Family Cruises Vs. Adult-Only Cruises: What to Expect

Family Cruises Vs. Adult-Only Cruises

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When it comes to planning the perfect seafaring vacation, choosing between family cruises and adult-only cruises can be a head-scratcher. Each offers a unique experience tailored to the specific needs of different demographics, thus creating a distinct vacation vibe.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of both family and adult-only cruises, comparing and contrasting their features, amenities, and entertainment options to help you determine which type of cruise best matches your holiday expectations and preferences.

Understanding the Difference: Family Cruises vs. Adult-Only Cruises

Family cruises and adult-only cruises, though both offering an exciting journey at sea, cater to entirely different sets of travelers and provide distinct atmospheres. A family cruise, as the name suggests, is designed to accommodate and entertain all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. These cruises are filled with a broad spectrum of activities, facilities, and entertainment that appeal to different age groups. You can expect everything from kids’ clubs, water parks, and character experiences to adult-themed entertainment and relaxation zones.

On the other hand, adult-only cruises offer an escape from the high-energy pace often associated with family vacations. These cruises, primarily targeted at adults seeking a peaceful or romantic retreat, or even groups of friends in search of fun and relaxation, provide a serene environment devoid of the noises and bustling activities of children. The onboard amenities, activities, and entertainment are tailored for an adult audience, with offerings such as gourmet dining, spas, live music, comedy shows, casinos, and sophisticated cocktail parties.


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In essence, the key difference lies in the intended audience and the resulting atmosphere, services, and amenities. While family cruises strive to provide something for everyone, ensuring fun-filled family time, adult-only cruises focus on creating a tranquil and often more luxurious experience for adults to unwind, connect, and indulge.

Amenities and Services: What to Expect Onboard

When comparing the amenities and services offered by family cruises and adult-only cruises, the main difference is in the target audience they are designed to cater for.

Family Cruise Amenities and Services

Family cruises, aiming to keep everyone in the family entertained and comfortable, offer a plethora of amenities and services. For younger children, amenities often include dedicated kids’ clubs, play areas, and even babysitting services. There are teen clubs for older kids featuring age-appropriate activities like video game lounges, DJ classes, or outdoor adventures.

Family-friendly cruises also provide a variety of pools, from playful splash zones for younger children to larger pools for the whole family to enjoy. Some cruises also feature water parks or even surf simulators on board.


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Family dining options are also available, including buffet-style restaurants, family-style dining options, and even specialty children’s menus in fine dining restaurants. Moreover, family cruises usually offer larger staterooms or interconnected cabins to accommodate families of different sizes.

Adult-Only Cruise Amenities and Services

Adult-only cruises, on the other hand, focus on creating a sophisticated and relaxing environment. These cruises often boast upscale dining options, ranging from multi-course gourmet meals to specialty culinary experiences. You’ll also find a wide variety of bars and lounges, each with its unique vibe and drink menu.

Adult-only cruises often feature elaborate spa and wellness facilities, including thermal suites, treatment rooms, fitness centers, and adult-only pools. Entertainment typically includes live music, theater shows, dance classes, wine tasting sessions, lectures, and more.

Accommodations on adult-only cruises often lean towards luxury, with spacious staterooms, elegant decor, and private balconies. Some even offer concierge or butler services for an extra layer of indulgence.

Entertainment Options: Kids’ Fun Vs. Adult Leisure

The entertainment options on a cruise can significantly shape your vacation experience. Whether you’re sailing with a family cruise or an adult-only cruise, each offers a wide array of activities tailored to their specific audience.

Kids’ Fun on Family Cruises

Family cruises are a veritable playground for kids of all ages. Younger children might enjoy themed character meet-and-greets, magic shows, arts and crafts workshops, and organized games. For teens, amenities might include dedicated teen clubs offering video games, movies, dance parties, and even supervised shore excursions.

Many family cruises also offer family-friendly shows, live musical performances, movie nights, and water-based activities like pool games, waterslides, and more. These cruises usually have a daily schedule of organized activities, ensuring there’s always something to keep the younger passengers engaged and entertained.

Adult Leisure on Adult-Only Cruises

Adult-only cruises, conversely, provide a range of entertainment options appealing to mature tastes. This can include everything from live music and Broadway-style theater performances to comedy shows, dancing, and casino gambling. Some adult-only cruises may also offer enrichment activities such as cooking classes, wine tastings, language classes, and lectures on various topics.

Fitness and wellness activities are also more pronounced on adult-only cruises. These might include yoga classes, Pilates, meditation sessions, and organized runs or walks on the ship’s deck. Many adult-only cruises also have more upscale spa facilities, with services like massages, facials, and other treatments readily available.

Dining Experiences: Comparing Family and Adult-Only Cruises

Dining at sea is a unique experience, and whether you’re on a family cruise or an adult-only cruise, you can expect a variety of options. However, the focus and approach to dining can differ greatly between the two.

Family Cruise Dining

Family cruises strive to cater to the diverse tastes and preferences of all ages. You’ll often find a variety of dining venues, from casual buffets and poolside grills to main dining rooms and specialty restaurants. These cruises typically offer kid-friendly menus, featuring familiar favorites like pizza, chicken nuggets, pasta, and ice cream.


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Some family cruises go the extra mile, offering character dining experiences where kids can enjoy their meals alongside their favorite characters. Moreover, family cruises tend to be flexible with dining times to accommodate different schedules and routines.

Adult-Only Cruise Dining

Adult-only cruises, on the other hand, aim to create a more sophisticated and relaxed dining experience. They tend to focus more on gourmet fare and culinary exploration. Expect fine dining venues, specialty restaurants featuring global cuisines, and an extensive wine and cocktail selection.

You’ll often find open seating dining, allowing you to dine whenever and with whomever you please. Some adult-only cruises also offer culinary enrichment activities, like cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, mixology classes, or even visits to local markets on shore excursions.

Staterooms and Accommodation: Family Vs. Adult-Only

The staterooms and accommodation options on a cruise can significantly impact your overall vacation experience. Let’s explore how family cruises and adult-only cruises differ in their approach.

Family Cruise Accommodation

Family cruise accommodations are designed with the needs of multiple passengers in mind. Cabins tend to be larger, with additional sleeping arrangements such as pull-down beds or sofa beds. Family staterooms or suites might include separate bedrooms or partitions to provide some level of privacy.

Some cruise lines offer interconnected cabins that allow larger families to stay together while maintaining separate spaces. In terms of design, accommodations on family cruises are often functional and family-friendly, with considerations for the safety of younger passengers.

Adult-Only Cruise Accommodation

Accommodations on adult-only cruises lean more towards luxury and comfort for couples or solo travelers. Staterooms tend to be spacious, elegantly designed, and equipped with upscale amenities. You’ll often find plush bedding, a seating area, a mini-bar, and a well-equipped bathroom. Many staterooms come with private balconies or terraces, providing a tranquil space to enjoy the sea views.

Suites on adult-only cruises might include additional luxuries like separate living areas, whirlpool tubs, walk-in closets, and even personal butler services. The design of these accommodations often highlights tranquility, sophistication, and romantic charm.

Destination and Excursion Options: Family-Friendly Vs. Adult-Focused

The choice of destinations and excursions greatly shape your cruise experience. Depending on whether you’re on a family cruise or an adult-only cruise, the focus of these offerings can differ significantly.

Family-Friendly Destinations and Excursions

Family cruises often choose destinations that offer a wide range of attractions and activities suitable for all ages. Popular choices include the Caribbean with its beautiful beaches and water-based activities, or the Mediterranean, which offers a blend of beach fun, historical sites, and interactive museums.

Excursions are carefully selected to ensure they are family-friendly. This could include visits to theme parks, zoos, or aquariums; beach days; guided city tours with family-oriented stops; and even educational outings such as historical sites and museums that offer engaging, kid-friendly programs.

Adult-Focused Destinations and Excursions

Adult-only cruises typically venture to more exotic or sophisticated destinations, focusing on cultural exploration, natural beauty, and relaxation. Think wine regions, historic cities, or serene islands. These cruises might journey to the Mediterranean, South Pacific, Alaska, or even offer transatlantic voyages and world cruises.

Adult-focused excursions might include wine tastings, guided tours of historical or architectural sites, hikes in nature parks, cooking classes, art gallery visits, or spa days at renowned resorts. The focus is often on immersive and enriching experiences that cater to adult interests.

Cruise Culture and Atmosphere: Comparing the Vibe

The culture and atmosphere aboard a cruise ship, often referred to as the “vibe”, plays a crucial role in shaping your vacation experience. Here’s a look at how family cruises and adult-only cruises typically differ in this regard.

Family Cruise Culture and Atmosphere

Family cruises are designed to foster a fun, energetic, and family-oriented vibe. They are often buzzing with activities, from early morning until late into the night. You can expect laughter, games, and the lively chatter of children and families enjoying their time together.

Scheduled activities are abundant, and public areas are often filled with music, performances, or ongoing events. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, with families feeling comfortable moving about the ship in their leisure wear or swim suits.

Adult-Only Cruise Culture and Atmosphere

Adult-only cruises aim to provide a tranquil, relaxing, and sophisticated environment. The overall atmosphere tends to be more serene and refined. Public areas are often quieter, allowing passengers to read, chat, or simply take in the ocean views in peace.

While there are still plenty of activities and entertainment, they are usually more subdued or focused on relaxation, enrichment, or socializing. There’s a greater emphasis on fine dining, evening entertainment, and leisurely pursuits. The dress code tends to be more formal, especially during the evenings, adding to the sophisticated feel.

Cost Comparison: Family Cruises Vs. Adult-Only Cruises

When planning a cruise, cost is an important factor to consider. Depending on whether you opt for a family cruise or an adult-only cruise, you may find differences in pricing structures and what’s included in your fare.

Family Cruise Costs

Family cruises are often designed to offer value for money, considering they usually cater to larger groups. They often feature pricing models where children under a certain age sail for free or at a reduced rate when sharing a cabin with two paying adults.


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In terms of inclusions, family cruises typically include accommodation, meals in the main dining areas, some beverages, and most entertainment. However, additional expenses can add up quickly, including specialty dining, shore excursions, onboard activities like video gaming or virtual reality experiences, gratuities, and more.

Adult-Only Cruise Costs

Adult-only cruises, particularly luxury or boutique lines, often come with a higher upfront cost. However, many of these cruises operate on an all-inclusive model. Your fare might include not only accommodations and meals, but also premium drinks, gratuities, and sometimes even shore excursions and specialty dining.

While the initial price tag can be higher, the all-inclusive nature can provide excellent value, particularly for those who enjoy indulging in all the amenities on offer. It also allows for better budgeting, as you won’t have many, if any, additional costs once onboard.

Here’s a simple comparison table for Family Cruises Vs. Adult-Only Cruises:

Family CruisesAdult-Only Cruises
Upfront CostTypically lower initial cost. Children may sail for free or at a reduced rate with two paying adults.Often higher initial cost, especially for luxury or boutique lines.
AccommodationsGenerally included in the base fare.Typically included in the base fare. More luxury accommodations may be available.
MealsIncluded for main dining areas. Specialty dining often requires an additional cost.Meals in all dining areas are usually included.
BeveragesBasic beverages included. Specialty beverages, alcoholic drinks, or premium coffee often cost extra.Often includes premium beverages, including alcoholic drinks.
Entertainment & ActivitiesMost onboard entertainment and activities are included. Some special activities or experiences may require an additional fee.Onboard entertainment and activities are generally included.
Shore ExcursionsUsually not included and must be paid for separately.Some luxury lines include selected shore excursions in the fare.
GratuitiesTypically not included and are an additional daily per-person cost.Often included in the fare on adult-only cruises, especially luxury ones.
Potential Additional CostsCosts for specialty dining, certain onboard activities, shore excursions, gratuities, and more can add up.Fewer additional costs due to a more inclusive model, although some extras may still apply depending on the cruise line.

Please note that the exact cost and inclusions can vary by cruise line and even by specific ship or itinerary within a cruise line, so it’s always important to check the details before booking.

Making the Choice: Factors to Consider

Choosing between a family cruise and an adult-only cruise involves weighing several factors, as each offers a unique experience tailored to different vacation preferences. Here are some key considerations to help you make your choice:

Your Travel Group: Consider who you’re traveling with. If you’re traveling with children or as a multi-generational family, a family cruise would be a more appropriate choice. However, if you’re seeking a peaceful retreat with your partner or friends, an adult-only cruise might be more appealing.

Type of Experience Desired: If you’re seeking a fun, lively, and family-oriented environment with plenty of activities for all ages, a family cruise would be a better fit. If, on the other hand, you prefer a quieter, more sophisticated experience with adult-oriented amenities, entertainment, and dining, consider an adult-only cruise.

Budget: Family cruises can seem more budget-friendly upfront, but remember to consider the potential additional costs. Adult-only cruises might have a higher initial price tag, but many operate on an all-inclusive model which can provide better value for some passengers.

Destination and Excursions: Consider your dream destinations and the type of excursions you wish to undertake. Family cruises often visit family-friendly locations and offer kid-oriented excursions, while adult-only cruises may venture to more exotic or sophisticated destinations with culturally rich or relaxing excursions.

In conclusion, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between a family cruise and an adult-only cruise. Your decision should ultimately align with your specific preferences, interests, and vacation expectations.


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