Canada and New England often get overlooked as destinations for families traveling with small children.  However, there are plenty of things to do and see for families wanting to experience something different, from Quebec City, to Prince Edward Island, to Bar Harbor, Maine.  Cruising is a great way to experience all that Canada and New England have to offer, especially during the fall season.   

Cruising with Toddlers

Confession:  I’m addicted to cruises. All total, I’ve taken 9 cruises on 5 different cruise lines. When most people think of a family cruise, they think of one that involves the beach and the Caribbean. While I love the beach, and have certainly enjoyed cruises to the Caribbean, I like to mix things up and go to places that I’ve never been to before. And for quite some time, a trip to New England during the fall season had been on my bucket list.  As for Canada……one of my favorite literary characters growing up was Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, lived on Prince Edward Island (PEI) where most of the series takes place.  So a cruise to Canada and New England was on my list of places to visit.

Cruising with toddlers to visit the fishing village at Peggy’s Cove.

The fishing village at Peggy’s Cove. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

While these types of cruises are usually associated with older crowds, I don’t think it should be crossed off the list if you have young children, especially if you choose the right cruise ship. We ended up taking our cruise a little over a year ago with the Princess Cruise Line, when my son was not quite 2 years old. It was on the Ruby Princess, which sailed from Quebec City, Canada, to New York City. Cruising with toddlers ranks up there as one of the best family vacations I’ve ever taken.

Cruising to Canada and New England Appeals to Most Ages

Entertainment, like this youth activity center on the Princess Cruise Ship, is the key to success when crusing with toddlers.

Checking out the youth activity center on the Princess Cruise Ship. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

The itinerary attracts multi-generational families. My parents actually went on the cruise with us because they had also never been to New England and certain parts of Canada like Nova Scotia. Also, the cruise ship itself had a youth activity center for children. While most cruise lines (including Princess Cruise Line) require children to be 3 years old and potty trained in order to be dropped off at the youth activity center, children under 3 and not yet potty trained are still able to visit the activity center as long as they are accompanied by adults. We took advantage of this during the days we were at sea.

The Scenery Is Gorgeous and the Ports Are Extremely Clean

Crusing with toddlers onboard a Princess Cruise Line Ship includes a stop in picturesque Bar Harbor, Maine.

Bar Harbor, Maine. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

Lighthouses and fishing villages were fairly common in the towns we visited. Because of this, we signed up for excursions that took place outdoors. This meant that my son didn’t feel confined for the most part, and he was able to explore with us. For example, in Bar Harbor, Maine, we went to Acadia National Park, on Prince Edward Island (PEI), we visited Green Gables and, during an excursion to Peggy’s Cove, we were able to see its famous lighthouse. We also noticed that many of the towns in Canada were extremely clean.

It’s Educational

Family photo taken in front of the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove.

Family photo taken in front of the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. Photo Credit: Zoltan Mehes.

It wasn’t all just scenery. We were able to learn more about the history of the Titanic by touring a museum in Halifax, which contained artifacts from the Titanic itself. We also toured the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Sydney, we spent a day in Boston retracing the Freedom Trail, and as I previously mentioned, the Princess Cruise Line itinerary ended in New York City, where we toured the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the American Museum of Natural History, among other places. Granted, my son was a little too young to fully appreciate the museums, but because they weren’t typical art museums, my son was engaged in what he was seeing, especially the dinosaur exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

The Food Is Delicious

My son enjoying the scenery on Prince Edward Island. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

My son enjoying the scenery on Prince Edward Island. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

The food in Canada and New England was very good. I have to admit I’m not much of a fan of seafood, but even I enjoyed trying the lobster bake in New England. And both my son and I enjoyed the crepes in Quebec City. And the ice cream at Cows Creamery on PEI?  Let’s just say the whole family loved sampling the ice cream after a tour.

The Price Is Right

The Funicular in Quebec City. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

The Funicular in Quebec City. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

This is especially important for those who want to travel outside the United States as a family but who do not want to pay international fares (like flights to Europe). This particular trip was nice because we were able to use our points from Southwest Airlines to fly back home to Arizona from New York City. We would not have been able to save money had we been paying round trip airfare to/from Europe.

Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.

Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

And speaking of Europe, Quebec City in Canada was one of the highlights of the Princess Cruise Line itinerary and definitely had a European flair to it. We enjoyed strolling the promenade overlooking the Saint Lawrence River and my son especially enjoying taking the funicular from the Upper Town of Quebec City to the Lower Town.

The Locals Are Friendly

Scenery in Sydney. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

Scenery in Sydney. Photo Credit: Kristi Mehes

From the bigger cities like Quebec City, to the smaller towns like Sydney, Nova Scotia, the locals were very kind, especially to my son. This is universally important to everyone of all ages, but especially for those of us who are traveling with children. Patience and kindness go a long way.

With that being said, there are some drawbacks. While most of the fellow passengers enjoyed seeing my son on the cruise ship, there were a few people who seemed to get annoyed with my son. In my opinion, this can happen anywhere, including on an airplane. Also, if your child is a little older, he/she may want interact with other children. And there were not many children on this particular cruise ship. However, my son was at age where he still played independently, so this wasn’t an issue for us. This may be more of an issue for us now that he is a little older and likes playing with other children.

But, I don’t think these negatives outweigh the positives. So, while the beach cruises and vacations are fun, there are alternatives out there for families who want to experience something different, and can be just as enjoyable.