Large & Small Ship Cruise Vacations for Families | Ciao Bambino!

Cruising is one of those travel topics that families have a firm opinion about: They either love it or hate it. Often, those who claim cruising isn’t for them have never actually tried it; they just dislike the idea of it. Ciao Bambino has cruised on dozens of lines in destinations around the globe, from small boats on European rivers to the largest cruise ship in the world. We believe there’s a cruise experience for everyone, and we’re happy to play matchmaker.

There are many factors to consider when determining which cruise is a good fit for your family. Families often think cruising only means enormous ships with thousands of people on board. Not so! There are many kid-friendly small-ship cruise experiences to be found, like in the Galapagos or Alaska. Even European riverboat cruise operators are catering to families in meaningful ways. For those who steer clear of cruise ships because they worry their family will be bored, a large ship might be a better choice. There are so many onboard amenities and activities that guests often run out of time to try them all. Regardless of ship size, families benefit from hassle-free logistics and a high level of service when cruising with our favorite brands.

Think you already know which ship and destination you want to see via cruise? Let us help you sort out the finer details. Lodging should be comfortable; we can determine which cabin category makes sense for your family’s needs and what area of the ship is best. We’ll also sort through dining plans help you pre-book the most popular onboard activities. We excel at arranging uniquely tailored shore excursions so families can visit all the must-see landmarks in popular  ports of call.

Our favorite destinations to experience by way of large or small-ship cruises include the following:


The Caribbean Sea is by far one of the most popular destinations in the world for cruise lines. Many brands distinguish their routes between the western and eastern regions. Western routes might stop in Grand Cayman, Jamaica or Mexico, for example, while eastern routes port in places like the Bahamas, Haiti and Puerto Rico. Some of the larger lines even have their own private islands. Families love the convenient departure points in Florida, often with cheap, direct flights from around the U.S.

Galapagos Islands

The smaller ships that take families around these special islands are one of the best cruise experiences in the world, especially for animal- and nature-loving families. A cruise around the Galapagos is an unforgettable educational trip, while also being a relaxing family vacation. The cruise length is usually 4 or 7 days, and pairs well with some time exploring mainland Ecuador.


Departing from either western Canada or the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., Alaskan cruises are one of the best ways to experience this beautiful state. Deciding between a large or small ship is a big factor when planning a trip — bigger cruise lines offer robust onboard activities, while smaller ships mean more opportunities for up-close and personal encounters with nature. Be sure to book far in advance; weather limits the cruising season in Alaska from late spring to early fall, so ships fill up fast. Go later in the summer if seeing the salmon runs and bears is high on your wish list.

Amazon River

Cruising the Amazon River feels like a real expedition that gets families deep into one of the world’s most fascinating ecosystems. Yet it is surprisingly easy to arrange this adventure, even during short school breaks. Onboard staff keep safety a top priority, but kids are drawn to what they believe to be risky adventure, like fishing for piranhas and swimming in the murky water. We can advise as to whether a Brazil- or Peru-based cruise is the right one for you; both offer incredible immersion in the rainforest.


Families who want a taste of several European countries in just one trip, or who are daunted by the logistics of changing accommodations several times, should consider a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea. We can help determine which cruise lines will stop at your top-priority cities, and we love to arrange shore excursions that get families away from the throngs of tourists in major ports.

Central America

Nothing gets families feeling like real global explorers quite like a cruise through the Panama Canal. It pairs perfectly with stops in various tropical locations like Costa Rica and time at the front end wandering colorful Panama City. For families who crave authentic, local experiences, the brands we love best here are staffed with locals and stops are often in their hometowns.

Baltic Sea

Scandinavia is intriguing to families, but planning a vacation here can be daunting due to long drive times between destinations and rugged terrain as you head north. Enter a cruise through the Baltic Sea, which solves these challenges. Families enjoy a mix of urban experiences in cities like Copenhagen, Stockholm or even St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as time spent in rural areas highlighted by the Norwegian fjords.


Cruising the Greek islands solves the transportation headaches that often come up when planning a trip to Greece. Instead of boarding flights or ferries to transfer between locations (which inevitably means packing and repacking everyone’s suitcases), simply disembark from your cruise ship each morning in a new location and spend your time enjoying these incredibly beautiful isles.


The Mexican Riviera has been a popular vacation destination for many years, especially for residents of the west coast of America. And it’s not just for those seeking beaches and margaritas —whale watching, cliff diving and exploring historic ruins are highlights here, too.


Small ships that can easily navigate France’s beautiful rivers are a great way to get around the country. Any of the luxury lines will do for older teens, as the appeal is in the interesting destinations themselves, like Paris and Normandy. For younger children, choose a line with dedicated family-focused sailings so that there is a range of onboard activities offered.


River cruising through Germany works in almost every season. In summer, families love an immersion into German culture, cuisine and scenery along the Danube, Elbe or Mosel. The ease and convenience are especially great for those new to European travel. In winter, riverboat cruises make visiting various German Christmas markets fun and hassle-free, as the boats typically dock right in the city centers.

Booking a large- or small-ship cruise vacation isn’t as simple as it initially appears. Our clients benefit from our firsthand experience with the major vessels and brands along routes around the world. Families who frequently cruise love the insider pro tips we share with our clients. We’ve managed to convince even staunch cruise doubters that, with our help identifying the right type of cruise experience for their family, it really can be the way to go.

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Our Happy Travelers
"We had a wonderful time on our Mediterranean cruise and really enjoyed the time in Barcelona afterwards that our advisor helped us arrange. We were incredibly pleased with her during the booking process and with her recommendation on an excursion in Rome."

–Phillips Family Mediterranean Cruise

"Everything was perfect! The room set up was great. We all enjoyed ourselves. We can’t wait to plan for next year! Thank you again!"

–Rembert Family Cruise

"We are enjoying our last full day. We had a great time. You did a great job. We will have to have you do all our trips in the future."

–Shindle Family Trip

"Katie planned the perfect trip. We all agree it was the best trip we've had, and the hotels were some of the best we've stayed in. We found that with a baby, it was only possible to get through about half of the suggested itinerary each day, which was great because it gave us options. We took time each night to debate what we would do the next day, and really enjoyed having those possibilities laid out for us.​"

–Beck Family Trip

"The hotel you found and booked for us could be the nicest hotel we have ever stayed... and we have stayed at some really, really nice 5 star hotels."

–Wadsworth Family Trip


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