Our pick of the ships Costa Concordia, new from Italian company
Costa Cruises and home to the largest spa on any ocean liner yet. Expect a full European-immersion
experience, which means later mealtimes (dinner seatings are at 7:15 and 9:15) and language
lessons for all ages—not to mention the occasional topless sunbather.
Route to happiness Seven-day round-trip cruises drop anchor in Genoa, Barcelona, Majorca, Tunis, Malta, and Sicily.
Departing From Rome, every Sunday from July 23 through August 27.
Where the kids are Living out their Mario Andretti fantasies behind the wheel of a Formula One simulator, or attending "Coketail" parties (for the younger set) or boogying at discos (for teens)—all part of Costa Kids.
Parental perk Supervised children's activities on "formal nights" mean you can dress up without the agony of forcing your kids to.
Hit the ground running During port stops, go horseback riding on Malta and biking in Barcelona.
Takeaway Learn to say "ciao" like a real Italian. Picking up a foreign pen pal is practically guaranteed for older kids.
Shipshape 112,000 tons, 1,500 cabins, 13 decks, 13 bars, five restaurants, five hot tubs, three pools (two have retractable glass roofs, for swimming on rainy days), and two kids' clubs.
The lowdown From $1,379 per adult, from $549 for each child under 17 sharing a stateroom with two adults. 800/462-6782; www.costacruises.com.
Our pick of the ships NCL America's new Pride of Hawaii—one
of the few ships to cruise the Pineapple State during the summer.
Route to happiness A seven-day round-trip shimmy around the islands, with stops on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai.
Departing From Honolulu, every Monday year-round.
Where the kids are Getting a taste of what it's like to be cruise director, chef, or ship doctor, in the Kids' Crew program.
Parental perk Two brand-new two-bedroom, two-bath Garden Villas provide space for all, plus access to a private concierge lounge and sundeck.
Shipshape 93,500 tons, 1,123 staterooms, 15 decks, 12 bars, 10 restaurants, six hot tubs, two pools, a kids' club, and a teen lounge.
The lowdown From $900 per person, double. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com.
NEW ENGLAND AND CANADA
Our pick of the ships Holland America's Maasdam, one of the only
cruisers that tours these waters.
Route to happiness Seven-night sailings head due north to Bar Harbor, Maine, and then on to Nova Scotia, with stops in Halifax and Sydney; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; and the Saguenay Fjord and Quebec City, ending in Montreal.
Departing From Boston, June 3 and 17 and August 5 and 19.
Where the kids are At Club HAL ice cream socials, Ping-Pong tournaments, and dance parties. Teens get to hang out in a Manhattan-style loft.
Parental perk Food & Wine magazineselected chefs give daily cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Arts Center, which also has a roster of hands-on classes.
Hit the ground running Go horseback riding in Quebec, take an amphibious "duck" tour of Prince Edward Island, enroll in a soldier-for-a-day program at Halifax Citadel, or hop on a six-passenger floatplane for a ride over the wildlife-filled Saguenay Fjord.
Shipshape 55,451 tons, 629 staterooms, 10 decks, three restaurants, eight bars, three pools, and three kids' clubs.
The lowdown From $1,109 per person, double. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com.
Our pick of the ships The Santa Cruz, which has cabins large enough
to hold a family of four, from Metropolitan Touring, the company that helped pioneer ecotourism
in Ecuador's Galápagos islands.
Route to happiness Three-, four-, and seven-night expeditions, with excursions to different islands daily.
Departing All summer long, leaving on Mondays and Fridays from the islands of Baltra or San Cristóbal.
Where the kids are With their parents and naturalist guides, exploring the area in small glass-bottomed boats and on foot. Each island has its own collection of native species, from red- and blue-footed boobies to marine iguanas. During snorkeling outings, swimmers frolic with playful sea lions.
Parental perk After dinner, multilingual naturalists tell guests about the ecological wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Popular talks: "When Rocks Change" and "The Flightless Cormorant."
Don't let the fun stop now Before heading back to the States, unwind for a few days at the company's Finch Bay Eco Hotel, on Santa Cruz—the only hotel on the island with its own stretch of beach.
Shipshape 1,675 tons, 42 staterooms, four decks, one dining room, a bar, and one hot tub.
The lowdown From $1,500 per person for a three-night expedition. 800/527-2500; www.galapagosvoyage.com.