Archive for the ‘Norwegian Cruise Line’ Category

Best Cruise Ships For Families

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Children’s programs on ships used to be just a place for parents to park their kids while mom and dad went off to do some important adult relaxing. Today, the best family ships devote a huge amount of resources, acreage, and innovation to making sure kids are having as good a time as their parents — or even better. For families traveling with kids, here are some of our favorite ships.

Disney’s Disney Dream: Arguably the best ship at sea for families with young kids, Disney Dream offers the biggest and best children’s facilities, a nursery for kids 3 months to 3 years, separate teen and tween centers, a kids’ pool with waterslide, a toddler-friendly splash zone, and a 765-foot water flume called the AquaDuck (if you can’t view the video above click here) — and those are just the highlights. There are also the best standard family cabins at sea, fantastic family oriented shows and movies, and lots of high-tech magic to make kids go “Oooh!,” plus some secluded adults-only areas to make parents go “Aaah.” You can even pre-order diapers and other baby supplies that’ll be in your cabin when you arrive. A near-identical sister ship, Disney Fantasy, will launch in 2012.

On Disney Cruise Line, the fun is not limited to the ship. Disney owns its own private island, Castaway Cay.

Disney’s Disney Magic & Disney Wonder: Though not quite as amazing as the newer Dream, Disney’s two original ships aren’t far behind, offering an almost identical experience at an only slightly scaled down level. There’s no AquaDuck, but there is different scenery outside, with Magic scheduled to sail from New York and Galveston next year, and Wonder doing Alaska and Mexican Riviera voyages.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas & Allure of the Seas: The biggest cruise ships in the world, these two sisters are also the only ones that give Disney’s ships a run for their money in the family category. Each offers a huge open-air family area styled like an old-time boardwalk (there’s even a carousel), 28,700 square feet of kids’ playrooms, a nursery for kids 6 months to 3 years, extensive teen centers with their own outdoor deck, a pool deck with three different pools and a fun water park, a sports deck with surfing simulators and rock-climbing walls, an ice-skating rink, 3-D movies, fun dining options, and more. Courtesy of a deal with DreamWorks Animation, there are also costumed characters like Shrek and the Madagascar penguins, who participate in a parade and other activities throughout each cruise. As with Disney, you can order diapers and other baby supplies and have them ready in your cabin when you arrive. To view the video “A Teen’s View of Allure of the Seas” click here.

Also see Family Cruise Advisor’s Top Ten Family Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic: NCL’s biggest ship, Epic is also its best for kids, with one of the cruise world’s best waterslides, a splash pool for younger kids, a rock-climbing wall, a trampoline, a 24-foot “spider web”–style climbing cage, a basketball court, a batting cage, a two-story video screen in the atrium that’s great for watching sports; and meet-and-greets by costumed characters from Nickelodeon. The kids’ center offers Wii and Playstation II games, a dance floor, a big-screen TV room full of beanbag chairs; a great play structure with a crawling maze and ball jump. Teens get their own club/hangout, located up a “secret” hideaway staircase. Bonus: Kids under 2 sail free when sharing a cabin with two paying guests.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas & Liberty of the Seas: Once the world’s biggest cruise ships but now also-rans after fleetmates Oasis and Allure, these sister ships offer tons for families, including a huge playroom and video arcade, a teen club, a nursery for kids 6 months to 3 years, puppet shows created by Emmy and Tony Award nominee John Tartaglia, a water park, a surfing simulator, an ice-skating rink, a rock-climbing wall, 3-D movies, a basketball court, and a miniature golf course. For fun enrichment, there are educational programs offered in collaboration with Fisher-Price and Crayola; for kiddie celebrity sightings, there are character parades and photo ops with DreamWorks movie characters; and for sugar highs there are Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream parlors and fresh-baked cupcake shops.

On Carnival Magic, kids and adults alike enjoy the SkyCourse, the first-ever ropes course at sea. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival’s Carnival Dream & Carnival Magic: These two sister-ships — one already in service (Dream) and the other debuting next month — are Carnival’s best for families with kids, especially kids who love water slides, since they come armed with twin 80-foot racing slides; a 104-foot enclosed spiral slide; and a 303-foot-long, four-deck-high enclosed corkscrew waterslide. There are also kids’, teens’, and tweens’ centers, a basketball court, and a miniature golf course, and Carnival Magic will add a “ropes” course, in which kids (and adults) can strap into a safety harness and work their way along 230 feet of beams, rope bridges, and swinging steps suspended above the top deck.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Pearl & Norwegian Gem: These ships were the most recent generation from NCL before its new Epic, and are just all-around fun vessels. For kids, they offer huge, brightly colored play and crafts area; a big-screen TV room full of beanbag chairs; a huge play structure with a ball jump and crawling maze; a computer room; a video arcade; a teen center; and a small outdoor play area. The buffet restaurant includes an adorable “Kid’s Cafe” section with chairs, tables, and serving stations scaled down to pint size, and with kid-friendly food to match.

Princess’s Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess & Ruby Princess: Kid-wise, the best thing about these ships is the fact that their kids’ center includes a large, attached, fenced-in outdoor play area with a splash pool, lots of plastic trikes, a kids’ basketball setup, and kid-size tables and chairs. It’s a great place for energetic kids to work off steam while their parents relax nearby. Inside, the bright, cheerful kids’ centers have toys, games, computer stations, and organized activities. The teen centers have computers, video games, and a dance floor. The line’s “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor movie experience is great for families, with lounge chair seating and free popcorn.

MSC Cruises’ MSC Fantasia & MSC Splendida: Though the children’s programs at Italian line MSC aren’t in the same league as those offered by Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, it still makes this list for one primary reason: because kids 11 and under sail fare-free when sharing a cabin with two paying guests (though government fees and taxes still apply). The line’s recent ships all have smallish children’s centers with games, arts and crafts supplies, PlayStations, and activities, plus an enclosed outdoor area with a wading pool, play structure, and tube slide. The new Fantasia and Splendida add a 4-D movie theater (with moving seats) and a Formula One racing car simulator.

Click the links below to read full ship reviews of the vessels featured in this article.

Disney Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean International

Carnival Cruise Lines

Princess Cruises

NCL

MSC Cruises

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
Waterslides

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.