Forget, “Are we there yet?” Today’s cruise lines’ family-friendly onboard facilities, accommodations and programs are made for exploring on the ship, rather than off.
Today’s parents crave a vacation experience that offers it all: adventure, entertainment and activities geared for their kids. But, hey, this is a vacation, so mom and dad want a little down time, too.
They also want to be comfortable in their temporary homes, and crave added value elements. With all this in mind, cruise lines are building ships and programs specifically for the family market, understanding that if you make the kids happy, the parents, and grandparents, will follow. Cruise lines also know for every child that comes aboard, he or she brings along at least one adult, and oftentimes siblings, more adults and even an extended group of family members.
“People want to spend quality recreational time with their families and a cruise provides the very best opportunity to do that on vacation,” says Lanie Morgenstern, director of communications for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). “Since most everything is included in the cost of a cruise—accommodations, meals, entertainment, children’s activity programs and more—cruises combine great value with the chance for families to experience a spectacular vacation together.”
Not surprisingly, then, more than 1.5 million children under the age of 18 took a cruise with their families last year, according to CLIA. So when selling families on a cruise, start with the basics. Let them know exactly how much of the cruise experience is designed just for them on many lines.
Carnival Cruise Lines, which is expected to carry 670,000 kids out of its four million guests this year, for example, “…has invested a tremendous amount of time and research into understanding what kids want and has created tailored facilities and programs to meet those expectations,” says Jennifer de la Cruz, company spokesperson/senior director, public relations for Carnival.
Carnival passengers will find water parks and family-oriented shore excursions and onboard activities. The new Carnival Magic boasts SportSquare with a one-of-a-kind ropes course and a variety of sporting activities, plus a two-level mini-golf course. The WaterWorks aquapark features a 312-ft. Twister waterslide and a 300-gallon dump bucket. What kid wouldn’t like that!
Carnival Magic, as well as Carnival Dream, has cabins for five that feature two bathrooms. Many of its ships offer inter-connecting staterooms, allowing for more space for families, and privacy when needed for parents.
All Disney Cruise Line ships offer its family-friendly and industry first bath-and-a-half staterooms, translating into more convenience and room. Other industry firsts can be found on its new Disney Dream, such as the AquaDuck water coaster and Magical Portholes that transform inside staterooms into rooms with magnificent views.
Disney Fantasy, which will begin sailing in spring 2012, will include many of the innovative features of sister ship Disney Dream, as well as a dinner show that brings guests’ drawings to life, a salon offering makeovers for princesses and pirates, and a new Broadway-style “Aladdin” production.
Character experiences, including meet-and-greets with such favorites as the Princesses, Mickey and pals, are a big part of every Disney cruise and a huge draw for families. But Disney is not the only cruise line that has well-known characters making the rounds to bring endless smiles to the kids.
On Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) voyages on Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Jewel, kids can pal around with Nickelodeon characters SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Starfish and Dora the Explorer during a Character Breakfast and meet and greets. Plus, the Nickelodeon All Access Cruise, which happens twice a year, offers meet-and-greets with the stars of Nickelodeon’s live-action shows including “iCarly” and “Victorious,” plus lots of opportunities to get “slimed” with Nickelodeon’s trademark green gook.
NCL had close to 300,000 children on board fleet-wide in 2010. Its core Freestyle Cruising concept with a range of entertainment and dining options, plus a relaxed dress code and a great kids’ program, is a good match for families, says Janet Kim, fleet youth program supervisor. Kids can even eat all day long in the Kid’s Cafe on many NCL ships. These cafes are specially designed with kid-sized furniture and a buffet at kid’s height filled with children’s favorites.
Cool family-friendly extra fun facilities on board include splash pools on many of its ships and on select ships, families can enjoy bowling, rock-climbing walls, and even the first rappelling wall at sea on Norwegian Epic.