by Fran Golden
When it comes to family travel, happy kids make happy parents. Fortunately cruise ships have all sorts of attractions to keep kids entertained.
Top lines run well-established children’s programs where youngsters can make new friends while participating in organized activities – the best youth counselors are so good that parents may have trouble getting their progeny to leave the programs for some family time.
Shipboard facilities include pools and basketballs courts and other attractions include all the burgers and fries and ice cream you can eat. The new ships also have a bevvy of “wow” attractions that allow for family bonding and will excite even the fussiest teenager.
Here are five cruises that will make your kid say thanks.
Anthem of the Seas. With FlowRider simulated surfing machines and rock-climbing walls, Royal Caribbean ships are family play centers. The line has an excellent youth program, Adventure Ocean, for kids and teens (there’s even an option for babies and tots). DreamWorks Animation characters including Shrek and Fiona make appearances and you can watch first-run DreamWorks movies, too. This new ship, cruising to the Caribbean from Bayonne, New Jersey, adds to the pizazz with a simulated sky diving experience (suitable for teens) and an amazing indoor SeaPlex where activities include bumper cars and roller-skating.
Norwegian Escape. The largest AquaPark in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet is on this new Miami-based ship and provides thrills and chills on multi-story waterslides slides. A tamer Kids’ Aqua Park has an open-flume body slide. At the largest Ropes Course at sea, older kids can try 99 challenges including ziplines, and there’s also a Kids’ Ropes Course for the pint-sized set. The largest Splash Academy kids’ program in the fleet features a Circus School and other enhanced activities (such as dodgeball and cupcake-making) and Norwegian Escape also has the line’s first-ever nursery.
Disney Fantasy. AquaDuck is the marquee attraction, a real watercoaster that you can do as many times as you want. All the Disney Cruise Line ships have the sort of expert kids’ programing you’d expect – even the well-produced shows and first-run movie showings are family friendly. There is plenty of opportunity to meet your favorite Disney characters from Mickey to the Disney princesses and the crew is excellent in getting even fussy eaters interested in dining. The icing on the cake on this Port Canaveral-based ship is new Star Wars Day at Sea sailings where you can party like a Jedi Master.
Carnival Freedom. Carnival Cruise Line’s Camp Ocean program includes a marine learning aspect. Little kids might be encouraged to play penguin colony while their older siblings create a giant ocean mural. Waterparks on select Carnival “Fun Ships” feature Twister slides and giant water dump buckets that elicit squeals of delight from the young set. Cat in the Hat and other Dr. Seuss characters onboard thrill readers. Towel animals are a bedtime treat and appear in a poolside parade. On this Galveston-based ship there’s the bonus for teens of spin-n-scratch classes designed by DJ Irie, the official DJ of the Miami Heat.
National Geographic Endeavour. While a cruise in the Galapagos with soft adventure operator Lindblad Expeditions is not for everyone (for one thing, it’s expensive), spotting wildlife in the wild is something the kids will cherish. The Ecuadorian crew treats the kids to such experiences as driving a Zodiac and a pizza-and-movie night. Kids are encouraged to fill a journal with listings of creatures they spot – such as sea lions, blue-footed boobies, turtles and penguins.
Photo courtesy of Norwegian Escape