More than two-dozen lines sail the seas every day, but, like snowflakes, no two are alike. There are large ships and small ships; ships geared toward older adults; some aimed at young adults and singles; and still others that cater to families.

Five of the most popular family cruise lines — Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean — are all larger ships and all sail to the destinations mentioned in Part II of our Cruise Planning Guide. Each line has several ships, so amenities, layout, activities and cabins will differ from ship to ship and, of course, from line to line. So drop anchor and peruse our cruise line roundup.

Carnival

The Vibe

Party: The emphasis here is on fun. Even though the newer ships tone down the line’s famous neon décor a bit, Carnival is still party central.

Fleet

Fantasy Class (can hold around 2,600 passengers): Carnival Fantasy (1989), Carnival Ecstasy (1991), Carnival Sensation (1993), Carnival Fascination (1994), Carnival Imagination (1995), Carnival Inspiration (1996), Carnival Elation (1998), Carnival Paradise (1998).

Destiny Class (can hold around 2,700 passengers): Carnival Destiny (1996), Carnival Triumph (1999), Carnival Victory (2000)

Spirit Class (can hold almost 2,700 passengers): Carnival Spirit (2001), Carnival Pride (2001), Carnival Legend (2002), Carnival Miracle (2004)

Conquest Class (can hold 2,974 passengers): Carnival Conquest (2002), Carnival Glory (2003), Carnival Valor (2004), Carnival Liberty (2005), Carnival Freedom (2007)

Splendor Class (can hold more than 3,000 passengers): Carnival Splendor (2008)

Dream Class (can hold 3,650 passengers): Carnival Dream (2009), Carnival Magic (2011)

Departure Spots

Anchorage, Baltimore, Barbados, Buenos Aires, Charleston, Civitavecchia (Rome), Ensenada, Ft. Lauderdale, Galveston, Honolulu, Jacksonville, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Miami, Mobile, New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, Port Canaveral, San Diego, San Juan, Santiago (Valparaiso), Tampa, Vancouver

Where They Go

Alaska (Glacier Bay, Northbound route, Southbound route), Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean (Eastern, Western and Southern), Hawaii, Mediterranean, Mexico (Baja, Mexican Riviera), Panama Canal, South America, Transatlantic

The 411 on Youth Programs

There are three programs for the under-18 set on Carnival: Camp Carnival (Toddlers ages 2-5; Juniors ages 6-8; and Intermediates ages 9-11), which includes everything from game nights to dance parties; Circle “C” (ages 12-14), which has movie night and shipwide scavenger hunts; and Club 02 (ages 15-17), which offers pool parties and teen-only shore excursions. Each of the three groups has their own “adult-free” hangout.

Your Family Will Love

These aren’t called “Fun Ships” for nothing. Take in a show, eat at one of the many restaurants, plunge down the huge waterslide at the pool (the Fantasy fleet is getting this makeover as part of the “Evolutions of Fun”) or catch a flick on the 12-foot-high poolside LCD screen on the newer ships). Plus, adults can relax at the Spa Carnival or party the night away at one of the many bars, lounges and clubs.

Cost

The prices vary greatly based on the ship, vacation date and the embarkation port. Prices can start as low as $249 per person for an inside stateroom on a four-day trip to the Western Caribbean, $304 for an oceanview and $649 for a suite.

The Vibe Magic: The Disney touches are overt in some areas, very subtle in others. And where else would you find a horn that plays “When You Wish Upon a Star”?

Fleet (each ship can hold anywhere from 1,750 to 3,325 passengers): Disney Magic® (1998), Disney Wonder® (1999); Disney Dream® (January 2011) and Disney Fantasy® (April 2012), can hold twice as many.

Departure Spots

Port Canaveral (ongoing); Barcelona and Dover (seasonal); Los Angeles (the Wonder will be calling San Pedro home starting in 2011); Vancouver (2011)

Where They Go

Alaska (in 2011), Bahamas, Caribbean (Eastern, Western and Southern), Europe (Mediterranean and Northern), Mexico (Mexican Riviera), Panama Canal, Transatlantic

The 411 on Youth Programs

Disney has multiple programs for its passengers who are 17 and younger, as well as Flounders Reef Nursery (M/W)/it’s a Small World Nursery (D/F) for those 3 months to 3 years. Starting in February 2010, activities in the The Oceaneer Club (typically ages 3-7) and the The Oceaneer Lab (usually ages 8-10; ages 8-12 on the Wonder) combined, allowing children to select activities by interest (like science, crafts or problem solving) rather than age. The change allows siblings in different age groups to participate in the same programs. The daily Navigator will continue to recommend activities for specific age groups, but it’s now up to parents and their kids to pick the program in which they are interested. The Edge (formerly Quest) (ages 11-13) allows preteens and teens to captain a virtual ship and chill watching the latest Disney Channel shows; Vibe (formerly Aloft/The Stack) (ages 13-17) is a haven for teens who want a break from mom and dad with everything from nightly dance parties to their own beach on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Also, families have access to an online service provided by provided by Babies Travel Lite thatallows them to order baby supplies — such as diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items — before their cruise and have them delivered to their cabin.

Your Family Will Love

Take the incredible service and pixie dust of a Disney vacation and put it on a boat. Families that appreciate everything a trip to the Disneyland® Resort or Walt Disney World® Resort has to offer will enjoy the nautical version. Dance the night away with your kids at Studio Sea, be a part of the action when the pirates take over the ship at the Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Party, or watch the world premiere of the latest Disney movie in the Buena Vista theater — which now offers 3-D. No casino, but there are plenty nightspots for the adults at the three clubs on Route 66 or Beat Street on the Magic and Wonder. On the Dream and Fantasy, adults have The District, with five uniquely themed venues, including a bar with a changing skyline and one that feels like you are inside a bottle of champagne.

Cost

Starting at $349 for three nights and $449 for four nights on the Wonder (cruise only); and $599 for seven nights (per person for inside stateroom on the Caribbean and Bahamas routes). Land and sea vacations can also be arranged with a stay at the Walt Disney World® Resort or Disneyland® Resort prior to the cruise, which includes tickets to the park and hotel accommodations.

Booking Tip

You can also book shore excursions, spa appointments, dinner at the adult-only restaurant Palo (and Remy’s on the Dream and Fantasy) and space in the nurseries online a certain amount of days before your cruise once you are paid in full.

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