Considering a cruise? Love ‘em or hate ‘em, seasoned travelers seem to have strong opinions on the subject.
And there’s no denying the impact the industry has had on how families travel. Cruise lines have not only increased capacity by more than 2,000 percent since 1970, they’re working overtime to appeal to kids of all ages. More and more ships are being built with state-of-the-art kids clubs, water slides, arcades, climbing walls, basketball courts, and more.
And it’s working. Families now account for the second-largest segment of cruise passengers, behind only the retirement crowd.
Yet, despite all these new features, I wouldn’t recommend booking a cruise if you really want to get to know each port of call. Arriving into port early in the morning and departing later that same afternoon — as most cruises do — simply does not leave enough time to explore.
However, one destination seems to be a notable exception — one where you can enjoy all of a ship’s onboard activities and immerse yourself in the local culture: Bermuda.
What’s particularly appealing about this option is that you don’t have to book a hotel or worry about where to dine out. (As someone who travels constantly with a family of four, I know how these expenses add up.) The ship takes care of all that.
For that reason, we booked a seven-day cruise to Bermuda on the Celebrity Summit. With nearly three full days docked at Kings Wharf, we had plenty of time to visit old favorites (we’ve been there before) and discover new treasures.
Here are some of the best bets for families:
- Famous for its pink sand and rainbow-colored reefs, Horseshoe Bay is also a prime location for families. The Elbow Beach Resort opens a stretch of its shore to the public, but if you’re looking for more privacy (or a great picnic spot), try Warwick Long Bay.
- As much as kids love the beach, they won’t mind taking a detour to the Crystal and Fantasy Caves to check out some amazing limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Go before or after the scheduled shore excursions for a more private, awe-inspiring visit.
- Snorkeling is an activity the whole family can enjoy together. Church Bay, John Smith’s Bay, and Tobacco Bay are among the best kid-friendly options you’ll find on the islands.
- If you have younger children, the Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum, and Zoo offers a nice change of pace from a hectic schedule.
There are certainly some fine restaurants on Bermuda, but why spend the extra money when you have terrific dining options onboard?
Like most new ships, the Summit has several specialty restaurants (for an additional fee) to add to the variety of culinary experiences onboard. The new Qsine restaurant is particularly innovative. The kids will love their iPad menus and the creative ways the food is presented. And if you want to let the kids run wild at the buffet, you can always slip into the AquaSpa Café for healthier options.
The ship’s family-friendly ethos extends to kids of all ages. The Fun Factory offers a host of fun programs for 3-11 year olds, while teens are invited to hang out in their own specially designated X-Club.
And don’t worry, the kids will have plenty of company. During the peak summer months, there’ll be an estimated 300-400 children onboard (there were 650 children aboard a recent spring break cruise from Miami to the Caribbean).
Celebrity is not alone in calling on Bermuda this summer. The brand-new Norwegian Breakaway leaves from New York City on the same itinerary while cruises from Boston, Baltimore, and Miami are also offered on additional lines like RCL, Regent Seven Seas, and Oceania.
A Note on Getting Around:
Scooters are a popular and fun way to see the island, but are off limits to kids. Since renting a car is not an option and taxi fares can add up, the local buses provide a good alternative. You can also hop a ferry to Hamilton or St. George’s for more scenic views.
Rainer Jenss is a featured contributor for Intelligent Travel. Follow his story on Twitter @JenssTravels.