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7 cruise lines where kids sail free

April 11, 2022
7 min read
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Families, we hear you: It’s expensive to book a cruise for a family of three or four people for a week, not to mention the associated extras like flights, hotels, excursions and souvenirs. Inflation isn’t helping.

Vacations together are worth the investment for the shared memories and chance to reconnect. But wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t cost so much?

Meet the “kids cruise free” deal. Many cruise lines — including family favorites like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line — offer free kids fares and other discounts for kids throughout the year. These deals are not consistent and come and go based on the time of year and availability.

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Some of the specials are advertised during “wave season,” which falls between January and March, when cruise lines have some of the best pricing of the year. Sometimes promotions are available only for select sailings. Others are valid for any age of guest who sails as a third or fourth passenger, sleeping in a bunk bed or pullout sofa.

To make your family trip more affordable and less stressful, here’s a list of family-friendly cruise lines where kids cruise free (or on the cheap) when you time your booking to coincide with a short-term promotion. These incentives change frequently, and the deals can sell out fast, so you may need to be flexible on where you sail and when you go. Always read the fine print before booking to catch any hidden costs or restrictions.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises frequently offers its “Kids Sail Free” promotion throughout the year in combination with its “Escape to Sea,” “Hot Deals,” “Healthcare Heroes” and “Military and Government Employees” specials, as well as during its President’s Day sale. Kids 17 and younger sail free as a third or fourth guest with all these programs.

Some deals may also include discounted fares or the lowest cruise-only rates for the first and second guests, along with stateroom upgrades and flexible booking options, so mom and dad may get a perk or two as well.

Related: The 5 best cruise lines for families

Norwegian Cruise Line

(Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

NCL’s “Free at Sea” promotion offers free kids fares in a roundabout way. The offer allows passengers to choose one or more complimentary booking perks, including free specialty dining, free beverage packages, shore excursion credit, free Wi-Fi and discounted rates for extra guests.

Choose the latter, and you can access free or $99 per-person fares for third and fourth guests, regardless of age. This special pricing applies to select sailings and only when the additional passengers share a stateroom with the first and second guests.

Norwegian Cruise Line also offers discounted cruises fares in combination with the “Free at Sea” promotion, which may include 35% off advertised rates and additional perks like free airfare for the second guest, 2-for-1 deposits and risk-free cancellation.

Related: The 8 best cruise ships for kids

Holland America Line

Holland America Line offers promotional pricing, including its “Kids Cruise Free” program, throughout the year.

Recently, the line ran a deal where third and fourth guests between the ages of 5 and 17 could sail for free on select sailings through spring 2022. The line’s 2022 “Ultimate Upgrade Event” offered perks including $75 fares for kids up to 17 years of age on Alaska cruises (plus a free stateroom upgrade and 50% reduced deposits).

Parents and caregivers will want to look for additional promotions, such as the “Have It All” premium package, which includes free specialty dining, a beverage package, complimentary shore excursions (the number depends on the length of the cruise) and free Wi-Fi.

Royal Caribbean

(Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean’s “Kids Sail Free” promotion is offered periodically throughout the year. Not every deal is the same, but the line typically offers free cruise fares to children 12 years old or younger, sailing as additional guests with two full-fare-paying passengers.

Be sure to read the fine print as the free cruises for kids come with many restrictions, such as blackout dates over major holidays and school vacation periods and minimum sailing lengths.

Royal Caribbean also offers a deal where “Kids Sail for Less,” which usually includes 25% off the fare for additional passengers in a cabin. This promotion has no age limitation, so it’s open to any extra guests sharing accommodations with two full-fare-paying passengers.

Related: Why Wonder of the Seas is awesome for families

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises doesn’t let kids cruise free, but the luxury line does offer reduced fares for kids ages 17 and younger on select sailings during the summer and holiday season.

These fares start at $999 per child (or young adult) and vary in price, depending on the voyage. Regent always includes unlimited complimentary shore excursions, so kids can explore and stay active while cruising in Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, Panama Canal or other destinations included in the promotion.

Related: Which cruise ship category should your family book?

CroisiEurope

(Photo courtesy of CroisiEurope/Facebook)

River cruise line CroisiEurope’s Family Club Cruises are available on select sailings in Portugal, Spain and Italy and feature free cruise fares for kids up to age 16. For Family Club sailings on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia and Montenegro, children under 16 years of age receive a 30% discount.

Because the line’s ships have few rooms that can accommodate more than two passengers, the line has waived the single supplement on these sailings. That means two parents and one child can book two cabins for the price of one. (Each parent pays for one berth in each cabin and the child travels free; the child must be 5 years of age or older to stay alone in the cabin next door.)

This Family Club Cruise deal is limited to two children per paying adult. On these sailings, optional excursions are geared toward kids and a menu for younger palates is available in onboard dining venues.

On all other sailings for the river cruise line, there’s a 20% discount for kids younger than 10 years of age. Children under 2 always sail free.

Star Clippers

If you’re planning a multigenerational family getaway, consider booking a voyage on one of Star Clipper’s tall ships. Currently, kids between ages 3 and 17 can sail free with one or two adults in the same cabin on select five- to nine-night 2022 and 2023 sailings in the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Panama, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia.

If two children are traveling with two adults (in specific room categories), the line accommodates the family in two individual cabins. What’s more, grandparents can join in the fun and receive a 10% discount on cruise fares.

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Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases