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The Boom in Kids' Rooms

| December 22, 2004

A plethora of new ships entered the cruise scene this past year and a smaller number are slated for 2005. In the "old days" (i.e., as recently as the early to mid-1990s), dedicated youth and teen rooms were not necessarily integral to new cruise ships. Today, they are prerequisites on large cruise ships, and they boast plenty of space, computer games, PlayStations, and other kid- and teen-friendly amenities. Following is a roundup of the youth and teen facilities aboard ships that have entered the market in 2004, as well as a preview of a few ships coming along in 2005.

CARNIVAL: Carnival Miracle, Carnival Valor

The Carnival Miracle, which started sailing this past February, is a ship full of kid-friendly amenities. From candy-making machines to a video wall, the Carnival Miracle has unique facilities to keep kids entertained for hours. The focal point of Camp Carnival activities on the Miracle is Pinocchio's Club -- 2,400 square feet divided into three areas via a series of tunnels: a computer lab with the latest fun, educational games; an arts and crafts center with spin art, sand art and candy-making machines; and an all-ages playroom with a variety of toys and games. Pinocchio's Club also has a 16-monitor video wall that continually displays kids' favorite movies and cartoons.

There are other amenities for kids throughout the entire ship, including four swimming pools (one is a splash pool), mini-basketball hoops, playground equipment, and Carnival's trademark two-deck-high corkscrew water slide. A favorite gathering place of children and teens is Wizards, a high-tech video and arcade game room. There is a separate teen room for hanging out and group activities, including teens-only shore excursions.

Making waves for the first time is the Carnival Valor, christened in December 2004. Since the Valor is larger than the Miracle (110,000 tons, 2,974 passengers for the Valor versus 88,500 tons, 2,124 passengers for the Miracle), its children's facility measures a roomy 4,200 square feet. Valor's 'Under the Rainbow' children's facility is divided into four areas, including the same three areas as Carnival Miracle plus a children's library nook with youth-oriented books and magazines. The colorful facility is also the venue for the line's EduCruise programming, which offers hands-on science and geography projects to enrich kids' knowledge of the cultures and regions featured during the cruise.

The teen facility on Valor, called Ultraviolets, is a combination game room/teen dance club featuring a DJ, state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, video wall with continuous music videos, a dance floor and "mocktail" lounge where teens can relax and enjoy non-alcoholic specialty drinks. The spacious, 1,800-square-feet teen room also features a library with teen-oriented books and magazines, video games and computers with popular software. Kids and teens can even rent the latest GameBoy Advanced hand-held video game units.

COSTA CRUISES: Costa Magica

The youth room on Costa Magica, which entered service in November 2004, is called the Squok Club. This 1,776-square-foot facility includes activities areas, computers, separate kid-sized bathrooms, and nearby outdoor splash pool. Mini and Maxi Club activities take place in the Squok Club. Mini Club is for three to six-year-olds; Maxi Club is for seven to 12-year-olds, except during high season, when it is seven to 10-year-olds. Also during high season, there is a Teen Junior club for those 11 to 14; teen club ages are 15 to 19 years. When it is not high season, there is just one teen group for those over 12. A popular public area for kids and teens is the Ostia Antica video game room, with many virtual reality challenges. There is also an Internet café that is frequented by pre-teens and teens.

CUNARD LINE: QM2

While Cunard Line ships are known for their traditional, ocean-liner atmosphere, the line's newest addition, Queen Mary 2, has not forgotten its youngest cruisers. The Zone is the dedicated children's area on QM2, and it is divided into two sections. The Playzone is for children ages one to six, and the Teen Zone is for youngsters seven years and older. Between the two rooms is a DVD player and widescreen TV for movie viewing, along with 15 X-Boxes. For pre-teens and teens, there is a disco area with a spot for a DJ. Other kid- and teen-friendly facilities include a mini-basketball court and paddle tennis along with The Arcade, which features air hockey and other video and computer games.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE: Westerdam, Ryndam

The Ryndam (S-Class) was re-launched in October 2004 as part of the line's $225 million Signature of Excellence enhancements, which will be adopted fleet-wide over the next few years. Because of the upgrades, the Ryndam now has a very roomy 4,600 square feet of space for youth and teen facilities. Most of the increase is due to the addition of The Loft, a teens-only lounge designed to resemble a New York artist's loft, with a special passageway to a secluded, teens-only sun deck called The Oasis. The Oasis has space for sunbathing along with a unique man-made waterfall and cave. With the increased youth space, the Ryndam can now accommodate children in Club HAL as young as three years old. In the past, children had to be five to participate in youth programs. The youth room for the three to seven-year-olds is creatively decorated with a swirl or colors on the ceiling, oversized paint brushes serving as pillars, enormous pencils adorning the walls, and a tape dispenser-styled slide. An area for older kids from eight to 12 years features arcade games, air hockey, foosball, Karaoke, Internet access and Sony Playstations.

Over the next few years, the other S-Class ships (Statendam, Massdam, and Veendam) will receive the same additions as Ryndam. Similarly, the youth and teen facilities on the R-Class ships (Rotterdam, Volendam, Zaandam and Amsterdam) will increase to a whopping 6,100 square feet per ship.

Holland America Line welcomed a brand new ship, the Westerdam, in April. The Westerdam continues Holland America Line's recent push to become more family-friendly, so youth facilities measure a roomy 3,080 square feet. This compares to 2,660 square feet on the Zuiderdam and Osterdam, which entered the market a few years earlier. This ship's youth facilities, called the Kid Zone, are more traditional in style than the revamped Ryndam. In addition to the main youth area, there is a teen room called Wave Runner, which includes a dance floor, large-screen movie corner, computer game area and video game room designed for teens and pre-teens. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: Pride of Aloha, Pride of America, Norwegian Jewel

Pride of Aloha was launched in July 2004 and cruises Hawaii year-round. The kids' room is called Kids Korner, and a youth program is offered for children two years and older. On the same deck is a video arcade along with The Club, a teen center by day and teens-only disco by night. There are several outdoor, kid-friendly facilities including Splashes children's pool, a shallow pool with a waterfall and separate kids-only hot tub; basketball court; volleyball court; batting cage; and golf driving net.

Norwegian Cruise Line will add the Pride of America to Hawaiian waters when she is launched in July 2005. The ship's Rascal's Kids' Center is 1,895 square feet, themed around friendly native animals of North America. Facilities include a play area, rest room, computer terminals, movie room and jungle gym. The 1,561 square-foot Connections Teen Club has seating and a dance floor for a teens-only disco at night, as well as a video jukebox, Foos Ball table and air hockey. There are many more video and virtual reality games at the Blast Off game room. Pride of America is home to Rascal's Kids' Pool, which also features an animal theme and has small slides and a paddling pool area. All new NCL ships have a buffet with kid-favorite foods along with small seats and tables nearby.

In late summer of 2005, the Norwegian Jewel will enter the market. Splashdown Kids' Club will be 2,196 square feet with a small kids' cinema, sleep/rest area, arts and crafts corner and computers. The teen room, Club Underground, will sport a graffiti/New York inspired subway theme. Like the Pride of America, Jewel will have a children's splash pool, kids' buffet area, and video arcade room.

PRINCESS CRUISES: Caribbean Princess, Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess

In 2004, Princess Cruises bestowed the triple crown on three new Princesses – the Caribbean, Diamond and Sapphire Princess.

The Caribbean Princess' extensive youth and teen facilities measure a whopping 6,383 square feet, with separate rooms for the three to six-year-old group; seven to nine-year-olds; 10 to 12-year-olds; and a teen room/disco. The three to six-year-old room features seven Sony PlayStations, Lego tables, a play house, movie screen, padded play area, and attached outdoor section complete with a splash pool, Little Tykes bikes, and kid-sized basketball hoop. Unlike some other lines, Princess' counselors allow those under three years to use the three to six-year-olds' facilities if they are supervised by a parent. The seven to nine-year-old room also features Sony PlayStations, a plastic jungle gym with slides and tunnels, and movie area, while the 10 to 12-year-olds' room has the same features except for the jungle gym.

The teen room doubles as a young adult disco at night. The room features a very large movie screen, disco floor with appropriate sound system, karaoke machine, Sony PlayStations, jukebox and a bar for "mocktails." Surprisingly, this ship does not have a video/game arcade nor a basketball court, usually big draws with older kids and teens. But the Caribbean Princess has plenty of pools to keep kids happy when the youth program is not in session. There are two large pools, three smaller ones (one is adults only), and two splash pools for little ones. One of the splash pools has a small slide for little ones.

Kid-friendly facilities on the Diamond and Sapphire are pretty similar to the Caribbean Princess, but these two Princesses have a teens-only pool not available on Caribbean Princess.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL: Jewel of the Seas

The Jewel of the Seas devotes a very large amount of space to youth facilities, both indoors and out. For example, the room dedicated to Aquanauts (three to five-year-olds) is 431 square feet; the combined area for the Explorers (six to eight-year-olds) and Voyagers (nine to 12) is 2,831 square feet; and Fuel (teen disco) is 990 square feet. Additionally, there are 3,660 square feet of outdoor pool and water play areas at Adventure Beach, as well as a 431-square-foot game arcade.

The area for the youngest cruisers, Aquanauts, features a very colorful carpet with fun graphics on it for kids. There is a separate area for Explorers and Voyagers, including a dedicated Art by Crayola spot for hands-on, creative projects. Additionally, there are 10 computers and four PlayStations located in the Explorers/Voyagers area. Fuel is characterized by neon lighting, a mocktail bar, and high-tech dance floor. There are four computers in Fuel that have Internet access, email and e-cards; the on-line rate is cheaper there (25 cents per minute) than on the other computers for adults.

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