Join FTF's cruise expert as she boards the Carnival Triumph for a cruise with tweens and teens up the East coast to Canada.
Been to an island destination with the kids lately? If so, you have probably been bombarded with pirate face painting and hair-braiding vendors – so is it any wonder that youth spas would be far behind? Sure enough, manicures with funky flower decals, special scrubs and treatments for unsettled teenaged skin and even kid-friendly massages and wraps seem to be popping up at land-based resorts everywhere. On the high seas, Carnival cruise lines offers a Generation Y youth spa for tweens and teens that tempted us on board for a four-night Canada cruise out of New York aboard the six-year-old Carnival Triumph.
The convenient location of the New York port – basically right in the city and within walking distance of cabs and the subway – is offset by a somewhat cumbersome terminal lay-out designed for the days when cruise ships didn’t hold so many passengers. Having said that, once you’re past the bottleneck at security, the actual check-in process with Carnival staff is quick and efficient.
Tip: If you are taking a cab, shuttle bus or car service to the port, you can arrange to be dropped up on either the upper or lower level, but for the return pick-up, the arrangements are trickier. If you have a bus or shuttle bus transfer, plan to meet on the lower level, whereas taxis are on the upper level – except in the case of overflow, in which case you go downstairs and across the street. Limos, on the other hand, can arrive on either level, so make sure you have the cell number of your service so you can let the driver know where you are.
Bright colors, upbeat music and a world traveler theme dominate the ship’s dÃ©cor, with public rooms ranging from the Vienna CafÃ© and Rome theater to the London and Paris dining rooms. A party atmosphere characterizes this ship, where people tend to congregate at the pools, the children’s club and/or the casino. We saw numerous extended family groups as well as at least one huge wedding party taking advantage of the ship’s many public rooms for private parties and special events. Those who like a more formal ambience can dress up for dinner at the main dining room and for shows at the theater. Our favorite after-dinner meeting place was the Big Easy, complete with walls decorated with oyster shells and a wrap-around piano.
Our cabin on Deck 8 was just big enough to squeeze in all five of us – but only because it was the first week of summer vacation and everyone was in too good a mood to squabble. We had a double bed for me and my husband, two bunk beds and a trundle bed, the latter of which took up most of the available floor space. With the trundle pushed under the bottom bunk and the upper bunk retracted back into the wall during the day, the room was workable for lounging between activities, particularly since we also had a balcony (available on more than a third of the staterooms). If you think all this togetherness sounds like too much of a good thing, however, you may want to consider booking adjoining rooms.
Our dining staff accommodated special requests (our son Shane’s middle name is “no sauce, no onions, no spices”), had our bottle of wine (leftover from dinner the night before) waiting for us on arrival and was friendly to a young family at an adjoining table who arrived harried and very late for dinner every night. Our cabin steward was easy going about the extra work involved in putting away the extra beds every day.
One of the bigger surprises on Carnival cruise line is the quality of the cuisine, which is good both in the main dining rooms and in the buffet at the South Beach Club restaurant. At dinner in the London dining room, my husband and the kids sampled well prepared lobster and filet mignon dinners, followed by lavish desserts, including the traditional Baked Alaska on formal night. The highlight, depending on your point of view, is the nightly “show” when the waiters dance conga style through the dining room and on tables while singing Italian love songs at top volume and to the accompaniment of enthusiastic diners.
Rave: A South Beach Diet fan, I always find cruising a challenge, so it was a nice surprise to find a three-course low-carb meal option on the menu every night. What I especially liked is that I could mix and match items from that menu and the regular menu, and the waiters were always happy to bring me a cheese platter for dessert while everyone else chowed down on chocolate cake and crÃ¨me brulee.
Tip: Those of you who spend too much time at Starbucks at home can get your daily fix of specialty coffees, such as lattes and cappuccinos, at the Vienna CafÃ©. Be aware that your coffees will show up on your bill, alongside any alcohol charges.
A highlight for our 12-year-old daughter Chloe and her friend Gracie was that they were, for the first time ever, eligible to join a teen club (designed for kids 12 to 14). The activities – crafts, dancing and scavenger hunts – weren’t all that different from experiences they had had in children’s clubs on other cruises, but the dÃ©cor was more hip and they got to spend time in Tech World on deck 12 playing the occasional game of PS2. Camp Carnival also offers activities for kids aged 2 to 11, broken down into several age groups, depending on the numbers of kids on board, as well as for older teens aged 15 to 17. Be aware that 9-year-olds and older can check themselves in and out of camp except after 10pm.
Tip: The ship offers a Family Play Time for kids under 2 and their parents, available during lunch on specified days in the Camp Carnival playroom. There are also group babysitting services available from 10pm to 3am and on port days from arrival until noon.
The Generation Y spa program – designed for kids 12 and up — was a highlight for the girls, who just made the cut off and were determined to sample as many treatments as time (and my pocketbook) would allow. They started with Magical Manicures, for $23, and Sole Mate pedicures for $36, followed by a Surfers Scrub body treatment for Gracie at $57 and an hour-long Fabulous Fruity Facial for Chloe at $89. An adult has to be present at any massage treatments for children, so I read a book while Gracie – clad in her two-piece bathing suit – enjoyed her pleasantly scented scrub and wrap and the friendly patter of the therapist, who worked hard to put her at ease and let her keep her arms outside the wrap.
My husband and 14-year-old son Shane could not be prevailed upon to try the father-son sports treatment, but I did see a few adult men signing up for treatments during our days at sea.
There are four swimming pools on the ship, which is a good thing, because that’s where everyone tends to congregate on sea days. Our kids gave a thumbs-up to the 214-foot waterslide at the Continent Pool, and we especially liked that one of the pools boasts a retractable roof, which means we could swim and enjoy ourselves on our one day of iffy weather. During the down time before dinner, the kids often gravitated to the Tokyo Underground arcade, where a token machine allowed them to charge a specified amount of tokens each day using their room key as a credit card.
Because our itinerary made only one stop, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the challenge was to see as much as possible during that one day. Kilted bag pipers greeted the ship as we pulled into port, and once on shore, we managed to cram in a visit to the Citadel – where we “attended” an old-fashioned school and learned to march in formation – visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and enjoyed a short harbor cruise on an amphibious Harbour Hopper. Younger children could also choose a trip onboard Theodore Tugboat, a popular PBS icon, complete with smiling face and bright colors.
I admit to hating most ship-board revues, but the shows on the Triumph were more Broadway-esque than Vegas and featured singers who actually sing. Just the fact that we attended all the shows says it all.
The Carnival Triumph will sail year-round, seven-night western and eastern Caribbean itineraries from Miami as of November 19, 2005. The Carnival Victory will take over the Canada itineraries in 2006.
Our four-night cruise from New York was priced at $479, with seven-night fall foliage cruises beginning at $599. To book, call your travel agent or Carnival directly at 866/299-5698 or visit www.carnival.com.
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