Royal Caribbean rivals Disney for catering to the under-10s. Through Royal Caribbean's partnership with DreamWorks, trademarked characters materialize for photo ops, perform at the AquaTheater and tickle kids during a character breakfast. (The breakfast takes place in American Icon twice a cruise for a charge of $10 for diners ages 6 and older; reservations are required.) You'll see Kung Fu Panda in the Royal Promenade, Fiona in Central Park and the full DreamWorks army during the "Move It! Move It!" parade in the Royal Promenade. The ship also has a host of family-friendly cabins, with bunk beds and separate rooms (see Cabins).
Royal Caribbean's complimentary children's program, Adventure Ocean, is centered on Deck 16. Kids are divided up into three groups: Aquanauts (ages 3 to 5), Explorers (ages 6 to 8) and Voyagers (ages 9 to 11). Children must be registered and fully toilet trained to take part in activities.
Royal Caribbean has recently become "autism friendly," and this extends to its kids programs. Oasis offers toys that can be borrowed for in-cabin use, as well as movies, games and activities that are suitable for kids with autism.
On a typical day, activities for Aquanauts include story time, face painting, science and art projects, and games themed around the movie "Madagascar" (in connection with Royal's DreamWorks partnership). Explorers and Voyagers have the same, as well as trivia, spelling bees and more advanced science and art projects. Families can come together for scheduled art and science programs, as well as movies.
Adventure Ocean opens at 6:30 a.m. and runs through 10 p.m. Kids are brought to lunch at the Wipe Out Cafe between noon and 1 p.m. and to dinner at the Windjammer buffet between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. There is no cost.
Group babysitting is available for children ages 3 to 11 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Adventure Ocean facilities, cleverly billed as the Late Night Party Zone with fun themes. (What 4-year-old doesn't want to go to a jumping party?) The cost is $6 per hour, per child.
For babies and toddlers, the Royal Babies program accepts infants at least 6 months old up to 18 months; after that, they are dubbed Royal Tots until 36 months old. Drop-off nursery service costs $8 an hour, and parents must sign up for their time in hourly increments. Besides the nursery where the cribs are, there is a large stay and play room, where parents can join their very young ones for story time, coloring and free-time play.
Royal Caribbean offers private in-cabin babysitting for kids older than 1 year. The staffers will bring Fisher-Price toys to your stateroom. The cost is $19 per hour, but the service is subject to staff availability.
Royal Caribbean divides teenagers into two groups -- ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 -- on paper, but in reality, most activities bring all of the young adults together. The teen area consists of three rooms: The Living Room, a hangout area; Fuel, a teens-only disco; and a video arcade. Teens are free to come and go as they want, and curfew for all cruisers younger than 18 is 1 a.m. unless they're supervised by a parent.
On a typical sea day, teens can play board games, have a basketball knockout tournament, decorate bandanas, go on a scavenger hunt, take a mix class through the Scratch DJ program, take part in a rock climbing wall competition and play in an air hockey tournament. Theme parties, such as white night and prom night, are scheduled, and teens have their own karaoke contests and trivia sessions, as well as specific times to use the ice skating rink, the FlowRider, the Sports pool and the rock climbing wall.