Water slides, magic shows, pizza parties, scavenger hunts, karaoke, kids-only shore excursions, and disco parties. Who said parents get to have all the fun on a cruise? Well-trained staff, extensive facilities, and coordinated activities, mean cruising with kids can be smooth sailing for the whole family.
Most cruise lines offer private and group babysitting options from around 9am until the wee hours of the morning. They also provide age-specific, organized programs run by trained professionals. Although there are slight variations by cruise line, age categories for organized programs are generally geared to 3-6, 7-9, 10-12, and 13-17 year olds.
100,000 kids were kept entertained last year on Carnival Cruise Lines with 114-foot water slides, video tournaments, talent and puppet shows, ping-pong, and scavenger hunts.
Celebrity Cruises features a full children’s program during the summer and on holidays. All other times of the year, they offer a reduced program.
The Princess kids’ program on Princess Cruises offers young cruisers their own deck space complete with the whale tail splash pool. Teens get their very own jacuzzi and sunning area. There’s also the video arcade, computer games, and other activities such as bingo, name that Disney tune, ring toss, and mini-Olympics.
Club HAL on the Holland America Line provides fun and games for cruisers ages 5-17 and serves up movies, putt-putt golf, late-night pizza, and disco parties.
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Youth program offers its unique brand of Edu-tainment where participants enjoy educational and culture-based activities blended with the daily itineraries, ports of call, games, and team sports.
With Norwegian Cruise Lines, your kids can be circus trained and present a show for the proud parents. Other activities range from magic shows and poolside, root beer float parties to wacky cooking classes, pajama parties, line dancing, and volleyball.
Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line also offer supervised shore excursions ranging from an afternoon on the beach to gold panning to canoe trips in Alaska.
Whether you are cruising with your toddler, tween, or teens, your Cruise Consultant can help you select the perfect family vacation. Best of all, you’ll never hear the phrase “I’m bored” while you’re away!
Carnival Cruise Lines’ award-winning children’s program is called Camp Carnival. Available year-round, the program provides elaborate facilities, age-specific programs/activities, youth playrooms with computers, children’s water slides and wading pools, as well as special dining menus. The counselor-guided programs are divided into four categories, Toddlers (2-5), Juniors (6-8), Intermediate (9-11), and Teens (12-15). There is also a playroom for children under three.
The Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise house is a 2,500 square-foot children’s world giving them the largest children’s facilities in the Carnival fleet. Divided into three sections, the facilities offer educational computer labs and computer games, an arts and crafts section, and an indoor play area complete with a climbing maze and video wall where kids can watch movies, music videos, and cartoons. An outdoor play area has a schooner-shaped playhouse and wading pool for toddlers. The Carnival Spirit, Pride, Legend, and Miracle also offer Real Virtuality – a high-tech, game room housing video and arcade games.
Fun Ship Bingo
Sega and Nintendo
Arts and Crafts
Sega and Nintendo
Ping-Pong, Foosball, Basketball, Air Hockey
Talent Shows Teens (12-15)
Slide and Sun
Ping-Pong Tournaments, Ping-Pong, Foosball, Basketball, Air Hockey
Babysitting is also available on Carnival’s ships for children of any age for around $6/hour for the first child and $4/hour for each additional child.
Celebrity Cruises features a full children’s program during the summer and on holidays. All other times of the year they offer a reduced program. The full program is offered for four age-specific groups: Ship Mates (3-6), Cadets (7-9), Ensigns (10-12), and Admiral Ts (13 – 15 and 16-17). Children under three years of age are not allowed in counselor-guided programs. They are, however, welcome in the playroom if accompanied and supervised by a parent at all times. All of the program’s counselors are specially-trained in fields of child psychology, child development, education, or recreation.
Programs are offered 9am-noon, 2-5pm, and 7-10pm. There is also an optional slumber party from 10pm-1am. On port days, there is an afternoon party from 12-2pm. On formal evenings, the program offers a complimentary slumber party and counselors take the children to a pizza party for dinner.
Ship Mates and Cadets
Other Age-Appropriate Activities.
Ensigns and Admiral Ts
Theatrical Shows with Dances and Costumes (during the summer season)
All children have an opportunity to meet the captain and learn how to navigate a ship by the stars. At meals, kids can get together for the Celebrity Breakfast club, or eat dinner with the family and order off a special kids menu. Finally, all kids can participate in a masquerade parade.
In-stateroom babysitting is available on all Celebrity ships on a request basis. Requests must be made at least 24 hours in advance and the charge is $8/hour for two children. Children must be at least six months old.
Disney Cruise Line has some of the most extensive children’s facilities sea. Both Disney Magic and Disney Wonder offer an elaborate Walt Disney Theater that resembles a plush, Broadway house. Buena Vista Cinema features Disney flicks. Studio Sea is styled like a television sound stage and offers a forum for G-rated floor shows. These ships also offer a children’s program called Oceaneer Adventure for children aged 3-17 and a nursery facility, Flounder’s Reef, for children age three and under. All onboard programs are organized and run by caring youth counselors and have both scheduled and surprise visits by Disney characters every day.
Oceaneer Adventure is divided into three age-specific categories: Oceaneer Club (3-7), Lab (8-12), and Teen (13-17). The Club program is further divided into ages 3-4 and 5-7, while the Lab program is divided into 8-10 and 11-12. Oceaneer Club facilities resemble Captain Hook’s pirate ship with plenty of places for activity. Oceaneer Lab allows participants to experience high-tech interactive programs, hands-on science experiments, and ship-wide treasure hunts. Kids 11-12 can compete in a marine biology, knowledge-quest game show and send digital post cards to friends. Teens (13-17) have their own private club, occupying a large portion of deck nine, called Common Grounds – a New York-style coffee house complete with game arcade and Internet Cafe.
In Port Activities
Every cruise with Disney stops at the 1,000-acre private island, Castaway Cay. Here, parents can relax under a palm tree on a white sand beach while their children play in a supervised area or wade in a protected lagoon. The adventuresome can go snorkeling on a course littered with tropical fish, treasure chests and faux shipwrecks (one with Mickey Mouse riding on the bow). Children are automatically enrolled in the island’s activities of volleyball, biking, nature hikes, etc. once signed in on the ship.
Children’s facilities are open from 9am to 1am. Flounder’s Reef nursery has afternoon and nightly hours available on a first-come, first-served basis according to babysitter availability. Rates are $6/hour for the first child and $5/hour for additional children.
Holland America offers families a year-round program called Club HAL with counselors and age-specific activities for three age groups (5-8, 9-12, 13-17). Holland America also administers Just for Kids adventure and learning shore excursions while in port. While the largest facilities can be found on Maasdam, Zuiderdam, Oosterdam, and Westerdam, kids will be fully-entertained on all ships in Holland America’s fleet.
All children are treated to pizza and cocktail parties, ship tours, special menus, activities rooms with video games, and wading pools. Children aged 5-8 years can participate in storytelling, candy bar bingo games, arts and crafts, charades, and ice cream parties. The 9-12 year age group is entertained with golf putting lessons, dance lessons, deck sports, scavenger hunts, ping-pong, and karaoke. Teenagers have a teen disco, dance lessons, arcade games, sports, card games, and trivia contests.
In Port Activities
Just For Kids offers supervised shore excursions for kids while in port. While in port on Holland America’s private island Half Moon Cay, kids can join a real island treasure hunt while teens participate in their own beach party and volleyball game.
In-stateroom babysitting is available on a request basis. Requests must be made 24 hours in advance and the charge is $7/hour for the first child and $5/hour for additional children from the same family.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Along with providing an unlimited Kids Soda Package and various activity rooms for children, Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a program called Kid’s Crew that is divided into four, age-specific categories: Junior Sailors (2-5), First Mates (6-8), Navigators (9-12), and Teens (13-17). The programs and facilities vary from ship to ship, with the broadest programs found on the Star, Sun, and Dawn. Every cruise treats children to a Coke-tail party with the Captain. Norwegian also publishes Kids’ Cruise News and Teen Cruise News daily, outlining the activities available to them on the ship. All of NCL’s kid counselors attend a training course prior to coming on board that features team and confidence building, safety, communication skills, and working with children who have special needs.