Carnival Freedom Family
Along with Royal Caribbean, Carnival sets the gold standard for family vacations, both in programming and in physical facilities. Kids are broken into groups by age. There are three groups under the Camp Carnival banner, ranging from preschool to preteen (2 through 5, 6 through 8, and 9 through 11). There is an additional young teen group for 12- through 14-year-olds. A new program, Club O2, has been developed in conjunction with Coca-Cola, for older teens (15 through 17 years old).
Generally, the younger the group, the more their activities are conducted in the Camp Carnival playroom; the youngest ones are there for 90 percent of their supervised activities; the Club O2 kids' programs range the entire extent of the ship. The playroom measures 4,200 square ft. and features a video wall displaying nonstop movies and cartoons, a soft play area for under-2's (admitted only for supervised nighttime group babysitting), and ample space and equipment for arts and crafts -- everything from the standbys of papier mache and painting to devices that make spin and sand art, and even candy.
For preteens and teens there's the 1,800-square-ft. Club O2 Teen Club facility featuring a huge video arcade, a non-alcoholic bar, and dance club with its own D.J. On port days there are "just for teens" shore excursions for the 12- through 17-year-olds, and, in selected ports, Carnival offers "Family Shore Excursions"; however, this is more a matter of marketing than substance, since the experiences on these excursions differed little from those offered on the standard list, at least on our Eastern Mediterranean sailing. One popular aspect is the youth spa program where kids aged 12 through 14 can enjoy spa treatments together with their parents on port days.
Dining options in the formal dining rooms include the usual kids' menus and a daily kids' special. Kids can also dine nightly with the youth counselors sans parents in the Freedom Restaurant.
Group babysitting (which is available to under-2's) is available nightly at a rate of $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each addition child from the same family.