Before Mattel’s Barbie took on a variety of challenging and progressive careers (Ambassador for World Peace, 1986; Pediatrician, 1994; Paratrooper, 2000; Architect, 2011), she was the Barbie of my ‘70s childhood. Think Sun Lovin’ Malibu Barbie, whose most difficult job was maintaining those perfectly executed tan lines.
To me, Barbie represents a freer time, when I could imagine wearing 7-inch heels without mobility issues and when life’s biggest problems lay in orchestrating multiple daily costume changes. To my four-year-old, who has suddenly developed a very specific set of fashion criteria of her own, Barbie represents the color pink and the word “pretty.” Full stop.
When I learned that Royal Caribbean would be rolling out Barbie-themed sailings across its fleet, I booked the first one I could find – the inaugural Barbie Premium Experience aboard Freedom of the Seas’ Eastern Caribbean itinerary in March, 2013. After all, the experience would have something for both of us: I’d be able to vicariously relive my Barbie passion without looking like a weirdo, and Emily would be able to wallow in a week of activities tailor-made for Barbie-obsessed little girls.
Contrary to the hype surrounding the Barbie Premium Experience, this isn’t an entire Barbie-themed cruise. Barbie-girl passengers – of which there were only ten on this sailing – pay a premium of $349 per cruise to take part in the special events held only for them on regular sailings. But there’s no mistaking who those Barbie girls are: We arrived in our stateroom, hung with a “Barbie Girls Onboard!” sign, and decorated with a nautical Barbie pillow sham and blanket, a Barbie tote with Barbie and her full wardrobe for the week (including some truly frightening gladiator stilettos) – all to take home at the end of their stay – as well as an invitation for the first event, a Tiaras and Teacups party.
Throughout the week, the girls took a Mermaid Dance class, designed fashions for their Barbies, and wrapped up the fun with a slick fashion show and Mermaid Dance performance in the On Air room.
The new partnership with Mattel has yielded a slick experience for which, frankly, Emily might not have been totally ready. Designed for girls 4 to 11 years old, she was the youngest of the Barbie girls (just shy of her fourth birthday), and less interested in the etiquette lessons during the tea party than she was, say, taking one bite from each and every pastry on the tiered tea tray. She also experimented with using the stilettos as hair accessories; doing her own dance during the choreographed portion of the show, and fleeing from the pink carpet runway.
But we didn’t need to experience all the Barbie events the way they were planned to make some mommy-daughter memories. Weeks later, she’s still sleeping on the pillow, toting her Barbie blanket to school, wearing stilettos as jewelry, and telling all who will listen about her Barbie cruise.