This is a terrific ship for families. Not only are there children's clubs for ages from two to 17 (and three have just been given a big facelift), but a host of other family-oriented fun activities. In addition to the game shows that are played out on stage in front of enthusiast crowds, there is the Towel Animal Theatre for the little ones. There are also Dr. Seuss characters to mix and mingle with. The whole ship, well almost, is a kids' theme park with scary waterslides and tame slippery-dips for the little kids. Most kids just love to spend all day in the pool and now they can watch movies and TV shows while they're cooling off. There are also plenty of four-berth cabins and many interconnecting cabins for families who want their kids close by, but not that close!
Carnival's complimentary children's programmes cater to all ages -- from two-year-olds to teens -- and are split into five separate age groups with different hangouts on different decks.
The former Camp Carnival for kids from two to 11 has been replaced by Camp Ocean, a marine-themed kids club. It's now decorated in every shade of blue and once again houses three age groups, each with a different name. More than 200 educational activities are offered, many with an ocean theme, such as sea salt art, sea-shell craft, ocean bingo and a make-your-own sailboat workshop. Camp Ocean was devised by a panel of experts who know about how children engage with toys and games.
The three separate areas within Camp Ocean on Deck 5 (forward) are called the Penguin Colony (for two to 5 year olds), which has an igloo among its props and playthings; Sting Ray camp for six- to eight-year-olds; and the Shark enclosure for nine- to 11-year-olds.
Late-night child-minding also takes place in Camp Ocean for children aged two to 11, until as late as 1 a.m. A fee of about $8 an hour per child is charged. There is no in-cabin babysitting.
Circle C is for 12- to 14-year-olds, while Club O2 is for those of ages 15 to 17 and is located at the top of the ship on Deck 10.
Fun activities and facilities include big-screen TVs for movies or Nintendo Wii play, video game stations, toys and games, and materials for arts and crafts projects. The younger kids have toys and games galore, along with arts and crafts. There may be magic shows, face-painting and pizza-making on offer, along with the ever-popular scavenger hunts.
Accessible only via stairs down from Camp Ocean or up from the Jungle Walk, the Circle C hangout for 12- to 14-year-olds is located on Deck 4. The tweens certainly have a real hideaway; it's been known to take parents a while to find this place. The Circle C lounge features game consoles and a dance floor and supervised activities include games such as charades and Apple to Apples, themed dance parties and sports competitions. Next door, a video arcade is open to kids and adults alike, but many adults never find it. Kids have reserved arcade hours when all games are free and no parents are allowed.
The almost-hidden location of Camp Ocean is fairly unusual; while some cruise ships will try to corral the kids into one section of the ship, we've never needed a detailed map to find the kids' areas before. However, we found many of the kids onboard our cruise to be rowdy and running amok.
Babies and toddlers, aged six months to two years, cannot participate in Camp Ocean activities, but they do have additional babysitting hours (fees apply) on port days, with hours varying from port to port. On sea days, parents can drop toddlers off from noon to 2 p.m. for a fee or use the facilities for parent-child playtime for no extra charge. The regular late-night babysitting is available for tots younger than two, as well. Yes, Camp Ocean counsellors do change nappies.
Children of all ages can use the onboard pools, including those who aren't toilet-trained if they are wearing a swim nappy (which are not available onboard). A children's wading pool, complete with nearby mini-slides, is located on Deck 11 by the yellow twister waterslide. The larger waterslides are subject to height and weight restrictions.
Children's menus are featured in the main dining room and kids aged two to 11 can dine with the counsellors on the Lido Deck most nights. A Fountain Fun card, good for unlimited soft drinks, costs around AU$37 for eight-day voyages. (Adults can also choose a soda package for around AU$50.)
Teens: The teen lounge, Club O2, is also tricky to find; it's outside the aerobics studio on Deck 10. It has TVs for watching movies and playing video games, as well as a dance area and a 'mocktail' bar that serves up sodas and nonalcoholic smoothies and fruit drinks. Teen activities include movie trivia, Guitar Hero rock-offs, organised sports on the basketball court, hot tub hangouts, pool parties and late-night parties.There are also special teen shore excursions.