"Adventure" for Kids of All Ages by Luisa Frey Gaynor
Although my eight-year-old daughter Alex already had 11 cruises under her belt,
she was still very excited prior to our recent Adventure of the Seas sailing.
She had perused the Royal Caribbean brochure--which had a detailed map of the
huge and well-equipped ship-- so many times before our cruise that I worried the
ship might not live up to her expectations. However, after an action-packed week
in the Southern Caribbean, it turned out that the ship and its youth program exceeded
Alex's expectations so much that she burst into tears before going to bed on the
last night of the cruise. How's that for a great endorsement?
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Youth Program: Policies and Details
Not only did the ship wow us all, but Alex got hooked on the Adventure Ocean youth program. On a few days, we literally had to tear her away from the youth program to spend time ashore with us, to enjoy the ship's other facilities, or to go to bed at night! Since we also have an infant who takes a long afternoon nap, requiring one of us to stay in the cabin during that time, it was helpful that Alex enjoyed spending so much time in Adventure Ocean.
It also helped that children over six years old can sign themselves in and out of Adventure Ocean with parental permission. Despite the huge size of the ship (138,000 tons, 15 decks, and a passenger capacity of over 3,100), Alex is great with directions and enjoyed the responsibility of getting herself to and from the youth room.
Luisa and Alex
Unlike most cruise ships that have one youth room--usually reserved
youngest group of children--Adventure of the Seas and sister ships
and Explorer of the Seas all have dedicated youth rooms for each
Aquanauts, age three to five years; Explorers, six to eight; Voyagers,
to 11; Navigators, 12 to 14; and Teens, 15 to 17.
Although the youth program starts for those over age three, children
fully potty-trained to participate in Adventure Ocean activities.
Caribbean won't allow those who are not potty trained to come to
facilities even if accompanied by a parent. Nor are non-toilet-trained
allowed to use the great Adventure Beach pool and slide facilities.
Caribbean is one of the few lines that still offer private baby-sitting,
tots must be at least one year old to use the service.
Parents of children five and under are given a beeper for the duration
of the cruise so they can be reached in case their little one needs
them. Although my daughter is eight, we were given a beeper because
she has food allergies. (All kids with food allergies have their picture
taken on their first day in the youth program. The counselors post
the photo to make sure they all know of the child's sensitivities.
This was the first time I've seen this in a cruise line youth program.)
For youngsters under 12, there are activities from 9 a.m. to 10
p.m. with an
hour break for dinner. On port days, counselors are available half
prior to the first shore excursion in case parents want to go ashore
Counselors will take children to lunch on most days too. On three
seven nights, counselors take the kids to the buffet dinner or Johnny
hamburger restaurant as a group at 6 p.m. Make sure you sign up
for this free
option by noon on the day of the dinner. Generally the counselors
kids to eat on the two formal nights as well as an additional evening.
Alex on the
After 10 p.m. there is an hourly charge for kids under 12 years old
to stay in the program until 1 a.m. While many ships refer to this
as group baby-sitting, Royal Caribbean puts an interesting twist on
it and calls it "Late Night Party Zone." With a name like
that, my daughter was itching to take part, but since her baby brother
was waking us up at 5:30 each morning, we never let her stay up later
than 10 p.m. According to Michael Clarke, the Adventure's youth program
manager, the Late Night Party Zone offers lots of activities during
the first part of the night; then mats are pulled out later in the
evening so kids can curl up and watch a good movie or sleep.
While the Navigators (age 12-14) and Teens share the Optix Teen
Club, they do
split for many Teens-only options. The Navigators program lasts
midnight or 12:30 a.m. nightly, while the Teens program goes until
about 2 or
3 a.m. and often includes a Teens-only disco.
Youth Program: Oceans of Fun
Most cruise lines offer a youth program on sea days as well as port
days. However, most lines offer fewer activities on the port days,
and kids often have lots of free play time on port days with no specific
activities scheduled. What my daughter really liked is that Adventure
Ocean had a full roster of fun things to do even on port days.
We could tell that it would be a lively cruise since the first-night
informational meeting for kids and parents was held in the ice rink
of the counselors skated. They also tossed to the audience some
of the logo
items kids can earn by attending the Adventure Ocean program. Each
youngster attends an Adventure Ocean session, he receives a coupon.
last day of the cruise, they can be cashed in for prizes like visors,
cases, t-shirts, and more. While Alex enjoyed attending the kids'
found the coupons were a great incentive for her to participate.
Royal Caribbean has a number of successful trademark activities
fleet-wide Adventure Ocean program. Most impressive are the Adventure
activities--fun yet educational sessions where kids really get their
wet (literally). Some of them include making space mud, learning
stars, and talking about outer space as well as talking like aliens
Royal Caribbean's newest ships, including the Adventure, have an
Ocean Family Computer Camp during sea days; you must sign up for
participation is limited to the number of computers in the youth
Alex and I participated, we got to alter digital photos of ourselves
counselors took. Then they printed the pictures out on special paper
ironed onto t-shirts once we got home.
Some lines place more emphasis on crafts than on active games,
but not Royal
Caribbean. A few Adventure Art projects were offered, such as making
Mexican hanging trinket. Although Alex is generally very into making
and artwork, she did not seem to miss them on this cruise.
All Royal Caribbean youth programs feature a talent show on the
performed by children under nine years old. My daughter plays the
the counselors held the show in a lounge where Alex had access to
a piano and
played one of her original compositions. All kids who participated
hearty round of applause from the parents and a medal from the counselors.
On the last formal night, we enjoyed the Pirate Parade, which was
presented by the two youngest age groups. The kids had their faces
put on bandannas and fake hooks (a la Captain Hook), and paraded
ship with the counselors. The counselors would yell out funny lines
"The Captain wants it quiet," and the kids would reply
"Let's start a riot!"
The children even paraded into the three-level dining room to entertain
second-seating adults. At the end, the ship's photographer took
picture of the dozens of little pirates.
The line's activities wouldn't be half as fun for the kids if not
enthusiastic counselors. I found them to be entertaining, yet firm
personal with the kids--a perfect combination for bonding with the
yet remaining in control. All the counselors had nicknames that
loved and were easy to remember, ranging from Ketchup to Ice Cream,
The line has a "three strikes you're out" behavior policy
for unruly kids and
teens. According to Clarke, if youngsters are warned three times
disruptive behavior, they cannot return to the youth program.
Sample of Activities
The room for three to five year olds is furnished with a small
slide, a ball
pit, and lots of Lego building blocks. Activities offered during
for this age group included design your own surfboard; paw-print
story time; freeze dancing; balloon volleyball; and much more.
To my daughter's delight, the room for the six to eight year olds
the line's only indoor, kid-sized rock climbing wall, as well as
a number of
computers, a movie corner with a couch, and a crafts area. Some
favorite activities were Adventure Science activities including
mud, finding "prehistoric" eggs, and making rockets; coloring
hula hoop challenge; alien talk; and more.
The nine to 12 year olds had a large room for group activities
and a smaller
room filled with 14 Game Boys, called the "Virtual Sub Station".
for this age group included Adventure Science forensics and H2O
races; Survivor night; soak your youth staff; and Name that Tune.
The Navigators (12-14) and Teens (15-17) shared the Optix teen
had state of the art lighting and a dance floor for teen discos.
activities for Navigators are: late night karaoke; Playstation 2
training; late night skate; and The Weakest Link game show. Some
of the teen
activities are Fuel disco parties; man hunt; pool parties; arcade
and Battle of the Sexes.