6 of the Best Family Cruise Itineraries off the East Coast
Believe it or not, there’s more to see beyond the coast. A cruise is the opportunity to set your eyes on some lesser-known sites. Whether you’re seeking a venture through history, a piece of paradise, or a little outdoor adventure, a family vacation out at sea is calling your name!
To take the stress of planning off your already overloaded plate of to-dos, we’ve compiled a list featuring six of the best family cruise itineraries off the east coast. (And because we know that not everyone has a week to escape, we included a short and long itinerary for each!)
Disney Cruise Line
Short: 3 Nights in the Bahamas
Carry the magic out to sea as you set sail on this three-night Bahamian cruise aboard the Disney Dream.
About the ship: With incredible Broadway-caliber shows, the AquaDuck water coaster, a spa, pools, fitness center, and more, the Disney Dream is a kid’s playground and a parent’s escape.
Day 1: Depart from Port Canaveral
Head out to sea from Port Canaveral—home to Kennedy Space Center. Just an hour from Disney World, this cruise is a convenient, fun-filled way to extend your love of Disney.
Day 2: Nassau, Bahamas
The first stop on the Disney Dream is none other than the cultural capital of the Bahamas. With so much to do, it’s a good idea to have a plan for the day.
If you’re all about exploring, lace up your shoes and travel back in time as you climb the Queen’s Staircase to Fort Fincastle. You’ll obviously work up an appetite doing just that, so be sure to stop at one of the local restaurants for some fresh lobster.
Are you a beach lover or an adventure enthusiast? Go on an underwater adventure in a mini-submarine (an experience both you and the kids are sure to treasure) to see the breathtaking coral reefs and exotic fish. Or, dive in for a swim with the dolphins!
Day 3: Castaway Cay
The next stop of this three-night cruise is a real treat. Castaway Cay is a private island reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests.
Here, you can spend hours snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, and sailing as a family. Just be sure you don’t miss the Pelican Plunge! It’s a 2,400-square-foot floating platform water play area with twisting waterslides.
Or, let your mini-mes run off to the island’s Kids Club while you make your way to Serenity Cove for a little “adults only” fun. Reach full relaxation with an open-air cabana massage and a yummy beverage to sip on.
Day 4: Return to Port Canaveral
Welcome back! Keep the magic alive even after you hop off the cruise ship. How? By taking a tour of the Kennedy Space Center! You can easily spend a few hours in the Apollo/Saturn V Center as these are the biggest attractions. Not to mention, you can grab a quick bite to eat at one of many conveniently-located restaurants before making your journey home.
Long: 7 Nights through Western Caribbean, Mexico & Jamaica
If a three-night cruise isn’t enough time to experience all the magic of a Disney cruise, then this seven-night version aboard the Disney Fantasy might be!
About the ship: Play like you’ve never played before at an AquaLab, splash and swim at the pools, and meet many of your favorite characters. Best of all, you’ll find it easy for your little ones to make memories of their own at one of the kids clubs while you unwind in an adults-only sanctuary. Who knew that a home-away-from-home on the water could offer so much?
Day 1: Depart from Port Canaveral
Start your voyage at Port Canaveral, and climb aboard the ship for the Welcome Reception at none other than Remy—the french-inspired restaurant.
Day 2: An Adventure at Sea
Get to know the ship and take advantage of a slew of fun amenities! Disney pulls out all the stops to make their cruises exciting and entertaining for family members of all ages.
From the sky-high water ride—the AquaDuck, to a live show of Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular, and even a Star Wars Day at Sea deck party, it’s truly an experience for all ages.
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
For the first stop on this exciting seven-night cruise, get ready to dive into Mayan history. Learn how chocolate helped shape the local culture as you savor it in three different forms at the Mayan Cacao Company.
Or, take a private boat to El Cielo, a clear-water island famed for snorkeling and starfish. You can also set sail to Punta Sur for an advanced scuba diving experience. Or even an exploration of private beaches, a lighthouse, and a small Mayan ruin.
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Your second stop is the capital of the Cayman Islands! Paddle through the peaceful mangrove forest on a comfortable kayak. Or team up with trained naturalists and grab a snorkel for a spectacular view of the Coral Garden Reef.
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
Rich with culture and history, this break from the ship offers fun ways to explore local history. Head out to tour the former sugar plantation, Good Hope Estate. And if your littles don’t want to walk with you, then let them get their wiggles out playing games on the lawn!
Next up on the list? Bunkers Hill. Gather as a family for a cultural experience like no other as you listen to an expert tell tales of the island. Or, grab a tube for a relaxing ride down the Martha Brae River. You’ll enjoy the beautiful sights of bamboo trees, and exotic birds and animals.
Day 6: Back at Sea
You know all those amenities and attractions you couldn’t get to during the first day at sea? Make the most of them today!
Day 7: Castaway Cay.
Yes, of course, you’ll get to savor the all-inclusive VIP experience at Castaway Cay as a Disney Cruise Line guest! As mentioned above, with all kinds of activities (for families, kids, and adults), this stop is a great one to end on.
Day 8: Return to Port Canaveral
Now’s your chance to take advantage of the local sites at Florida’s premier entertainment destination! Tour the Kennedy Space Center, savor waterfront dining, and soak up some more sun before heading home.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Short: 3 or 4 Nights in the Caribbean
Are you looking for a quick, action-packed getaway? A three- or four-night cruise is perfect for you. With tons of activities and events for the thrill-seekers in your family, Mariner of the Seas provides you with an experience like no other out at sea!
About the ship: Mariner of the Seas is packed full of adventurous rides like the FlowRider® surf simulator, incredible entertainment, and mouth-watering food. It’s a family-fun vacay in itself. Oh, and you can’t forget about all of the exciting stops you’ll make along the way!
Day 1: Depart from Port Canaveral
Only 45 minutes east of Orlando is where you’ll find Port Canaveral, your home port for your Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas experience. It’s even been named the Best North American Homeport, according to Cruise Critic, in years past!
Day 2: Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas
CocoCay is a private island reserved just for you, a Royal Caribbean sailor. It’s bursting with all kinds of exciting things to do. So much so that you might not want to get back on board at the end of the day!
For starters, you can take your thrill-seekers to the waterpark for shriek-worthy rides. Then, head to Oasis Lagoon (the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean), and grab yourself a Coco Loco—CocoCay’s signature drink—to sip on at the swim-up bar.
If you have smaller kids or more timid swimmers, take them to Splashaway Bay for friendly water slides, drench buckets, fountains, and pools. And if you’re looking for an unforgettable view before you go, float 450-feet into the sky in a helium balloon!
Day 3: Nassau, Bahamas
Head straight to the Atlantis Resort to spend the day at Aquaventure, the Caribbean’s largest water park. You’ll also have the opportunity to swim with dolphins and stroll the long stretches of Nassau’s beaches. Or if you prefer a more cultural experience in town, be sure to add exploring Fort Charlotte & Pirates of Nassau Museum to your must-do list!
Day 4: An Adventure at Sea
Now’s the time to take advantage of all the fun things the Mariner has to offer! Race down the epic three-story waterslides, play laser tag, or work your way through the escape room. Then, wind down with some yummy food and entertaining shows.
Day 5: Return to Port Canaveral
Didn’t have a chance to explore the area before boarding the ship? Well, before you hop in the car or catch your flight home, take some time to enjoy some of Port Canaveral’s favorite attractions. From Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to The Dinosaur Store and Museum, Kennedy Space Center, and the Exploration Tower, the opportunities for even more memory-making are endless!
Long: 5 Nights in Bermuda
Hop on this extended cruise to Bermuda, and combine your luxurious sunny vacay with the opportunity to set your sights on landmarks in history.
About the ship: Grandeur of the Seas is the perfect boat to enter full relaxation mode. Treat yourself to the spa and full-service salon for hours of pampering. Learn something new in the culinary classes. Then, soak up the magnificent views from the rock climbing wall, settle in for a poolside outdoor movie night, or an entertaining performance of show tunes!
Day 1: Depart from Port of Baltimore
There’s so much to do in this thriving port city to keep you entertained before climbing aboard the ship. If you have some time to spare, the National Aquarium and Inner Harbor are a couple of attractions to get you started!
Day 2: An Adventure at Sea
A day cruising the waters calls for trying out all the fun things the Grandeur of the Seas has to offer. Test your luck at the casino, check yourself into the spa, or hang out at the pools. Whatever you choose to do during the day, however, just be sure to make your way to the pool deck when evening rolls around for a movie night like no other.
Days 3 & 4: Kings Wharf, Bermuda
First up on the list is to sink your toes in the pink sand beaches of West Whale Bay and Horseshoe Bay, all while taking in the stunning views of the candy-colored houses lined by the blue waters!
Then, on the second day, if you’re a history buff, you’ll love the colonial capital of Hamilton. Here, you can wander through the National Museum of Bermuda and the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity.
Day 5: An Adventure at Sea
Didn’t have a chance to see any one of the three original Broadway shows yet? Well, after you spend a sun-drenched day at the onboard pools and enjoying other can’t-miss amenities, find your seat in the theater for an entertaining production!
Day 6: Return to Baltimore
Welcome back! Finish off your excursion with a visit to Fort McHenry for a walk through the historic site that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Norwegian Cruise Line
Short: 3 or 4 Nights in the Bahamas
Norwegian offers the perfect cruise for those looking for a quick getaway to the Bahamas. With activities for your little ones and all kinds of ways for parents like yourself to relax, this trip truly is your chance to push that refresh button.
About the ship: The Norwegian Sky cruise ship is calling your name. With a spa, yummy cuisine, complimentary open bar, casino, and a place for the kids to play, you’re sure to find exactly what you want and need onboard. Plus, it’s received an extensive refurbishment to make the experience even more unforgettable!
Day 1: Depart from Miami
Start your vacay off right in sunny Miami! Stroll through South Beach’s Art Deco district, venture through Little Havana, or trek out to Jungle Island and see all kinds of exotic animals before setting sail.
Day 2: Nassau, Bahamas
There’s so much to do here that it’s essential to have a plan going into it. We recommend you soak up the sun and snorkel with seahorses, swim with dolphins, or grab a drink and park yourself on the beach. Or head into town and treat yourself to some duty-free shopping!
Day 3: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Enjoy a day at Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. It’s reserved exclusively for you! Reach full relaxation mode as you sit under a private cabana near the white sand beach. Grab a snorkel and see what exotic fish you can spot just below the surface. Or, swim with dolphins and even satisfy your need for speed on a WaveRunner that lets you cruise through the crystal clear water.
Day 4: Return to Miami, Florida
The fun doesn’t have to stop as soon as you make your way back to land. So take a day (or two) and extend your vacay to venture through what’s appropriately nicknamed the Magic City before heading home.
Long: 7 Nights in Canada & New England
Take a real break from the daily grind and cruise off the coast to give your taste buds a treat with incredible food, gorgeous architecture, and exciting wildlife!
About the ship: The Norwegian Breakaway was named the Best Cruise Ship for Families by USA Today! This home away from home on the water offers a little something for everyone. With delicious food, dazzling Broadway performances, mini-golf, waterslides, and spectacular views, Norwegian Breakaway is the place to be.
Day 1: Depart from New York
We don’t have to tell you that there’s plenty of sightseeing to do in New York. Whether you’re a history buff, a big city fan, or looking for something for the kids, this hotspot definitely has it all.
If time allows, float out to Ellis Island and tour the Statue of Liberty. Take a trip to the top of the Empire State Building or stand in Times Square. No matter how you choose to spend your time before setting sail, you won’t be disappointed!
Day 2: An Adventure at Sea
With 25 dining experiences including delicious seafood, there’s no judgment if you decide to overindulge! You’ll also enjoy the Aqua Park where you can find a variety of multi-story waterslides, ropes course, rock-climbing wall, mini golf course, theater for elaborate Broadway-style singing and dancing extravaganzas, and much more.
Day 3: Portland, Maine
The oldest operating lighthouse in Maine, Portland Head Light, makes for the best view in this vibrant waterfront town. After hanging out there, move on to exploring the art districts and museums. Then, enjoy a little shopping before you dig into a delicious lobster bake and board the ship to continue to your next stop.
Day 4: Bar Harbour, Maine
With much of its 1900s charm intact and the world-famous Acadia National Park surrounding the rock harbor, this stop is all about the natural scenery. So outdoor enthusiasts will feel right at home.
Day 5: Saint John on the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick
Brace yourselves, history buffs, as the port city of Saint John has a unique tale. Learn how it survived all these years through seas winds and a devastating fire. Then, be sure you make your way to Fort Howe Lookout for an incredible view of the Bay of Fundy. And for fun, see if you can find the Norwegian Breakaway in the port!
Day 6: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Venture around the world’s second-largest natural harbor. Halifax, established in 1749, is beautifully-preserved and serves as the capital of Nova Scotia. Travel back in time as you climb Citadel Hill to see the Old Town Clock.
Then, head to Peggy’s Cove to see one of the most famous lighthouses and stretch your legs before heading back to the ship!
Day 7: An Adventure at Sea
Take your taste buds on an adventure and try a few of the dining options onboard. Oh, and be sure to give yourself a break the rest of the day so you can soak up some R&R before making your way back to your home port!
Day 8: Return to New York
Don’t head home right away! Make a plan to hit the top city sites you missed before you went on your cruise out to sea.
So what do you say you and your travel tribe trade in your conventional beach vacation to hop aboard one of these ships? There’s no doubt you’ll make new memories and explore unbeatable destinations while cruising from one destination to the next.