Archive for April, 2010

Theme park style water slides make a big splash

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

A million years ago cruise ships had basic pools with four sides and a ladder. Then three decades ago, things started getting interesting when Carnival introduced its first real water slide on the Festivale, a basic L-shaped slide about 10 feet high. The rest is history.

Along with amenities like multiple restaurants and huge spas, water parks and elaborate multi-deck-high slides with catchy names like Super Bowl and Twister are becoming standard aboard ships carrying more than 2,000 passengers. In 2009, the new Carnival Dream debuted with four water slides, one currently the longest in the biz at 303 feet. This year the Norwegian Epic will turns heads with a slide that has a big bowl feature that users spin around in, though the Disney Dream will take the cake when she debuts in early 2011 with a truly theme-park-style water flume ride that shoots guests over the side of the ship. As far as water parks, Royal Caribbean is the leader. Its Freedom class ships boast an impressive pool deck water park as well as the industry’s first surfing simulator, called the FlowRider. When Royal Caribbean’s newest class of ship rolled out earlier this year, the gigantic Oasis of the Seas had not only a sprawling water park, but two FlowRiders.

Andrew Mowatt, a vice president at WhiteWater West Industries, the firm that manufactures and designs most of the cruise industry’s water slides, says cruise ship water features will only get wilder, larger and more exciting. Mowatt says viable ideas include a slide that drops 10 stories in a 15-second free fall while zipping through the ship’s main atrium. Zowie, that’s amazing. So much for shuffleboard and pina coladas.

Here are the most fun and thrilling water features at sea.

Carnival Dream
Twister & Drain Pipe

As part of its “WaterWorks,” Carnival’s new 3,646-passenger, 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, has a pair of twin 80-foot-long racing slides, a 104-foot-long enclosed spiral slide called the DrainPipe, and a huge 303-foot-long four-deck high enclosed corkscrew waterslide called Twister. Tamer water pursuits include squirting fountains, splash zones and dump buckets.

The Carnival Splendor and six of Carnival’s eight Fantasy-class ships have all been retro-fitted with Waterworks features that comprise a Twister slide, dual racing slides and water spray toys. Elation and Paradise each have 2-deck-high Twister slides and are slated to get Waterworks installed within the next few years. The rest of the Carnival fleet all have 3-deck-high Twister slides, ranging in length from 72 feet on the Spirit class to 214 feet on the Conquest class ships.

Norwegian Epic
Epic Plunge & Super Bowl

When NCL’s new 4,200-passenger, 153,000-ton Norwegian Epic debuts this summer, one of its most talked about features will be 240-foot-long “Epic Plunge” bowl slide and a slide called the “Super Bowl, ” a four-deck high slide that starts with a ride down a covered tunnel in an inner tube before riders land up in a the “bowl” to do some spins. There are also water slides aboard NCL’s four Jewel-class ships, the Norwegian Jewel, Jade, Pearl and Gem.

Disney Dream
Aqua Duck

The 2,500-passenger (double occupancy), 128,000-ton Disney Dream will debut next year with a massive 765-foot-long, four-deck-high flume ride called the AquaDuck. Clearly the most theme-park-ride-like of any cruise ship water feature so far, passengers will board a two-person inflatable raft and get swept away on a high-speed ride around the perimeter of the ship’s top deck propelled by high-powered water jets. Part coaster and part water slide, passengers ride 13 feet out over the ocean inside a transparent acrylic flume, 150 feet above the sea. Part of the ride even zips past windows in the “tweens” kids’ club. The ride ends with passengers zooming through a 335-foot-long stretch of river rapids before a final splashdown.

Freedom of the Seas & Oasis of the Seas
H2O Zone and FlowRiders

Instead of major water slides, the most notable water features aboard the Freedom ships and the Oasis of the Seas are the whimsical H2O Zone water parks that are equipped with various water sprayers and Wave-Loch’s FlowRider surf simulators. The surfing machines give passengers a very realistic surfing experience. Thousands of gallons of water per minute shoot out to create a wavelike flow on which boarders can (try to) ride.

Costa Cruises

Though not as over-the-top as the theme park slides on the above ships, Costa does offer serpentine-style 200-foot-long slides aboard seven of its ships, including Costa Fortuna, Costa Magica, Costa Concordia, Costa Serena, Costa Pacifica, Costa Mediterranea and Costa Atlantica.

NCL charges kids peanuts.

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Starting Monday April 19, 2010 (and Friday April 16, 2010 for Latitudes past guest club members), kids cruise on NCL for as low as $99 each when booked as third through eight guests on select 2010 sailings worldwide for new reservations made now through May 31, 2010. Plus, reduced cruise deposits are offered on new summer bookings from now through May 2, 2010.

“When you’re Freestyle Cruising on Norwegian Cruise Line, you get what you want and so do your kids. With plunging waterslides, a two-story Wii wall, and Nickelodeon at Sea, there’s something for everyone, no matter what their age,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “With Norwegian’s complimentary Kid’s Crew supervised children’s program, parents are able to sneak away to the spa for a few hours or even a romantic dinner. We also offer family-friendly accommodations including interconnecting staterooms and multi-room Suites and Villas.”

Starting April 24, 2010, Norwegian Jewel will start offering its exclusive Nickelodeon at Sea activities and shows on board all cruises year-round, in addition to all the current on-board programming already offered. This programming will also be available on Norwegian Epic when the ship launches this summer. Signature Nickelodeon activities, characters and interactive game shows for entire family will include Slime Time Live! and Nick Live! Poolside interactive shows; Story Time with Dora where guests are invited to gather around to hear stories about some of their favorite Dora the Explorer characters; Dora’s Dance Party where kids will join Dora and the Nickelodeon cast to dance and sing along with all of Dora’s favorite party songs; character breakfasts; meet and greets around the ship with Nickelodeon characters; Nickelodeon-themed arts and crafts, along with special enhancements to Norwegian’s Kids Crew programming.

On The Mekong: Appropriate For Kids? These Parents Think So

Friday, April 16th, 2010

All Eyes Izzy, originally uploaded by Ralph Grizzle.

There’s been a great deal of interest from Avid Cruiser readers about whether the Mekong is a good cruise for kids. The short answer is yes. Take them and venture forth! For more explanation, read on.

Isabel Karst, age 17, and Britton, my daughter, age 14

There were four kids on our April 2010 cruise, ranging in age from 5 to 17. For the teens, there’s no question that the cruise was a wonderful and age-appropriate experience. Isabel Karst, 17 years old and daughter of AMAWATERWAYS’ vice president of sales, called it one of the best trips of her life. Yes, Isabel is young, but she’s well-traveled, having been to Europe countless times with her mother on river cruises.

My daughter, Britton, age 14, told me during the trip: “I don’t think it matters what age you are. I’m getting the same thing out of it that an adult would.” That’s true. In fact, she may have absorbed more than I did. Certainly, her journal tells me that the cruise was a valuable experience for her.

La Marguerite even features a pool

On one level, our Mekong cruise was a vacation (La Marguerite was like a luxury hotel, with a pool), but on another level, the trip provided historical and cultural enrichment, a broader understanding of the world we share with others, and yes, the beginning of something transformational for my daughter – to that of a world citizen.

My daughter developed a better understanding of another culture.

Part of the reason that the cruise was so successful for kids was because of the way the program was structured. There were one or two tours each day. The morning tours started at 8:30 a.m., and the afternoon tours started at around 2 p.m. The tours were just the right length for a kid’s and adult’s attention span, typically two- to three-hours and with enough activity to keep the kids interested and amused.

On most tours, we traveled like the locals, by boat (ours was a private boat), which was a great way to get around and also good for the kids, much better than being stuck on a bus.

Isabel and Britton at Cambodia

We were always back on La Marguerite for lunch. On some days, there was a second tour, and on other days, we cruised. On those days, there were presentations, some kid-friendly, like the towel-folding demonstration, where staff taught kids and adults how to fold towels to resemble animals.

Regarding food: Kids can be finicky eaters, and while there were no kids’ menus on La Marguerite, there was a good selection of kid-friendly food, including cheeses and fresh fruits. The breakfast and lunch buffet was a mix of Asian and Western foods, but we could also order hamburgers and other “comfort foods” from the menu. I should point out that there were no stomach illnesses that I know of from the food. Vegetables (the main concern for illnesses) were washed with treated water.

For kids and adults, La Marguerite features an expansive DVD collection, with kid-friendly videos, and the largest flat-panel, in-stateroom televisions I’ve ever seen on a ship.

Friends and Family.

What about the younger Dutch kids, ages 5 and 7? I asked their mother Christine if she thought her kids were too young to appreciate the experience. She responded that the trip was “very important for their development,” adding that “they now understand more about the world and about different cultures and religions.”

Her children saw many people praying in temples and asked what the people were praying for. Christine told them they were praying for good things to happen. The next day, she found her kids praying, Vince, age 5, for a toy car, and Izzy, age 7, for a new Barbie. Christine explained that these were not the types of things that people prayed for, that people prayed for a better world.

Izzy was sometimes reflective on our trip.

Later, Izzy came to her and asked how long it took for prayers to come true. Depends on what you’re praying for, Christine responded. Izzy had prayed for all poor people to become rich so that there would be no hardship. She added thoughtfully, “But I think that will take more than a couple of days to happen.”

There is another component to the trip for families, and that is the bonding that takes place. “In our normal lives, we are so busy with work that we often take family for granted,” Christine said, echoing my own thoughts. “On this trip, we have spent so much time together and had so many experiences. For the bonding of our family, it’s been very good.”

The kids learned more about prayer and ritual and the world we live in.