On our voyage, the 12 to 14 year old and 15 to 17 year old teens could sign up for a river tubing excursion in Jamaica as their teens-only shore excursion selection. They traveled as a group and were accompanied by the teen director and one youth counselor. All Carnival cruises feature one teens-only shore excursion.
The Carnival Victory alternates Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Our Western Caribbean itinerary called at Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico. We like to take our kids with us to explore ashore, so in Cozumel and Grand Cayman, we took a cab independently to Mr. Sanchos beach and Seven Mile beach, respectively. Both beaches had clean, gentle water and bathroom and food facilities. In Jamaica, we went on a shore excursion to a beach club, then climbed Dunns River Falls. At the beach club, we met a friendly local who showed Alex and Ethan how to make small birds out of a palm branch. The kids still have the birds proudly displayed at home.
By The Numbers
Carnival Cruise Lines carries about 500,000 children under 14 annually. On our cruise, there were about 500 youngsters, with the age breakdown as follows: 140 in the 12 to 14 year old group; 140 between the age of nine and 11; 120 in the six to eight year old group; 87 between the ages of two to five; and 16 under age two. According to Zwanenburg, the Carnival Victory had a record 810 youngsters under 14 aboard ship during Easter week this year. A typical week in the summer sees about 600 to 700 kids. Zwanenburg said that Camp Carnival enjoys a strong 60 to 95 percent participation rate of kids on board who check out the youth programming.
Each cruise aboard the Carnival Victory is staffed with 12 to 16 youth counselors, depending on the number of youngsters aboard. On our cruise, there were 14 counselors and they hailed from Australian, Canada, the Philippines, and Eastern European countries. We found the counselors to be friendly and energetic, while still maintaining good control of the children.
Carnival certainly has done its homework in trying to provide conveniences to parents with kids in tow. There are a number of helpful items that parents can rent on board for their children's use. All ships have strollers that rent for $25 per cruise, as well as baby swings and bouncy seats. While we carry our own set of walkie-talkies to stay in touch with each other, you can rent them on Carnival ships through the golf professional for $39. Additionally, GameBoys (includes one game) can be rented for $25 a week, which entitles your child to a change of game throughout the week if desired. Family Fun
I think the best part of Camp Carnival is the selection of family activities offered a number of times on each cruise. We, like many families today, lead such a hectic lifestyle that it was great to enjoy games and other activities together. According to Zwanenburg, some parents feel there are too few family activities while others believe there are too many. During family activities, the youth room is closed and children must be accompanied by an adult to participate in the programming. While I relished having a few minutes of down time to read a book when the kids were in the youth program, I also thoroughly looked forward to playing with my kids during the family activities.
On our cruise, there were two sea afternoons devoted to family activities, as well as a family dance party and ice cream sundae making on the first night of the cruise. One afternoon was devoted to water games on deck. Even three-year-old Ethan was able to participate in water balloon tosses and other team games. Prior to that, there was a family scavenger hunt that my daughter Alex and I participated in. I was proud that we won the hunt, but more importantly, the game afforded me time to learn something about my daughter and how resourceful she can be. For example, we needed to find a red sock that we didn't have in our cabin. So she suggested we take one of her old socks and color it red with her little brother's markers!
The other sea afternoon featured family cookie decorating, which the kids really enjoyed making and eating. Following the cookie decorating was the Camp Carnival talent show which was a very endearing, entertaining, and positive way to end our relaxing cruise.
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