Cruising is an excellent choice for a family or multigenerational vacation, even for families with young children. Great cruise vacation options do exist for families with little ones ages six months and older, although cruise line offerings for young children vary substantially. Parents and grandparents should carefully research their cruise options and choose a ship that will maximize their vacation enjoyment.
While most cruise lines’ full-day, free of charge children's programs start at three years of age, Carnival Cruise Lines' free fleetwide children’s program begins at age two. In addition, Carnival’s Youth Staff is allowed to change diapers for children under three which can be a major plus for many parents. The cruise line also offers a number of other family-friendly programs and activities that are sure to please both parents and tiny tots.
If you're thinking about cruising with children ages two and under, take a look at five of the great amenities Carnival Cruise Lines offers for families with little ones:
1. Free Children’s Programs For Ages 2 and Up: Carnival Cruise Lines expects to carry over 700,000 children on their fleet of ships this year - almost half of the number of kids cruising yearly, making Carnival the leader in family cruising. Carnival’s children’s and teens programs start at age 2 and they're free of charge for guests on all ships. Carnival’s new marine-themed Camp Ocean debuted on the Carnival Freedom and will be replacing Carnival’s existing Camp Carnival program on all ships by 2016. Carnival’s Camp Ocean program includes over 200 activities for kids and each age group has their own fun space. Camp Ocean’s “Penguins” group includes kids ages 2-5, so families with younger siblings who are close in age would be paired together here. Carnival also goes out of its way to accommodate siblings, often agreeing to move children up an age group to be with another sibling if the child does well. In addition, the Youth Staff changes diapers as part of Carnival’s camp program. Parents of little ones still in diapers must bring along a diaper bag with supplies when they check their child into the program. Parents of children 3 and under are given a communications device to help stay in touch on the ship if they need to be contacted. Children in swim diapers are not allowed in the pools or water play areas on Carnival ships.
Carnival's Camp Ocean generally runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Kids in the “Penguins” 2-5 age group can eat dinner with the Camp Ocean Youth Counselors each evening (free of charge) if desired. Parents can also leave their kids in the Camp Ocean program on days when the ship is in port and go off exploring on their own. Parents on a Carnival excursion can show their tickets to the Youth Staff so that in an emergency, the Youth Staff can contact the tour operator who will let parents know to return to the ship. This makes participating in Carnival’s shore excursions very advantageous. For those on non-Carnival independent excursions, the Youth Staff will try to contact the tour operator if it becomes necessary, but reaching them is not guaranteed.
2. Daytime Babysitting for Kids Under 2: Carnival knows that parents of wee ones need to enjoy some alone time, too. That’s why the cruise line has set aside specific hours when the Carnival's Youth Staff is available to take care of kids ages 2 and under. On days at sea, parents can leave their children under 2 with the camp's Youth Staff from 8-10 a.m. for a fee of $6.75 per hour plus a 15% gratuity, per child. The Camp Ocean facilities are also exclusively available to parents and children under 2 during those hours. If parents would like to stay and play with their children in the Camp Ocean facilities during that time period, they can do so free of charge. During days when ships are in port, Camp Ocean’s care for children under two starts 15 minutes before the first tour until 12 noon, or from 1-5 p.m. for ships arriving in port after noon. Camp Ocean is only available for drop-off care on port days. The fee for children under two is $6.75 per hour plus a 15% gratuity, per child.
3. Evening Babysitting for Kids Ages 6 Months and Up: Late nights are fun times on Carnival’s Fun Ships, with lots of activities and venues for parents to enjoy. To take advantage of all that the ships offer, parents can let their kids participate in Carnival’s “Night Owls” program. This nightly activity offers group babysitting from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. during the cruise. Parents of little ones under 2 should be aware that children ages 2-11 will be participating in this program, too. Children do not have to be potty trained to take part in these activities. Carnival’s “Night Owls” program takes place in the ship’s children’s camp facilities. Activities include movie time, playing with toys and video games, and enjoying room service snacks. Pillows and blankets are available for sleeping and Pack & Plays are provided for little ones. Participation in the “Night Owls” program costs $6.75 per hour plus a 15% gratuity, per child.
4. Fun Family Spaces: While having some alone time is important, parents want to spend time together with their little ones making family memories on vacation. Bookville, currently available on the Carnival Freedom, is the perfect place for parents to read with their tots and play together. This Dr. Seuss-inspired space features colorful furniture, whimsical Dr. Seuss caricatures on the walls, and a wide variety of Dr. Seuss books and related games. Carnival’s standard staterooms tend to be large, providing parents with more separation from sleeping little ones. Children will love the adorable towel animals cabin stewards leave in their stateroom each night. If your tot wants to keep one or all of them for the entire voyage, just let your cabin steward know.
5. Delightful Seuss At Sea Programs: As part of an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Carnival is rolling out Seuss At Sea – a series of fun family dining and entertainment experiences. Little kids will enjoy participating in the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade and listening to the interactive storytelling at Seuss-a-palooza Story Time, all free events that are fun for the entire family. Another top feature of Seuss At Sea is the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends. At $5 per person, this great character breakfast is one of the best values at sea. Imaginative food straight out of Dr. Seuss books, such as Green Eggs and Ham, are served along with colorful pancakes, waffles, and other popular breakfast foods. In addition, much-loved Dr. Seuss characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and Sam are available for interactive meet & greets and photo opportunities. Dr. Seuss movies and themed photo opportunities are also offered throughout the cruise. Seuss At Sea programs are currently available on four Carnival ships and a total of eight ships (Carnival Splendor, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic, Carnival Legend and Carnival Liberty) will have the program by the end of 2014. Fleetwide implementation is expected to be completed by 2015.
For more information on Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships and family cruise vacation options, visit http://www.carnival.com.