A quick straw poll of children aged between 11 and 14 revealed that eating was one of their favourite activities while on the ship. While my teenage son Marley developed a taste for Carnival Spirit's thin-crust pizza for breakfast (Pizza Pirate is open 24/7), his 11-year-old friend Ivory loved the fact there was 'neverending soft-serve'. On to lunch at Guy's Burger Joint, where a cheese-topped beef patty slapped on a bun was Fin's favourite: he loved that he could apply his own salad and condiments. Brekky burritos at Blue Iguana Cantina were also a huge hit. While all of these above eateries are fee-free, the family agreed it's worth forking out for Bonsai Sushi and the signature Californian roll filled with chicken schnitzel. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party is also a crowd-pleaser . For more delicious suggestions, read our 5 Best Food Experiences on a Carnival Spirit Cruise.
2. Entertainment and Comedy
Many of our most memorable family holiday moments onboard Carnival Spirit involved watching live entertainment. While most of the comedians performing at the Punchliner Comedy Club were very funny, the best part of the 40-minute cross-generational comedy show is when the standup comics riff with the kids. This interaction with the audience usually results in the children disclosing embarrassing anecdotes that turn into inappropriate punchlines -- a formula guaranteed to set the audience into ripples of laughter. While some of the jokes in the comedy club go over the kids' heads, Hasbro Game Show presents material designed to entertain the entire family. And, in live shows such as "Epic Rock," my kids dutifully cringed as we belted out songs from back in the big-hair-and-glam-rock days.
3. Family Games
The wall-to-wall activities on Carnival Spirit afford families ample opportunities to spend quality time together. Modern devices be damned! From Battle of the Ages -- the trivia game that pits kids against the adults -- to old-fashioned games such as Scrabble and Monopoly in the library, the daily games on offer are designed to encourage families to interact with each other and have a laugh. In addition to games such as foosball and shuffleboard in the Red Frog Bar, my sons ramped up the friendly rivalry with games of basketball, Ping-Pong and mini-golf. They also loved snuggling down with popcorn for a Dive-In movie under the stars.
Children have no choice but to be active on board as there are so many designated kids' zones. One of my sons' favourite things to do on the cruise was to zoom down the fibreglass water slides. When the sun was waning, my boys would race to the top of Green Thunder, which spirals out into the blue sky and over the sea, entertaining those glued to sun loungers in the Sanctuary with the soundtrack of their screams. This is Carnival Spirit's star family attraction and, billed as one of the world's steepest, fastest water slides at sea, is great for burning off the calories consumed from the breakfast buffet.
5. Kids' Clubs
The fact that most children are not connected to the onboard Wi-Fi means they fill their time making real-life friends rather than seeking validation from social media. We encourage our children to attend the 'Meet and Greet' in the kids' club on the first night of a cruise as this is when they will meet children their own age and form fast friendships. Regardless of how long they spend in the kids' clubs -- which cater to children aged 2 to 11 in Club Carnival, 12 to 14 in Circle C and 15 to 17 in Club 02 -- my boys seemed to bond very well with others their age as there are plenty of opportunities for them to have fun onboard this floating playground. For the younger children, music, activities and games are designed to help them relax and feel comfortable, while older kids engage in everything from scavenger hunts to karaoke craziness and neon-lit dance parties. The fact that they are with kids their own ages means they can form friendships based on whether they are drawn to the sports equipment, games arcade or arts and crafts.
6. Photo Gallery
The ship photographers take both candid and formal shots during the cruise and my sons had a blast posing for pics around the ship. The photographers can be found on the gangway, in the dining room and on the deck; as there is no obligation to purchase any of the images, families tend to pose for a wide range of photographs against backdrops that veer from fun to formal so they can pick and choose their favourites. These are professional photographers and they work fast to get great results snapping you getting on and off the ship and during dinner. And, on special theme nights such as 'Eighties night', the paparazzi also throw in lots of props -- ranging from feather boas to blow-up boom boxes -- and will most certainly Photoshop that pimple from your chin.
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7. Learning New Skills
From towel-folding fun -- where participants learn to transform a boring bath towel into a fluffy animal -- to dance classes, to a Behind the Fun tour where my boys gained an insight into the inner workings of Carnival Cruise Line's shipboard operations, the many tours and workshops coax children out of their comfort zone to learn something new. Those who are shy about busting a move will benefit from a hip-hop workshop or "Thriller" dance class, where the whole family learns the moves to show off during the themed deck parties. My two teens are not known for dancing during dinner, but they loved the informal fun in the Empire Dining Room, where the waiters turn into cabaret stars and encourage kids to lead the congas and join in the chorus for songs such as "YMCA."