The price tag for taking the whole family on a cruise holiday is daunting for the best of us. That’s why several top cruise lines offer to treat mums and dads with free cruises for kids!

There needs to be a small warning however, while the cruise itself can be free for little ones, there can still be some nasty hidden catches, such as fees and taxes, shared cabins between four of you, limited dates for sailing and more.

Here’s a list of the cruise lines that offer free or discounted kids cruises and what you need to know for a stress-free family holiday:

Kids club on MSC


Kids up to age 12 cruise for free on this line, when they share a cabin with their parents – based on availability for children over the age of two. So, you’re more likely to score a freebie for your bigger kids (even up to the age of 17 in some cases) if you’re choosing to cruise in the off season or in shoulder times.

MSC is a great ship for kids, with multiple on board kids’ facilities ranging from LEGO to arcade games. Taxes and fees must still be paid on all free cruise fares.

How much you could save:

A seven-night MSC cruise around the Mediterranean – Save $1,104 per child

Norwegian Cruise Line

The Free at Sea, Pick your Perk deal by NCL means that friends and family can sail free, as the third and fourth (ie your kids) passengers to share one cabin. The deal isn’t offered all year round, so keep an eye out for special promotions.

Kids’ facilities onboard include bowling, arcade games, a popular top deck ropes course, and for the active kids, they’ll love the acrobatics and circus skills courses – and even a dinner experience that includes magicians. What’s not to love about that!

The Splash Academy is also a winner with the little ones who love a kids club.

How much you could save:

A ten-night NCL cruise around The Pacific – Save $991 per child

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean regularly offers “kids sail free” or “3rdand 4thpassengers” free – when sharing a cabin.

Royal Caribbean is a top scorer when it comes to looking after kids on board. The ships are modern and large, with multiple offerings for kids of all ages. Activities range from art classes to science experiments and play areas for babies and toddlers so mum and dad can get a break too.

Water play areas, rock climbing and even surfing is guaranteed to entertain the toughest child cruise critic.

How much you could save:

A six night Royal Caribbean cruise around The Pacific – Save $1,239 per child

Holland America Line

Holland America Line (HAL) is more widely known as a senior’s cruise line – however, the line can cater for the entire family seeking a multigenerational cruise.

HAL offers 3rdand 4thpassenger deals – these are discounted or free fares which can be used to cover children, as long as they are sharing the cabin with mum and dad.

On board facilities for kids are limited however, HAL offers family friendly theatre shows and a highly rated kids’ club.

How much you could save:

A 13 day cruise around The Pacific – Save $1,779 per child 

RCL kids

Pandaw River Cruises

Pandaw isn’t very well suited to young children, however teens and big kids can enjoy the best these lines have to offer, known for sailing through some of the more remote Asian rivers like Myanmar, and the Upper Mekong in Laos.

Pandaw encourages kids to behave in a relaxed manner on board, and hopefully have an interest in cultural excursions, with multiple shore trips offered per day of sailing.

The best perk about Pandaw also, is that mum and dad can still have their own cabin – while two kids aged between five and 18 can have their own cabin for free when travelling with two adults!

How much you could save:

A seven night cruise along the Mekong River – Save $3,832 per child

Crystal Cruises

Children under the age of 12 sail at 50 per cent off a full fare when they sail with two adults and share a cabin.

The occasional “kids sail free” promotion allows a child under 18 to book a third bed in a shared cabin for free.

Crystal is known for offering loads in terms of food and drinks, although it’s not as popular with little ones as some of the major lines.

The video and arcade games are always a hit with the kids – and Crystal is known for being excellent with their customer service with kids.

How much you could save:

A 14 night cruise around The Pacific – Save $7,882 per child

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Luxury sail line Paul Gauguin Cruises offers third passengers aged 17 and under to sail for free when sharing a cabin with two adults around French Polynesia. Taxes are additional.

Oddly, there are limited facilities on board for kids, but they do have a Moana program during the summer months for seven to 17 year olds, where kids can participate in nature-themed activities and shore excursions. Telescopes are a hit for star gazing, and so is the marine-themed ocean program.

These cruises are ideal for inquisitive, self-sufficient, mature kids who love water sports.

How much you could save:

A ten night cruise around The South Pacific – Save $6,774 per child