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The best cruise ships for young and old

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With varied ports of call and a plethora of on-board activities for different age groups, it’s not surprising that cruises are becoming increasingly popular for extended family holidays.

In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of multi-generational groups taking cruises, fuelled by the rising number of family-friendly ships. The appeal of such holidays is that each generation can enjoy their freedom and take part in activities that suit them.

Meeting for dinner not only gives everyone a chance to exchange experiences but enables them to spend evenings together at a show, say.

Ships that best lend themselves to extended families tend to be larger mass-market vessels that come equipped with facilities to appeal to young and old.

For example, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are packed with diversions to suit all ages and some of the best entertainment I’ve seen afloat. But if you don’t want to share your cruise with 6,000 other passengers (these are the world’s largest cruise ships), opt for the smaller Freedom of the Seas or Independence of the Seas. These are still fairly large, carrying some 4,000 passengers, but they still have key family features.

P & O Cruises ships are a little smaller and those that lend themselves to family groups are Ventura, Azura, Aurora and Oceana.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship Carnival Breeze has waterslides and a water-play park for children that contrast with its serene adult-only deck, along with an expansive spa and thermal suite to which parents and grandparents can escape. Such vessels also have accommodation suited to family groups: staterooms that can take parents and up to three children; adjacent cabins with an interconnecting door; or suites of one or two bedrooms for parents and grandparents, plus a living room with a sofa-bed for children.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines may be popular with more mature passengers, but in the school holidays increasing numbers of them bring their children and grandchildren on board. Braemar and Balmoral are the most popular ships as they are the largest and most modern in the Fred Olsen fleet.

Thomson Cruises also caters for multi-generational groups across its family ships and offers discounts of a free place for parties of 10.

Being able to sail from British ports is another plus to consider as it cuts out airport queues and the chance of flight delays – something welcomed by older travellers or those with young children.

P & O Cruises ships sail from Southampton and RCI’s Independence of the Seas is based at the Hampshire port in summer, while Fred Olsen offers departures from a number of ports in different parts of Britain.

Cunard’s three ships offer an elegant family experience, as do lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises. They all have cruises from the UK.

With such a choice of ships and sailings, family groups can hopefully avoid a mutiny within their ranks.

By Sara Macefield, an award-wnning cruise writer, and a travel journalist for more than 20 years. Published by telegraph.co.uk

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