A key to a happy family reunion is a combination of fun activities, togetherness and down time. Cruise ships provide a perfect venue for multigenerational groups because everyone is free to do their own thing — play or lounge by day, dine together at night.
Check out these cruise lines for family reunion cruises.
Royal Caribbean: Active families appreciate the rock-climbing walls, waterparks and ice skating rinks and a merry-go-round and zipline on the Oasis-class ships (the largest ships in the world). Kids enjoy the presence of DreamWorks characters including Shrek, while adults have a choice of plenty of hangout spots day and night.
Disney: Disney characters including Mickey, Snow White and Cinderella light up the faces of both kids and nostalgic adults. There are also activities day and night for kids and some designed for the entire family to do together — including game shows, Disney movie showings and family-friendly shows featuring classic Disney tunes and characters. Disney also pays attention to adults, with nighttime adults-only bars and discos and decent spas.
Norwegian: Waterparks, ropes courses and bowling are among activities that appeal to all ages. SpongeBob and other Nickelodeon TV characters make appearances in kids' and family programming. A big choice of alternative restaurants means you don't have to eat in the same dining room every night. Adults have fun in the casinos and numerous lounges. For well-heeled groups, if you book suites in The Haven you can have a pool and deck area practically to yourselves.
Holland America Line: With its Club HAL programming for younger kids and teens and a lot of programming to appeal to adults, Holland America is a popular family reunion choice. Sweetening the pot helps" Book eight cabins and you'll get special pricing, plus every family member will get a Fountain Card good for 20 glasses of soda, and a complimentary lunch for all at the Pinnacle Grill.
Celebrity: Programming for toddlers to teens, including a special marketing with Xbox (there is free play of Xbox 360 in the kids' play area) will keep youngsters in your family reunion group happy. Adults can try Zumba or turn to mush in the spa (Celebrity has a new deal with operator Canyon Ranch). The nighttime scene includes a variety of bars and alternative restaurants.
Carnival: Carnival is a particular good choice for families on a budget. The line has been going after the multigenerational market with its Fun Ship 2.0 programming — everything from Guy Fieri burger joints and waterparks to a game show themed on Hasbro toys. The adult "Fun Ship" attributes are also in place, from the big variety of bars to the lively casinos. New kids' programming includes activities themed with Dr. Seuss.
Crystal: For the luxury family reunion market, Crystal has activities for kids age 3 to 17, including a kids' section in the library — with age-appropriate books and DVDs. On select sailings, the all-inclusive luxury line offers multigenerational family groups a free berth with 10 full-fares in five cabins (plus kids age 17 and under can share a cabin with two adults for free).
Cunard: While the environment on the Cunard oceanliners tends towards formal, the line has a well-organized kids' program. Plus, many youngsters enjoy the idea of joining their family for afternoon tea and dressing up at night to dance at a real ball. Other creative programming includes acting classes, and the Queen Mary 2 has the unusual feature of a planetarium.
Princess: While adults hang out in The Sanctuary, the cushy adults-only sunning area, the kids can participate in fun and even educational activities in well-designed play spaces. Gather the family together for such activities as Movies Under the Stars and water-and-light shows (on Royal Princess and the soon-to-debut Regal Princess). The line offers discounts and other perks for groups of 10 or more passengers.
Oceania: This upscale line is a good choice for those groups that involve older kids. Passengers age 13 and up can join their parents and grandparents in classes at the Bon Appetit Cooking School. Oceania offers an impressive choice of casual and fancier dining venues (at no extra charge). Interesting itineraries allow extra time for port exploration.
By Fran Golden, Special for USA TODAY
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