I am brand new to this board and appreciate any advice.
My wife and I are considering cruise options for late July/early August. We would be first time cruisers, and will be taking our 5 yr old daughter. We vacation in the Caribbean (usually SXM or St. Lucia) every winter, but until now have always done New Jersey shore or Cal. in the summer. We are considering a cruise primarily for the purpose of good childrens activities for our daughter, who loves the "kids club" type activities when they have had them available (usually one or two evenings for a few hours) at the resorts we have stayed at.
We are considering primarily the Empress out of Philly to Bermuda, and the Zenith out of Bayonne also to Bermuda. We also have not ruled out various Carnival and RCI options out of Florida.
We are trying to weigh the convenience of the NJ/PA departures on older smaller ships (remember, we have no point of reference never having cruised) with no balcony, less attractions, etc., against going to the Caribbean in the dead of summer on a newer ship.
I am especially interested in any comments on the suitability of the Zenith or the Empress for our daughter, I have been warned that celebrity does not have a lot for kids, especially on the smaller ships.
Be aware that you will be sailing during hurricane season and that theyre predicting it to be worse than last year. Bermuda would probably be a safer bet since it doesnt see too many storms, but never say never. The rest of the Carib might be risky at that time, peaking in Sept. The heat and humidity might be an issue too in the Carib. It can also mean rough seas. Bermuda is a nice spot and theres usually a breeze. In any case, be sure to get travel insurance just in case.
The only experience weve had is with RCI. Our son is now 4 and just tried the kids club over the holidays on Brilliance. He had a great time. We really liked the amenities on the Voyager class ships (ice rink, rock wall, mini golf, roller blading, large pool, extra hot tubs, promenade, larger spaces, etc). I will say that after having been on a larger newer ship for 2 cruises, and then going back to a smaller older ship just didnt do it for us, so you might want to start out small and work up to the big ones!
Alison is correct in at least making you aware of hurricane season. "Officially" hurricane season runs from June - Nov. That being said, I've cruised during that time frame several times, and only once had an itinerary altered to avoid a storm.
Ships traveling to Bermuda are limited by the gov't there, and that's why mostly smaller ships visit there. And as most newbuilds are of the larger variety, that's the reason mostly older ships visit Bermuda.
If you're traveling during summer months (when school is out session) there's always going to be a significant number of children onboard, and therefore active kids programs, which your daughter would be able to participate in.
the most popular "kid-friendly" lines would be Carnival, RCCL, and Princess. (I would go RCCL first)
The smaller-older ships do not have as much a kids program as opposed to the newer-larger ships.
Bermuda is traditionally not a port visited by a lot of families with kids,but Bermuda is gorgeous and has plenty to offer. Familes tend to flock to the Caribbean.
Celebrity will not run the kids program if its not full or nearly full.
There will be more familes with kids on just about every line during the summer, so the odds of there being other kids for her to play with are pretty good.
Its really up to you as to which route and line fits you best.
Talk to an experienced travel agent in your area.