Guide To Family Cruising Aboard Carnival

Author: Nancy Lippincott

Tags : Baby, Caribbean, Cruise, Gambling, Kids, Kids Club, Multigen, North America, Teens, Watersports

Carnival Cruise Lines does a very good job of living up to its tag line of "Fun Ships" and, with Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades and a creative partnership with Dr. Seuss, they guarantee even more fun for all ages on the high seas. One of the world's largest cruise companies, there are 24 big vessels operating three to 18-day cruises that depart from 12 different US homeports, bringing a cruise within a five-hour drive of 50% of the US population.  With Miami and Port Canaveral consistently their best-selling homeports, Carnival will not be deploying any ships to Europe in 2014.

Carnival cites the growing trend in North America of taking short getaways vs. longer-length vacations as the reason behind scheduling many shorter itineraries. We're pleased that they're offering so many port options at such moderate price points, too, which may be behind the explosive growth they are seeing in multigenerational vacations.  


Youth Programs Aboard Carnival

With nearly 700,000 passengers under age 18 each year, Carnival hosts more kids than any other cruise line. Maybe that's why they're so good at it.  Complimentary daily programming is available in dedicated, staff-supervised facilities from 10am until 10pm.

We love the Carnival Seuss At Sea program debuting February 2014 on board the Carnival Splendor, providing character interactions with Dr. Seuss' favorite storybook heros, and activities such as a Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast event for a $5 surcharge.  It is expected to be available on all ships by the end of 2015. Kids facilities will include custom built Whoville-style areas, Seuss books and toys in kids lounge areas, and the classic Dr. Seuss movies will be shown on the exterior upper deck movie screens for all to enjoy.  We were happy to hear from a Carnival spokesperson that many families combine a Port Canaveral sailing with a land vacation at the Universal Orlando Resort, whose Dr. Seuss play zone in Islands of Adventure is our favorite Orlando attraction for families with younger children.

In its traditional children's program, Carnival welcomes passengers as young as 6 months, however, children must be at least 2 years of age to participate in the sueprvised youth program.

  • Camp Carnival (ages 2-11) Children will love the indoor play areas, video walls with cartoons showing, jungle gyms, mini-basketball, kiddie pool and onboard stroller and bouncy chair rentals. Programs are divided into three age groups -- 2-5 years, 3-8 years, and 9-11 years -- and are scheduled three times throughout the day (check your ship's itinerary for specific times). While parents are responsible for taking kids to lunch, Camp Carnival offers "kids only" dinner from 6:00-6:45pm on every night except embarkation, and serves up tasty "kid-friendly" meals including hot dogs, pizza, and mac and cheese in the Lido restaurant. The staff welcomes 2-year-olds into their youth program, changing diapers and administering bottles, a much appreciated service for vacationing moms. For added security, parents with children 5 and under receive a beeper or cell phone upon registration on the first day, which they keep throughout the cruise. The beeper works for ship-use only; the range does not extend beyond the ship. Parents will be beeped/called if a child is misbehaving, ill, seriously unhappy, asking continuously for their parents, or in the case of an emergency.
  • Circle "C" (ages 12-14) offers amenities including dance floors, plasma TVs, and the latest gaming systems. Tweens can pick up a copy of the Fun Times to help plan their daily activities including team sports, water games, late-night movies, and pool parties.  Parents have the option to let tweens come and go as they please, or request that they be signed in and out of the program.   
  • Camp Carnival Night Owls (ages 2-14) is Carnival's after-hours group babysitting service which begins at 10pm and runs until 3am in the Camp Carnival space.  The fee is $6.75/hour plus 15% gratuity, and is offered for children ages 2 to 14.  The service is also available on dock days, so parents can opt to take advantage of the childcare service while they participate in one of Carnival's 30 shore excursions.  
  • Club O2 (15-17) Young adult passengers have their own private space where they can socialize, hang out, and let loose (under staff supervision) with teen-only shore excursions, spa treatments, mocktail parties, karaoke, and other age-appropriate activities. 


Check out this teen's review on her family vacation aboard the Carnival Victory.


Fun for the Whole Family Aboard Carnival

Despite its breadth, the youth program is not intended for parents to get rid of their kids. There are many family activities in which parents must participate in order for children to take part. The family arts 'n crafts night, talent show, welcome and farewell parties, and scavenger hunts are all great options for bringing everyone together.

Other family amenities that target all ages abound.  The Carnival Dream class ships feature family cabins that sleep five guests in a two-bedroom configuration and, as older ships are retrofitted, more family cabins are being created throughout the line. 

Similarly, while the "average age of cruisers" remains fairly consistent, the passenger age dispersion has changed to include many younger passengers and many more older passengers as part of the mix -- all indications that for Carnival, at least, cruising is a multigenerational family affair. Grandparents need to be accommodated, spurring one of Carnival's most popular initiative -- policing deck chairs around the pool. It's true, their staff removes towels holding unoccupied seats every 20 minutes.  In fact, to meet passenger demand, the lounge chair to guest ratio is being increased and on the new Carnival Serenity, the three-level sundeck areas with outdoor barbecue area are among the fleet's largest.