The benefits of membership include a Youth Ultimate Value Booklet chock full of activities, such as coloring pages, puzzles and games; the booklets will be delivered to kids' staterooms at turndown the first night onboard, along with their parents' Crown and Anchor Society welcome gifts. A plus for kids and parents too are coupons in the booklet for Ben & Jerry's, Airbrush Tattoo, arcade games, in-room Pay-Per-View movies, ICafe Internet, DelSol(T-shirt shops in port) and Y-Spa (the fleet's teen spa program).
When our publisher's 11-year-old, Michael, heard about the program, he told us "it is just completely awesome." And as for his onboard credits, he's most excited to hit up the arcade and Ben & Jerry's. When asked if there was anything he thought should be included, credits for Johnny Rockets topped his list.
But perhaps the biggest benefit of all for kids (aside from the fact that their parents are still paying for their cruises for awhile) is that when a kid like Michael turns 18, he is automatically switched to the adult version of the past-passenger program -- at the same level of membership. That means if mom and dad are Diamond members when sonny comes of age, he begins his adult cruising life as a Diamond member, too. (Remember: Only adults over the age of 20 can book staterooms and sail independently.)
Adults receive graduated perks, and discounts increase with each level achieved. However, at this point, benefits are the same for all kids regardless of membership level, according to a company spokesman. There is one distinction: Kids 12 to 17 will get a Royal Caribbean messenger bag, while the younger set will receive Crayola Twistable crayons.
In other youth news, the cruise line has also debuted on Liberty of the Seas enhancements to their youth program for teens, chosen by teens. A Teen Advisory Board -- 10 teens aged 15 to 17 -- was chosen from a 36-person research study group commissioned by Royal Caribbean to analyze teen vacation practices and preferences. The teen-staffed Board has met onboard and online (via bulletin boards) to discuss their insights and propose initiatives to the cruise line.
The ideas that Royal Caribbean will implement include:
Ice-breaker activities. There are musical instruments onboard so that teens can jam together; there will also be planned "entertainment experiences," such as Meet Up -- an event for getting to know teens and staff, and finding out what will be happening that week on the cruise. Two others are the Warehouse (which includes a dance competition, open mic and prizes) and Dusk (set up like a VIP South Beach Club scene -- red carpet, velvet ropes, guest DJ and dancers).
Networking. Teens can stay informed about upcoming activities and arrange their own get-togethers through newly designed Compasses (newsletters), event flyers and message boards.
Teen-only dining. Meals just for teens will be offered in the Windjammer Cafe at least one night during each cruise.
Cool stuff ashore. A 4,000-ft. zip line -- Dragon's Flight -- was just added to Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private destination in Haiti. The zip line is for all age groups, but certain time frames will be open only to teens.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor, and Erica Sapio, Assistant Editor.