Cruisin’ Kids Find Treasure Hunts
Kids on Holland America Line can express their creativity in projects of their choice.*
By Lizz Dinnigan
The family cruising market continues to expand as cruise lines add onboard activities and facilities for kids and teens. Sleek “Coketail” lounges, food preparation workshops in the galley, teen spa makeovers, bridge tours, action-packed shore excursions and pajama parties are garnering the attention of kids and parents alike. So are their clever TV ad campaigns.
In fact, Carnival Cruise Lines hosted a record 525,000 kids in 2006, a 325 percent increase over eight years ago. Royal Caribbean International (RCI) welcomed more than 330,000 kids under 18 in 2005, an 8.4 percent increase over 2004 and a staggering 62 percent increase over 1999.
Here are some new industry offerings. Note that private/group babysitting policies vary per line.
Carnival Cruise Lines (800-CARNIVAL or www.carnival.com)
Carnival has one of the industry’s most comprehensive free kid’s programs, Camp Carnival. It also has extensive child-friendly shipboard amenities. For example, the Carnival Liberty has a 4,200-square-foot enclosed play area with an arts-and-crafts center with spin and sand art, and a candy-making machine.
The line also offers padded play equipment for those under 2 and a computer lab. In November the Liberty launched year-round six- and eight-day cruises from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean/Mexico/Central America.
Teens onboard the Liberty will enjoy the new Club 02 teen program. Its centerpiece is an 1,800-square-foot teen club and arcade. Activities include competitions based on such reality TV shows as The Bachelor, Fear Factor and Survivor.
Under a new joint venture with the Coca-Cola Company, Club 02 teen clubs will be implemented across most of the fleet by year’s end. A new amusement park attraction will be installed fleetwide by the summer: Water Wars -- basically water balloon catapults.
Celebrity Cruises (800-647-2251 or www.celebritycruises.com)
In November, new fleetwide programming was introduced for kids 3 to 9 in conjunction with LeapFrog SchoolHouse. It will feature multi-sensory learning tools that complement the destinations to which Celebrity sails.
The six educational module topics are dinosaurs, science and space, sports, the world, art and music, and wildlife. Products available onboard include such personal learning tools as LeapPad, Quantum LeapPad, Leapster handheld, L-Max Leapster handheld and Odyssey Globe.
Celebrity’s year-round X-Club free youth program divides kids 3 to 17 into five tiers and offers a wide selection of age-specific activities.
Costa Cruise Lines (800-445-8020 or www.costacruise.com)
Two ships will depart from Port Everglades, Fla., to the western Caribbean through April: the Costa Magica and the Costa Mediterranea.
Costa’s free onboard children’s program, Fun@Sea Squok Club, provides entertainment for youngsters 3 to 6 (Mini) and 7 to 12 (Maxi). Depending on the age, activities may include a Sail Away Squok Pool Party, treasure hunt, marine knots lesson, sports tournaments, Olympic games, costume parades, theme parties, karaoke and dancing competitions.
Teen Junior (13 and 14) and Teen (15 to 18) clubs feature international theme dinners, mocktail parties and such classes as pantomime, Latin dance, magic, balloon art and photography.
Crystal Cruises (866-446-6625 or www.crystalcruises.com)
Space dedicated to kids is rare on luxury ships. That said, the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity offer age-specific children’s programs in summer, on shorter itineraries and for holiday departures for kids 3 to 17.
Onboard amenities include a teen video arcade and Fantasia Playroom. Tables and chairs are provided for board games, as well as arts and crafts, giant padded cubes, Sony PlayStation and Xbox 360 kiosks, and large-screen TVs.
Supervised activities for the younger set includes scavenger hunts, story time, bridge and galley tours, cookie baking, fashion shows and pajama parties. For teens, there are late-night pool parties with music.
Itineraries depart either one way or roundtrip from Miami on the Symphony (Oct. 24 to Dec. 8) and Serenity (Nov. 19 to Dec. 11).
Cunard (800-7-CUNARD or www.cunard.com)
The Queen Mary 2 has a nursery with cribs and cots for infants. The Play Zone, for 3- to 6-year-olds, features pirate, pajama and pizza parties; theater and planetarium shows. It also offers face painting and hat making.
Diversions at The Zone, for the 7- to 10-year-old set, includes scavenger hunts, ship tours, bingo, and movie and pizza nights. Daily Children’s Tea is served amid balloons, artwork place mats and crayons at each setting. The Minnows Splash Pool is for families only.
Free amenities on the Queen Elizabeth 2 include a play area for kids up to 7 with a home corner, dress-up area, sand pit, climbing frames and slide. Age-appropriate mini-Olympics, arts and crafts, “Coketail” parties and teens’ Club 2000 cater to Junior Participants 7 to 12 and 13 to 17.
There are two sailings out of Fort Lauderdale this spring: the eight-day “Caribbean Adventure” departing April 2 on the QM2 and the 14-day “Caribbean Crossing” leaving April 9 on the QE2.
Disney Cruise Line (888-DCL-2500 or www.disneycruise.com)
Both the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder have nearly an entire deck dedicated to entertaining children ages 3 months to 17 years. While children at Flounder’s Reef Nursery (3 months to 3 years), Disney’s Oceaneer Club (3 to 7) and Oceaneer Lab (8 to 12) are enjoying their dedicated spaces, parents feel comfortable knowing their kids may page them at any time. For teens (13-17), Disney offers The Stack and Aloft.
Counselors at the "Little Mermaid”-themed Flounder's Reef entertain infants and todders with toys, books, videos, crafts and games. Disney's Oceaneer Club is themed around Captain Hook’s pirate ship; the kids' play area features a slide and rope bridge, “captain’s closet” filled with costumes, toys and games, and an open seating area for arts, crafts and movie watching. Counselors keep tots entertained with activities ranging from dance parties to science experiments.
The space- and science-themed Oceaneer Lab features twinkling star-like lights, giant planetary spheres and an oversized Buzz Lightyear figure. Computers with games are available for children or they might join Professor Goo at the interactive science lab and participate in crazy experiments. There are also karaoke jams, pajama parties, sports challenges and more.
The Stack (Disney Magic) and Aloft (Disney Wonder) are teen clubs packed with couches, a soda bar serving soft-drinks and smoothies, Internet access, plasma-screen TVs, MP3 players and board games. Counselors organize teen activities ranging from dance parties to trivia games to sports contests.
And, of course, kids have a chance to meet and mingle with "celebrity characters" such as Goofy shown above right.*
Holland America Line (877-SAIL-HAL or www.hollandamerica.com)
A hot market for this premium line is multigenerational family groups. For the younger set across the fleet, supervised Club HAL has been expanded to include kids 3 to 12.
Activities include Olympics, tie-dying T-shirts, candy bar bingo, a pajama party and storytelling. For 8- to 12-year-olds, entertainment consists of air hockey, foosball, arcade games and golf putting.
HAL also has the Loft and the Oasis. The former is a teens-only lounge for music, games and movies and the latter is a secluded sundeck with a waterfall, wading pool and juice bar available on the Amsterdam, Volendam and Veendam.
MSC Cruises (800-666-9333 or www.msccruisesusa.com)
DO RE MI, this Italian line’s new mascot, will debut this year on sailings from Fort Lauderdale. The lifesize character is designed like MSC’s compass logo. It will welcome the younger set at embarkation, bid goodbye at disembarkation points, and participate in swimming galas and disco parties.
MSC’s Mini Club presents arts and crafts, baby dance, painting, treasure hunts and mini Olympics. It caters to kids 3 to 10 onboard all sailings.
Norwegian Cruise Line (866-234-0292 or www.ncl.com)
Return to the Cruises & Waterways home page for a story that's a first-hand look at NCL Kid's Crew program.
Princess Cruises (800-PRINCESS or www.princess.com)
The three-tiered, fleetwide Princess Kids program welcomes children 3 to 17 with such supervised activities as the Junior Chefs@Sea Program. Onboard chefs host hands-on food preparation workshops in the main galley.
In addition, Princess Pelicans (3 to 7) and Shockwaves (8 to 12) can participate in arts and crafts, “edu-tainment” events, T-shirt coloring, sports, scavenger hunts, deck parties and pizza fests.
The 13- to 17-year-old youngsters enjoy hip-hop dance classes, casino nights, DJ workshops and talent shows. Select vessels offer teen-only makeovers and spa treatments.
The line's newer ships have toddler play areas, a theater, doll’s house, crawl-through castle and splash pool. Smaller vessels only operate children’s programs when 20 or more kids are onboard.
Royal Caribbean International (800-327-6700 or www.royalcaribbean.com)
In December, Royal Caribbean announced partnerships with Fisher-Price and Lowe’s to provide additional themed activities.
A Fisher-Price Power Wheels Track was unveiled on CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private Bahamian island, for kids 3 to 8 accompanied by their parents. They can choose from several vehicles for an exciting driving experience.
The interactive “Build and Grow with Lowe’s” workshops allow kids 5 to 11 to construct and decorate a wooden cruise ship with their parents. Participants receive a cruise ship kit, Lowe’s apron and safety goggles.
This kid-friendly line offers the elaborate five-tiered Adventure Ocean children’s program for kids 3 to 11 year-round for free.
Lizz Dinnigan is a professional freelance writer and copy editor for SouthernTravelNews.com and SouthernCruising.com. She formerly worked as associate editor – cruise for Travel Agent magazine, a major national weekly travel trade magazine.
**Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy. Thank you.