Sunday, November 9, 2008

Royal Caribbean Introduces More Family Cruising Ammenities

It's no surprise that I talk alot about Royal Caribbean. For a family cruiser, this cruise line has been making more and more child friendly innovations.

Starting with Oasis of the Seas - A nursery for children 6 mos up to 36 mos

Open daily, the nursery will offer parents childcare drop-off options in the daytime and evening, carefully maintaining an optimum staff to child ratio. Free-time play also will be offered daily, creating an interactive environment where parents and children can bond while playing with a variety of Fisher Price developmental toys in specially-designed programs offered exclusively for guests sailing with Royal Caribbean. The Crayola Beginnings line of toddler art tools will be featured in unique developmentally-appropriate art activities designed for parents and children to enjoy precious creative moments together.

New Family Play Areas on Oasis/Allure

Oasis of the Seas will introduce exciting new common play areas, including the Kid’s Arcade for video games; the Workshop, where families can learn scrapbooking skills or create personalized jewelry; Imagination Studio where children can explore the world of color and imagination through Adventure Art by Crayola; a fully-equipped lab for Adventure Science Lab, where Einsteins-in-the-making can expand their knowledge; Play, a circular area where children can rollick and participate in a variety of sports and games; and Adventure Ocean Theater, the first-ever children’s theater at sea - complete with a stage and curtains, audience seating and state-of-the-art production equipment - where children of all ages can learn about theatrical productions, take part in talent shows, or sign up for hip hop dance classes.

Children's Library Fleetwide

The Adventure Family Library with a range of books for the entire family, a journey within a journey is just around the corner from your stateroom. They've designed the libraries in such a way that books for young readers are easily accessible. From books about animals to toddlers to bedtime stories, there is something to keep your little ones entertained. Books can be found in different languages, depending on your itinerary. Choose your child's favorite story, or try out a different one each night with the Royal Caribbean Adventure Family Library.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Atlantis - Paradise Island, Bahamas

If you love water mixed with a little adventure, then treat your family to a trip to Atlantis, Paradise Island. I see alot of families torn on what to do when they get to Nassau. Some want to stay on the ship. Some just want to walk around the markets. If you have kids, the more pre-planning you do before the cruise, the better experience you will have.

Atlantis Paradise Island takes some advanced planning, but it is a resort with WOW.

So let's start with the pre-planning and booking Atlantis.

-Most cruise lines offer an excursion to Atlantis that includes transportation to the resort, use of the beach, pools/slides and access to the Dig/Aquarium. This would be a simple option if it wasn't so expensive.

-Atlantis Resort does offer day passes, but they have been known to have "limited availability". Once you get more than 2 people in your group, the day pass price is higher than the next option....

-Reserve a room and be a guest of Atlantis OR the adjacent property Comfort Suites Paradise Island. Guests of the Comfort Suites enjoy full use of the Atlantis facilities including the dig, pools/slides and beach. It sounds absurd, booking a room you will never use. But once you look at the prices of the room and compare the amount of money that you will save by doing this, it is the best way to "do Atlantis".

You can use a booking site like Expedia to search the prices of a room at Atlantis. Then compare those with the prices from Comfort Suites for the day you will be there....

You will be able to travel to Atlantis and "check in" to receive your water park passes upon arrival. You do not need to wait until the 2pm check in time. You can get your bracelets immediately.

Each room comes with up to 4 bracelets which includes access to everything on the Atlantis grounds, excluding some of the specialty excursions like swimming with the dolphins.

Even if you have young children, there are many different places to explore at Atlantis. There is so much to do, odds are you won't be able to see it all in one day trip. Note - some of the water slides and the rapids river at Aquaventure does have a 48" height minimum on it. That doesn't mean that young children have nothing to do. There are many children pools, some smaller slides and a Lazy River for the under 48" crowd to ride with their parents.

Getting to Atlantis
There are two ways to get to Atlantis from your cruise ship. Walk into the Nassau port building and up to the Transportation/Tour desk. Tell them you want to go to Atlantis. For $3pp you can take the water taxi (bring your courage cause they like to pack em in on these boats). For $4/pp you can take a regular taxi (my preferred method because I like the door to door service).

So don't stay on the ship in Nassau. Atlantis is one experience you won't want to miss.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Parents just want to have fun - one way to have an excursion without the kids

When cruising with Royal Caribbean or Disney cruise line - look for a day at Labadee/CocoCay (for Royal Caribbean) or Castaway Cay (for Disney) when choosing your cruise. When the ships dock at these private beach areas - the kids clubs are moved to the beach. So if you want to remember what it's like to be adults again and do an adult activity without the kids, choose an excursion during one of these port days.

The kids will stay safe and very happily entertained by the kids club on the beach (the clubs are positioned away from the water and are enclosed by fences to ensure security).

You can choose to go on a waverunner tour, go snorkeling, kayaking, sailing or just soak up the sun on the Adult only beach areas.

So for our last cruise, we decided to try an excursion without the kids. We have always been nervous about leaving them on the ships while we were in we thought this would be the best way to calm our fears. So we got to Castaway Cay and checked the kids into the Disney Oceaneer Club (and Lab). No problems. Off to our tour.

Waverunner Tour

One Hour - Castaway Cay

We meet at Boat Beach at 10am. We sign our lives away, saying we won't sue Disney or the tour operator if we are eaten by a We are given a brief safety speech - no sharp turns, no going off on your own, no donuts, if you are pregnant you can't go on this tour. Then we are given the technical speech - on button - check. Off button - check. If you turn sharply and the waverunner flips you off, try to climb back on or wait for the tour operator to help you (at this point I am thinking I am SHARK BAIT).

Have I mentioned that the Bahamas are the most SHARK FILLED waters in the world? They suit us up with yellow life vests - I am thinking I am just going to look like a big floating Twinkie in the water. The shark will take a bite and think "Heyyyy where's the cream filling????"

So we get on the hubby is in his glory...smiling from ear to ear. We pull out with the group....the objective is to stay in ONE line. The leaders of the group (including the hubby) rev it up and race top speed past the Pirates of the Caribbean ghost ship The Flying Dutchman...and continue to race (for what seems to me to be hours but was about 4 minutes.)

Holding onto these wave runners, getting sprayed in the face full blast with salt water while you hold onto the handles of the bucking bronco...thinking of the scene from Jaws when the great white comes up out of the water...yeah by this point it is safe to say I was freaking Open throttle, full speed out in open water. I am still smiling...but secretly hating my hubby for wanting to do this...Did you know waverunners have no brakes? lol Yes I knew this but it becomes a little more real when you are suppose to pull in closely with the others. (bump, I wonder if I have money to pay for damage)

The tour leader takes us out to a deserted island which he says is a "bird sanctuary". He tells us to jump off our waverunners into the water and walk onto shore. There he asks us to pick up a handful of sand, then proceeds to tell us that it is actually fish poop (ewwww) cause one fish poops up to a ton of sand/year (little known facts I didn't EVER need nor WANT to know)At this point the salt water is making the bug bites I got in Florida itchy. So I scratch my leg...which starts bleeding. Oh great, now I am my own CHUM BUCKET. Pieces of shark knowledge start filling my head, sharks can smell a drop of blood miles away. It will send them into a feeding frenzy trying to find the dying fish. I can't shake the images from the movie "Open Water".

Ohhh happy day we get BACK onto the waverunners. Back out into open water full speed, I am certain I will have bruises on my legs from jumping the waves. I couldn't stay IN the line and kept going off into the waverunners wake. I fought and fought to bring myself back in line. I became the last one in line, lagging behind everyone else....the boat waiting for ME. By the time I arrive at the next stopping point, I am no longer smiling. Now I am contemplating divorce. Happy Anniversary, now sign these divorce papers.

We listen to a little more info about the area from the tour guide. Then I brace myself for the trek back to the beach. I am determined not to be the last in line. I don't care if it kills me. I am going to point my waverunner in the direction of the leaders watercraft. I am going to go full throttle, get sprayed in the face, hang on for dear life, forget the pain in my arms and legs and be in the head of the pack. So I gun it and get in line...pushing any thoughts of bodily harm behind me, we race out in the open ocean, full speed past the cruise ship, wave at everyone onboard like we are in some waverunner parade. And we get back to the beach ahead of everyone else!!!! I take a deep breath and kiss the sand, thankful I am not dead. I have muscles hurting in my body that I didn't know I had. Hubby is happy...totally in his glory. I decide that maybe I can keep him around for another 11 years. The tour operator walks over to us and says "How was your ride?". I say "Um, exhilarating" And he says "Great, how many sharks did you see? Usually we see alot" EEEK!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blackbeards Cay Stingray Excursion - Nassau Bahamas

Activity Level: Moderate
Duration: 4.5-5 hours
Price (through cruise line): Adult: $49 (ages 10 and up)
Child: $39 (ages 3-9)
Ages: 3 And Up

First let me start by saying that this place is the MOST beautiful place ever, better than Castaway Cay {}...better than any beach anywhere. And we've been to alot of beaches.

At 9:45 we were to meet in Diversions (on Wonder) to meet with the Crew Member to take us to Nassau.

By 10am, we got off the ship as a group and met up with Tyrone from the Stingray Tour. A short walk through the port building and out the other side to the boat. We boarded the boat for a 20 minute ride to Blackbeards Cay (had to turn around for a family who missed the boat but still arrived in about 25-30minutes.

There are two sides for swimming....

the swimming area WITHOUT the stingrays....

And the stingray enclosure area.

They provide the mask, goggles and vest - no charge

And they provide the squid....

to feed these guys (who are debarbed)

You can leave the water as much as you want. The area is shallow. My 4 year old felt safer on dry land. (funny cause SHE was the one who wanted to swim with the rays)

You can come and go as you please during the stingray feeding times. They are every hour. They also serve lunch (included with the excursion) - the choices were hamburger/cheeseburger/pizza, bag of chip and a soft drink.

For $10 you can hold the stingray and get a professional picture taken with it. For $10 you can get your arrival photo of you and your family at the dock. For $17, you can do a combo package and get both.

There are restroom facilities here - very clean. You can get the kids hair braided and buy some local items set up on a table. My kids were a little freaked out by the rays. Some other kids had NO problems. They were all happy on the regular beach side. The one with no rays. That is until a Wild ray - complete with barb swam into the area and freaked them ALL out of the
We would NO DOUBT book this excursion again. The beach was better than Castaway Cay. It truly had a "deserted island" feel to it. We loved it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Do we really need to arrive a day early for the cruise?

YES, if you want to make sure you are ON the ship when it sails, then fly in the day before and spend at least one day pre-cruise in a hotel.

In this climate of delayed and cancelled flights, there is just no guarantee that the flight arrangements you make will get you there on time.

I have had flights cancelled for everything from mechanical problems to fog. For this next cruise alone, my flights have been changed four times since I booked the tickets 3 months ago.

So don’t miss the ship. Go at least one day early and make sure you are standing on the ship when it sails.

What can the kids eat on a cruise?

The answer is easy…anything they like (or anything you will allow them to have).

Most mainstream cruiselines have a kids’ menu that will list the normal kids fare – pizza, chicken tenders, hamburgers, pasta, fruit, salads and desserts.

Can your child order off of the adult menu? Of course! If your adventurous eater wants to try escargot…no problem! Any selection on the main menu is also available for the kids.

The beauty of cruising is that most requests will be granted. Does your child want to eat buttered pasta for 7 nights straight? No problem. Do you have a child with allergies? No problem – contact the cruiseline’s “Special Needs Department” and fill out the forms before you board (do it at least 2 weeks prior).

Even babies have lots of choices. With all of the fresh fruit and steamed veggies onboard, there is always a great selection of items to be pureed or mashed.

Rest assured, with all of the great dining choices available on most ships, you will have no problem keeping even the pickiest eater satisfied.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Transfers and Car Seats

How do we get to the ship? Will we need car seats when we get off the ship?

Let's try to break it down into Pre/During/Post cruise
Pre/Post Cruise
Many first time cruisers will book "transfers" with the cruise line. Transfers will take you from the airport to the port, usually on a bus. Using the cruise line transfer is not always the best option. First look at the price. Transfers vary from $70 - $99 per person. If you are a family of 3, your total cost for transfers can start at $210 and up. Make that a family of 4 (or more) and your minimum cost skyrockets to $280 and up.

Also, those transfers aren't the most stress free option. You need to find the cruise line agent at the baggage claim. You follow that person and about 50 of your closest friends as you are herded to the bus. Meanwhile the kids are yelling they need to go potty. They want a drink. But you are afraid of losing the cruise line rep and you realize, this is not a good way to start a vacation.

There are better and less stressful options. Let's talk about a few...

MIAMI - If your cruise leaves out of Miami and you fly into MIA, take a taxi. When you get off the plane, get the kids settled (potty breaks and drinks if needed)...go down to the baggage claim, retrieve your bags, walk out the door at the baggage claim (ignore the people who are trying to grab you and coax you into a shuttle, just say "no") and find the transport sign that says "Taxi". There is a desk and a very nice person who will ask "How many are in your party?" and "Do you have car seats?" (more about that later). The person will then radio a taxi, who will arrive right away. You will be handed a ticket with the number of the taxi on it and a phone number to call if you had any issues with the ride. The flat taxi rate is $26. Just 8 miles later you will be pulling up to your ship.

PORT CANAVERAL - ORLANDO AIRPORT - Port Canaveral is too far from MCO to take a taxi (45 minute trip), so your best bet is to have a private town car or van (pending on the number in your family) If you are traveling with 5 or less people, go with the town car. More than that, you will need a shuttle van. The private town car/van service starts at about $180 round trip. When you compare that to the cruise line prices, you are still saving money. Nothing is better than getting off the plane, walking into the baggage area and seeing your own personal driver holding a sign up with your name on it. The driver will load up your baggage and you follow them out to the car. You move at your own pace because it is YOUR driver. Some have told me that they even have the driver stop at a store on the way to pick up some necessities that they couldn't pack (diapers/gallons of nursery water).

FORT LAUDERDALE - PORT EVERGLADES - This port is the same as Miami. You are only 3 miles from airport to port. Take a taxi.

CAR SEATS - Do we need them Pre/Post/During Cruise

The answer is a resounding YES! But let's try to make it easier on you instead of lugging the full sized car seats around. Some private transportation will bring car seats for a fee (usually $10). But this will not help you once you are out of the country and using taxis.

Your best option is to buy portable car seats.

If your child is under 20lbs, then use a infant carrier car seat. Chances are if you have an infant, then you already have a seat like this. These seats can also be a great place to put the baby during dinner. They can relax in the comfort of their own seat.

From 20-40lbs, there is a travel car seat that I personally use called Eddie Bauer Portable Car Seat Bryant Collection. The cost should be no more than $39. Some web sites (Amazon) are listing the price at $149, totally outrageous. Do not pay more than $39. This car seat folds flat in a suitcase. You can stow it on a stroller when walking around the ports. All you need is a seat belt in the taxi/car to hook this seat up. Some mention that in some Caribbean ports, it's tough to find seat belts in the taxis. Not necessarily true. If you happen to get a taxi with no seat belt, simply wave that cab on and go to the next one. You WILL find one.
UPDATED - I am adding in another option. I am sad to say that the Eddie Bauer seat is now up to $249 on Amazon. I wouldn't pay that price. I have found another option but I haven't personally used it. It is called the Joey Safe Freedom Ride - . If you have any info about this seat, feel free to comment about it.

If your child is at least 40lbs and 40" tall, then you can step up to a backless booster. The Graco Backless Turbo Booster is the best and most economical option. The turbo booster can be purchased anywhere from WalMart to Toys R Us. I have seen them as low as $17.98. They are a great portable option and very easy to hook up using the taxi's seat belt. This seat will accommodate a child that weighs up to 100lbs and 57" tall.

So do you really need to bring a car seat? YES, you do. Unless you plan on driving your own car to the port and then walking to all excursions once you get there. The only exception to the car seat rule is taking a ship sponsored excursion that uses a bus or open air van with side benches. The buses do not have seat belts and you will not be allowed to bring the car seat onboard. They will ask you to stow the seat underneath the bus in the storage compartment. The open air safari vans have no seat belts. So no seats belts means no car seats. You will just have to hold your child (not the safest). Some with younger children (infants) suggest bringing a front pack and wearing the baby.
Some of us wouldn't imagine driving around our hometowns without our children secured safely. So there is no reason to change that when your own vacation. Accidents can happen anywhere. Personally, I think the Caribbean taxi drivers make playing chicken with buses a national sport. Narrow one lane winding mountain roads with no guide rails, it's frightening even without kids.

Keep those kids safe. We want you to have only GOOD memories of your cruise vacation. :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Insurance, Insurance, Insurance!

Cruising with children takes planning. One of the most important things you need to remember is to GET TRAVEL INSURANCE for your cruise. And make sure that the travel insurance, if purchased through the cruiseline, also covers the air travel.

In the media recently, there is a story that talks about a family who was "abandoned in Nassau by a ruthless cruiseline" due to their infant becoming sick.

Taking a closer look at the story and you will see that the family had no passports and no insurance. So the baby's illness (and we all know how fast kids can become sick) left the family to pay for the expense out of pocket.

In our own family, we had a similar situation. Our youngest got sick and needed to be medevacced off the ship. But the difference between us and the story in the news is we had INSURANCE.

I can't stress it enough. For a young family, the cost of travel insurance is pretty inexpensive. What if your child gets an ear infection and can't fly to board the cruise? What if your child breaks a leg and can't cruise? We all know that things happen. Don't make the same mistake that the family in the news did, be prepared for what *may* happen.

Make sure if you are using a travel agent that the agent links the air portion of your travel as well. We learned the hard way and had to pay $1,250 out of pocket to get back from one of our cruises since the travel agent didn't link the airfare to the insurance.

Be informed. Be prepared. You just never know what's going to happen.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The "best" cabin on the ship!

"What cabin category should I choose?". The easy answer is the one that's in your budget and gets you on the ship. But let's elaborate a bit :)

Some say they choose an inside because they'll "never be in the cabin" and that's great if it works for them.

When cruising with younger children it gets a little more complicated. You have to think of things like "What do I do when the child goes to bed early?" No parent wants to spend their vacation tiptoeing around a cabin at 8pm every night. A balcony cabin is a great option. Nothing is better than putting the kids to bed and heading outside on your own balcony for some quiet time under the stars, overlooking the ocean. It's your very own little slice of heaven.

Now the next question is always, "But what if the kids fall overboard????" The balconies on cruise ships are really quite safe as long as you use some common sense guidelines. Many of the newer ships have plexi glass walls that are quite high as compared to a child's height. You can see how high the walls are in this photo. My oldest was 48" tall at the time.

But it's always best to have some rules in place...

1. No child is allowed on the balcony without an adult.

2. All chairs are moved from the edge. No standing on chairs.

3. Child must be sitting at all times while on balcony.

4. No horseplay on the balcony.

5. If any of the above rules are broken, the child will be instantly moved to the inside of the cabin and loses balcony privileges. ;)

With older children, those who may not be spending as much time in the cabin, your priorities start to change and now you want TWO bathrooms. Once again, your budget comes into play. Some families with older children like to get connecting/adjoining ocean view cabins (no balconies). The ocean view will allow some light in while the adjoining/connecting cabins will give you the prized extra bathroom. Often the prices of 2 ocean view cabins will be less than a suite.

Other families like to get a balcony for the parents with an inside cabin across the hall for the kids. It all depends on your comfort level and the age of the children. I would personally say that teens would do best in this situation and no younger.

Just be aware of a few things when booking 2 cabins for the family. First of all, make sure you choose your cabins and ask NOT to be upgraded. It's always great to get an upgrade, except when that upgrade moves you up a deck away from your kids! Stay away from a category "guarantee" where you can't pick your cabin number. On many cruise lines, at least one adult must be booked into each cabin.

As far as location of the cabin, look at the ship's deck plans and see what's around (above and below) your cabin. Would you want to be above the dance club?

Look for a cabin in a central location. Some like to have one deck of cabins above and below them to prevent any noise issues. Some worry about the motion of the ship, so staying low and center will have less movement than a higher deck. But just remember, the lower you go means more stairs to climb (elevators on ships are notoriously slow). You may love the idea of being on Deck 2 and working off your lunch on the way to dinner. But others may not be as happy to climb 8 flights of stairs.

There is no perfect cabin that makes everyone happy. Just look for the perfect cabin that makes your family happy.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Best ships for NON-Potty Trained Tots

One thing that many parents of non-potty trained infants/toddlers are surprised to learn about cruising is that most cruise lines do not allow those children into the ship's pool. This is a law set by the CDC, it's not just a cruise line law.

Although on land, most of us throw a swim diaper on the baby and all is ships are different. It can come as quite a shock to most after alot of planning (not to mention money spent) for a cruise, only to find out that your child is not allowed in the pool. Most parents will see pictures of a "children's pool" on a ship and think "Hey that's for the baby."....sorry, those children's pools are for potty trained toddlers/children. We've been in a situation where the children's pool was shut down on a sea day due to being contaminated by feces. That doesn't make a good day for anyone.

So when you plan a cruise for a younger child, you have a few choices. The following cruise ships have water play areas for non-potty trained infants/toddlers....

  • RCCL Freedom of the Seas, RCCL Liberty of the Seas, RCCL Independence of the Seas and now coming soon RCCL Oasis of the Seas. On the Royal Caribbean Freedom Class ships, there is an area known as the "Baby Zone". It is part of the H2o zone seen here...

  • Disney Magic & Disney Wonder - Young children, who are not toilet trained, are welcome to enjoy the fountain play area near the Mickey Pool that has been designed exclusively for the enjoyment of children wearing swim diapers.

  • If you aren't booked on one of the above mentioned ships, then there is one more option...bring a small inflatable. Some parents bring an inflatable tub (works great for the little ones in a cabin with no tub too). Or you can bring a small inflatable pool. On most ships there is more than enough deck space to fit a small pool. All it takes is a couple of buckets of water from the main pool. And when you're finished, you can dump it down the shower drains (if there is a shower at the pool), the deck drain and some say they just dump it in the sink at the janitor's closet. It doesn't take much to take the buckets back out and dump them in an appropriate place.

Just a little planning can help guarantee a great family vacation, even for the little ones.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cut through the confusion - Kid's Camp FAQ

Disney Cruise line:

Parents receive a pager when they register their children. You can pre-register the children for the club.

Under 3: Flounders Reef Nursery. (3mos - 3yrs) Trained staff. Babysitting for children as young as 12 weeks old. One way mirror for parents to check on kids. Space is limited. Opened port days and in the evening. Fee applies.

Ages 3-7: Disney's Oceaneers Club. Lots of character activities, crafts, games and computer.

Ages 8-12: Disney's Oceaneer Lab. Discover a giant video wall with wireless controllers, private listening rooms with state-of-the-art equipment, flat-screen computers loaded with "family-rated" software, animation programs and activities you won't find anywhere else. Activities include making cookies, flubber and animation.

Ocean Quest (Magic) - Ages 10-14 - The perfect place for them to chill. Pull the ships in and out of the port on a simulation. Feels like an actual bridge. Occasionally offers family time.

Aloft and The Stack - Ages 13-17 - A haven for the teens. Surf the internet, play video games, have dance parties and have a smooth.

Carnival Cruise Line:

Special Notes: Non-Potty Trained children accepted. The counselors will change diapers as necessary. Strollers and swings available for a fee. Pagers or cell (pending on ship) will be given to parents with children in the 5 and under group.

After 10pm, fees apply for group babysitting. The charges are $6 per hour (1st child), $4 per hour (each additl sibling).

Minimum Age to cruise - 6 months.

Family Group Activities: Some activities may include Family Welcome Aboard Parties, Ice Cream Eating Contests, Kids Talent Show, Family Scavenger Hunt, Family Arts and Crafts, Family Name that Tune, Carnival's Teddy Bear Work Shop (Fees Apply), Facilities and Specialty Equipment

Under 2's - They are unable to accept children under the age of 2 during activity time, HOWEVER, infant - 2 year olds are welcome in the playroom each evening from 10pm - 3am and on port days (during specified times) for babysitting. A fee applies ($6 for the 1st child, $4 each additional sibling). In addition, they offer family play times where parents can come into the rooms with their Under 2's. Family playtime is available every Sea Day from 12-2pm, except the last sea day it is 1pm-3pm. During this time, only infants and their parents will be permitted into the room.

Ages 2-5 - Activities may include: SeaNotes Sing-a-longs - Music and Movement Activities, H2Ocean - Make your own Playdoh, Picture Bingo, A-B-Seas Reading and Story Time, Kid’s Talent Show, Face Painting, Game Boys, Soft Play Equipment, ExerSeas Indoor Ball Games, Parachute Games, Mini Late Night Parties - Including Candy Art, Dancing, Games & Sno Cones, "Fun Ship" Freddy Theme Activities, Movie Nights, Kids Dance Parties, Hullabaloo, Don't Eat Tommy, T-Shirt Decorating. Toddler Theme Character Activities which may involve the The Hunt for Pirate Pete, Bug Night, Under the Sea, Bunny Night, Bob the Builder, Dr. Seuss, Dora the Explorer, Scooby Doo and Blue's Clues.

Ages 6-8: (Juniors) Activities may include the latest game consoles, Game Boys, Spin Art, Sand Art and Candy Art, Face Painting - during theme activities, Prize Bingo, Late Night Party - Can you stay awake until 1 am?, T-Shirt Decorating, Dance Class with a professional Carnival Dancer, Jewelry Making, Junior Character Activities, Theme activities include: Super Heroes, Alien Invasion, Camp Out Night and Jurassic Park, "Fun Ship" Freddy, The Hunt for Pirate Pete. Specialty Programs include ExerSeas, H2Ocean, SeaNotes, Water Colors and A-B-Seas.

Ages 9-11: (Intermediates) Activities for intermediates may include: The latest game consoles, Game Boys, Bingo for prizes, Kids Disco, T-shirt decorating, Swimming Under the Stars, Spin Art, Sand Art & Candy Art, Air Hockey, Foosball, Scavenger Hunts, Video Arcade Tournaments, Freaky Fear Factor, Camp Carnival Survivor Challenge, Capture the Flag and Specialty Programs

Ages 12-14: Circle C activities include the latest game consoles, Talent show - Talent Show MC Competition - You can be the star of the show, Dance Parties, Late Night Teen Hang, Late Night Movies, Video Arcade Tournament, Scavenger Hunts, Karaoke, Freaky Food Fear Factor, Camp Carnival Survivor Challenge, Make Your Own Pizza, Game Boys, ExerSeas Activities - Including games like Dodgeball, Basket Ball, and Mini Golf, Sea Notes - Including games and activities like Name that Tune, Teen Idol, and Musical Jeopardy, Water Color Activities - Including activities like Mono-Printing, The Great Art Robbery, and Decoupage Boxes, Sand Art, Spin Art, Candy Art, T-Shirt Decorating and Carnival Twister Waterslide Races. There are even special shore excursions, giving your kids the chance to explore one of our exciting destinations with a teen cruise director. Some excursions may include: Dolphins Experience Encounter, Stingray City – Grand Cayman, Canopy Tour and River Tubing – Belize.

Ages 15-17: Club 02 activities include Board Games, Card Games, Music Hangs, Theme parties, Lido Deck Activities, Reality Games Shows, Trivia and scavenger hunts and Pool Parties.

Royal Caribbean:

Special Notes: *NEW* to RCCL - For any bookings created on or after 4/22/08, infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise/cruisetour. For transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, select South American and other selected cruises/cruisetours, the infant (as of the first day of the cruise/cruisetour) must be at least 12 months old.

Children must be 3 and 100%potty trained to participate in the Adventure Ocean program. No pull ups or diapers. Parents of 3-5 year old will be given pagers/cell phones (pending on ship). In Cabin babysitting available on a limited basis to children 1 year and older. Reserve at the purser's desk upon boarding. Fees apply - $12/hour.

Adventure Ocean counselors/activities are available at Labadee & CocoCay Adventure Beach.

6 months - 18 months Aqua Babies includes interactive classes developed by early childhood experts at Fisher-Price, Let's Roll, Musical Inspiration, Mission Accomplished, Everyday Early Learning, get Up & Go. Each session is 45 minutes. Times are printed in the compass. Parents MUST attend with the child.

18 months - 36 months Aqua Tots includes classes developed by Fisher Price such as Fun on the Farm, Terrific Trips, Out & About, Pirate & Princesses, Busy Builders, Learning Fundamentals. Each session is 45 minutes. Times are printed in the compass. Parents MUST attend with the child.

Ages 3-5: Aquanauts - Activities for this group includes Adventure Science, Adventure Art, Story time, Adventure Broadway Theatre, Pirate Parade and Theme Nights.
Hours: At Sea: 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.In Port: Thirty minutes prior to the first shore excursion to 5 p.m. or return of last shore excursion, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Ages 6-8: Explorers - Activities for this group include Adventure Science, Adventure Art, Adventure Broadway Theatre, Pirate Parade, Talent Show, Dance Parties and Theme Nights.
Hours: At Sea: 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. In Port: Thirty minutes prior to the first shore excursion to 5 p.m. or return of last shore excursion, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Ages 9-11: Voyagers - Activities for this group include Adventure Science, Adventure Art, Adventure Broadway Theatre, Dance Parties, Sports & Theme Nights.
At Sea: 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.In Port: Thirty minutes prior to the first shore excursion to 5 p.m. or return of last shore excursion, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Teens 12-14: Special teen only clubs/lounges like Fuel, The Living Room and The Back Deck. Activities include Improv Games, DJ 101, Mocktail competition, Dodgeball, Open Mic and Talent Show, ice-skating rink is yours on all Voyager and Freedom ships, Teen BBQ, Dive-In Movie and Pool Party, Meet the Stars Backstage tour, Dance Dance Revolution, Adventure Theatre, Teen Casino, Unplugged Jam Sessions, A Snowball Fight in the Caribbean and Rockwall Climbing Competition.
Hours: Activities are scheduled throughout the day and early evening. The Teen Center is open from 10:30 p.m.- 2:00 a.m. each evening. Young teens are welcome to come and hang out and join in activities, make new friends, and dance or just listen to music.

Teens 15-17: Special teen only lounges/clubs like Fuel, The Living Room and The Back Deck. Activities include, Battle of the Sexes, DJ 101, Dodgeball, Teen Casino, open Mic Night, ice-skating rink is yours on all Voyager and Freedom ships, Dive-In Movie and Pool Party, Sneak Peek Backstage, Unplugged Jam Sessions, Rockwall Climbing Competition and RCCL Idol.
Hours: Activities are scheduled throughout the day and early evening. The Teen Center is open from 10:30 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. each evening. Teens are welcome to come and hang out and join in activities, make new friends, and dance or just listen to music.

Holland America:

Notes: Children must be 3 and 100% potty trained to participate in youth program. Pull ups and diapers not allowed.

Ages 3-7 - Club HAL® - Kids participate in such activities as story telling, fabric painting, indoor games, arts and crafts, drawing contests, ice-cream sundae parties, puzzles, bingo, pirate treasure hunts or a farewell pizza party.

Ages 8-12 Club HAL® - Tweens might learn golf putting, have disco parties and theme parties, participate in the award-winning National Park Service Jr. Ranger Program on Alaska cruises, compete in on-deck sports events, compete in scavenger hunts or simply play Ping-Pong with a friend.

Ages 13-17 The Loft and The Oasis: Teens will especially enjoy the teen disco, karaoke sessions, video games, teen sports tournaments, card games, trivia contests, bingo, movies and videos. When there are more than 100 children on board, a HAL Talent Show is offered. (The Oasis is not available on all Vista-class ships)

On the Prinsendam, youth activities are offered for ages 5-17. All other ships offer youth activities for ages 3-17.

Hours: Times vary based on age group, number of children on board and staffing:
Sea Day - Morning, Afternoon and Evening Activities
Port Day - Morning, Afternoon and Evening Activities
Extended Hours - Club HAL® After Hours is available on all ships (except the ms Prinsendam) from 10:00pm - 12:00am. The fee is $5 per child, per hour. Parents must pick up their children on time or a late fee is charged. For babysitting outside of the hours offered in Club HAL, guests may check at the Front Office to schedule this service provided by staff on a voluntary basis only.

HAL Kids Culinary Workshops are geared toward two age groups; ages three to seven and ages eight and up. Teenagers 15 and up may participate in the adult classes.
The menus range from simple to teen gourmet. Classes are usually limited to fifteen students unless otherwise noted. All classes are hands-on and each student receives copies of the recipes prepared in class. All classes are complimentary and last approximately one hour.

HAL baby-sitting services are available for a small surcharge. Special-kid friendly birthday parties can also be arranged with advance notice.

Special Needs - HAL Youth Programs recognize that some children may have special needs. Special needs children are invited to attend activities based on their chronological age. HAL Youth Programs have many staff trained to work with special needs children. Guests should make HAL aware of this when booking their reservation.

Important HAL Notes
A limited number of high chairs, booster seats and cribs are available at no charge. These must be reserved in advance at the time of booking. An international children's menu is offered at dinner and includes a variety of appetizers, salads and soups, and standard items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and chicken, plus chef's specials like beef tacos, grilled cheese, fish and chips or spaghetti.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Notes: Accepts children as young as 2 in their Kid's Crew Facilities. Children do NOT need to be potty trained. The parent will be paged (beeper) when a diaper change is necessary. Kids under 2 cruise at a substantially reduced fare and certain itineraries offer specials on 3rd and 4th guests in the same stateroom. Infants under six months of age are not eligible for travel on NCL ships.

Ages 2-5 (Juniors) Activities include Storytelling & Painting, Developmental Activities, Age-specific Games and Family Activities

Ages 6-9 (First Mates) Children's Pool Area, Pizza Making Parties, Games, Crafts & Classes

Ages 10-12 (Navigators) Sports Activities, Team-building, Challenges, Games & Parties, Video Arcade

Ages 13-17 (Teens) Activities include Teen Disco, Sport and Activities, Video Arcade, Movies and Parties

Group-Sitting for NCL Kids

The “Late Night Party Zone” and “Port Play” are both group-sitting services for kid's ages 2-12 in the Kid's Crew Facilities.

The “Port Play” is offered from 9am-5pm to accommodate those parents booked on Shore Excursions. Sign up is 8pm the evening prior.

The “Late Night Party Zone” is offered nightly from 10pm-1am. The charges are $5.00 per hour, per child, and $3.00 per hour for each additional sibling in the same immediate family. Charges are applied directly to your onboard account. Sign up is 8pm the evening prior.

Celebrity Cruise Line

Notes : Celebrity would like to offer pagers to use while onboard should they have a child with disabilities, special needs, allergies or in the event you wish to participate in their fun filled youth activities. Pagers are first come-first serve and have limited availability. *(Not available on Century, Galaxy & Mercury).

Children must be 3 and 100% potty trained to participate in the activities.

Hours: Sea Days 9-6PM no charge. Dinner is at 6PM and there is a fee of $ 6 per child. 7-10PM free of charge. $ 6 per child per hour from 10PM-1AM.
Port days 9-12PM free, 12PM-2PM lunch ($6 fee per child), 2PM- 6PM free, 6PM-7PM kids dinner ($6), 7-10PM free of charge. 10PM-1AM $6 per hour per child.

Under 3's (Toddler Time) - Toddler Time Children participating in organized X-Club events must be age 3 and fully potty trained. However you can accompany your child to the Fun Factory or any organized activity. Toddler Time is also offered to allow the parents of toddlers and their children to interact with other children their age. The X-Club team will provide suitable toys and products for your toddlers. Please check the X-Club daily program for times and locations. In accordance with USPH policies and standards, Celebrity has provided each vessel with lavatory based changing tables and baby wipes.

Ages 3-6 (Ship Mates) Activities Include: Theme Parties, Treasure Hunt, T-shirt Decorating, Talent Show, Arts & Crafts, Dancing and Musical Games, Play Stations, Cartoon Trivia, Ball Pit, Ship Tours, Movies, Ice Cream & Pizza Parties

Ages 7-9 (Celebrity Cadets) Activities Include: Theme Parties, Relay Races, Team Trivia, Arts & Crafts, Play Stations, Movies, T-shirt Decorating, Fitness Activities, Ship Tours, Talent Show, Outdoor Games, Ice Cream & Pizza Parties

Ages 10-12 (Ensigns) Activities Include: Pool Olympics, Scavenger Hunts, Karaoke, Talent Show, Theme Parties, T-shirt Decorating, Sports Activities, Team Challenges, Initiative Games, Movies, Play Stations and Late Night Pizza Parties

Ages 13-15 & 16-17 (Admiral T's) Activities Include: Theme Parties, Scavenger Hunts, Teen Late Night Dancing, Pool Olympics, Sports Tournaments, Team Trivia, Karaoke, Talent Show, Play Stations and Fitness Activities

Princess Cruise Line

Fun Zone Activities Ages 3-7 (Princess Pelicans) and Ages 8-12 (Shockwaves)
On all Vessels except Tahitian and Pacific Princess you'll find completely equipped Youth Centers. The Princess Pelicans and Shockwaves programs offer activities such as: Arts and crafts, Discos, Movies and Cartoons, Exclusive Kids Only Dining, Video Games, Edutainment Programs, Scavenger Hunts, Karaoke and talent shows, Afternoon Ice Cream Parties, Pizza Parties, Hall of Fame Tournaments, Shipboard Olympics, T-Shirt Coloring, Pajama Parties, Theme parties
Please note that on Diamond, Caribbean, Sapphire, and Star Princess, age groups for the children's program may differ from those listed.

Ages 13-17 - Teen Centers are packed with Playstation® 2, the latest movies & music, Karaoke, giant screen TVs, card games, board games, ping pong tables and juke boxes. In addition to all these features, on Grand and Golden Princess, teens have a separate Jacuzzi and sun deck area made just for them. They also offer teen-age passengers a wide range of activities such as: teens-only dance parties, the Dating Game, T-shirt painting, sports tournaments, Karaoke and talent shows, Casino night, pizza parties, mocktails, hip hop dance classes, and teen dinners.
Please note that the Pacific and Tahitian Princess do not have dedicated Teen Centers.

Princess Group Kidsitting at Night
For your convenience, group kidsitting for children ages 3 to 12 years is offered on all vessels except Royal, Tahitian and Pacific Princess, from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. for a charge of $5.00 per hour per child.

Princess Port Day Activities
Our Youth and Teen Centers are open while in port from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A supervised complimentary lunch service is available with parental consent.

Princess Kid Dinners
As part of the Princess Kids program, Junior cruisers will also be able to participate in two special dinner evenings designed for each age group. Younger passengers will enjoy dinner without parents and in the company of new found friends and counselors in one of their ship's many eateries. For teens, one of the two evenings will feature a special evening get-together in one of the main dining rooms, complete with group photograph and a night out to enjoy Princess' many evening offerings.

Costa Cruise Line

Special Notes: Free nighttime group babysitting service available till 1am for Mini and Maxi club members (3-11 years old)

Hours: every day from 9:00 pm to midday, from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm and from 9:00 pm to 11:30 pm. This is a free group service.

Mini from 3 to 6 years
Maxi from 7 to 11
Teen Junior from 12 to 14
Teen from 15 to 17. Teen Junior is only active during certain periods.

Children under the age of 3 are allowed to enter and stay in the room only during certain times (not during busy times in high season) and must be accompanied by an adult.

2 THEMED DINNERS PER CRUISE JUST FOR KIDS with a menu designed by our chef for our younger guests. The children's program is called Fun@sea and is handed out to all children upon boarding by a member of our entertainment staff. The program shows the exact times of the different daytime and evening activities.

Activities include: Preparing costumes for themed evenings, Volleyball, Basketball, Painting t-shirts, Table tennis, Young sculptors! With plasticine and balloons, Table football, Edutainment activities in collaboration with the WWF, Hoops, Let's color the giant Squok, Games and tournaments in the pool and "steal the flag" in the water, Creativity and imagination courses, Bowling, Sailing knots course, Shuffleboard, Treasure hunt, Ice cream, Nutella and chocolate parties, Interview with the Captain, Spooky Halloween party, Sea game and WWF, Giant Memory Game, Pirate party, Squolympics (Olympics for young athletes and friends of Squok), An evening at the circus, Group dancing lessons, Games at the Squokkotheque (Squok's disco), Ship rally, Fun fair and face painting, Fun Quiz and Fancy dress parades with Squok.

Welcome to cruising with children!

I am here to tell you that cruising with children is not only possible, but it is actually one of the best family vacations out there. Believe it or not, it's economical too! There is no resort in the world where you can go to sleep in one country and wake up in another.

Every year cruise lines are adding more and more amenities to make the ships more family friendly. Gone are the stuffy days of ships for an elite class only. ANYONE can cruise. There is a ship for everyone.

Some offer in cabin sitting. Some offer water areas for non-potty trained infants/toddlers. With this blog, I will try to lay out the differences between the mainstream lines and help you find the perfect fit for your family.

I hope you find the tips helpful and I would love to hear feedback and answer specific cruising with kids questions that you may have.