When you’re traveling as a family, you naturally want to select a cruise line that will not only keep everyone happy, but that will thrill and excite them all, too. In years past, cruises primarily catered to a more mature crowd and rarely made special provisions for children, teens or toddlers. These days, things have really changed – much to the delight of families on the go. Whereas people were hard-pressed to find a suitable cruise line for families even ten years ago, today there are several viable options.

Kids’ programs are an essential part of most major cruise lines nowadays; the trick is finding the cruise line that offers the kinds of programs that your particular kids will be into. To help make your decision easier, then, we have come up with a list of the top five family-friendly cruise lines. These lines routinely go above and beyond the call of duty to make cruising a real family affair.

Rather than basing their programs strictly around parents – or strictly around children – these cruise lines offer a delightful array of things for everybody to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Jorge Quinteros

Crystal Cruises

For the family that wants to cruise in style – but still wants plenty for the kids to do – Crystal Cruises is a natural choice. Indeed, the amenities on board a Crystal cruise are topnotch. While there is no genuine “kid zone” per se, the line makes enough of an effort by offering a revolving roster of things to do that no child on board is going to get bored. Fun activities like diving for pennies in one of the ship’s pools and other organized events keep kids on their toes; better yet, Sony PlayStations are available in kids lounges.Many cruise lines offer tours of the premises, but Crystal Cruises offers one that is geared toward the younger set, too. In other words, parents and grandparents can take a tour that highlights things that will pique their interests, while the younger crowd can participate in a tour that is designed around their age. It’s just one more way that Crystal Cruises makes an effort to include the whole family during its state of the art cruises. Other lines might boast bigger and better kids and family amenities, but Crystal Cruises definitely steps up to the plate in an appreciable way.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises probably comes the closest to offering an equal number of things for adults and seniors to do, as well as teens and children. In that regard, it is one of the better lines to plan a multigenerational cruise with. As part of a growing trend with many cruise lines, Princess Cruises offers varying stages of children's activities on all of its ships. Rather than take an “all size fits all” approach to entertaining kids, then, Princess Cruises divvies up the activities to make them more age appropriate – and far more engrossing, too.For the very young crowd, Princess Cruises offers programs featuring things like arts and crafts; t-shirt printing is one popular activity. Scavenger hunts that cover much of the ship are also very popular. For older kids, karaoke and dance parties are two prime examples of how the line caters to teenagers and even preteens. With a 10,000 square foot Fun Zone, it’s easy to see why parents adore Princess Cruises.

Disney Cruise Line

With Mickey Mouse at the helm, who could possibly be surprised that Disney Cruise Line is wonderfully family oriented? The one caveat that should be kept in mind regarding Disney, though, is that it is generally better suited to young kids through preteens – teenagers will most likely find the programs to be “uncool” and not entertaining enough. If you have kids ages 4 through 12, though, Disney is a great choice.What makes the Disney Cruise Line so family friendly? Well, there’s Mickey’s Pool – geared towards kids only – and Goofy’s Pool, which is for families. The Walt Disney Theater is a great family activity, too. Staterooms boast 1-1/2 bathrooms, allowing parents and kids to get ready at once with ease. Finally, you can pre-order baby supplies before boarding the ship, making it easy and convenient to care for tiny babies.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Although its kids area is only 4,200 square feet, Carnival more than makes up for it by offering some of the best activities for teens on the seas today. Families with older children will find that the nice blend of adult-oriented activities and areas – along with a bevy of great teen hangouts and activities – make this an ideal choice.There are five age groups accommodated for on Carnival cruises, making it easy for kids of all different ages to find something fun to do. As mentioned before, though, Carnival is primarily suited for teenagers. Computer labs help keep high tech fans on their toes, while a soft play area is perfect for younger, clumsier kids to frolic and play in. A huge array of teenage activities are planned on any given day, but toddlers will have a blast in their very own wading pool. All the while, moms and dads can enjoy grown up fun – and babysitting services.

Royal Caribbean

Without a doubt, Royal Caribbean deserves kudos for offering the most family friendly cruises at sea today. Why? Because they offer the broadest assortment of programs and activities for kids of all ages. Their massive children's area clocks in at an incredible 22,000 square feet, and it is the place to be for kids of all tastes. Teenagers who feel too old to enjoy the fun at the kids area will thrill at their very own teen nightclub, called Fuel.It’s the kids’ activities that really help Royal Caribbean stand out from the crowd, though. Their Adventure Ocean program is one of the top-rated kids programs in cruising today. Meanwhile, an assortment of engrossing activities like mini golf, ice skating, rock climbing and roller blading ensure that no one sits around twiddling their thumbs. Indoor promenades boast regular parades that are great for the whole family, while Flowrider surf parks – available on many ships – are also a huge hit.