After other travel plans fell through, we decided to try a short cruise as a different type of family vacation. We thought the cruise would have a little something for everyone (unlike a theme park that is geared mostly for kids, we thought that we might enjoy some adult time while the kids were engaging in their activities we had heard so much about. However, it didn't really turn out that way and I don't think we would choose to do this cruise again based on our experiences. We are a family of four with two boys ages 11 and 13. Below are comments designed to help other families wondering if a cruise like this would be for them and not meant to just be complaining.
Our 13 year old had a blast at the Circle C (12-14 year old) activities. They did dance parties/contests, scavenger hunts, Karaoke, Ice Cream Socials, Glow Stick Parties, video games, soda pong etc. The staff leader was great. She knew all the kids by name and really made things fun for them. Our son couldn't wait for it to open each day so he could go see his friends
Unfortunately, Camp Carnival (For kids aged 2-11) didn't measure up to Circle C. I'd like to start by saying I'm sure there are probably a lot of people with younger children who have had good experiences with this, however, for us, there were some serious shortcomings. Our son is 11, and it seemed like all the activities were geared for kids who were so much younger! It really just had a feel like it was daycare or a place where people would drop their kids to be watched while they went out and had fun. I knew we were in trouble on the first day when we went to check out the Camp Carnival room, and saw tiny tables and chairs like what you'd see in a kindergarten class room! There really weren't any activities that seemed age appropriate for our 11 year old (we asked about the name of one listed activity and were told they would spend that time coloring a picture of a turtle! Seriously? Our son is in 6th grade!)
Even though they say they divide the kids into internal age groups (i.e., 2-4, 5-8, 9-11) it didn't really didn't seem to work that way and there was mostly just younger (6ish) kids in there. Since there were so few older kids participating, they seemed to just lump them together much of the time. Many of the activities are tucked away in this little conference room that's not only hard to find, but really drab. Our 11 year old had absolutely NO interest in participating in these activities geared toward much younger kids and we couldn't blame him at all. He did try a few "parties" at the Rock - N -Roll Club which sounded cool, but we spied on them a bit and they were really pathetic.
So, here's what happened with us. Our oldest son was off having the time of his life with his group at Circle C, while our youngest son was left without any fun activities, or opportunities to really make friends with other kids his age (although we saw lots of kids around the ship who were probably about the same age, like our son, they did not participate in the camp carnival activities so there was no real way to bring them together and make new friends. Maybe if the had a meet and greet activity such as an ice cream social the first day,they could have formed their own friendships and just hung out together if they didn't like the planned activities). And since our 13 year old was off having fun in his group, our youngest son didn't even have his brother to hang out with or play with.
We're not accustomed to a situation where we have an "only" child, so we mostly ended up trying to make sure he was having fun. We really had no alone or adult time through the whole trip since we didn't want to just leave him on his own, or force him to spend his vacation at a "babysitter." So while other couples were enjoying a show, a drink in a bar, time in a casino, a couple's massage at the spa, we spent our time playing Uno in the Library (which we could have done at home), or hanging out at the water slide while he played in the water (which he also could have done at home). In the end, I think he had fun, but it was hard for him not to notice all the cool stuff his brother got to do that he was excluded from (all of the Circle C activities were things he was old enough to do and would have LOVED!)
If we took this cruise next year (with a 12 and 14 year old, OR if our kids were much younger say 6 and 8,) I think it would have been much more enjoyable for everyone (not just ONE family member!) But we had no real way of knowing how different the two groups would be based on the descriptions. This is why I wanted to give others the heads up.