Family cruising just got even more fun with Carnival Cruise Lines. It unveiled Camp Ocean a new marine-themed children’s program coming to its fleet. If you are setting sail this summer, Camp Ocean is set to debut on Carnival Freedom on May 24. The new program will immerse children ages 2-11 in the wonders of the sea through fun, engaging and educational experiences. More than 200 new ocean-inspired activities will range from educational games, such as Sea Creature Discovery, Marine Life Trivia, Under the Sea Mad Libs and Ocean Artifacts Memory Tray, to creative arts opportunities such as Design Your Own Aquarium, Make Your Own Sailboat, Sea Salt Art, and Create a Penguin from Oreos.
Camp Ocean, which replaces Camp Carnival, will welcome youngsters with light blue and white underwater colored spaces and friendly, experienced staff. Three age-related categories will each have their own identity: children ages 2-5 will be dubbed “Penguins,” with those ages 6-8 called “Sting Rays” while 9-11 year olds will be “Sharks.”
The new Camp Ocean activities span across 11 key categories of play, including the core themes of active play, games, free play, arts and crafts and digital, coupled with additional categories such as role play, music, party time, science and discovery, social and food fun, all designed to find the ideal combination of activities catering to children’s varied interests.
Carnival will also introduce a Badge Challenge as part of Camp Ocean, which will provide the opportunity for kids to earn and collect badges as a special memento of their cruise. Badge challenges will include a variety of unique activities that provide an original way for kids to learn about their vessel, experience onboard adventures and gain a sense of accomplishment. After completing tasks which may include trying a new food, making an aquatic towel animal or riding the water slide, children will collect corresponding Camp Ocean badges.
It might be time to think about a Carnival Cruise. If your children are as obsessed with Dr. Seuss as my children are, you should know that Carnival Cruise Lines has launched Seuss at Sea onboard the Carnival Splendor, which currently sails to the Bahamas. The Carnival Splendor is the first “Fun Ship” to offer Seuss at Sea, a fleetwide program that features youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences inspired by the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss.
My daughters, who fancy themselves Thing One and Thing Two already, would be thrilled to dine with the Cat in the Hat, and a character breakfast onboard would make their dreams come true. Good thing that’s just what’s on offer. Onboard, kids (young and old) can enjoy a character dining breakfast with the Cat in the Hat himself, as well as a variety of other characters, including Thing One, Thing Two and Sam-I-Am who will join guests at their tables for fun interactions and photo opportunities.
Also debuting on Carnival Splendor is Seuss-a-palooza Story Time, an interactive reading event for kids of all ages, hosted in a vibrant, custom-created tent on the stage of the main show lounge. There is also the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade, where guests join Dr. Seuss characters in a swirly conga line along Carnival Splendor’s promenade.
It’s great to be able to take a vacation and also encourage children to read and learn and another great feature of this new program is that Carnival Splendor is stocked with a selection of classic Dr. Seuss books, toys and games and is hosting special showings of beloved movies such as “The Cat in the Hat” on the giant outdoor Dive-In Movies screen.
The next ship to launch the new Seuss at Sea program is Carnival Freedom, which will be outfitted with a variety of specially designed Dr. Seuss spaces following its multimillion-dollar makeover this spring. For Los Angeles residents who can’t wait to experience this new program but don’t think flying to Miami is the way to go — you won’t have to wait too long. Fleetwide roll out of Seuss at Sea is expected by 2015, and the program will also be featured on the new Carnival Vista which is set to debut in 2016.
I’m crossing one more destination off of my bucket list tomorrow — Ecuador‘s Galapagos Islands. It’s going to be tough to beat my last adventure in Veracruz, Mexico, where I made so many great friends, conquered my fear of bugs, heights, the jungle and the dark and defied death on a class-IV rapid, repelled down a 130-foot cliff and swam in several dodgy bodies of water.
When my daughter, Ava, was 9 months old, I took her on her first cruise. She had just started to walk and was barely talking. Of course, as a new mom and as new parents, we didn’t know what to expect onboard, so we packed eveything we possibly could. After, several subsquent cruises our toddler, I have cruising with a small child down to a science, and have learned a few things along the way.
All Ships Are Not Equal
First, not all cruise ships are created equal. This may seem obvious but, just because one ship has a toddler program, a baby welcome package or other amenities for small children, doesn’t mean that all of the ships that the cruise line operates have the same features. For example, on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, there is a robust toddler program with kids club facilities and more, however, this is an amenity that has yet to be introduced fleetwide.
Many newer ships have great features for toddlers. The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas offer programs for toddlers and complete nursery facilities.However, older ships still have limited facilities and, an important aspect to make note of is that they also require children to be potty-trained before entering the pool area. That means no swim diapers are allowed. Obviously, there are no potty police, but it’s something parents should be aware of before planning a trip and thinking that, instead of time in the kids’ club, you’ll be heading to the pool.
It’s a good idea for agents to stay abreast on all the amenities offered onboard each ship, especially for families traveling with small children.
To bring a stroller or not: That is the question. When my daughter first cruised, it was an absolute necessity. I wouldn’t have left home without it. But be aware that onboard the ship, there are several areas that aren’t stroller friendly and often times, we found ourselves plucking our daughter out of her chair and carrying her and it up stairs or over ledges. This was particularly true during the safety drill as well as during busy times when the elevator was full.
I would suggest that, if your toddler is old enough, take a look at what shore excursions and activities you are going to be participating in, as well as flight schedules, before making the decision about whether or not to lug a stroller around with you. If, let’s say, you have direct flights, are staying close to the ship on shore excursions and your toddler is pretty capable when it comes to walking, I would leave the wheels at home. It just becomes a hassle.
When it comes to cruising, access to food is almost a no-brainer, but a very young child who is still on formula or a picky eater, might find themselves in foreign territory.
One of the best things you can do is request to have a refrigerator in your room. This is so handy with young children. I know that, when my daughter was young, she always woke up wanting a bottle or a sippy cup of milk. We would bring down some milk or order some from room service and stash extras in the fridge so that we would always have some on hand.
We also did this with snacks such as yogurt and cereal. This way, mom and dad could relax en suite without having to run out and grab a meal, bring something back all while relinquishing precious hours of vacation sleep-in time.
For picky eaters, a fridge is a great place to stow some foods that you know your toddler will eat and that you can buy in town, in case they are not available onboard.
One of the best things about cruising is that if your toddler has a favorite food in the dining room, the waitstaff will usually make every effort to bring it out every night making dining “out” actually a pleasant experience.
Out and About
While onboard activities are easily managed, time away from the ship should be a fun time, too. When selecting a cruise for the toddler set, be sure to check out shore excursions in advance. Cruise lines do a great job of offering a variety of activities that are fun for every mobility level, but some can be more enjoyable for kids than others, and families don’t always want to spend every day doing the beach trip or the bus tour – and the kids don’t either.
The first step should be to decide what you would like to do and keep your expectations reasonable — obviously, junior isn’t going ziplining.
Also, spend your excursion dollars wisely. Some ideas are to plan your own activities, which in some destintions, such as Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, can be easier than traveling with a big group. You can stroll through the city center in Cabo, hit up the tourist market and the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta and more. Sightseeing in this manner can be done at your own pace and can be more relaxing than traveling with a large group.
The last piece of advice is that when it comes to packing, less is more. When I took my daughter on her first cruise and packed everything I could find, we were weighed down by diapers, formula, toys, clothes and more. When it comes to packing, I suggest using a service such as TK, which will ship diapers, formula and more straight to the ship without the hassle of extra luggage.
Also, many cruise lines lend toys from their kids’ clubs to keep young ones entertained.
So, with all that said, my final suggestion is to do your research. If you investigate all of these aspects before you select your cruise, sailing with a toddler can be one of the most enjoyable vacation experiences around. l