Be Enchanted On A Short Bermuda Cruise

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

Mid-Atlantic vacationers now have a great new option for family getaways. Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas is based year-round in Baltimore, providing a wide array of exciting cruise itineraries. The ship's five-night Bermuda cruise is a perfect choice for those looking for a quick escape. Exciting Bermuda shore excursions and activities combine with high-octane onboard entertainment to make this a great vacation choice for type-A families. In addition, this short sailing provides first-time cruisers with a chance to test the waters before taking a longer cruise.

When planning a short cruise, it's important to pick the ship and itinerary best suited to your family's needs. With its many family-friendly features and amenities, the Enchantment of the Seas caters to a broad range of family needs. In addition, the ship's Bermuda itinerary allows families to experience Bermuda without incurring the destination's high cost of meals and hotels. Using the ship as a base, parents and kids can explore Bermuda's best beaches and attractions, returning to the Enchantment for meals and onboard fun.

Here are a few factors to consider in choosing the Enchantment of the Seas - or another short cruise - for your next family vacation:

Homeport convenience. Short cruises depart from a number of drive-to-port cities, eliminating airfare costs and "Are we there yet?" hassles. The Enchantment of the Seas' home port of Baltimore is an easy drive from many major cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and the New York City metropolitan area. In addition, the port's proximity to Washington, D.C. makes it easy to combine a short cruise with a visit to the Nation's Capital.

Itinerary. Look for an itinerary that includes one or two exciting ports of call as well as the opportunity to relax onboard the ship. For example, the Enchantment of the Seas' 5-day sailing includes two days of entertainment at sea and two days in King's Wharf, Bermuda. This itinerary provides families with the time to try out the ship's rock-climbing wall and bungee trampolines as well as two days to enjoy Bermuda's pink sand beaches, go shopping, or even take a catamaran cruise.

Shipboard amenities. Family-friendly amenities are important in choosing the right ship for a short family cruise. Royal Caribbean's Enchantment truly delivers in this category. The ship features a beautiful waterpark area and sun deck with two pools, four whirlpools, and a colorful splash deck with 64 jets of spraying water to delight the kids. Adults and teens 18 and over can congregate in the Solarium on rainy and windy days. This spot, with its retractable glass roof and windows, is home to two large whirlpools and is an ideal place to relax in all types of weather. Adventure-seekers head for the ship's Jump Zone and rock-climbing wall. At night, teens enjoy the ship's Fuel disco while adults savor the 360-degree views in the Viking Crown Lounge atop the ship.

Dining venues. When choosing a ship, consider your family's flexibility needs and dining preferences. Check for casual dining spots and look for cruise lines that offer casual dining venues, flexible seatings, as well as formal and specialty restaurant options. Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas features three restaurants, including the Chops Grille specialty dining venue. In addition, the ship offers Royal Caribbean's popular My Family Time Dining, allowing kids to complete dinner within 45 minutes and join their Adventure Ocean friends, leaving parents to enjoy coffee and dessert at their leisure.

Kids and teens programs. It's important to consider each cruise line's programs in light of your family's needs and children's ages. Dedicated kids and teens spaces often make a major difference in program participation, so check into the available amenities before choosing your ship. Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas features the award-winning Adventure Ocean kids and teens program with five different age-appropriate daily activities schedules. The ship has specific Adventure Ocean areas for younger kids as well as Fuel, a dedicated teens-only hot spot where teens can hang out and meet new friends. If your family includes infants and/or toddlers, Royal Caribbean offers in-room babysitting services, special family programs for little ones such as Royal Babies (6-18 months ) and Royal Tots (18-36 months), and the Fisher-Price Toy Lending Program. Parents of little ones can also pack lighter with Royal Caribbean's Babies 2 Go baby supplies program.

Family staterooms. Newer cruise ships tend to have more balcony cabins and staterooms specially designed for families. Look for a short cruise on a ship that will allow you to enjoy some of these options. Family staterooms are available on Royal Caribbean ships, including the Enchantment of the Seas.

Short and Sweet Cruise Tips

Short cruises have a more compressed feel, but they're great vacations for families with tight time or budget constraints. If you decide to just sail away, here are a few tips to ensure you'll be enchanted with your short cruise experience:

Decide on a budget. Additional costs for shore excursions, sodas and drinks, spa treatments, arcade games and Internet charges can add up quickly - even on a short cruise. Determine what your budget will allow and let the family know. Take advantage of money saving programs, such as soda cards for kids and teens.

Book early for best cabin selection. There are a limited number of family suites, quads and triples on each ship - and they go quickly. Early dining seatings fill up as well, which can be important if you want to take advantage of the My Family Time Dining program. So, don't wait until the last minute to reserve your cabin.

Make shore excursion reservations in advance. Get the family together in advance of your cruise and decide what you want to do at each port. This will save time while onboard the ship and help avoid disappointment when shore excursions sell out. Shore excursions often can be purchased a few months before departure, so visit the cruise line's website to see if advance reservations can be made. Weigh the options offered by the ship along with independent shore excursion opportunities. Message boards such as those at www.cruisecritic.com and www.cruisemates.com can offer good insights and suggestions.

Work out your dining arrangements. Check out the available restaurant options. If you did not receive the dining time or table size of choice, visit the dining room as soon as you arrive onboard and find out if changes can be made. In addition, if you'd like to try out specialty restaurants, such as the Chops Grille, make those reservations as soon as you arrive onboard the ship.

Explore the ship and find out what's available. Once you find your cabin and get settled, take some time to look around the ship. Many families like to bring walkie-talkies onboard to allow parents to stay in touch while kids are on their own - and this is a great time to try them out. In addition, make sure to check the ship's newsletter to learn about the entertainment and activities planned for the day.

Sign up for youth programs as soon as possible. If your kids are planning to participate in the ship's kids and teens programs, it's important to get them comfortable and involved as soon as possible. Make sure to visit the appropriate age group areas, sign them up for the program, have a look around, and strongly encourage them to participate in the first scheduled event. Friendships are often forged in the first evening and participation on that evening can make all the difference - especially on a short cruise. In addition, if your cruise line offers in-room babysitting and you'd like to take advantage of this option, book your dates and times as soon as you get onboard.

Relax and get ready to set sail. Come aboard, unpack, and get into the short cruise frame of mind. As the ship leaves the pier, join the gang at the sail away party and leave all your worries behind. When it comes to fun, these wallet-pleasing short cruises are definitely in the money.

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