It's hard to imagine that in less than one year, the cruise industry is going to have some big changes coming for teens. This past year was already eventful, as various ships underwent “revitalizations.” Enchantment of the Seas was “stretched,” major modifications were made to the Sovereign of the Seas, and many features are being added to Carnival ships. So you might be wondering, what does this have to do with teen cruising? Now more than ever, families are cruising -- which means cruise lines are scrambling in competition with each other to provide the best product for parents traveling with children. If 2005 was the year for refurbishing, 2006 is the year for new ships -- including Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas; when it debuts in June, it will claim the title of “the worlds largest cruise ship.”
RCI, Carnival Improvements But lets do a quick recap on some recent highlights. In late 2004, one of the oldest Royal Caribbean ships -- Sovereign of the Seas -- went through an extensive three-week "revitalization” process, during which Royal Caribbean brought her up to modern day standards. In fact, people now call Sovereign a “mini-Voyager” due to her many added features. These include an updated teen club, Fuel, and a hang-out area called the Living Room identical to those on the newer Navigator and Mariner of the Seas. Also added was a Johnny Rockets restaurant, a Ben and Jerry’s, and a new pizzeria. All these enhancements were featured on a five-hour TV show on The Learning Channel. Many similar features were also added to Enchantment of the Seas, which also received a new 73-foot midsection, along with bungee trampolines and a miniature water zone.
Carnival has also been investing lots of money on fleet enhancements. With the rollout of its new teen facility called Club 02, Carnival has made extensive additions to some of its older ships. Recently Carnival Legend was outfitted with the first of several new teen-only public clubs located on the forward spa deck. This location was specifically chosen to keep it separate from Camp Carnival, which is for much younger children. These clubs, which have teamed up with Coke as a sponsor, provide a laid-back lounge atmosphere with a large dance floor, teen bar, plasma TVs, and even music listening stations. Club 02s have been added in different locations on the Carnival Destiny, Fantasy, Imagination, and Fascination; expect every ship to feature these clubs by the end of 2006. Carnival's Imagination and Fantasy also both recently added a nine-hole miniature golf course! Elsewhere, Disney Magic was recently outfitted with an outdoor movie theater right around the pool, and a new teen club called The Stack.
Ultra-Voyager Class With all that happening in 2005, you must wonder what 2006 holds! Well, here is what's in store: Due to the major success of Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class, introduced in 1999, the line has decided to take things up a notch with the new Ultra Voyager Class. The first ship in this new series, Freedom of the Seas, is set to debut in June 2006. Like its predecessors, Freedom will include an enhanced Royal Promenade, ice-skating and inline-skating rinks, but with many improvements. The trademark rock climbing wall is now in 3-D, with many different scenarios and skill levels to try. Bungee trampolines will also be featured on Freedom, but look for the most enhancements around the pools. Starting at the main pool, a full scale water zone has been added called H20 Zone, with a miniature lazy river, spraying statues and waterfalls. The second pool, just steps away from the H20 Zone, will be enlarged so it can accommodate games such as water jousting and water polo. However, the prize element by far among the enhancements is the “Flow Rider,” which was announced in late August. The “Flow Rider” gives guests of all ages the once-in-a-lifetime chance to surf waves Hawaiian-style on the sports deck! A unique design allows the water to create artificial surf at different heights, with a cushioned surface to land on in case you wipe out. As you experience all this, you get breathtaking views of the wake of the ship! Look for an article in late May, as I will be testing this out!
New at Carnival, Celebrity The theme of “Freedom” is much alive, as Carnival has a new vessel called Carnival Freedom, slated to debut in 2006. It will be a sister ship to the recently introduced Carnival Liberty; these ships are the largest in the Carnival fleet. Freedom will feature an outdoor movie theater, water slide and teens-only club. Celebrity Cruises has also jumped into the game with new short (four and five-night) cruise itineraries introduced out of Miami. Celebrity's Century, which is due for an extensive dry dock in March, will be reintroduced with more amenities for teens and families. Features include a separate club for teens (a Celebrity first) and a redesigned sports deck.
I personally can't wait to visit Freedom and test out the Flow Rider, and to see the new clubs on Carnival and Celebrity! So keep these new designs and features in mind when booking a summer or spring break 2006 cruise -- and you cant go wrong.
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