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Aqua parks and towering waterslides. Skydiving and ziplining. Fun-for-all games and crafts and cooking classes. Tours custom-designed for kid appeal. Wide-ranging restaurant and menu styles sure to please picky eaters of any age. Roomy quarters purpose-built for a perfect family fit.

A look at the 2017 crop of seagoing vessels reveals such a wave-making bounty of family-friendly features that your clients likely can’t resist the urge to round up the tribe and set sail.

“When we think of family cruising, often Disney is the first cruise line to come to mind,” says Janet DeVito, New Jersey-based Dream Vacations franchise owner and vacation specialist. “Yes, it’s a kids’ paradise. But it surprises many to discover that it is also a parents’ paradise. They not only entertain the kids, but the ships have a fabulous adult-centered entertainment area so parents can also enjoy ‘me’ time.”

The whole gang will revel in Disney’s newest deck party that shows off a stunning pyrotechnics display plus the mightiest gathering of Marvel Super Heroes and Super Villains at sea. “We have new entertainment and experiences happening across the Disney Cruise Line fleet,” says Cal Almaguer, v.p. of domestic travel industry for Disney Destinations. “We’re especially excited about our first-ever Marvel Day at Sea on select sailings from New York in the fall of 2017 and from Miami in early 2018.” Adults and kids can compete in games and unleash their inner Super Heroes on Disney Magic Bahamian cruises departing New York in October and November, and one Canadian Coast voyage from New York on Oct 21.

Also new are Disney Wonder sailings from Vancouver in July that call on Alaska’s Icy Strait Point. Among adventures on tap is a zipline that ranks as one of the longest and highest in the world. On May 13 Disney Magic embarks on a transatlantic crossing from Port Canaveral with a first-time Amsterdam stop along the way.

On a family cruise, notes Peter Grant, senior director of entertainment operations for Norwegian Cruise Line, “Bonding experiences are around every corner. Activities range from the serene, like lounging poolside, to the extreme, like taking the plunge down one of our waterslides. The cruise and youth staffs host wacky games where kids can go head-to-head with their parents. Youngsters of all ages can find their happy place in our complimentary youth programs, and in a first for the line, guests
on board Norwegian Escape can take advantage of the Guppies Nursery drop-off childcare service.”

Camille Olivere, Norwegian’s senior v.p. of sales, adds these tips to share with your clients. “Adjoining staterooms and staterooms that sleep five are in limited supply so the earlier booked, the better selection. Also, some of the popular shore excursions for families sell out during peak periods, so encourage booking in advance. From a specialty restaurant perspective, make sure to recommend Teppanyaki. Children really get a kick out of the chef’s amazing preparation rituals and stunts.”

Holland America, which last year introduced its first purpose-built staterooms for families aboard Koningsdam, is this year launching Explorations Central (called EXC), a new information service where clients can learn all about the ships’ destinations in advance. “Cruising is especially suited for family and multigenerational travel,” points out Eva Jenner, v.p., sales. “It’s very easy to coordinate from six to 40 on a cruise ship and have plenty of bonding moments while also allowing for individual preferences. When it comes to family travel, two areas that are a must for travel professionals to know about are Alaska and Canada/New England.”

Baby club on board MSC Cruises.
Baby club on board MSC Cruises.

With a fresh focus on its fledgling passengers, Princess Cruises, in partnership with Discovery Consumer Products, is announcing a new multimillion dollar investment in reimagined youth centers. “As part of our Come Back New Promise (the line’s $450 million, multiyear update kicked off last year), “we are recommitting to our youngest cruisers and their families,” says Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “Through the Discovery brands, we have enriching new content to add to our offerings and we’re incorporating interactive and age-specific design elements to give our younger cruisers the ultimate onboard experience.” Included are three centers that will cater respectively to groups age 3-7, 8-12, and 13-17. Also in the Princess mix are additional interconnecting staterooms, for a total of 23 two-room options.

Notes James Rodriguez, executive v.p., Oceania Cruises, “While Oceania does not specifically market itself as a family cruise line and we don’t have dedicated children’s programs other than on select sailings in Alaska, we are certainly family-friendly. Onboard, there are myriad activities that are ideal for all ages—trivia contests,
nature talks, scavenger hunts, board games and tournaments, arts and crafts classes, and deck games such as golf, ping pong
and shuffleboard.”

Alaska? Rodriguez cites an abundance of options such as a jeep and canoe safari, rainforest adventure, bicycling treks, glacier hiking, and dog-sledding. “In Alaska we offer a program designed for ages 5 to 12 with supervised activities,” he adds. Agents can best sell this segment by knowing their clients and doing a deep dive into what they want to take away. Selling upscale, small-ship cruises may require more time and effort, but the payoff is much larger in terms of the commission they earn and the annuity they create in terms of loyal repeat business.”

MSC is designing its new builds—MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside—with multigenerational travel in mind,” says Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises USA. “We’re designing open modular family-connected staterooms that can be sold as either three standard staterooms or one accommodating up to 10 people.” He advises clients to book early for choice of stateroom and also shore excursions that the whole family wants to do together.

Fusaro continues, “When traveling with parents in the same stateroom, kids 11 and under always sail free. Kids 13-17 receive a significant discount as the third or fourth in a stateroom. Children eat from a kids’ menu in the main dining room while parents are enjoying their first course; youth staffers then pick up the children for fun evening activities while their parents finish dinner. Also, in a partnership with Chicco, MSC offers a daily program for children under 3 to attend with their parents.”

Carnival Vista
Guests onboard Carnival Vista participate in SkyRide, an opportunity to pedal hanging recumbent-like bikes around an 800-foot-long suspended track some 150 feet above the sea.

Pointing out that Carnival Cruise Line carries more than an eye-popping 700,000 children annually, Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president, says, “Carnival Vista is our most family-friendly ship to date with incredible outdoor attractions and indoor spaces specifically designed with families in mind.” Ship activities—more than you can shake a selfie stick at—range from SkyRide, a suspended cycling experience, to WaterWorks, the fleet’s largest aqua park. Vista’s Family Harbor, a dedicated zone aft on Deck 2, encompasses 96 “family ergonomic” accommodations, including suites for five with two bathrooms. Plus a secluded lounge for the gang to hang out with their own concierge, and an assortment of benefits
and privileges.

Considering Royal Caribbean International’s roster of thrills—not the least of them being The Ultimate Abyss, Harmony of the Seas’ 10-story-tall slide that beckons the brave and bold—Vicki Freed, senior v.p., sales, trade support and service, is clearly not kidding when she says, “Royal Caribbean is known for its myriad of experiences that cater to all ages in a family. From waterslides, aqua parks, surfing, skydiving, and world-class entertainment to shore excursions and venues dedicated to kids and teens, there truly is something for everyone. Travel partners are able to leverage these selling points to accommodate their clients’ range of preferences.”

Contact Information
Carnival Cruise Line: carnival.com
Disney Cruise Line: disneycruise.disney.go.com
Holland America Line: hollandamerica.com
MSC Cruises: msccruisesusa.com/en-us/Homepage.aspx
Norwegian Cruise Line: ncl.com
Oceania Cruises: oceaniacruises.com
Princess Cruises: princess.com
Royal Caribbean International: royalcaribbean.com