More and more families are taking to the high seas for vacation, and New York is a popular place to set sail. Prior to booking your cruise, evaluate each cruise line to find the best fit for your family before looking at the specific ship’s offerings.
To help, we’ve gathered some of the best family-friendly cruise lines departing from the New York area with you and the kiddos in mind, including Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International. All aboard!
Disney Cruise Line
Disney offers some of the most popular cruises for families, particularly families with young children. With just one ship sailing from New York, the Disney Magic, you’ll have to book early.
Where to? Itineraries to the Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean, Bermuda, and Canada. Bahamian cruises stop off at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Families on this trip also get the chance to visit the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as one of their stops.
Highlights: The big draw is the opportunity to make your kid’s dreams come true as they meet their favorite characters. Options include tea with a princess, character breakfasts (select cruises of seven nights or more only), and character meet-and-greets. Other highlights include Disney movies on the big screen, dinner shows, and splashing in Goofy’s Pool. Disney cruises are famous for their Broadway-quality family entertainment and original shows. Exclusive to the Disney Magic is Tangled: The Musical, the first-ever stage adaptation of the animated film. The Pirate Night deck party is also a big hit.
Kids clubs: The ships have kids clubs for children ages 6 months and older, including a drop-off nursery (extra fee applies) for babies. Another bonus for families with young children: Disney is one of the only cruise lines with splash areas for kids still in diapers.
Dining: Guests are given set dining times; eating at the same time each night with the same people, but rotating through different restaurants. There are also casual options, buffets, in-room and, of course, character dining.
Best for: Families with children ages 12 and younger, but Disney cruises attract fans of all ages. Old and young love the classic, Golden Age styling; famous customer service; and smaller size.
To book: disneycruise.disney.go.com
Carnival Cruise Line
Families enjoy Carnival cruises in part because the ships have lots to do and offer good value for the money, along with a laid-back, social atmosphere. The brand-new Carnival Horizon is scheduled to set sail from New York starting May 2018.
Where to? From New York, the Carnival Horizon will depart directly to Bermuda. An itinerary for an Eastern Caribbean cruise includes stops in Grand Turk, San Juan, and Amber Cove.
Highlights: There’s a Seuss character breakfast (green eggs and ham, of course!), a parade, and themed activities. The new Carnival Horizon will also feature a Dr. Seuss-themed water park. The whole family can enjoy exciting water slides; two theaters, including an IMAX; and SportSquare, a large outdoor recreation area including mini golf, a ropes course, and foosball tables, to name a few of its many attractions. Carnival is also famous for its nightlife for grown-ups, including comedy clubs and big-name performers.
Kids clubs: On offer for ages 2-17, including a special teen-only lounge with a DJ. Younger children do not have to be potty trained to attend, but children older than 3 will have their parents contacted if they need to be changed.
Dining: Standout options include Bonsai Teppanyaki and Guy’s Burger Joint from Food Network personality Guy Fieri.
Best for: Families with children ages 2 and older. Laid-back cruisers who like to be entertained all the time, even by the pool. Dr. Seuss fans and burger lovers.
To book: carnival.com
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line offers a relaxed atmosphere and a huge fleet. The Norwegian Escape, Breakaway, and Gem all sail from New York.
Where to? The ships embarking from New York have itineraries to the Bahamas and Florida, Bermuda, Canada and New England, Eastern Canada and Quebec, and transatlantic (one-way) cruises to London, England. Cruises are also available to the Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean. Norwegian Cruise Line is a specialist in the Caribbean and has its own island, Great Stirrup Cay, a stop on the Western Caribbean as well as the Bahamas and Florida trips.
Highlights: Norwegian Cruise Line introduced ‘Freestyle Cruising,’ which means you can follow your own schedule for activities and eating. This cruise line is famous for its nighttime performances and meal entertainment such as Cirque Dreams, an acrobatic and dance show.
Kids clubs: The Guppies Nursery (exclusively on the Norwegian Escape), offers care for children ages 6 months to 3 years. Norwegian Cruise Line offers youth programs divided by age groups for children ages 6 months to 17 years. Activities might vary from ship to ship and depending on the age of your child, but some offerings include circus school, theme nights, parades, treasure hunts, and painting.
Dining: Options include specialty dining, buffets, room service, and dining rooms. There are no set dining times, but reservations are available.
Best for: Families who want to make their own schedule during the day and love shows.
To book: ncl.com
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean cruises are a popular choice for families, with nonstop action for every age. Anthem of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas sail from Cape Liberty, NJ.
Where to? Cruises departing Cape Liberty head to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Eastern and Southern Caribbean, and also have itineraries to Bermuda and Boston, Canada and New England, and Bermuda and Caribbean. Cruises to the Bahamas will enjoy a stop at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean International’s private island, and passengers can also spend a day in Orlando exploring theme parks, the Kennedy Space Center, or Cocoa Beach. Royal Caribbean International also has Fall Foliage Northbound Cruises to experience peak fall, scheduled for September 2018.
Highlights: Royal Caribbean is famous for its never-ending list of innovative play zones and activities, including a rock climbing wall, surfing simulator, trapeze school, and skydiving simulator. A partnership with DreamWorks brings character visits and parades on board from movies such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda (available on Anthem of the Seas). Entertainment varies per ship but can include Broadway musicals such as CATS or Grease as well as original productions.
Kids clubs: Fun and educational programs are offered by age group for children ages 6 months to 17 years. A drop-off nursery is offered on select ships including Anthem of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has great teen entertainment including parties and nightclubs, and offers group and in-cabin babysitting for children ages 1 and older. Select cruises have a Baby Splash Zone for children who are not completely potty trained.
Dining: Choices range from casual to elegant, such as Johnny Rockets diner, Chef Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian (Anthem of the Seas), and Chef’s Table for five-course gourmet meals.
Best for: Active families with teens or tweens. Cruisers who are always on the go and want to try everything. Musical lovers. Screenagers who will appreciate the high-speed Wi-Fi.
To book: royalcaribbean.com