These seven vessels offer many of the same children's facilities as their earlier twins.
If you and your kids liked the family-friendly amenities of last year's new ships, you'll be happy to discover there are many "twins" entering the cruise market this year. From surf parks to bowling alleys, get ready to "double" your family's pleasure at sea.
CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: CARNIVAL FREEDOM Carnival Freedom started sailing in Europe this March with all the usual family-friendly Carnival amenities. These include Carnival's signature 214-foot-long spiral water slide; four swimming pools; Carnival's Seaside Theatre, with a 270-sq. ft. movie screen at poolside; interconnecting staterooms; and multi-generational family activities including arts and crafts sessions, water games on deck, and make-your-own-sundaes.
The 4,200-sq. ft. Camp Carnival youth area is divided into three distinct parts: a movie room with a 16-monitor video wall; a game area with 20 Sony PlayStations 2; and a main play area with arts and crafts machines for making spin and sand art, as well as large, soft toys for the youngest Camp Carnival participants. This is a new Carnival feature aimed at toddlers and preschoolers; these soft, big shapes are perfect for little ones to climb on and slide down.
There's plenty for teens too. Club O2 is the ship's 1,800-sq. ft. club for 15- to 17-year-olds. The facility includes a dance floor, DJ booth, sound and lighting systems, a library with teen magazines and books, a lounge serving non-alcoholic specialty drinks, and a video game room with 60 arcade/video games. As on other Carnival ships, teens age 12 to 17 can partake in a few "just-for-teens" shore excursions. On port days, those age 12 to 14 and their parents can enjoy spa and beauty treatments together.
COSTA CRUISES: COSTA SERENA The Costa Serena, debuting in Europe in May, is a sister ship to last year's Costa Concordia. Some of the family-friendly facilities on the 112,000-ton ship are: a children's pool; "Dive in Movies," showing films by the pool with a multi-lingual audio system; the largest enclosable pool deck on a ship, so kids can swim in all kinds of weather; a water slide; a multi-sport court/outdoor deck area; and a video arcade room.
The 3,000-sq. ft. youth room, called the "Squok Club," is for those three to 11 years old and includes equipment ranging from computers to sound systems, Sony PlayStations 2, and karaoke machines.
For teens age 16 and older, the ship has a Grand Prix virtual reality simulator where young adults can compete against themselves and others, "racing" at speeds over 200 miles per hour. The teen club has high-tech sound and audio equipment for dances and movies as well as Sony PlayStations 2.
CUNARD LINE: QUEEN VICTORIA The 90,000-ton Queen Victoria enters service in December. While she doesn't offer all the bells and whistles for families that many other new ships do, there are activities for kids, including swimming in a number of pools and a youth and teen program.
The ship will have two youth rooms - one catering to little children from one to six years old, the other for older children and teens. The room for the line's youngest passengers will feature age-appropriate toys, while the multi-purpose room will be used alternatively for seven- to 12-year-olds and teens. This facility will be home to air hockey, foosball, a DJ booth for teen dance parties, karaoke, two large plasma movie screens, and a Sony PlayStation 3 video game center featuring 21 game stations, thus allowing for multi-player tournaments.
MSC CRUISES: MSC ORCHESTRA To be launched in June, the MSC Orchestra weighs in at almost 90,000 tons. The ship will include a Mini Club for those three to eight years old; a Juniors' Club for kids age nine to 12; and a Teenagers' Club. The ship will have a children's pool area, mini-golf, and tennis courts. Indoors, there is a video arcade room with the latest high-tech virtual reality games.
The ship has many adjoining staterooms that are perfect for families. With MSC Cruises' "Happy Families" special pricing, a family of four (two adults and two children under 17) can have two adjoining category 10 staterooms for one set price, vs. the usual per-person pricing per room. Rates vary depending on the itinerary.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: NORWEGIAN GEM The Norwegian Gem will be a twin to the Norwegian Pearl, which was inaugurated in December 2006. The 93,000-ton Norwegian Gem - which enters the market in Europe this October - will also have a spacious youth room as home base for children aged two to 12. The Metro Center, designed to look like the New York subway system, is the place for teens to hang out.
Youth and teens will enjoy the line's second rock-climbing wall at sea. Soaring 30 feet high, it offers five vertical courses of varying difficulty. Like the Pearl, the Gem will feature a bowling alley. The four-lane bowling venue is perfect for families and teens during the day and also features flat-screen TVs and arcade games. (At night, the venue is geared towards adults.)
PRINCESS CRUISES: EMERALD PRINCESS Another twin, the Emerald Princess is the Crown Princess' look-alike. Weighing in at 113,000 tons, the Emerald Princess also began cruises from Europe in April. In addition to a Movies Under the Stars screen and multiple pools, the ship will have a video arcade for kids and teens. Families will also enjoy street entertainers in the piazza atrium who will offer good, clean fun for all ages.
The ship has a youth room in addition to a dedicated teen facility for those 13 to 17 years. The teen room has karaoke, equipment for dance parties, Sony PlayStations 2, and a giant movie screen.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL: LIBERTY OF THE SEAS Like its sister ship Freedom of the Seas, which made huge waves last year when she entered the market, Liberty of the Seas is a hefty 160,000 tons and offers a lot of family-friendly water facilities. Children's favorite spot on Liberty will be the H2O water play zone, where kids of all ages can splash amidst colorful statues. Nearby is a circular current pool, a small pool for all ages, and two large pools where laps can be swum. FlowRider Surf Park, which made its debut on Freedom, is for older kids, teens and adults who want to catch a wave at sea.
Other family-friendly amenities include a large 43-by-44 foot rock wall with 11 routes; children must be at least six years old and accompanied by an adult to climb. There is also an outdoors sports deck including basketball courts and nine-hole miniature golf. The ship's Studio B ice skating rink offers open skating sessions along with professional skating shows at night. The Royal Promenade is an indoor area full of cafes, shops and street entertainers. During the evening, colorful parades are staged here.
The youth facilities are extensive on Liberty. There is a dedicated room for the three-to-five, six-to-eight and nine-to-11 year-old age groups, along with teen facilities. The teen facilities include: The Living Room, an indoor space for young adults to hang out; Fuel nightclub, complete with high-tech lighting and sound systems; and the Back Deck, a small outdoor area for teens to sunbathe. In the same area as the youth and teen rooms is a very extensive video arcade.