(9 a.m. EST) -- When Disney Cruise Line began sailing in 1998, it simultaneously introduced what was then the most innovative kids program at sea. Now, for the first time since its launch, the family line is giving the program an overhaul -- and it's major.
The biggest change has to do with the way the program itself is structured and is a revolutionary departure from the industry standard. Disney is bucking a major trend amongst family cruise lines -- creating smaller age groupings within their kids clubs -- by eliminating age restrictions for its onboard programming for children ages 3 through 12.
What this means is that relative and friends between these ages who would have ordinarily been separated in the club -- say, a 3-year-old and her 8-year-old big brother -- can now participate in the same activities if they so choose.
Here's how it works:
The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, once reserved for 3 to 7's and 8 to 12's respectively, are now open to all kids in those ranges. Any child between those ages may visit either or both rooms if they want, and may participate in any activity scheduled for either space.
Activities are divvied up by interests, not age, and will be organized in the daily newsletter, The Navigator, by interest first, with secondary color-coded recommendations for age. Though there are no age restrictions, many activities are still geared toward either the younger (3 to 7) or older (8 to 12) set.
Activities most appropriate for older kids still take place in the Lab, while those recommended for younger ones still take place in the Club. New series break activities down further by interests, such as creating (make-your-own Flubber) and problem solving (Detective School with Goofy).
The revolutionary revamp also includes several new services for families, a tweaked tween program and changes to the Castaway Cay private island experience.
Disney began rolling out the brand-new youth activities program on Disney Wonder in December; it will be fully operational on that ship as well as Disney Magic by February 2010.
For more information on the changes -- and a firsthand account from a family of four who just gave the program a go on Disney Wonder -- check out our brand-new Trendwatch: Disney Cruise Line's Revolutionary Changes in Kids Programming.
--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor, with reporting by Carrie Calzaretta
--Image appears courtesy of Carrie Calzaretta
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