Amazing acrobatics at the AquaTheater, surf simulators, an old-fashioned carousel, two rock climbing walls, a zip line, mini golf and classic carnival games at the Boardwalk Arcade mean kids can kiss boredom goodbye.
    Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

  • Magic

    The Disney wand waved in 2013, turning Disney Magic into a modern member of the sailing Mickeys. AquaLab’s splashy play park plus two water slides boosted Magic’s fun quotient. Even more cool: kids can train as superheroes at Marvel Avenger Academy. Disney Magic sails Europe, but the imaginative programming should prevent noses turning upward over an “educational trip.” Magic also added the adults-only AfterHours bars and nightclub, making Magic sweeter for everyday heroes – mom and dad.
    Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane, photographer

  • Fantasy

    On the Disney Fantasy, kids programs are Disney-crafted and predictably high-quality; the older set loves bulleting down 4-deck-drop AquaDuck water coaster. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – only on Fantasy – delights kids with princess or pirate makeovers. Proof positive that Disney is not just for kids, Fantasy cranks up sophistication in night district Europa with saucy Oooh La La bar’s velvet-tufted walls. A 2012 addition, Fantasy sails the Caribbean with 4 ,000-passenger capacity.
    Photo courtesy of Preston Mack, photographer

  • Nieuw Amsterdam
    Holland America

    A New York Checker Cab sits in Club HAL, a kids-only area (divided by age groups, including teens) of Holland America’s 2010 launch, named ms Nieuw Amsterdam to honor history (Nieuw Amsterdam was HAL’s 1906 ship). As Holland America's latest and greatest, this vessel has plenty to offer in the way of family fun, including pool parties, an arcade, karaoke, pajama parties and candy bar bingo.
    Photo courtesy of Holland America

  • Magic

    Giving Galveston the love, Magic calls Texas home between sailings of eastern and western Caribbean.The 3,690-passenger ship draws fun-lovers of all ages with two water slides to slosh kids silly. Sports-pumped SportsSquare is a home run, along with the popular harnessed SkyCourse, a ropes course at sea. Well-organized Camp Ocean keeps kids grinning, while adults rave over Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant. RedFrog Pub scores huzzahs for its own micro-brewed ale.
    Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe / Flickr

  • Dream

    Aboard the Disney Dream, Donald gets his due with AquaDuck, a 4-deck-drop water coaster (the first at sea) that zips riders through transparent tube. The host of Disney-themed kids programs get points for their organization; costumed characters – Mickey, Minnie and friends – send the pre-school set into happy delirium. Character greetings and Broadway-style productions (with a Disney twist of course) make this 4,000-passenger vessel a hit with the young and the young at heart.
    Photo courtesy of Jimmy DeFlippo, photographer

After four weeks of voting USA TODAY 10Best readers have selected their top 10 cruise ships for families.

While many ships are catering to kids and families, Disney Cruise Line still has its edge and managed to snag three of the top five spots on our winners list. Disney Dream, which debuted in 2011, took home top honors, with the Disney Fantasy and Magic coming in fourth and fifth respectively.

Runner up for best cruise ship for families, Carnival Magic sails from Galveston to the Caribbean and wins points with families thanks to its water slides and ropes course at sea.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Cruise Ship for Families are as follows:

  1. Dream - Disney
  2. Magic - Carnival
  3. Nieuw Amsterdam - Holland America
  4. Fantasy - Disney
  5. Magic - Disney
  6. Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean
  7. Breakaway - Norwegian
  8. Wonder - Disney
  9. Breeze - Carnival
  10. Freedom of the Seas - Royal Caribbean

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Stewart Chiron (The Cruise Guy), Linda Coffman (CruiseDiva.com) and Doug Parker (Cruise Radio) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of all things cruising.

Additional nominees included Carnival's Sunshine and Liberty, Celebrity Reflection, Royal and Regal Princess, Norwegian's Pearl, Epic and Getaway, and Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo

Alert The Experts

Stewart Chiron

Stewart Chiron

Linda Coffman

Linda Coffman

Doug Parker

Doug Parker