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Cruising from New York

For families in the New York metro area looking to escape the hectic city, but don’t want to battle the airport crowds, the best option is to take a cruise. New York families have many cruise options, with ships departing from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Bayonne, N.J. Because cruises offer activities for all ability levels and cater to small and large groups, they provide a great setting for families.

Some parents are hesitant about cruising, with concerns of large crowds and small rooms. However, cruise vacations are a great value for families, allowing for exploration of multiple destinations and selection of a preferred cruise ship experience (ship size, available amenities, and costs vary). The costs for a cruise are also quite cost effective, given that transportation, lodging, food, activities and even childcare are all included in one set price.

When choosing your next vacation, consider these cruising tips:

Choose convenience. Cruising from New York is the most convenient choice for families. Your next vacation could be a quick taxi ride away! Warm destinations like the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Eastern Caribbean are within reach.

Join the party. As soon as you set foot on the cruise ship, your vacation has begun. Explore the ship and locate the waterslide! Entertainment, beverages, and snacks are immediately available as well, so get comfortable and enjoy the journey.

Tap into your interests. There is something for everyone on a cruise vacation. Locate the gym, yoga studio, or reading room for a little quiet time. Oh, and choose your excursions early. Whale watching in Nova Scotia and golfing in Bermuda will fill up!

Locate the childcare. Even the littlest visitor will be entertained on a cruise! Go to the kids club orientation and learn about childcare options. There will be plenty of children to befriend and fun activities to participate in.

Plan your days at sea. Check out the cruise schedule and see what piques your interest. Nothing there, join the spa and relax your days at sea! Designated kid-free zones will allow for a little grownup time as well.

Take your kid on the excursions. You will be offered the opportunity to leave your child on the ship while you explore. Say “no”! You’re there to bond and experience the port! Besides, the kiddos may have cabin fever after two days at sea.

Go to a tourist magnet. Every port has one landmark, historic site, or attraction that everyone says is a must-see. In Nassau, Bahamas, it’s the Atlantis resort. Families can purchase passes to tour and use the resort amenities.

Find a hidden gem. Research the ports for suggestions on a local restaurant or shop. Find something off the beaten path. In Freeport, Bahamas, the Taino Beach Resort offers beach time and a hot lunch excursion.

Take recommendations. The cruise ships often loop their routes and the staff is familiar with the ports. Ask for their recommendations of where to go and what to see. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the shops and restaurants of Old San Juan are walking distance from the ship.

Decorate your luggage. There is nothing worse than disembarking and not locating your luggage. Your bag is in a sea of black suitcases. So, either have bright luggage or an obnoxiously large ribbon or tag to differentiate.

Cruises to the Bahamas run year round, first stopping in Port Canaveral, Fla. that has appealing excursions to Kennedy Space Center and Disney World parks. Then the ship stops in Nassau (home to the Atlantis) and Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Other cruises venture to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and further to the Eastern Caribbean islands offering Caribbean hospitality without multiple flights and expensive hotels.

Don’t think you can stand a full week on a ship? Shorter cruises are available to Bermuda in the warmer months and to Atlantic Coast Canada in the fall.

Still don’t know which cruise is right for you? “Navigatr” is an online tool on the website Shermans Cruise (the sister site to Shermans Travel) that helps travelers find which cruise lines match their travel needs, personality, and budget. “Navigatr” generates a list of the most appealing cruises with the best prices, making the travel-planning process easier.

If you’re still stuck on where to go on your cruise, consider Travel Channel’s Top Five. Travel Channel selected its top-five picks for the most exciting family cruise lines. All depart from the New York metro area:

Disney

Just like the theme parks, Disney caters to kids and kids at heart. Kids and teen programs offer extensive activities for play and discovery. Even 3-month-old babies are welcome aboard!

disneycruise.com

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has a fun program for kids to play and make friends. One perk for parents is “expedited dining” for kids. A staff member will whisk your little one away to play while the grownups enjoy their meal.

royalcaribbean.com

Norwegian

Norwegian Cruise Line has a concept for cruising that has families in mind, “freestyle” cruising. Do what you what, when you want; including when you eat dinner. There are no set schedules to follow.

ncl.com

Holland America

Holland America offers classic fun for children and families without the over-the-top stimulation of other cruise lines. A good cruise line for teenagers, the ships offer not only activities but classes in fitness and dance.

hollandamerica.com

Carnival

Carnival is ideal for families on a budget. There is a party-like atmosphere onboard the ships and it starts the moment you step onboard. When not at the kids club, friendly staffers facilitate activities perfect for families.

carnival.com

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.

Referenced links:

Destinations:

• Bahamas: Bahamas.com

• Bermuda: Gotobermuda.com

• Canada: Visitcanada.com

• Puerto Rico: puertorico.com

• Virgin Islands: visitusvi.com

Excursions:

• Kennedy Space Center: www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy

• Disney World: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com

• Atlantis: Atlantisbahamas.com

• Taino Beach Resort: tainobeach.com

Websites:

• Shermans Cruise: www.shermanscruise.com/bestcruise

• Shermans Travel: shermanstravel.com

• Travel Channel: travelchannel.com

Activities abound.