There was a time when vacation days spent on a ship would have spelled big-time boredom for kids. Hardly a happy prospect for parents, left with scant incentive to consider a cruise for a family getaway. No more. Today onboard adventures abound—captivating enough to convince kids of all ages that they’ve plunged down the rabbit hole into a seagoing wonderland.
As for Mom and Dad—they’re not the only ones who would welcome a fun trip with offspring in tow. “We’ve had a lot of interest in multi-gen travel,” notes Cruise Planners franchise owner Christopher Lingren. “So many grandparents want the quality time that comes from vacations together with their grandkids.”
Savvy cruise industry leaders, known for their respective ever-vigilant eyes on travel trends, have responded not only with parent-pleasing offerings such as kids’ clubs for all age groups, customized land tours, and family-friendly accommodations (Holland America, for one, will introduce 32 new 2-bathroom staterooms designed for five people when Koningsdam debuts this spring), but with an array of onboard attractions, activities, and entertainment guaranteed to entice even the most
Lingren, citing his clients’ experiences as well as his own family travels, points to Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Disney as stellar examples when it comes to entertaining youngsters.
“From waterslides, mini-golf, and ropes courses, to ‘how to draw’ and age-based cooking classes,” he says, “these brands excel at offering a plethora of fun for the
Aboard new Royal Caribbean vessels, it’s wet-and-wild lures that are making a mighty splash—most notably The Ultimate Abyss, to be unveiled when the 5,497-passenger Harmony of the Seas bows in May. The Abyss—a pair of side-by-side slides, towering some 10 stories and swirling adrenaline-seekers through a twisting, 100-ft. drop—joins watery forces with the Perfect Storm trio of slides and Splashaway Bay interactive aqua park. Then there’s Anthem of the Seas, sailing into New York harbor last fall—home base for Caribbean jaunts—with RipCord, the first skydiving experience at sea, and SeaPlex, a grand activity space boasting bumper cars, roller skating, and a circus school.
With Norwegian, it’s the aptly named Norwegian Escape that beckons with its dedicated Kids’ Aqua Park encompassed by a big Aqua Park that features four multistory water slides. There’s also a 3-story ropes course (again, there’s a smaller kids’ rope course, as well), along with areas for mini-golf, bocce ball, and basketball. Plus Splash Academy—the most expansive youth area in the fleet. Designed for children ages 3-12, Splash Academy is the place to learn, among other things, Circus School skills.
On Disney Fantasy, the legendary Star Wars saga lives on this year with day-long celebrations during select sailings, including April 2 and 16. Transporting cruisers to a galaxy far, far away (as in, the Western Caribbean) are deck parties, meet-and-greet events with iconic characters (look, Mom, it’s Chewbacca!), trivia games, and showings of all seven films in the famed series along with the new Disney XD animated series, “Star Wars Rebels.” Meanwhile, adults in the family can re-live cantina entertainment with themed cocktails.
Cruisers aboard the new Carnival Vista will be taking to the air with SkyRide, pedaling hanging bicycles across an elevated 800-ft. track—while soaking up vistas of the sea 150 ft. below. Adjacent to SkyRide will be SportSquare, an alfresco area with a ropes course, mini-golf, and a jogging track. There’s also an indoor sports hangout for bowling, ping-pong, and sporty video games. Carnival Vista—showing off new 2-bathroom Family Harbor Cabins for five people and the Family Harbor Lounge with games and snacks—is set to enter service from Europe on May 1, repositioning to New York for a series of November voyages. Late November will bring the launch of year-round Caribbean jaunts from Miami.
Holland America spotlights creative activity with its Culinary Arts Center for kids, where two age groups—ages 3-7 and 8-15—learn to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus snacks in 45-minute workshops conducted by the ship’s chef and staff. Lively demonstrations are open to all ages. Teens will revel in the new Koningsdam (the naming ceremony is scheduled for May 20 in Rotterdam) Music Walk, an upbeat space featuring various genres of music, including Billboard Onboard, where live performers rock the crowd with chart-toppers.
More music, from concerts to productions, will beckon both teens and parents to The World Stage, a trend-setting seagoing venue at two stories high and 250 ft. long, with high-definition LED screens. “Entertainment is a huge part of the cruise experience,” says HAL president Orlando Ashford, “and with Koningsdam we’re taking that experience to a whole new level and trying things that have never been seen on our ships before.”
MSC spokeswoman Danielle Sorresso points out MSC Divina as perfect for a family cruise featuring cooking classes,
where youngsters are taught basic baking skills, and language courses, where they learn basic sentences in six languages. “During our LEGO Experience Day,” she says, “kids and their parents compete in LEGO-themed competitions and games, and kids who participate can earn their LEGO Junior Master Builder diploma. We’ve also introduced a new aspect of entertainment where children aboard put on a live
Carnival Cruise Lines: carnival.com
Disney Cruise Line: disneycruise.com
Holland America Line: hollandamerica.com
MSC Cruises: msccruisesusa.com
Norwegian Cruise Line: ncl.com
Royal Caribbean International: royalcaribbean.com