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.
Carnival Style Fun for Grown ups
Why should kids have all of the fun? There’s no shortage of nightlife aboard with an ever-expanding selection of dance parties, lounges, comedy clubs, bars and casinos.
If athletic activities are more your style, Carnival ships have sports and fitness facilities aboard all of their ships. Passengers aboard the Breeze, Magic, and Sunshine can be the first to try out SportSquare, the industry’s largest outdoor recreation center equipped with rope courses, exercise equipment, basketball courts, pool tables, and more.
While Carnival isn’t the obvious choice for a quiet getaway, passengers looking to escape the party atmosphere will appreciate the Serenity Adult Retreat, a 21-and-over adult relaxation zone with whirlpools, chair-side service, and spectacular views from the open air deck.
Dining Aboard Carnival Cruise Lines
In more family-related news, Carnival is expanding their dining options by adding Italian, Asian and steakhouse outlets and all will have menu items to satisfy the growing number of food restricted and vegetarian passengers. They are also adding American Feast and American Table restaurants that will focus on regional cuisine, a foodie trend that their customers have expressed interest in. Expect to see local specialties that vary with the ports of call on your itinerary, such as gumbo in New Orleans and TexMex from Galveston.
From buffets to elegant reservation-only dining, all ships have multiple dining options that should suit everyone’s needs. For fresh, baked pastries, cappuccinos and tea, each ship comes with a European-style café. Each ship also features a sushi bar and New York style deli. Many also provide convivial wine bars with selections from around the world.
All of the ships offer delicious dining options for younger passengers, particularly the kids’ menus, ice cream stations, prepaid Fountain Fun Cards for soft drinks, and the 24-hour pizzeria.
Carnival’s Newest Additions: Fun Ship 2.0 Dining
In order to accommodate the ever-growing number of passengers each year, Carnival has almost completed its Fun Ship 2.0 campaign. First implemented on the new Carnival Sunshine, the Fun Ship 2.0 program is making its way across the entire fleet through 2014 to enhance the guests’ experience with brand new entertainment and dining options.
Guests can grab-and-go burgers at the new Guy’s Burger Joint, featuring the tastes and flavors of Food Network celebrity chef, Guy Fieri. Much like the Food Network host, these burgers come packed with serious flavor and attitude, as well as the ability to spice these burgers up with ingredients from a nearby toppings-bar. Another new dining option for guests is the BlueIguana Cantina featuring freshly made tacos and burritos made fresh-to-order and fully customizable. Guests can also visit the brand new EA Sports Bar, which is not only the perfect place for snacks and drinks, but to also watch a game and maybe play a few, too, with special access to the latest video game titles from EA SPORTS.
Carnival Fun Ship 2.0 Entertainment
Not only will guests be able to enjoy brand new dining experiences, but there’s plenty of new entertainment in store as well. Fans of George Lopez will enjoy his carefully “curated” comedy show staffed with carefully selected talent manning Carnival’s fleet-wide Punchliner Comedy Club.
And for guests interested in musical song and dance, Carnival Cruise has just launched its new Playlist Productions, a full-blown musical production that encourages the audience to get up and dance along with Carnival’s talented performers. Pro singers and dancers will wow the audience with various routines that combine classic hits and today’s favorites with fun dancing fit for the stage at sea. The line-up includes a variety of performances that can suit just about anyone’s tastes: from spicy Latin Nights to well-loved Motor City hits, or the deliciously contemporary Divas to a medley of across-the-pond faves with The Brits!, the arena-shaking Epic Rock and the funky (but not-so-exclusive) Studio VIP — these various sets ensure that there will never be a dull moment on a Carnival Cruise.
For trip planning and booking information, visit Carnival Cruise Lines Family Cruises.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.