Cruise lines turn ships into seagoing camps

Story and photos by Bob Schulman

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It’s like a summer camp – except all the fun is at sea. The cruise experts at CruiseComplete want you to know that more and more lines are offering special activities for youngsters this summer. Their marketing strategy is to draw whole families to their staterooms by promoting a “camp” experience during the cruise.

Here’s a sampling of activities for the younger set now found on a cross-section of cruise ships:

Camping lures on Princess Cruises include pajama parties, ice cream and pizza bashes, hip-hop dance classes and special teen-only dinners. Also, the line’s larger ships have sprawling Youth Centers with both indoor and outdoor activity areas for youngsters.

Royal Caribbean has lots of fun things to do for children in different age groups from nursery programs for toddlers as young as 6 months to dance parties, parades, ice shows and aqua shows with characters from the Dreamworks animation movies.

Carnival Cruise Lines offers a double-barreled blast (Camp Carnival on some ships and the marine-themed Camp Ocean on the others) of fun-for-everyone. One of Carnival’s biggies is Night Owls where kids 11 and younger can gather between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. to play video and board games, watch movies and nosh on snacks. Many other age-appropriate activities are offered to younger children.

Are your little ones wannabe chefs? If so, check out Holland America’s Culinary Arts Centers where kids can learn to whip up meals in special workshops. Another popular on-board attraction is Club HAL, which offers activities ranging from ice cream and storytelling parties to pirate treasure hunts.

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MSC Cruises touts four clubs for youngsters: a Mini Club for tots 3 to 6, a Junior’s Club for the 7 to 11 age group, a Young Club for kids 12 to 14 and a Teen’s Club for cruisers 15 to 17.  Among various age-focused activities are sports tournaments, talent and dance contests, arts and crafts classes and a high-tech “Virtual World Arcade.”

You’d expect that Disney Cruise Line would be loaded with things your little ones will talk about for years, and it is. Their ships are like immense bow-to-stern camps, starting with It’s a Small World Nursery on some ships for tots 6 months to 3 years old. Then there’s Disney’s Oceaneer Club featuring Andy’s Room (with larger-than-life characters from the animated film Toy Story) and Pixie Hollow (inspired by the series of Tinkerbell movies).

Additionally available on the Disney Fantasy are Monsters Academy (based on the animated film Monsters, Inc.) and Explorer Pod (a scaled down submarine look-alike from the film Finding Nemo). And on the Disney Dream youngsters can additionally frolic in a section called Star Wars: Millennium Falcon (an intergalactic play area) and in the Disney Infinity Game Room (a high-tech play area).

Featured on the Disney Magic are MARVEL’S Avengers Academy (a simulated top-secret command post) and the Mickey Mouse Club (where kids can play games on tables shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ears and on a wall featuring Goofy Ears).

You can get more info on seagoing camps and other family draws offered by these lines and dozens of others on CruiseComplete’s website (www.cruisecomplete.com).

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