Most of the major cruise lines offer children’s programs for those aboard the ship. Some of the programs are in place only when enough children are aboard while others are operational full time. There are a few cruise lines that do not offer any children’s programs because the ship does not advertise as being family oriented.
For most kids programs the children are broken out by ages. Usually preschoolers in one group, young elementary school kids in another, older elementary, middle school, and then high school age kids all in their own groups. Some lines blur a bit depending on the line, and on how many kids are aboard the ship.
Kids clubs as most are called by many, actually have various other names on each cruise line depending on the cruise line’s overall theme. The overall theme of these clubs though is entertainment for the kids with other kids away from the adults. The cruise lines know many parents want some alone time and realize that parents alone are often likely to go enjoy some fine dining and adult beverages all items that add to the cruise line bottom line.
The majority of the cruise lines family consider when cruising are set up to help entertain the children offering the parents an opportunity to enjoy adult time. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, and Celebrity are good examples of cruise lines set up to entertain the children year round on the ships. Disney of course is in a league of its own with the programs available to kids. Each of these lines has a slightly different program but ultimately they accomplish pretty much the same goal, entertain kids so parents can enjoy alone time.
Aboard the Disney Magic, where I sailed my most recent cruise, at some of the adult programs, we were told in the adult only activities we were being kept safe from the children aboard. It was pretty funny to hear it said that way. We were sailing during a school in session week so expected fewer kids than normal which is what we saw, but there were plenty of kids. All seemed to be well entertained by either their parents or the cast members aboard Disney. Most of the kids were pre-school age and really enjoyed the activities we saw where Disney was entertaining them.
Disney offers various age group appropriate children only areas on deck five of the ship. The age groups are broken down similar to what you would find in school with few year blocks together. Thus, Disney is able to offer age appropriate activities for the children in each group. Even for the youngest tots the ship hosts various activities such as baby crawl races in the main lobby area. That is an excellent event for spectators and the babies’ parents alike. In the preteen area there is a ship simulator that allows the children to pretend they are docking the cruise ship.
Overall Disney probably does the best job entertaining children on the ship. Of course Disney has been entertaining kids of all ages longer than most cruise lines have been around. They focus on keeping the kids entertained as much as possible so they are not running around bothering other guests. On port days they open up ahead of the arrival and remain open continuously thru the day to ensure adults can go on shore excursions without the children.
The mainstream lines, Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess all host their own programs aboard most all of their ships. A few smaller ships from the lines which normally do not have many kids only host kids programs when the number of kids justifies such a program. Generally these lines offer kids programs on most all days of the cruise. Depending on if the ship is at sea or in port the program may be all day long or open for the morning with a closure at lunch and open again after lunch thru a dinner break. Most of the programs offer late night hours, some of the hours may be at a charge depending on the cruise line and how late.
Most of the programs are divided into age appropriate groups with age appropriate activities. Kids on Royal Caribbean are given the option to participate in many specialty evenings including Pirate Night. That is one night many guests, especially the parents enjoy. The kids walk thru the ship chanting pirate chants. They even walk thru dining rooms and the centrums/promenades depending on the ship. It is fun for all. Within most of the programs they hold towards the end of the cruise a talent show where the kids put on a show for the parents and friends.
The luxury cruise lines may or may not have programs. It is more hit or miss among these lines because some simply do not cater to families aboard the ship. They may not explicitly prohibit kids but do not cater to them with special programs. In these situations it may be possible to hire a crew member to baby sit the children if the adults want a few hours alone. The sitting is usually in cabin so the adult alone time has to be outside the cabin, such as specialty dining or a show.
Not all kids oriented activities are secluded back in the kid activity centers. There are many activities that are kids oriented but not just for kids such as the bungee trampolines on RCCL’s Enchantment of the seas. I had a blast jumping on them as did my daughter. So cruising with kids means not just sticking the kids in the child care centers but allowing them to enjoy all the ship has to offer.
Most cruise lines offer plenty for everyone to do while on the ship. Many of the activities are great for kids and adults alike. The pool, at least the ones not reserved for adults only, tend to be great gathering points for the kids. On ships such as Oasis there are so many dining venues and sporting activity venues there is no reason for anyone kids or adults to be bored. Even the numerous entertainment venues help keep the activities going day and night, for all aboard.
Most shows on the main stage are family oriented. When they are not, or are truly adult oriented the cruise lines do a good job of letting the adults know ahead kids should not attend. Thus, the shows on average are great for the kids to attend. Several even get special attention drawn to the children, especially on Disney cruises.
With all of the activities for families, special spots for adults, and tons of planned activities to keep children entertained, cruising is a great family activity. For those adults concerned about what the kids will do, pick Disney or one of the large mainline cruise lines and the children will have plenty to do allowing the adults time on their own. Royal Caribbean even has on some ships the facilities to care for infants six months or older. Get out there and enjoy a cruise. Pick a good agent who knows the different ships to help pick the best cruise ship and sailing for your family needs.