If it’s been a while since you took a cruise, or fall into the “A week at sea with my family? No way!” set of mind, then it’s time to reexamine the family vacation options on the high seas.
Cruise lines have been hard at work making ships family friendly, and an extension of this is creating easily accessible cruise ports around the country, eliminating the need to book expensive flights to get to a cruise. There are now launch points to a cruise vacation everywhere from San Francisco to Galveston, New Orleans to Savannah, and even right in Bayonne, New Jersey, where I recently hopped on the newest ship at sea, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas.
What’s that you say? Why would you go to Bayonne on vacation? First of all, let’s call it by its official name, Port Liberty, since there are actually fabulous views of Lady Liberty from here. More importantly, this is simply where you step onto the brand new, multi-million dollar, high tech ship that then sails off on a 5-, 7- 8-, or 10-day Caribbean cruise. It’s that easy. Walk on the ship on a blustery New Jersey day, and wake up a few mornings later in sunny Bermuda, Bahamas, San Juan, or St. Maarten.
On the way, your family will be treated to iFly skydiving simulator, the Flowrider outdoor wave machine, the only bumper cars at sea, roller skating, Broadway shows, indoor and outdoor pools, and kid-friendly food ranging from a hot dog truck to a self-serve soft serve around the clock (both free) to a Johnny Rockets (extra fee).
I loved the bumper cars, which were especially fun with a group, and the straight-from-London’s-West-End “We Will Rock You” set to the music of Queen, with one of the best female leads I’ve seen anywhere.
Another activity high on my list: North Star, a glass enclosed capsule that lifted me 300 feet above the ship for a 360 degree view of the ocean and beyond.
There are also drop off kids’ clubs for every age range from 2 to 11 year olds, and a drop-in teen lounge (with Xbox) for ages 12 to 17.
Oh, and DreamWorks characters make special appearances throughout the cruise.
While the kids are being entertained, enjoy some grown-up time at the spa, kick back with a cocktail at the Bionic Bar (overrated I thought) or a glass of craft beer at Michael’s Pub (a great hang out spot), watch the cabaret show in the incredible Two70 Theater, or stretch out at the adults only Solarium pool (which I highly recommend along with the fresh juice bar tucked away here).
Since the ship just launched this year, rooms are sleek and modern, with flat screen TVs and smartly designed storage spaces that maximize every nook available. (The beds were especially comfortable and the shower pressure was great!) For families, there are cleverly laid out suites that connect two balcony staterooms with a connecting interior room — definitely the best choice if you have a large family.
When the kids have moved on from the hot dogs and burgers, there are multiple dining options included (my favorite dishes came from Silk, the Pan Asian restaurant), and lots of add on choices such as the Izumi sushi bar and a signature restaurant from Jamie Oliver (the antipasto boards and truffle linguine were stand outs at this one).
At the end of my cruise, I simply sauntered off the ship and to the parking garage. Home in under 30 minutes. The easiest end to a tropical vacation ever.