Camp Ocean debuted on Carnival Freedom after it underwent dry dock this past spring. Replacing Camp Carnival as the line’s onboard children’s program, the space has kept the same camp-style oasis feel, with programming changes and new spaces. Camp Ocean will be rolled out across all Carnival ships over the next two years.
On a recent cruise through the Southern Caribbean, we toured the updated facility, spoke with Youth Director Ana Klacinski, and got the general consensus from parents onboard our sailing: What’s Camp Ocean all about?
How is Camp Ocean different from Camp Carnival?
When Carnival set out to refresh the program, suggestions were collected over time from parents and family members, Klacinski said. All of these ideas were taken into account when developing Camp Ocean.
The result remains a camp rather than a daycare, with more emphasis on age-specific rooms and play areas. Focusing on oceanography, Camp Ocean trades in the bold oranges and a carnival of other accent colors for underwater blues and grays. Camp Ocean thoughtfully blends education and entertainment through more than 200 activities, all of which adhere to the marine theme. Even the youngest group learns about how long a whale is in a 45-minute activity mentioned in their program.
An arts and crafts room called Creative Cove divides the middle and invites families to participate in activities together. The Party Reef is an open space for just that: an impromptu party with a large flatscreen TV to provide accompanying music and videos. As far as programming goes, a badge challenge — similar to Girl and Boy Scout badges — has been introduced, encouraging young cruisers to accomplish outlined onboard experiences. There are more than 20 badges available for activities such as singing karaoke, trying a new food in the dining room, or creating a towel animal. Badges can be collected over multiple cruises, and at the end of each, there is a ceremony held with giveaways for each age group.
What are the different play areas like?
Hasbro has provided toys and games for each age group, as part of their Carnival partnership. Penguins, encompassing ages 2 to 5, is the only area sectioned off with a gate, for security reasons. Toys line the walls here as well as igloos that the children can play in. Activities include story time, coloring, crafts, memory games and more.
The Stingrays – 6 to 8 year olds – are a more active bunch, requiring sports activities, videogames and board game tournaments, more advanced crafts and other engaging events. All younger kids wear nametags, and counselors are alerted if a child wanders into the wrong area (the kids are very protective of their space, Klacinski said).
As befits their age – 9 to 11 – Sharks inhabit a refined space, with wall panels resembling shark fins, and gray chairs that could be the crest of a wave. Videogames are increasingly used by this age group, and are available, but not the focus of the activities, Klacinski said. Sharks participate in trivia, create sand art, play charades, go on excursions to play mini-golf and even have their own Olympic games.
An outside playground dedicated to Camp Ocean is used for outdoor playtime once the sun is less harsh, around 7 at night.
My children are close in age; can they be grouped together?
Carnival allows siblings with a small age difference to be grouped together at the request of their parents or caretaker. However, Klacinski stresses that counselors find kids to be most happy when they are operating within their own age group. Even a year makes a difference at this stage of development, and the program works best when the child can thrive in an environment designed just for them, with other kids their age.
What kid-related activities and services onboard carry a charge?
First, what’s free? Camp Ocean is complimentary as is Kids Only dinner, provided most nights of the cruise at about 6 p.m. Counselors are permitted to change the diapers of children 42 months and younger, and this also comes without a cost to the parents. For the parents of the 2- to 5 year-olds, cell phones that work anywhere on the ship are provided for the length of the cruise, for easy contact.
Night Owls is the late-night program hosted by Camp Ocean from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., and is available for infants through age 11. The cost of Night Owls is $6.75 per hour per child plus a 15 percent gratuity. Each additional half hour past that time results in a doubled fee and the forfeit of nighttime service privileges for the remainder of the cruise. In-cabin babysitting is not offered. Watch for special late-night parties held throughout the cruise. A Beary Cuddly Workshop is offered at least once on your sailing (Think Build-a-Bear) with stuffed animals ranging in price from $10 to $20, with more for outfits.
For ships with Seuss at Sea, access to Seuss’ Bookville, the onboard reading and play space, as well as Seuss-a-Palooza and Story Time, are free, but the Green Eggs and Ham character breakfast carries a charge of $5 per person.
Are there any activities onboard for children under 2? Over 11?
From 8 to 10 each morning, parents with infants are invited to use the Camp Ocean space. If they stay, this allotted time is free of charge; otherwise, the rate of $6.75 per hour plus a 15 percent gratuity applies. On port days, care for infants begins 15 minutes before the first tour until noon, or from 1 to 5 for ships arriving in port after noon; the fee is the same. Bookville, also a first on Carnival Freedom, is adjacent to Camp Ocean, and is open to infants and adults of all ages. The space is designed to attract families to spend some time together reading and playing among the world of Dr. Seuss.
Circle C youth program is aimed at kids ages 12 to 14, while Club 02 is the spot for older teens (15 to 17) to socialize with other high schoolers. The programs for the teen and tween set haven’t been addressed like the changes to Camp Ocean, but the team at Carnival suggests that these programs might see an overhaul with the arrival of Carnival Vista in 2016.
So do kids seem to be enjoying themselves at Camp Ocean? We got an overwhelming “yes” when we spoke to families onboard, some of whom almost wished their kids had slightly less fun. One father lamented he was glad to see his children having such a nice time, but they never wanted to leave — “I was hoping we’d spend more time together — you know, swimming in the pool, hanging out — but they wanted to be with their new friends.” It’s a problem both parents and Camp Ocean counselors don’t seem too concerned about.