What's New in Family Cruising

| December 6, 2005

Cruisin’ kids and teens have made it clear that they thrive on dedicated spaces aboard ship to call their own. That’s why a number of cruise lines have been retrofitting ships recently – and will continue to do so in 2006 – with spacious children’s rooms as well as places for teens to hang out. Read on to find out about these facilities as well as other developments in the ever growing world of family cruising.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES

Carnival is in the process of adding dedicated rooms for teens aged 15 to 17. The line’s new teen program, called “Club O2,” encompasses new and expanded programming fleet-wide. The teen centers are currently featured on all Carnival ships except Celebration, Holiday, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride and Carnival Miracle. These will be retrofitted sometime in 2006.

The 1,000 to 1,800-square foot teen clubs include a dance floor with a DJ, state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, and large-screen plasma TVs for movies and music videos. Select teen clubs also feature a library with popular teen-oriented books and magazines, video games, 16-monitor video walls, and listening stations where young adults can hear the latest tunes.

Teens can attend a welcome aboard party and receive a variety of promotional materials including a mesh Club O2 bag. Activities throughout the cruise range from karaoke sessions to game contests, themed parties, and reality TV-based games. Activities are coordinated by a Club O2 teen director. The ships also have a Y-Spa program aimed at teens and their parents, as well as teens-only shore excursions.

In other news, Carnival Liberty, which debuted this summer, features the line’s first giant outdoor television screen. Located poolside, the 12-by-22-foot LED screen shows a variety of programming throughout the day and night. Children’s movies and cartoons are featured at various times during each cruise. Additionally, Play Station 2 units are connected to the system to provide a giant-sized video game experience.

COSTA CRUISE LINES

Costa Cruise Lines is offering a number of upcoming cruises on which kids cruise for free. This offer is good aboard Costa Magica on Caribbean cruises departing December 19, 2005; January 2, 2006; and January 8. Children 17 years and under can cruise for free as long as they stay in the same stateroom with two paying adults.

DISNEY CRUISE LINES

 

The Disney Magic was recently in dry dock undergoing some major renovations, including a new hang-out spot for kids -- primarily geared towards pre-teens and early teenagers -- called Ocean Quest. With its nautical theme, Ocean Quest features a replica ship’s bridge and includes screen windows that allow children to look out over the bridge via live video feed from central command. For interactive fun, children can sit in a traditional captain’s chair and simulate steering a cruise ship in and out of port. Ocean Quest also offers kids the options of playing computer or video games, participating in arts and crafts, or watching a movie on one of the multiple plasma screen TVs.

Ocean Quest gives the Disney Magic a fifth dedicated location for children. The others include Flounder’s Reef Nursery, Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab and The Stack for teens. Youngsters age 10 and older can come and go in Ocean Quest on their own. There is a staffed check-in desk where children must leave their stateroom key as they enter. Those under 10 years can visit the room with their age-appropriate youth program or with their parents.

A phrase from the Disney classic movie Mary Poppins, “Let’s go fly a kite,” has taken a new meaning aboard Disney Cruise line ships recently with the Family Fun Kite Making activity. This project is geared towards families, who are given a white kite to decorate and then fly at Castaway Cay.

Like the Carnival Liberty, the Disney Magic now also has a giant poolside movie screen. Measuring 14 by 24 feet, the screen is located by the Goofy pool and features Disney animated movies as well as other popular television shows and sports broadcasts.

Other family oriented news at Disney Cruise Line includes a new stage show, “Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story.” This is the line’s largest theatrical production yet, with a cast of 21 actors.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE

 

Under the line’s Signature of Excellence program, Holland America is in the process of adding larger youth rooms, teen hangouts called The Loft, and a more comprehensive youth program. As youth rooms are added to each ship, the youth program’s minimum age is lowered from five to three years old.

To date, all Holland America Line ships have new youth and teen facilities except Volendam and Zuiderdam (to be completed in December 2005) as well as the Maasdam and Veendam (completed sometime in 2006). In February 2006, the new Noordam will enter the market with youth and teen rooms, thus accommodating children from 3 to 17 years old. The younger children on Noordam can enjoy creative activities at art tables, watch big screen TV, and play on an indoor slide. Older kids, ages 8 to 12, have an area featuring arcade games, air hockey, foosball, karaoke, Internet access, and Sony Playstations. Teens aged 13 to 17 can enjoy their own place to socialize called The Loft, designed to resemble a New York artist’s loft.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

 

Norwegian Cruise Line welcomed two new ships to its fleet this summer – Pride of America and Norwegian Jewel. Both have plenty of family friendly facilities as well as dedicated youth and teen rooms.

Pride of America features eight 360 sq. ft. suites with private balcony, living room with double sofa bed, separate den with a single sofa, and private bedroom with two twin beds that convert into a queen sized bed. Four additional family suites have two interconnecting cabins that sleep up to eight and include two separate bathrooms. The ship has a Rascal’s Kids Club for those two to 12 years old and also Connections Teen Club for those 13 to 17. When the ship is in port, parents can stay with their infants and toddlers to play with age appropriate toys in the children’s room.

Similarly, the Norwegian Jewel offers hundreds of interconnecting staterooms perfect for families. The ship’s youth room is called Splashdown Kids’ Club, and there is also the Underground Teens’ Club. Additionally, the Norwegian Jewel is home to Sapphire Kids’ Pool, which is brightly colored with a tropical sea creature theme.

Some new youth programming aboard NCL ships fleet wide include a Junior Cruise Director program. Kids from six to 12 years old can take part in this hands-on activity with the ship’s cruise director. Children learn first-hand about some of the responsibilities of a cruise director and then get on stage and try using the microphone.

Another fun new activity is an amusing comedy workshop offered by the Second City comedy troupe (which cruises onboard Norwegian Dawn regularly) for kids from 10 to 12 years old. The workshops delve into comedy improvisation and also drama.

Additionally, NCL recently added a number of food-themed activities for youngsters including kids’ pizza-making parties, staffed by chefs and youth counselors. During the summer and holidays, the line offers chocoholic buffets for kids; children can also dress up as a chef and have their photo taken.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL

All eyes are on Royal Caribbean’s massive Freedom of the Seas, which will enter the cruise market next June with more family-friendly bells and whistles than you can imagine. (See next month’s family cruise article for more details on this ship.)

Also new are 40 feet high, 165 feet long water slides on RCI’s private islands of CocoCay and Labadee. The latter is part of the Labadee Splash Bash outdoor water play area (see What’s New in Family Cruising from May, 2005).

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