These cruise lines are known for curating itineraries that visit major European landmarks, with plenty of activities to keep kiddos busy during days spent at sea. Together, you’ll set eyes on skylines of spires poking up from historical town centers, marvel at crumbling castles standing mightily on cliff faces and tour epic monuments hiding behind medieval walls.
A family-owned company, MSC designs its cruises with multigenerational entertainment in mind. You'll find pools, water slides and arcades on board, plus clubs for kids and teens. Youth 11 and under sail free on select MSC cruises to 150+ destinations.
Onboard experience: This Italian liner specializes in Mediterranean cruises and captures the essence of the destination with sleek European-style rooms and freshly-prepared cuisine. Babysitters are available for hire.
Costa's budget-friendly cruises appeal to families looking for a distinctly European experience. While there are activities scheduled for kiddos during the day, adults can let loose at night on the lively dance floor.
Onboard experience: Costa caters primarily to the European market, so your fellow passengers will come from a diverse range of backgrounds — perfect for a bit of cultural immersion at sea.
Celebrity's Camp at Sea program partners with Lonely Planet, Fat Brain Toys and Xbox for extra enrichment while you cruise along the European coast. It also has programming for children with autism, with specially trained staff and sensory activities.
Onboard experience: Celebrity offers five-star service on elegant ships, appealing to families in search of an upscale experience without the top-tier price tag. Book a suite for a European-style butler.
Princess partners with Discovery to offer exclusive family tours focused on cultural immersion and attractions that appeal to kids and adults alike. It also has special Animal Planet adventures to get up close and personal with wildlife in each locale.
Onboard experience: You'll be in the company of many other families. And its Ocean Medallion interactive satellite technology allows you to make purchases and enter your room without needing to fish out a key.
Discounts for third and fourth passenger
These award-winning mega ships are like mini theme parks at sea. If you're hoping to maximize fun on days spent sailing, choose Carnival. It frequently has discounts available for rooms with three or more guests — plus, fare usually starts at less than $100 per person per day.
Onboard experience: Carnival shines when it comes to multigenerational entertainment. From game shows to giant water slides, Sky Zone, cooking classes and more, you'll never be bored.
Offering friendly voyages to a dynamic range of ports, it's little wonder NCL has been voted Europe's Leading Cruise Liner at the World Travel Awards 12 years in a row.
Onboard experience: Norwegian provides some of the best entertainment options for young and old. This includes musicals, circus and magician shows and rock climbing walls for kids, in addition to the onboard kids' clubs. Connecting and family staterooms are available.
Frequent kids-sail-free promotions and family-friendly deals
Sailing much more than the Caribbean, this Top Cruise Line for Families winner has eight dedicated cruise ships that sail through Europe. It offers both classic and more adventurous routes.
Onboard experience: Royal Caribbean prides itself on providing a fun and innovative onboard experience. On board, you'll find almost any activity you could imagine — from roller skating to bumper cars, mini-golf, DreamWorks shows, parades and more.
Frequent kids-sail-free promotions and family-friendly deals
For extra magic that'll put a smile on their faces, sail into the enchanting world of fjords and castles onboard a family-friendly Disney cruise ship.
Onboard experience: Nods to signature Disney characters and stories decorate the ships, making them feel like gigantic playgrounds for kids young and old. Some rooms are themed, and restaurants drip with Disney flair. Enjoy the Walt Disney theater, music and dance deck parties and family-friendly port activities and kids' pools.
With dozens of countries to see and endless cities, towns and villages to visit, you can explore Europe for years and barely see it all. European cruises are great for giving a taste of what the continent has to offer. Some common itineraries include:
Western Mediterranean: Spain, Portugal, France and Italy
British Isles: England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland
When to cruise in Europe
Mediterranean cruises run year-round, while cruises in cooler European areas like the Baltic only sail during warmer months.
For the best time to go, peak season for Mediterranean cruises is during the middle of summer in July and August. However, this is also generally the most expensive time to go. If you’re looking for a mix of favorable weather and prices, browse cruises that sail during the shoulder seasons — May and June or September and October.
How we chose these cruises
When choosing cruises for this list, we looked at the range and quality of family-friendly activities available off- and onboard. We prioritized cruise lines that cater to every age group, with areas for the whole family to hang together as well as spaces exclusive to adults, kids and teens. In particular, we examined each cruise line’s European itineraries to check for comprehensive daily schedules and port stops at key cities throughout each region.
We also weighed stateroom amenities and dining options against the price, favoring companies known for delivering the best value. Additionally, we sought out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.
Families looking to make the most of together time and sightseeing opportunities can’t go wrong with a European cruise. Once you’ve landed on your ideal line, check for coupons and discounts that could help you save.
Frequently asked questions
Yes — English is the official onboard language on most of the European cruises listed here, with the possible exception of Costa. On Costa cruises that depart from Italy and other ports, English may not be the official language. You’ll be assigned an English-speaking representative who can help you navigate any communication hiccups.
Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line are all known for offering budget-friendly cruises designed for an à la carte experience. However, Costa is known for emphasizing cheap fare. Budget-conscious travelers should start there.
Avoid Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line if you’re hoping to score a cheap cruise.
Yes! In fact, most of the cruise lines on this page offer family cruises around Iceland and Greenland.
Best European cruise deals
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Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for a range of travel publications including Thomas Cook Magazine and Showpo. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and has visited over 50 countries (and counting). She has a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge of travel and helping consumers stretch their travel cash while on holiday.
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