Best Carnival Cruise ships for kids

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Cruise lines cater to more than 1.5 million kid vacationers a year. It's no wonder cruise ships are such a draw for families — there's lots of stuff for the younger set to do. While the kids are occupied in organized activities programs, adults get to enjoy some downtime. When the whole family is ready for some togetherness, waterslides and other fun play areas provide places for creating memories.

But some ships have more kid-focused goings-on than others. These 10 cruise ships have the most kid appeal.

Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy: Disney nostalgia starts even before you board these 4, 000-passenger ships – you'll spot familiar characters from shore. Once onboard, high tech wizardry causes squeals of delight – including on the ships' 765-foot AquaDuck watercoaster. Kids' playrooms are extraordinary themed spaces with fun programming. From the Mickey ear ice cream pops at dinner to kid-friendly shore excursions, the younger set gets pampered along with the adults. (While the larger Disney ships have more stuff, the 2, 700-passenger Disney Magic gains props for its new AquaDunk waterslide and Marvel's Avengers Academy, as does Disney Wonder for its kids-focused Alaska sailings.)

SEE MORE: The 10 best things about the revamped Disney Magic

Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas: The world's largest ships thrill kids, and some adults too, with appearances by DreamWorks characters such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda (also appearing on some of the other Royal Caribbean ships) in parades and other events. For older kids, get-active options on these 5, 400-passenger floating cities include rock climbing, simulated surfing, inline skating and ziplining. Each ship even has an ice-skating rink and merry-go-round. A Barbie program keeps doll lovers tickled pink. The ships also have an award-winning kids' activities program. (The upcoming Quantum of the Seas, debuting next fall, brings new activities including the first at-sea bumper cars.)

Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway: These 4, 000-passenger ships have the largest kids' facilities in the fleet, including a two-story Splash Academy for younger kids, the Entourage lounge for teens and a Kids Aqua Park. That's in addition to the largest water park at sea (with five waterslides), the largest ropes course at sea, a deal with Nintendo that means Wii video games onboard and a tie-in with Nickelodeon TV, which means character appearances and family activities involving SpongeBob SquarePants and his pals. You may even get "slimed."

Smurfs can be spotted on this Italian-style ship, sailing year-round from Miami. The 3, 500-passenger ship hosts Smurf-themed family disco parties featuring songs from "The Smurfs 2" soundtrack, a Smurfs parade and Smurf-themed cooking classes, among other activities. The blue characters are even part of the Mini and Junior club decor. The ship also has a kids' waterslide and 4-D theater older kids will enjoy. Parents will like the kids (11 and under) sail free promotions.

PHOTO TOUR: The 10 best reasons to cruise on the MSC Divina

Carnival Breeze, Carnival Sunshine: On the 3, 690-passenger Carnival Breeze and 3, 006-passenger Carnival Sunshine, the massive waterpark and Skycourse ropes course keep families happily active – including opportunity to get drenched under a giant dump bucket. Family fun also includes a game show with larger than life versions of Hasbro games. Activities in the kids' programming abound. Soon The Cat in the Hat and other characters will be part of the fun as part of a fleetwide deal with Dr. Seuss.

Expansive indoor/outdoor play areas on the Royal Princess (and soon to debut sister ship Regal Princess) include a teen club, with its own sunning loungers and wading pool, and a separate outdoor living room-like lounge for the age 8 to 12 set. Tots get to ride around a designated space on a fleet of tricycles. Outdoor areas also include an open-air playground complete with spinners and a slide. The creative activities program includes Junior Chef classes, science experiments and a youth-focused yoga program.

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