An overview of family facilities and children's programs on ships introduced in 2008, by our family cruise editor, Luisa Frey Gaynor.
This year -- unlike last year -- a number of new ships entering the market are not exact replicas of other vessels in the lines' fleets. This refreshing news is especially welcome to parents. There is an abundance of new, fun, family-friendly facilities on these new ships, as well as expansive dedicated youth and teen facilities.
Much of the innovation is facilitated by the fact that many lines -- Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America Line and MSC Cruises -- are debuting their largest ships yet. This means they have plenty of space for bells and whistles that appeal to children and teens.
The following new ships boast 2008 inaugurals and have family friendly facilities.CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES Carnival Splendor -- Delivered July 2008The 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor is the largest Carnival ship to date. Because of its extra space there are a number of family firsts. The one that kids are most likely to flock to first is a "water spray park" where the little ones can splash around for hours. This is located just above Camp Carnival and features a small slide and climbing apparatus as well as water fountains for splashing. The water park complements the ship's four swimming pools and the line's signature 214-foot-long "Twister Waterslide."
Adding to the fun is the 5,500-square-foot youth room, the largest in the fleet, boasting 30% more capacity than any other Carnival ship youth facility. This room is designated for two to 11 year olds participating in Camp Carnival. Decorated in warm and bright colors, the room is separated into three areas: a computer/electronics area outfitted with twelve 22" plasma tv's for PlayStation 2 as well as a 26" flat screen for playing Wii; a dance floor and big couch for viewing movies on the 52" screen; and playroom stocked with puzzles, toys, and crafts.
For those 12 to 14 years old, there is the line's first purpose-built "Circle C" facility. This modern facility is separate from Camp Carnival in order to help promote the feeling of being different and more mature from Camp Camvial. Circle C features a dance floor with high tech sound and lighting; a 42-inch plasma screen television for videos and movies; a touch screen jukebox; and PlayStation 2's, Guitar Hero, and more of the latest electronic games which are displayed on 20 inch plasma screens throughout the facility.
Club 02 is a separate 2,365-square-foot facility for older teens aged 15 to 17 years. The facility has a dance floor, DJ booth, state-of-the-art sound and lighting system, lounging area and a library area with teen books and magazines. According to Kristi Ainsworth, Camp Carnival Youth Director, "teens can bring their headphones to listen to music in the Music Pod located at the back of the room." She also notes "there is ample seating to play cards, board games, PSP's or PlayStation 3."
Additional family friendly public facilities include Carnival's Seaside Theatre which showcases a 270-square-foot LED screen perched poolside for broadcasting movies and concerts.CELEBRITY CRUISES Celebrity Solstice -- Expected Delivery December 2008This is Celebrity's largest ship ever, by far, at 130,000-tons and 2,800 berths. Because of its size, Celebrity Solstice will feature the line's first all-inclusive teen center. The facility will offer an array of programs geared towards entertaining teens day and night. These include electronic gadgets such as MP3 players, portable WiFi access units, digital jukebox, DDR, and more.
Celebrity's partnership with LeapFrog SchoolHouse is being expanded on Celebrity Solstice to visually enhance the décor and theme of the youth facilities. Lily pads adorn the walls and the rooms include various LeapFrog products such as LMax, LeapPads, and some new LeapFrog products exclusive to Celebrity. On board programming in the youth room will include a "solstice" theme and thus will focus on astronomy, weather, the planets and conservation.HOLLAND AMERICA LINE Eurodam: Delivered July 2008Eurodam, the first in Holland America's Signature Class series, is the line's largest to date, weighing in at 86,000-tons. The three dedicated rooms for those under 18 years, all of which are very modern in design, are the line's largest yet, according to Ingrid Werner, Manager of Cruise Programming.
The Club HAL room, for those from three to seven years old, is themed around an artist's palate and features a storytelling area with a huge padded paint bucket that kids can sit in. Additionally, the youth room has a stage area and easels. The facility for the Tweens (ages 8 to 12), has many tables and chairs for active pursuits such as games and crafts. The Loft, which is for teens, includes computers, music system, plasma screen for movies, couches built into the walls, and big plastic lounge chairs.
"It has a very funky feel to it, which teens love," Werner remarked.
There is a common gaming area nestled near the youth and teen rooms that features foosball, X-Boxes, and computers. "We wanted more active games for the children rather than just arcade games," Werner noted.
Other family friendly spots on the ship include Explorations Café, where families can play a variety of board games, as well as the Culinary Arts Center which features kids' cooking activities each cruise. Additionally, there are new cabanas in the Lido pool area. Families with little ones may want to consider renting one and using the double wide lounge chairs for little ones to nap during the day. Werner noted that there is a privacy curtain on the cabanas, hence it's a perfect solution for parents who want to be outside but need their little one to take a nap.
The Eurodam's movie theater is called the Screening Room and has a more intimate feel than other theaters. Werner said that the line will show some family friendly movies there.
In addition, Holland America's new Digital Workshop by Microsoft is in the midst of developing some programming for teens, according to Werner.
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