The first ship in the Carnival fleet to receive Camp Ocean facilities, as well as the full Seuss at Sea program, Freedom is not only outfitted to keep children of any age content but also offers activities suited for family participation.
Formerly Camp Carnival, Camp Ocean is stepping in as the kids club replacement with an oceanography theme. Most notably, in place of one large, open floor plan, Camp Ocean is divided into separate areas with activities appropriate for your child's age group. (Penguins is the only area with a gate, for security reasons.) Penguins includes ages 2 to 5, Stingrays are 6 to 8, and Sharks are 9 to 11. Accommodations can be made to group siblings close in age within the same area, but camp counselors say kids are happiest within their own age group. There are more than 200 ocean-themed activities scheduled during a single cruise in Camp Ocean, including arts and crafts sessions for the whole family. A Camp Ocean playground is sectioned off outside on Deck 12, and children enjoy outdoor playtime closer to sunset when the sun is not as harsh.
A badge challenge -- similar to Girl and Boy Scout badges -- has been introduced, encouraging young cruisers to accomplish a number of outlined activities onboard. More than 20 badges are available for activities like singing karaoke, trying a new food in the dining room or creating a towel animal. Badges can be collected over multiple cruises, and at the end of each, a ceremony takes place with giveaways for each age group.
Onboard cell phones are provided for parents of the youngest age group, but parents of children any age can call Camp Ocean and speak to their child at any time. Counselors will change diapers for children 3 1/2 and younger. Camp Ocean is free, but the Night Owls program (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) costs $6.75 per hour, per child, plus a 15 percent gratuity. Private baby-sitting is available (but not in-cabin) for the same rate. Kids dinners take place from about 6 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. near Fish & Chips on Deck 10.
From 8 to 10 each morning, parents with infants are invited to use the Camp Ocean space. If parents stay with their kids, this allotted time is free of charge; otherwise, the rate of $6.75 per hour, plus a 15 percent gratuity, applies. On port days, care for infants begins 15 minutes from the first tour until noon, or from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for ships arriving in port after noon; the fee is the same.
Preteens and teens have their own respective clubs onboard for the 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 sets. Circle C (ages 12 to 14) is located forward on Deck 4, close to the library, but its purple, green and orange nightclub atmosphere is well-hidden from rest of the ship. Plenty of flat-screen TVs, egg chair seats and games like Guitar Hero make it a great meeting place. Club 02 (ages 15 to 17) is midship on Deck 5 near the Warehouse. Karaoke sessions, mocktails, movies and game, make 02 a great hangout away from the rest of the family. Despite the indoor temptations, groups of teens were found out and about on our sailing, enjoying the Lido area and roaming the ship. Rumor has it the teen clubs onboard Carnival's ships might see an overhaul with the debut of Carnival Vista in 2016.
Seuss at Sea includes a number of activities and a permanent onboard reading space, Dr. Seuss' Bookville. Bookville, located to the right of Camp Ocean on Deck 12, is open to passengers of any age. Colorful funky-shaped couches and cushions and bright multicolored chairs invite you to sit and relive the nostalgia of parenthood or childhood or hear a Dr. Seuss story for the first time.
Held on the first sea day of our sailing (at about 3:30 p.m.), Seuss-a-Palooza is a parade for all ages, beginning in the International Lounge on Deck 5, where you should arrive early to snag props like characters on sticks, red-and-white pompoms and storybook banners. Counselors are present to instruct kids and adults in the chant and the march, and to stir general excitement. One by one, Seuss' characters -- Thing 1, Thing 2, Sam I Am and Cat in the Hat -- make an appearance, followed by your cruise director, who will lead the parade through the halls and down the stairs, ending in the Victoriana Lounge on Deck 3.
The parade culminates in Story Time, an interactive reading of "The Cat in the Hat" that takes place on the stage. Children are encouraged to gather on the stage, and parents are encouraged to participate in the reading as well. Seuss-a-Palooza is an hour well spent with the family.
A photo opportunity is held in the middle of the cruise, offering your children the chance to pose with their favorite characters, but this is also available during the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast. Check your Fun Times for details.
The Green Eggs and Ham character breakfast was held on the last sea day of our cruise with two seating times (the latter beginning check-in at 9:45). Reservations are required, and the breakfast can be booked by dialing 32323 from any ship telephone. The cost is $5 per person, which we consider a great value. Chic dining room on Deck 3, where the breakfast is held, is completely transformed with a Cat in the Hat theme (but we won't ruin all the surprises). All characters make appearances, but they stand in the middle for photo opportunities, rather than visit each table, which caused unnecessary lines with parents hopping up and down from the table to snap their child alongside a 7-foot cat. Menu items leap from the pages of Dr. Seuss' books and feature, of course, green eggs and ham (served atop an English muffin with a red velvet French macaroon on the side). Other options are Truffula Tree pancakes (seven of them, though mini), Horton's cereal-crusted French toast (a real sugar rush when coated in Fruit Loops) and waffles with blue and orange nooks. There are even parfaits for dessert (yes, breakfast with dessert). Apple and orange juice are traded in for moose juice and goose juice, and coffee (which we were secretly told was not originally on the menu) has luckily found its way back in time for parents who need their own magic pick-me-ups.