Q: Hi Playground! We are trying to possibly plan our first “real” family cruise. I tried looking up family cruises, but the information I got was overwhelming with not only different cruise lines, but also all the various ships within each line. We don’t need anything extravagant, just something for an almost 6 year old boy to enjoy. We are thinking June or July. I think it might be nice not to have to fly, however we live in Pittsburgh, so we’ll have to drive a bit to get to any port. Any suggestions? Thanks! ~ Rebecca
A: Hi Rebecca, A family cruise sounds like fun! Although I agree that with so many cruise ships plying the seas these days, it can feel like a tidal wave is holding your head under water when you start to plan. Don’t panic though, I’m here to help!
With a 5-year-old, I think you should focus on cruise lines that have great kids clubs and perks for families. And if you want to drive to a port, that helps us eliminate a number of cruises as well, but still leaves us with a few good options.
First up, Royal Caribbean. Since you’re considering driving to a port, this might be perfect since Anthem of the Seas leaves out of Bayonne, NJ, (which they call “Port Liberty”) which would be the easiest port for you to drive to.
In the summer you can take short 4- and 5-night itineraries to Bermuda that would give you a chance to dip your toes into the world of cruising (note that when I looked, it was only $5 more to book the 5 nights instead of 4 –score!). They have great Ocean Adventures kid’s clubs broken down by age, and for an extra bonus, DreamWorks characters make regular appearances on board (think: Penguins of Madagascar, etc).
I think your son would probably love Disney Cruise Lines, (they’re one of my son’s favorites, too), which has fun activities for families, great restaurants, and amazing kid’s clubs (picture interactive digital games built into the floors, mad science, creative cooking, and Disney character visits). Disney usually departs from Port Canaveral, Florida, a substantial 14+ hr drive from your home in Pittsburgh. However, if you want to wait until the fall, the Disney Magic will be sailing from NYC throughout October and will be featuring Marvel Universe’s Super Heroes and Supervillains with special Marvel Days at Sea in addition to all their regular cool family attractions.
Carnival is another option that may work well for a first cruise. They’re popular with families for their low starting price points, Camp Ocean kid’s clubs, and myriad activities — plus they feature Dr Seuss characters (you can even sign up for a special Green Eggs and Ham breakfast — sure to be a hit with a kindergartener). Best of all for you, they have summer cruises that depart from Baltimore to the Caribbean, which would be a relatively easy drive from Pittsburgh.
If you want some more insights, take a look at CruiseCritic.com to get some ideas of what’s available and ShermansCruise.com, where I’m a contributor, has good background info as well.
Have a great trip!
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Photo Credit: Disney Cruises