Following are highlights of the family-friendly facilities on new ships entering the market through the end of 2003.
Carnival Cruise Lines
The Carnival Legend set sail this September with the usual Carnival family-friendly amenities such as a corkscrew water slide, high-tech game room, expansive indoor and outdoor play areas, and 24-hour pizzeria. The spacious dedicated children's room, Noah's Ark, measures 1,800 square feet and encompasses three distinct parts: an all-ages play area stocked with a variety of games and toys; a computer center; and an arts-and-crafts lab with spin and sand art machines and even a candy-making apparatus. Located a deck below Noah's Ark is Gigabytes, the ship's popular video and game arcade.
Carnival Legend also has an outdoor play area with a schooner-shaped playhouse, jungle gyms and other playground equipment. The ship has a total of four swimming pools, including a children's wading pool, and its trademark water slide.
Carnival Conquest enters the market in late November with an even larger children's play area, "Children's World," measuring 3,400 square feet, along with a new teen recreation area. Like the Legend, this 2,974-passenger ship features a youth room which can be divided into different areas including a play room, a crafts center, a video room showing kids' favorite movies and cartoons, a children's library with youth-oriented books and magazines, and a computer lab. Adjacent to Children's World is a wading pool.
Making its debut on Carnival Conquest is "Action Alley," a new teen recreation area featuring a state-of-the-art game room with the latest video and arcade games; a lounge where teens can relax, socialize and enjoy non-alcoholic beverages; a teen disco; and a video wall showing music videos. Like the rest of the ship's colorful Impressionist-inspired decor, the interior of Action Alley is a take off on Paris' famous Montmartre district. Design elements include exposed brick walls, concert posters, graffiti, and building facades.
Royal Caribbean International
Although it's similar to the earlier Voyager-class ships, RCI's 3,114-passenger Navigator of the Seas goes one step further when it sets sail this fall by boasting the largest youth and teen facilities on any ship. According to Charly McDonald, Adventure Ocean Specialist at Royal Caribbean, "This is one of the largest changes on this ship. We think we've done something special here." He explained that the line has seen a huge influx of families on Voyager, Adventure and Explorer of the Seas since they entered the market, noting that some summer sailings host as many as 1,000 children and teens. "Thus we focused more on the youth facilities on the Navigator and Mariner."
While the three predecessors had youth and teen rooms measuring 16,000 square feet, the new sister ships will have 22,000 square feet of space devoted solely to kid facilities. "This is the largest square footage devoted just to kids of any ship in the market," said McDonald. In order to make room for this extra space, Royal Caribbean did away with Adventure Beach. This outdoor kids' pool and slide area was underutilized, according to McDonald. On our recent Adventure of the Seas cruise, I also noted that this was not a heavily used area and my daughter only went there once.
Each of the three indoor areas for children is being enlarged. Of particular note is that the room for the 9-to-12 year olds features more of a middle school concept with a large dance floor, video screens, and 15 computers. The main focus of change, however, is the teen facilities.
"We've listened to teens and given them many options," McDonald said. He noted that teens are the line's "future cruisers," so the Navigator is offering three concepts and styles to attract more teens to this area. The three main areas of the teen facilities include the Living Room, Fuel, and the Back Deck. The Living Room is a "cozy place to hang out" and features Club Cafes with 15 internet stations just for teens. Fuel is the late-night party area with a disco, light show, and even a fast food cafes just for teens. The Back Deck -- a new concept -- is an outdoor area just for teens. Here young adults can hang out on lounge chairs or have access to two outdoor food outlets as well as an outdoor dance floor. In addition, the game arcade, which is open to all ages, has been enlarged with easier access.
Mariner of the Seas, sister ship of the Navigator, will enter the market in fall of 2003. She will sport the same roomy youth and teen facilities as the Navigator.
The 1,950-passenger sister ships Coral Princess and Island Princess make their debut in December 2002 and May 2003, respectively. The children's and teen centers on these ships measure a roomy 3,228 square feet and include three different rooms for the various age groups: 3-7 years; 8-12 years; and 13-17 years. The children's rooms will feature games and toys, crafts, and PlayStations. The teen centers in the Coral-class ships will have discos, movie nights and video games. Other family-friendly facilities on these ships include children's pools, game rooms, basketball courts and putting greens. All Princess ships have an extensive 24-hour food court, which comes in handy when little tummies are growling at all hours of the day!
Norwegian Cruise Line
When the 2,224-passenger Norwegian Dawn sets sail this December, she will boast a very large 5,834 square foot theme activity area similar to the youth facilities on the Norwegian Star. The T-Rex Kids' Center & Teen Club features a playroom with games and large soft toys, a ball pit filled with hundreds of multi-colored balls, and a jungle gym with slides and tunnels. Additionally, the children's room includes a cinema room, a separate nursery and sleep area for the toddlers and preschoolers, arts and crafts area, and computer terminals. Located directly under the center is the T-Rex Kids' pool which features a dinosaur theme pool, water slides, wading pool, and kids' Jacuzzi.
The Teen Club is an exclusive teen hangout decorated like a 1950's diner, which doubles as a teen disco. Video Zone with its many arcade games is a teen favorite too.
The ship will also feature Kids' Cafes, a kid-sized Lido food area featuring children's favorites such as hot dogs and hamburgers. For those traveling with a family of five or more, the Dawn offers many staterooms to accommodate large families either in one cabin or in connecting staterooms.
Holland America Line
The 1,848-passenger Zuiderdam enters the HAL fleet in mid-December while its sister ship, the Oosterdam, sets sail for the first time in June 2003. These Vista-class ships will offer twice as much space as the children's rooms on the line's current ships and include both a dedicated kids' room as well as a teen room. To accommodate the different age groups of children in the Club HAL program, the youth room can be divided into three separate spaces. The children's room on the Vista ships will feature its own computer game area and video game room (there's a second video game room near the disco). The Waverunner teen area has a dance floor and large-screen movie corner. These vessels also have a wading pool next to the Lido pool and offer a children's menu in the restaurants.
Crystal Cruises may not be the first line to come to mind when one thinks of family cruising, but both of Crystal's ships have a Fantasia youth room for its seasonal youth program. In fact, company executives have noted that the intergenerational family market is their biggest growth area.
Therefore, 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity, whose inaugural sailing is next summer, will also feature a children's and teen room. The youth room will be similar to its sister ships, the Crystal Harmony and Symphony, with an arts and crafts area, giant padded cubes, Sony PlayStation games, a large screen TV and board games. There is also a teen video arcade.
The line's youth program accommodates youngsters age three to 17. While there isn't a children's menu in the dining room, chefs will handle special requests for kids. Since all staterooms have DVDs, the ship's library will include children's DVDs and books. Those traveling with infants can get cribs, baby food, high chairs and booster seats upon request. The Serenity will also feature many connecting staterooms to accommodate larger families.
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
Although Radisson Seven Seas' 700-passenger Voyager does not have a dedicated youth room, it does have a children's program, Club Mariner, that many may not be aware of. This seasonal children's program is for those from five to 17 years who cruise in Alaska and six to 17 years for European cruising. With three daily sessions, the youth program offers activities that are fun yet educational. Many of them tie into the destination, such as decorating an egg in the Faberge style while calling in Russia or participating in the "draw an ugly troll" contest while cruising the Norwegian fjords. In Alaska, activities include making your own totem pole or decorating cookies in the shape of animals.