Royal Caribbean has been giving Disney and other family-focused cruise lines a run for their money, even capturing our vote for Best Family Cruise Ships in the 2008 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards. The line's fleet of 20 ships features expansive kids' play areas and teen hangouts, arcades, water parks, kid-friendly dining at Johnny Rockets and onboard pizza parlors, parades, mini-golf, rock-climbing and onboard surfing.
Further solidifying its position at the top of the family cruise charts, the line today announced new family programming and even more amenities onboard its ships. Here's what parents and kids can expect on their next Royal Caribbean cruise:
New Dinner Options: If your kids can't sit through a full-length dinner, My Family Time Dining is coming to the rescue. Through this new program, kids at early-seating dinner will get expedited meal service, taking only 45 minutes. Youth counselors will pick up the kids from the dining room at 6:45 p.m. and bring them back to the kids' club for post-dinner activities (letting Mom and Dad enjoy leisurely coffee and dessert). In addition, new kids' menus, featuring some healthier options, will be printed on placemats designed by Fisher-Price, complete with games and brain-teasers. Both of these options will be introduced, fleetwide, by July 2009.
Lunch and Play: Lunch and Play, available immediately on all ships, is an alternative to closing down Adventure Ocean at lunchtime. Between noon and 2 p.m., lunch will be served in the Adventure Ocean kids' clubs, along with supervised play time, for a cost of $7.95 per child, ages 3 to 11.
Baby Activities and Amenities: The littlest cruisers have not been forgotten. Through the Babies 2 Go program, parents can pre-order organic baby food and Huggies diapers, wipes and creams for delivery to their cabins (available for online ordering, beginning March 23). The Stroll & Roll program allows parents with strollers take over the jogging track during specified times for some onboard exercise with baby. Kids, ages 18 to 36 months, can play with color at Crayola Beginnings. Parents can also borrow age-appropriate Fisher-Price toys, created for babies, ages 6 to 36 months.
Babysitting: In-stateroom babysitting is now available for families with infants, one year of age or older. A staff member will come to your cabin with toys and games and will keep a log of your child's activities, meals and bedtime while you're out. Parents need to sign up 24 hours in advance; the fee is $10 per hour for up to two children and $15 per hour for 3 or more children.
Bedtime Stories: Royal Caribbean's onboard libraries offer popular kids' books, as well as comfy reading areas. Adventure Ocean counselors will read bedtime stories in the evening; the whole family is invited to come and enjoy cookies and milk during story time. Pajamas are acceptable attire.
Pets at Sea: No, you still can't bring Fluffy and Fido on your cruise vacation, but kids ages three and up can create their own plush animal friends as souvenirs. Participants can even choose which animals they'd like and dress the toys in their desired outfits and accessories. Prices start at $19.95 for the stuffed animal or $29.95 for the animal with an outfit. This program will be available, fleetwide, by May 2009.
Board Games: Royal Caribbean has partnered with Mattel to offer board games, suitable for family play. Parents and kids can compete against other families in staff-led game competitions, hit the card room for intra-family play or even order games for their cabins (for suite guests only).
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
Royal Caribbean Expands Family Programming
March 9, 2009