Carnival Cruise Lines' (www.carnival.com) $250 million Evolutions of Fun initiative on the line's eight Fantasy-class ships guarantees a good time for the whole family. At the heart are two key elements: Waterworks, an expansive water park for kids and adults alike, and Serenity, an area devoted to adults.
This year, kids will experience the line's children's program Camp Carnival. When Carnival Splendor debuts in July, it will feature a two-level play area for Camp Carnival.
The line's Club O2 specializes in entertaining kids in the 15- to 17-year-old range and Circle C caters to tweens.
Royal Caribbean (www.royalcaribbean.com) devised the FlowRider surf simulator for its Freedom-class ships, as well as rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks. Likewise, Voyager-class ships have ice-skating rinks and in-line skating tracks.
The line will start operating Nickelodeon-themed cruises this summer (the first is August 10-17 on Freedom of the Seas).
Royal Caribbean also has a slew of different stateroom options to meet the needs of families. Standard staterooms offer Pullman beds that sleep up to four people.
Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) is all about freestyle cruising. With freestyle dining, neither kids nor grown-ups need to worry about a dress code.
NCL also offers many connecting staterooms. A good option is the Courtyard Villa. Available on Norwegian Gem, Pearl, Jewel and Jade, these accommodations are roomy and have access to a private courtyard area.
NCL's Kid's Crew service acts as the line's daycare, with hours from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at no cost.
Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) offers Princess Pelicans (ages 3-7), Shockwaves (ages 8-12) and Remix (ages 13-17). Each program has activities that fit the corresponding age group.
A great way for families to interact is through Princess' Jr. [email protected] Program, a hands-on cooking workshop for kids (parents are also invited to participate).
Youth and teen centers are open daily from early morning to late at night, and are complimentary until 10 p.m. for children 3-12. For a break from the kids, there are special late-night kid-sitting services for a fee.
Celebrity Cruises' (www.celebritycruises.com) Fun Factory provides cruisers ages 3-12 with an all-inclusive environment that ranges from video entertainment to physical activity.
Celebrity's teen centers will ultimately follow the blueprint laid forth on Celebrity Infinity, which has a facility for teens.
The bulk of Celebrity's kids' programming is facilitated by LeapFrog SchoolHouse, which offers educational programming.
Celebrity's "X-Club" Youth Program offers a full, four-tiered program year-round, with age-specific activities for Shipmates (ages 3-6), Cadets (ages 7-9), Ensigns (ages 10-12) and Admiral T's (ages 13-17).
Holland America Line's (www.hollandamerica.com) Club HAL program is set up to entertain kids ages 3 to 12.
For teens, there is The Loft, a lounge designed to resemble an artist's loft. Most Holland America ships also feature The Oasis, a teens-only sundeck area.
The line also offers Family Reunion Program pricing, which has reduced group rates for families booking eight staterooms or more on any cruise.
Disney Cruise Line (www.disneycruises.com) will debut a stage adaptation of the hit movie Toy Story this spring on Disney Magic as it sails Mexican itineraries from the West Coast.
Costa Cruises' (www.costacruises.com) children's program falls under the "Squok Club" name, which splits its children's activities into two groups: mini club (3-6 years old) and maxi club (7-12 years old). Parents must enroll children in the [email protected] program at the beginning of the cruise at no charge.