September 30, 2014

5 More Fantastic Ships for Family Cruises

Aqua parks, junior cooking classes and teen-only spaces
are among onboard offerings

By Madison G. Welch

Vacations Magazine: 5 More Fantastic Ships for Family Cruises
Royal Caribbean International
It happens all too often: Parents put time, effort and money into an extravagant family vacation, only to hear kids utter the dreaded words, "I'm bored." Next time, ditch the boredom blues with an all-inclusive cruise offering activities and attractions that appeal to every member of your brood. Below, we've profiled five family-friendly vessels with youth programs, kid-approved entertainment and dinner menus for every palate.

From high-adventure water parks and meet-and-greets with beloved cartoon characters to soothing spas and adults-only escapes, these ships are sure to entertain your whole clan. To browse itineraries, consult the cruise experts at Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962.

Allure of the Seas

Experience the wild jungles of Madagascar, the dragon-infested village of Berk and the fairy-tale city of Far Far Away when you step on board Royal Caribbean International's 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas. Kids mingle with favorite DreamWorks Animation characters like King Julien, Hiccup and Shrek in a variety of performances, character parades and, of course, photo ops. In shows exclusive to this ship, the "Madagascar" cast mixes with high divers, and fire-breathing dragons skate on ice.

Create memories during breakfast with the character crew before letting kids join in games, science experiments and themed parties through the Adventure Ocean program, divided into several age groups: 3 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17. Hard-to-please teens hang out in private lounge areas or boost adrenaline on a zip line, two surf simulators, two rock climbing walls, a 3-D movie theater, an ice skating rink and a miniature golf course.

Parents can join their littlest ones for interactive classes at Royal Babies (6 to 18 months) and Royal Tots (18 to 36 months), or drop children off in the nursery before heading to the full-service Vitality Spa or adults-only Solarium pool retreat. More than two dozen dining options keep everyone sufficiently stuffed, ranging from burgers and fries at Johnny Rockets to pink roast beef tenderloin and wine pairings at the gourmet chef's table.

Stationed in Fort Lauderdale, FL, the Allure of the Seas makes weeklong trips to Caribbean ports, including Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private beach in Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Norwegian Getaway

With SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and other larger-than-life Nickelodeon friends on the brand-new, 4,028-guest Norwegian Getaway, kids won't have time to get bored. Instead, they'll experience live entertainment at the Pajama Jam Character Breakfast, play in a pirate-themed aqua park straight from Bikini Bottom and get autographs from their favorite animations.

The fun continues with scavenger hunts, pizza-making parties and circus tricks at Splash Academy, a complimentary program divided into ages 3 to 5, 6 to 9 and 10 to 12.

Teenagers get their own place to hang out, too: Entourage. Pool parties and themed events keep boredom at bay, while young fashionistas and performers will love the style and theater workshops. The newest ship from Norwegian Cruise Line debuted in January with a boatload of thrills, including a ropes course, basketball court, rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline and water park featuring five waterslides, two swimming pools and four hot tubs.

For some adult fun, indulge in a hot-stone massage, visit Norwegian's exclusive therapeutic Salt Room or peruse The Waterfront, a quarter-mile boardwalk. Enter the mystical Illusionarium for a unique dining experience with magicians and mentalists, or savor a quiet dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse, where taste buds delight in tender prime rib and jumbo crab cakes.

The Norwegian Getaway makes weeklong round-trip cruises from Miami to tropical locales such as St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Carnival Sunshine

"Oh, the places you'll go!" proclaims one of Dr. Seuss' most beloved books. Travel the world with Carnival Cruise Lines and enjoy the new Seuss at Sea program, which invites youngsters to visit the whimsical realm of the Cat in the Hat, Red Fish and Blue Fish, and Things One and Two. Created for ages 2 to 5, the program debuted in February and will be found on all Carnival ships by 2015.

For activities the whole family will love, check out the Carnival Sunshine. In a recent $155 million makeover of the former Carnival Destiny, the 3,006-passenger vessel gained thrilling new features like a water park and 334-foot-long corkscrew waterslide. Kids can spend the day with friends at Camp Carnival (ages 2 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11), Circle "C" (ages 12 to 14) and Club O2 (ages 15 to 17). The older set even can attend teen-only shore excursions.

Bring the family together again for dinner: Kid menus and 24-hour pizza keep the youngsters well-fed while adults feast on salmon sushi, rosemary-infused chicken or Maine lobster ravioli with grilled scampi. Finish the day with a family movie on the seaside big screen, or utilize nighttime baby-sitting services and explore the ship's bars, comedy club, stage shows and casino.

From the home ports of New Orleans (through April) and Port Canaveral, FL, the Carnival Sunshine offers itineraries stopping at Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas and various Caribbean destinations, including Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos, Aruba, Curacao and Roatan in Honduras.

Nieuw Amsterdam

The Culinary Arts Center on Holland America Line's 2,106-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam promises foodie fun for the whole family. Hands-on classes for younger kids feature fruit leather roll-ups and ice cream sandwiches, while the older crowd prepares soft pretzels and saltwater taffy. For cruisers age 15 and older, cooking workshops introduce regionally inspired recipes and special guest chefs. Adults can attend wine tastings and mixology lessons.

During the day, check out three complimentary youth clubs with creative decor (think giant tape dispenser slide for children and trendy lounge for teens). For ages 3 to 7, Club HAL activities include treasure hunts, candy bar bingo and T-shirt tie-dyeing, while ages 8 to 12 enjoy air hockey, swim parties and arcade games. The Loft provides a cool, casual hangout for teens and hosts yoga and hip-hop classes, pingpong tournaments and nightclub events.

While kids stay busy, parents join in a plethora of worry-free amenities: Take a dance class, attend a digital workshop or relax with a facial, massage or manicure at the Greenhouse Spa and Salon. Mealtimes include kid-friendly favorites like pizza, hot dogs and tacos, while more mature palates savor grilled Colorado lamb chops with spiced apple chutney and mint sauce at the Pinnacle Grill or cedar planked halibut with shrimp scampi at Tamarind.

The Nieuw Amsterdam travels to Mediterranean ports such as Barcelona, Venice, Istanbul, Rome and Athens through October, when it returns to Fort Lauderdale to spend the winter months sailing the Caribbean.

Regal Princess

Set to sail its maiden voyage in May, the 3,650-guest Regal Princess from Princess Cruises offers stunning signature attractions: the fleet's largest top deck pool, a mesmerizing water and light show, a gigantic outdoor movie screen, personal balconies on all outside staterooms and a glass-bottomed SeaWalk extending 28 feet beyond the ship's edge.

Like other Princess ships, Regal Princess accommodates kids and teens with three age-specific programs: Princess Pelicans (ages 3 to 7), Shockwaves (ages 8 to 12) and Remix (ages 13 to 17). T-shirt coloring, disco nights, splash pools and pajama parties entertain the youngest cruisers; video games, dances, talent shows and scavenger hunts occupy the middle group; and karaoke, air hockey, foosball and mocktail socials cater to teens. If that isn't enough entertainment, programs also feature special dinners with newfound friends, hands-on cooking classes for decorating cakes or making fruit pizza, Science on the Seas workshops, fitness classes and a beauty program teaching makeup and skin care techniques.

Constant activities leave parents free to explore an array of onboard amenities including photography lessons, fitness facilities and a luxurious spa. The ship has a variety of dining options: Cheeseburgers, hot dogs and hand-tossed pizza please the youngsters, while specialty restaurants gratify adult cravings for steak, seafood and more.

From May through October, the Regal Princess will cruise the Mediterranean, stopping at locales such as Venice, Istanbul, Dubrovnik in Croatia and Athens, Santorini and Olympia in Greece. After repositioning to Fort Lauderdale, the vessel will make weeklong Caribbean trips.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March/April 2014. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.


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