Carnival has earned itself a leading reputation in the family cruise market. The line's popular Camp Ocean program offers a slew of top-notch, supervised activities for kids ages 2 to 11, while other activities are available for tweens, teens and little ones under 2. Six months is the minimum age to sail on Carnival.
One of our favorite elements of the program is Seuss at Sea, which encourages kids to read through a series of fun activities such as a character parade, interactive story time, arts and crafts, and character breakfast. The best part: It's open to all ages. Events are noted in the ship's daily newsletter.
The Penguins program (ages 2 to 5) treats little ones to activities like sing-alongs, story time and pajama parties. Stingrays (ages 6 to 8) and Sharks (9 to 11) enjoy more active options such as balloon volleyball and Mr. Potato Head relay races. "Under the Sea" trivia, a "Design Your Own Cruise Ship" workshop and other educational activities also are included. All 2 to 5 year olds must be signed in and out by a parent or legal guardian, while kids 9 and older can sign themselves in/out with a parent's or legal guardian's consent.
Additionally, kids can make their own customized bears at the Beary Cuddly Workshop -- soon to be the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Sea, thanks to a new partnership with the popular toy company. Like the land-based stores, Carnival's workshop allows kids to build and dress their bears with a variety of outfits and accessories, such as tutus, high-top sneakers, bathing suits and sunglasses for an extra fee.
Most Camp Ocean activities take place in the kids' club, Deck 12 aft, which is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on port days and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on sea days. (One hour every day, usually between 5 and 6 p.m., the kids' club is closed for "Family Free Time.") However, some activities are held at other parts of the ship, such as the mini-golf course. Optional beach bashes (supervised outings in particular ports that include games and lunch) are open to Stingrays and Sharks for an additional $15 per child, plus gratuity.
Kids under 2 are permitted to visit the kids' club during specified time frames, when organized activities are not taking place -- usually 8 a.m. to noon on port days and 8 to 10 a.m. on sea days. Parents can leave kids under 2 in the youth staff's care for a nominal fee ($6.75 per hour, per child, plus a 15-percent gratuity) or use the Camp Ocean facility with their kids for free. Babysitting is available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. through the Night Owls program. The cost is also $6.75 per hour, per child, plus 15-percent gratuity.
Carnival wisely offers separate programs and facilities for tweens (12 to 14) and teens (15 to 17).
At Circle C, a small room in an out of the way space on Deck 4, tweens play Wii games, go on digital scavenger hunts and congregate at socials. This group also meets around the ship to play Ping-Pong and mini-golf and plunge down the water slide.
Club 02 for teens is centrally located on the Deck 4, in between the Lincoln Dining Room and Winston's Cigar Bar. The room is a large, friendly space complete with a juice bar, dance floor and area for video games.