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Accommodation & Attraction: Family Cruise

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Family cruise holidays on a giant boat with more than 2000 passengers (MSC Cruise - Orchestra). Pools, playground, kids animations, bars, live music, disco. Food inclusive.

Final verdict: Recommended (4/5)

Family Cruise: The it factor

Quite a unique and carefree way to spend holidays. Your "hotel" travels at night. Some days it stops in new locations so you can explore during the day and some days it just continues at sea. You have all you need within reach - food, drinks, entertainment, kids care, shops and more. The atmosphere is both luxurious and relaxed. Some people really dress up in the evening but you will fit in just wearing a t-shirt. Kids are welcomed (almost) everywhere!

It is, however, quite crowded, the food is average, internet is poor and no mobile network coverage at sea (which is a problem if you want to use a wifi based baby camera). Check-out is at 7:30 am (!)

Family Cruise: The fun factor

Just being on a big cruise boat is an adventure on its own. It's exciting for kids to run around so many floors (10+) and discover new activities on each of them. It's amusing for any age to look out the window and see unlimited sea, beautiful sunset and dolphins swimming and jumping next to the boat. It is a fun experience overall.

During the hot day we were at sea, the pools were a hit. Some boats have slides (ours didn't) - so if you have a water park fan in your family, check in advance. The water in the pool is salty and quite cold.

There was also a relatively small but fun playground with a nice sea view. You can just chill on the sun beds and watch your kids play around. I believe a playground like this is standard on any cruise boat but good to double check before booking.

During days at sea, there is an impressive animation program with kids competitions, drawings, cooking activities and more - some you can do with kids, and some you can leave the kids at and enjoy the boat life :)

There are also animations for adults such as fun and zumba classes on the main deck, salsa classes and wine tastings.

If you're more the shopping type, they had duty-free sales at specific times (watches, perfumes, bags, etc.) that people went crazy over (it seems to be first come first served).

The evening program was great as well. Bars with live music, themed parties (White party, 90s party, foam party, party under the stars...) - with kids participating till late hours and having a blast. For our little one (and me!) it was an amazing opportunity to dress in her favourite ball gown and jump around with the other kids on stage.

There is even a full size theatre with shows every night: Dancing, acrobatics, singing, circus acts and more. Suitable for kids.

And of course, no family cruise boat can lack a casino! We didn't try our luck but to our amateur eyes, it looked professional enough. Kids were allowed to walk through the casino, but of course, not to play.

Family Cruise: The comfort factor

The boat is with a touch of kitsch. The rooms are quite nice but as you would expect also rather small. The bathroom was more on the disappointing side though, looking quite old. On top of that our shower did not drain properly which affected our experience there.

The biggest challenge we had was the lack of internet at sea. There was no mobile coverage and the wifi (charged extra) was very poor, which prevented us from using our baby camera. Probably to the joy of our daughter who was allowed to stay up late and enjoy the nightlife.

In addition, what can be hard for families with kids is that check-out is at 7:30 am (non negotiable - I tried very hard...) and you need to provide your luggage to the staff the night before. Our little one was grumpy all day after this early stress.

Family Cruise: The food factor

Family cruise with kids - MSC Orchestra toddler

Most boats offer all inclusive food and drinks either paid on top. The restaurants looked nice, the food choices were good (healthy options available), but the food quality was average.

You're assigned a restaurant and you're supposed to go there every night. Dinner is served in 2 shifts (7 pm or 9:30 pm) and restaurants are very strict about that. If you miss your slot - you will be told off :)

The other option they have are the "specialty" restaurants (e.g. sushi) where you'll get off the standard menu and probably get higher level food but you'll pay extra (like in a normal restaurant) and forfeit the dinner included in your plan.

Family Cruise: The value for money factor

Price varies, depending on the demand and the duration. It is a bit like with plane ticket prices. If you want to try it out, I recommend shopping around and starting with 4 nights. It is more affordable, you will get the full experience but in case it's not for you - you will not be stuck at the sea. Longer cruises tend to get pricey.

There are different types of drinks packages. Be careful with opting for drinks-inclusive ones, as not all beverages are included and these packages can be quite pricey in the end. You might need to drink a lot on the boat to break even...

Family Cruise: Impressions video

Family Cruise holidays: Practical info

Family cruise with kids - MSC Orchestra toddler sunset
  • Shop around when you book a cruise as price varies. Choose one of the best cruise companies for families

  • Review based on a family cruise on the MSC Orchestra boat

  • Review based on a 4 nights cruise (Genova - Marseille - Barcelona - Day at the Sea - Genova) with 2 days at the port and 1 day at the sea

  • If you and your kids like to dress up, bring evening clothes with you

  • There are various start and end ports. Some cruises start and finish in the same location, some don't

  • You need to be at the boat minimum 4 hours before departure

  • Check out can be very early (ours was 7:30 am) - ask before booking


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