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Family-friendly Guide to Today's Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean's Liberty at Sea    

     We find that cruises are a great deal for family vacations. It’s an affordable all-inclusive vacation with a price that includes your room, meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between), entertainment and often, more than one destination. The following listing of today’s cruise ships and their family-friendly array of amenities and features is abbreviated. There is so much they offer that we couldn’t list everything. Keep in mind that not all these features that kids love are found on every ship in their fleet. Always double-check with us to make sure that what’s important to you and your family is available on the ship you’re considering.

  

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES

     Starting with Camp Carnival, their children’s programs are divided into 3 age groups – 2 to 5 year olds, 6 to 8 year olds, and 9 to 11 year olds. It’s all overseen by counselors with education or child care experience. They now offer Seuss at Sea activities featuring character parades, Green Eggs & Ham breakfasts, meet and greets with the characters, story time and arts & crafts activities. Circle C provides young teens (ages 12-14) their own fun-filled area with dance parties, outdoor movies and more. Teens ages 15-17 can hang out at Club 02 and do stuff like watch movies, play video games, join karaoke jam sessions, have a pool party and listen to music from this decade. They even have teen only shore excursions. A new marine-themed program called Camp Ocean will immerse 2 to 11 year-olds in the wonders of the sea complete with educational games and creative project.Camp Carnival

      While the kids are being entertained, mom and dad can enjoy a quiet meal together. How about a day at the spa for a his-and-hers massage or work out at the fitness center? You could tour the art gallery or an art auction or other shopping. The Serenity area of the ship gives you some adult only time with quiet music, lounge chairs, oversized umbrellas and whirlpools. 

     The splashiest feature for kids (although can be enjoyed by the whole family)  is Water Works up on the sun deck with a Twister waterslide. Some ships have side-by-side racing slides and a huge bucket that dumps water on those below. The Carnival Breeze, Magic and Sunshine have a ropes course to challenge your bravery and balance. The SportSquare offers a basketball court, mini-golf course that lights up at night, exercise bikes, punching bags, and pool, foosball and ping-pong tables.

     Launched in 2016, the newest ship in Carnival's fleet - Carnival Vista - will have Family Harbor Cabins. These cabins are designed to accommodate a family of 5 with parents having separate sleeping quarters with a pair of bathrooms. Additionally, they will have access to the Family Harbor Lounge - a secluded hangout for the family with big-screen TV, board games and snacks.

 

Disney Cruise's Aqua Duck  

   DISNEY CRUISE LINES

     It goes without saying that Disney knows how to please families. Parents can order baby products that are delivered to the stateroom on arrival for those with infants and toddlers, 3 months to 3 years, (fees apply). They have nurseries for the little ones (fees may apply). Trained counselors care for and entertain children with toys, books, videos, crafts and games. Children, ages 3 to 12, have access to the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab which include activities like Ratatouille Cooking School, making Flubber and learning about endangered animals. Edge, for younger teens 11-14 year olds and Vibe, for teens ages 15 to 17 year olds have comfy couches, computer games and organized activities like dance parties, trivia games and sports contests.

      Their newest ships feature the AquaDuck water coaster, a 765-foot-long ride through a clear tube that goes over the pools, the side of the ship and into a plunge pool. Aside from the water works stuff on deck, the whole family can enjoy Broadway-style live shows, the latest Disney movies at night out on deck, and character meet-and-greets. Disney's newest feature is a Star Wars area within Disney Dream's Oceaneer Club for kids 3 to 12. Based on the Disney Infinity video game, this high-tech, interactive space will allow kids to virtually pilot the Millennium Falcon.

     Adults can enjoy a variety of things to do while the kids are busy. Relax with a cocktail in one of the many bars, enjoy a meal just for 2, dance the night away in a nightclub, and rejuvenate and beautify at the high-end spa and fitness facilities.

 

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

     Babies and toddlers under age 3 have a play space for spending time with their parents. They also have a nursery for ages 6 months to 3 years. Splash Academy, which Norwegian Breakaway's Aqua Parkspans two decks, is designed to engage active and creative kids from 3 to 12 years old. The 3 to 5 year olds have a colorful space with child-sized furniture where they can paint a masterpiece, have a pajama party or put on a show. Nickelodeon at Sea is a program that includes breakfast with Nickelodeon characters, meet-and-greets with them, Story Time with Dora, family trivia and arts-and-crafts sessions. In another area, 6 to 9-year-olds have their own space with an interactive dance mat and large video screen, video game stations and a video viewing lounge. The area for 10 to 12-year-olds has a dance space, touch-screen jukebox, bean bag chairs and space for doing arts and crafts. Entourage, for teens from 13 to 17, has air hockey and foosball tables, an arcade center, and video jukebox.

     The line’s ship, Norwegian Breakaway, has a an AquaPark with five multistory slides, two swimming pools, four hot tubs and water features. The 3-story sports complex offers a suspended ropes course, nine-hole mini golf, a basketball court, rock-climbing wall, bungee trampoline and a “spider web climbing cage”. Coming to Miami November of this year as the newest ship in the fleet, Norwegian Escpape, gives children and adults alike the biggest ropes course at sea, walk the plank and a great time splashing down 4 theme-park quality water slides. 

 

ROYAL CARIBBEANRoyal Caribbean's Liberty Water Zone

     For parents with babies, Royal Caribbean offers the Babies 2 Go program which lets them pre-order Huggies diapers, wipes and cream and Gerber organic baby food to be delivered directly to their stateroom. They also have nurseries for those 6 moths to 3 years old. For bigger kids, the Adventure Ocean children’s programs are divided into three age groups and include art and science projects, talent shows, pool parties, scavenger hunts, theme parties, movie nights, and karaoke - Aquanauts, ages 3 to 5; Explorers, ages 6 to 8; and Voyagers, ages 8 to 11. Teen only hang outs, for those 12 to 14 year olds and guests 15 to 17, are available for them to just chill out or dance ‘til they drop. They can play to win in a classic arcade atmosphere, play the latest Guitar Hero and others or have a teen-only dinner, dance or pool party.

     Families can get together for festivals, poolside games, physical challenges, karaoke nights, puppet shows and The Royal Caribbean's Liberty FloRiderDreamWorks Experience which includes 3D movies, dining with characters and live shows like Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon Ice Show or Dreamworks’ Let Me Entertain You Aqua Show. My Family Time Dining is offered the first seating time in our main dining room for children ages 3 to 11. Kids enjoy their meal with mom and dad and then are met by counselors to take them off to the evening’s Adventure Ocean activities. The ships are also filled with attractions such as the FlowRider surf simulator, ziplining over the deck, rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks, mini-golf and pools and aqua parks. The Anthem of the Seas ship boasts the largest indoor activity space at sea, Sea Plex, complete with bumper cars, a roller-skating rink, a basketball court, table tennis Royal Caribbean's, first ever, circus school! Try your hand at the trapeze, juggling or Lyra hoops. Coming in May of 2016, Harmony of the Seas, will show off the Ultimate Abyss - the tallest slide at sea with a 100-foot dramatic plunge. It will also feature Splashaway Bay - an aqua park for kids. And, if that isn't enough, they will also debut The Perfect Storm - a trio of water slides.

     While the kids are busy, the adults can take advantage of any of the stuff listed above or hit the Vitality Spa and salon, soak up the sun or savor the shade on deck while listening to live music and enjoy a frosty cocktail. You can also learn a language or how to fold, flip and twist your way to a variety of elegant napkin designs. Attend an art auction or hit the duty-free shops onboard.