Royal Caribbean's First Nursery at Sea

August 3, 2009

Royal Caribbean is the second cruise line to institute a nursery at sea for infants and toddlers from the ages of six to 36 months.

Royal Caribbean International is taking a stand when it comes to the family market. They are the second cruise line (Disney Cruise Line is the other) to institute a nursery at sea for infants and toddlers from the ages of six to 36 months.

"From 2003 to 2008, we saw the number of kids under the age of three double," said Charly McDonald, Director of Onboard Activities for RCI. "This group has high expectations and the cruise industry has to start addressing the needs of those under three years," he continued.

Thus, the Aqua Babies and Aqua Tots Nursery will be unveiled aboard Oasis of the Seas when she launches at the end of this year. McDonald attributed the formation of the nursery as a natural progression from when RCI started its affiliation with Fisher-Price five years ago by launching its Fisher-Price Aqua Babies and Aqua Tots 45-minute programming whereby parents interact with their children and Fisher-Price toys.

"Now we're taking that successful program and giving it a dedicated space to grow," McDonald said.

And most importantly, parents will be able to drop their children at the nursery and enjoy some adults-only time.

Facility Details According to McDonald, RCI staff spent a lot of time at Fisher-Price's headquarters observing their nurseries in order to optimize their limited onboard space. They also worked with Family Central which is the largest provider of corporate babysitters in the Miami area.

The 350-square-foot nursery on Oasis will have windows overlooking the water along with shades for nap time. The nursery will include: a small sleeping area; open play area; and registration desk for parents to check in. It will be fully equipped with cribs, hi chairs, bouncy seats, swings, small climbing area and Fisher-Price toys.

Staff will dispense bottles and baby food provided by the parents. Just like a daycare, staff will feed and diaper children (parents must provide diapers and wipes) and get them to nap when needed. RCI will provide snack and juice options.

The facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. While the price is still to be determined, it will probably be less than the hourly fee for in-cabin babysitting. (Note that RCI will still offer private, in-cabin sitting on Oasis too.)

Since the nursery will only hold 12 little ones at a time, parents will need to make reservations once they get on board. The line is in the midst of finalizing its reservation system. McDonald said that each child will get an allotment of total hours they can be in the nursery on any given cruise so that everyone has an opportunity to use it if interested. There will also be walk-ups available too in case a reservation becomes available at the last minute.

Experienced Staff RCI is in the midst of operating a nursery on Splendor of the Seas in Europe as a test case. The facility is being held in a retro-fitted conference room. All the staff that is in the nursery on Splendor will be transferred to the Oasis facility later this year.

All RCI nursery staff has to go through 40 hours of State of Florida mandated daycare training and is required to have previous Adventure Ocean youth staff experience.

McDonald said that there will be five dedicated employees in the nursery at all times. The ratio of counselors to children is 1 to 3.

"We're the only cruise line which requires a four year college degree" in order to be a youth counselor. RCI also requires CPR certification and three to five years related experience of all its 500 youth staff � the largest youth staff in the industry according to McDonald.

Other Family Friendly Options on Oasis McDonald noted that "we've very flexible." For example, if parents have a 38 month old who technically is old enough to be in Adventure Ocean programming but is not yet toilet trained, then the staff will allow parents to drop their child off in the nursery. (Children must be 36 months old AND toilet trained to participate in Adventure Ocean.)

Like Freedom-class ships, Oasis will have an area of the H2O Zone for non-potty trained kids to enjoy the water. These splash zones have a separate filtration system in case of a diaper-related accident.

Future McDonald said that all RCI's future ships will have a dedicated nursery on them. He did acknowledge that Oasis is a test case for the rest of the existing fleet.

"We have a track record of rolling out new experiences and hardware on new ships � if it's successful on Oasis, we'll eventually launch it fleet wide," he said. However, that will take time and ingenuity since "the biggest issue is space" in regards to what each ship can re-purpose for a nursery.

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