A is for Animation: Cartoon-loving children have the opportunity to learn how to draw and create their own animations. Disney Cruise Line does this better than most with professional artists at hand to help children create (possibly) the next Disney character.
B is for Basketball: Families and children alike can enjoy a game of basketball on the upper decks of many ships. Most Norwegian Cruise Line (0845 201 8900; ncl.co.uk) ships offer a fitness centre. The basketball courts are often on the top-most deck, so it feels as if you're playing in mid-air, with only the sea below you.
C is for Cooking: Junior master chefs can join the professionals in learning learn the art of pizza and biscuit making and even sushi preparation. Apart from travelling for free children will get plenty of attention on board an MSC (0203 426 3010; msccruises.co.uk) ship where crew - including chefs - will help them create dishes. C is also for crow's nest - which you can climb the rigging to, on the much smallerStar Clipper ships.
D is for Dance: From theatrical performances to contemporary dance there are endless opportunities for youngsters to hit the dance floor. Princess Cruises' newest ship Royal Princess (0843 774 4444;princess.com) has an outdoor dancing area for teenagers as well as with a DJ booth and lounge area with foosball, hip-hop dance classes, Skee-ball and video games.
E is for Excursions: from bobsledding in Jamaica to camel riding in Lanzarote and submarine trips in the Caribbean almost all family-friendly cruises will have shore excursions designed to keep the whole family busy and entertained. This could be a rare opportunity for family time - on board the children may well be enjoying the kids' clubs or spending all their time with other children their age.Many cruise lines have snorkelling gear and offer guided sessions for children (photo: Alamy)
F is for Fashion: Budding fashionistas can showcase their talents at on-board fashion shows, often using their own creations. For the 12 to 14 year-olds Carnival (0843 374 2272; carnival.co.uk) has devised a space called Circle C, in which teenagers can decorate their own T-shirts. And on Royal Caribbean's (0844 493 4005; royalcaribbean.co.uk) Barbie-themed cruises there's a catwalk show.
G is for ship's Galley: Go behind the scenes and take a tour of the galley (the kitchen to landlubbers!). Princess Cruises usually offers a couple of ship tours each day on sea days. Families can visit the engine control room, medical centre, print shop, laundry, photo lab, bridge, and other areas typically seen only by the ship's crew.
H is for Hip Hop: Learn from the professionals at hip-hop classes. With Royal Caribbean you can dance 24/7 if you want. On Freedom and Oasis-class ships you have Bebop with DreamWorks, penguins and pandas and salsa in the Latin club, Boleros. There are family disco nights, pre-dinner fox-trotting, dancing-under-the-stars pool parties and DJs on the decks in specially designed teenager-only clubs.
I is for Ice skating: Children and parents alike can learn the ropes on the ice or show off their skills as well as watching the professionals in some spectacular ice shows. Royal Caribbean offers has ice rinks and ice-skating classes tailored to age and level of expertise.
J is for Jukeboxes: Budding DJs can tailor the evening's tunes according to their taste. The teenager's lounge on Norwegian Epic resembles a night-club and the music selection is left up to discerning youngsters.
The Norwegian Epic Teens Lounge (photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
K is for kids' clubs: these come in every shape and size, from toddlers to teens - all are catered for.
L is for Late nights: The fun continues with late night movies, pool parties and sports activities. Apart from its Ocean and Pacific ships, Princess Cruises offers late-night movies and teens-only dinner parties. A great way for young adults to let down their hair in the safe confines of the ship.
M is for Movies on deck: Royal Princess, Carnival Dream, some Royal Caribbean ships and most MSC cruise ships screen films out on deck. M is also for Mocktail Mixology: Princess (teens programme), Carnival and Royal Caribbean all offer place where children can learn how to make their own mocktails with professional bartenders showing how it’s done.
N is for Nature: there are countless opportunities on board and ashore for children of all ages to learn about local and ocean wildlife with fun and insightful talks. Many ships offer guided excursions ashore. Be sure to sign up early.
Children can enjoy expert talks about marine life with Celebrity (photo: Celebrity)
O is for Open Mic: Superstars in the wings can showcase their talents with open-mic karaoke nights. On Allure and Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean offers "open-mic" and karaoke competitions as part of its 12 to 14-year-old children's programme.
P is for Pirates: There’s no better environment than a cruise ship to really feel like a pirate, whether dressing like one or joining the pirate parties. Disney Cruise Line offers the ultimate Pirate Party - crew dress in pirate outfits and pirate-themed songs blast through the decks. Captain Hook makes an appearance and when, naturally, Mickey saves the day there are celebratory fireworks. P is also for Plank - which extends over the sea from the top deck and can be walked on board Norwegian's newest ships.
Q is for Quizzes: For all the family, there’s a wide array of quizzes and game shows throughout the voyayge - especially on sea days. The Teen Zone on Cunard's (0843 374 2224; cunard.co.uk) ships includes table tennis tournaments, team games, quizzes and bingo during the evenings.
R is for Rock climbing: Dare-devil youngsters can scale to the top of a rock-climbing wall. Norwegian Breakaway - and most of Norwegian's fleet - is known for its adventure programmes. The climbing wall is one of the main features.
Climbing wall on Norwegian Breakaway (photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
S is for Surfing: Ride the waves on the upper deck with surf simulators (called the FlowRider) aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
T is for Table Tennis: For those budding Olympic champions... Thomson Cruises' (024 7628 2228; thomson.co.uk) Sports Deck is kitted out for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and five-a-side football.
U is for Underwater: Children will need their goggles for the games and competitions that take place underwater
V is for Volleyball: The perennial beach favourite can more often than not be enjoyed on an upper-deck court. At Sports Square, an expansive outdoor recreation area aboard Carnival's Magic and Breeze ships, you can play basketball, volleyball or soccer on a multi-purpose court.
W is for Water parks: An absolute must for any family cruising with children. Norwegian Breakaway has a massive water park with loops, fast slides, mini rivers and a small pool for the very young ones.
By Ana Franca