Family Cruising Fun

The AquaDunk on board Disney Magic.
The AquaDunk on board Disney Magic.

Here’s a look at three cruise lines that know how to cater to the kid cruiser in all of us.

carnival cruise lines
Family-Friendly Staterooms: If you’re booking the 3,002-passenger Carnival Sunshine, which we recommend since it went through a $155 million refit last year and features all of the Fun Ship 2.0 bar, dining and entertainment elements, look for the 4-guest Balcony Staterooms, which feature two twin beds (convertible to king), one upper Pullman and single sofa bed, a full bathroom with shower, three closets, and a private balcony. The 4-guest Ocean View Staterooms offer a similar layout, but replace the balcony with a picture window (we’d pick these for families traveling with little ones who like to explore).

Onboard Fun: On board the Carnival Sunshine, families can hang out together while playing Hasbro, The Game Show, which features larger-than-life adaptations of the brand’s popular games. And of course, now Carnival offers Seuss at Sea with character breakfasts, parades and, well, the Cat in the Hat (need we say more?!).

Why Book Carnival: According to Joni Rein, v.p. of worldwide sales, Carnival Cruise Lines is the best choice for family cruising because “Carnival hosts more than 700,000 kids a year—the most of any cruise operator and roughly double what we carried a decade ago. We’re always looking to build upon our position as the family cruise leader. Most recently, we debuted Camp Ocean, an exciting new marine-themed children’s program that immerses children ages 2 to 11 in the wonders of the sea through more than 200 fun, engaging and educational experiences. We also recently introduced Seuss at Sea, an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises that brings the beloved brand and characters on board Carnival ships, and offers a variety of exciting and immersive family experiences. Fun for the entire family, Hasbro, The Game Show, is the cruise industry’s only live game show that features larger-than-life adaptations of the brand’s iconic games. These new features are not only wonderful additions to Carnival’s family-friendly programming but also offer travel agents an excellent tool for attracting more families and new cruisers to Carnival.”

Carnival Cruise Lines offers Seuss at Sea with character breakfasts.
Carnival Cruise Lines offers Seuss at Sea with character breakfasts.

Itinerary: From its homeport in Port Canaveral, Carnival Sunshine offers 3- to 8-day cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

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disney cruise line
Family-Friendly Staterooms: All the staterooms on Disney Cruise Line ships were made with families in mind, so you can recommend any type of accommodation, but if your clients are booking the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic, which was completely “re-imagined” last year, we recommend the 304-sq.-ft. Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah. It’s perfect for a family of five (or four, of course), offering a queen size bed, single convertible sofa, wall pull-down bed and upper berth pull-down bed, split bath (yes, we just said split bath!) with tub and shower (in most), and a heavy privacy curtain creating intimate spaces within the stateroom.

Onboard Fun: The 3-story AquaDunk body slide is a must for those with no fear of plummeting into complete darkness, and for the younger set who might not be quite ready to conquer the unknown, there’s the AquaLab, with a double-looping waterslide.

Why Book Disney Cruise Line: According to Maryellen Kline, regional sales director, Disney Destinations, “Disney Cruise Line has something for everyone to enjoy. There are many inclusions we feel add to the Disney differences and truly set us apart. On our ships we have rotational dining, which allows families to dine in multiple restaurants throughout their cruise at no additional charge. Rotational dining allows our guests to have the same wait staff each night, ensuring a high level of Disney service. Our children’s programming is unsurpassed and, in addition, we offer unique onboard experiences, such as character meet and greets and fireworks at sea. Our private island, Castaway Cay, offers multiple areas for guests of all ages to enjoy. We have a family beach with splashy playgrounds and plenty of room for the family to play. The adult beach, Serenity Bay, allows guests ages 18 and up to savor tranquility, and they can even enjoy massages with a view of the ocean. With many family-friendly favorites included, such as ice cream and soda on deck, Disney Cruise Line has truly thought of something to please everyone.”

Itinerary: New for 2015 is the Norwegian Fjords cruise, either seven or nine nights, as well as an 11-night Norwegian Fjords and Iceland itinerary on board the Disney Magic. The 7-night trip (departure date: June 6) starts off in Copenhagen, Denmark and visits Stavanger, Alesund, Geiranger and Bergen in Norway. The cruise includes stops in picturesque ports of call that are home to medieval and Art Nouveau architecture, cobblestone streets, and Hanseatic relics, and your clients will be blown away by the magnificence of their surroundings—glorious mountain ranges, massive glaciers, steaming geysers and those very same fjords that served as inspiration for the movie “Frozen.” The 9-night cruise (departure date: June 20) adds stops in Molde and Olden, while the 11-night itinerary (departure date: June 29) takes in Copenhagen; Oslo, Kristiansand and Stavanger, Norway; Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland; Torshavn, Faroe Islands; and Dover, England. Rates start at $1,561 pp for the 7-night; $2,133 for 9-night; and $2,453 for 11-night for a standard inside stateroom. Also, Disney Cruise Line ships get all gussied up for the holidays offering Very Merrytime Cruises with traditional “turkey day” fanfare, Christmas feasts, “snow flurries” and New Year’s Eve galas. To celebrate the holidays, the Disney Magic sails 7-night Western Caribbean cruises departing Nov. 23 to Dec. 28.

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Quantum of the Seas will offer fun-filled activities for the whole family in the form of the North Star.
Quantum of the Seas will offer fun-filled activities for the whole family in the form of the North Star.

royal caribbean
Family-Friendly Staterooms: The 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, which is set to debut in New York this November, will offer up to 16 Family Connected Junior Suites that the cruise line says are perfect for multi-generational families as it sleeps eight to 10 guests. These accommodations combine three different categories of staterooms that are connected through a vestibule to form a special layout that provides three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a balcony. For 4- to 5-member families, the Family Junior Suite with Balcony features a bedroom area with two twin beds that convert to a “Royal King,” full bathroom with tub, separate half bath, sitting area with sofa that converts to double bed, and a private balcony.

Onboard Fun: Your clients are going to want to jump all over these “first at sea” activities, including RipCord by iFly, the first skydiving experience at sea; and North Star, which takes guests 300 ft. in the air in a glass capsule to offer them 360-degree views of the surroundings. And, come on, who hasn’t wanted to drive bumper cars at sea—at the SeaPlex, an indoor active spa, there’ll be bumper cars, a circus school with flying trapeze and roller skating.

Itinerary: During the upcoming winter season, Quantum of the Seas will sail out of the New York Harbor to the Caribbean, and then in May 2015 it will reposition to China, to begin sailing 3- to 8-night itineraries year-round from Shanghai to Japan and Korea beginning in late-June. But not to worry, because Anthem of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas’ sister ship, which sets sail in April 2015, will complete her inaugural Europe season from London (Southampton), U.K., before arriving to Cape Liberty in November 2015 to continue Quantum-class cruising to the Bahamas and Caribbean for the 2015-16 winter season.

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CLIA’s WOW factors for family cruising (in a nutshell):

  • Seuss-themed fun on board Carnival ships with the Seuss at Sea program. It explores the world of Dr. Seuss through character breakfasts, Seuss-themed story time, parades, and arts & crafts.
  • Animator’s Palate on board the Disney ships. It’s a dinner/show combo that celebrates Disney animation with various shows, including “Drawn to Magic,” which highlights the evolution of animation and has kids jumping out of their seats, especially when Sorcerer Mickey enters the dining room for the grand finale.
  • Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center, which offers a special activity program designed just for kids, tweens and teens. The program teaches kids to prepare various dishes and snacks in complimentary classes, with preparations ranging from Bear Tracks (Alaska-theme cookies) and Denali Peaks (Alaska-theme scones), to fruit leather roll-ups and saltwater taffy.
  • MSC Cruises’ The DOREMI Family program, featuring family activities under the “friendly eye” of the line’s DOREMI mascot and his very own family. There are parades, shows, fairy tale time, a family disco, and talent shows.

what travel agents are saying…
“I believe the most important factors for a family cruise are the available activities for children and teens, the parent’s comfort level with the kids’ programs, and, of course, the ship itself. Royal Caribbean’s Allure and Oasis offer a multitude of options for all ages that allow families to participate together.

“I think the top destinations for family cruises are the Caribbean and Alaska, however, I have many more families taking their teens
to Europe.

“In terms of booking windows, they are still varied. When it is multi-gen travel groups, they tend to book at least nine months to a year out, to secure their space and get cabins close to each other. When there are individual family units, many will book within a 2- to 3-month time frame.” —Virginia DeDad, Franchise Owner, Cruise Planners/American Express