Family Cruising: Characters at Sea

Kids’ Aqua Park on Norwegian Breakaway has large statues of SpongeBob and other Nickelodeon characters that children can also meet in person.

Kids’ Aqua Park on Norwegian Breakaway has large statues of SpongeBob and other Nickelodeon characters that children can also meet in person.


Families seeking quality time together typically book a cruise for an amenity-laden ship, or the right deal or itinerary. But for some, the experience is greatly enhanced by an up-close encounter with Mickey Mouse, Shrek and Fiona, Cinderella, SpongeBob SquarePants, Captain America, Barbie, or Dora the Explorer.

“Captain Mickey” & Company

New to the Disney Fantasy, the Disney Cruise Line ship that sails from Port Canaveral this winter, is the new Royal Court Royal Tea. This fun storytelling and musical show is hosted by Lady Chamomile and Chef Brulee. 

Kids will enjoy meet-and-greet opportunities with the Disney princesses — from Snow White and Cinderella to Belle, Ariel and Pocahontas, among others. The cost, which includes one child and one adult, is $279.

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New to Disney is the Marvel’s Captain America experience, now part of Disney’s Oceaneer Club on the revitalized Disney Magic, which sails roundtrip from Miami this winter. Within this supervised children’s activities space for kids 3-12, Marvel’s Avengers Academy offers a two-day interactive experience that trains “super hero recruits” as the next class of The Avengers. Yes, expect visits and training from Captain America himself. Disney is also giving adults “camera time” with Captain America outside the kids’ club areas. 

Also new and exclusive to Disney Magic is the Mickey Mouse Club, a new red-yellow-and-black play area within the club. Young clients will enjoy computer play, a crafts area and, at times, visits from Mickey himself. 

Within the kids’ club on Disney Magic, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, children may also play in Pixie Hollow and Andy’s Room. At Pixie Hollow, Tinker Bell’s teapot house serves as a closet filled with fanciful costumes for dress up. Andy’s bed is the focal point of the multi-level Andy’s Room. Kids love hopping on the Slinky Dog slide to descend to the toy room floor, home to a humongous Mr. Potato Head and Hamm.

During its recent drydock, Disney Magic also received a new, 1,800-square-foot AquaLab outdoor play area with pop jets, geysers and bubblers; this themed splash area is also on Disney Fantasy. However, Disney Magic has a feature not on other Disney ships — the Nephews’ Splash Zone, starring Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie.

It’s Nickelodeon Time

Norwegian Cruise Line’s partnership with Nickelodeon has transported SpongeBob, Patrick, Sandy Cheeks, Dora, Diego, Wanda, Cosmo and Aang to five Norwegian ships — Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway or Norwegian Getaway, which will sail year-round from Miami starting in early 2014. 

Activities include Dora’s Dance Party, a once-per-cruise character event where kids sing and dance; Nickelodeon’s Pajama Jam, allowing children to party in their PJs and wake up with a buffet breakfast and characters (reservations are recommended, and it’s offered up to three times per cruise); Nickelodeon Arts and Crafts, usually offered three times per cruise; and Story Time with Dora, offered once per cruise. 

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During Meet & Greet Nickelodeon Characters, guests of all ages can pose for photos. On some ships, kids also enjoy a Nicktoons Dance Party featuring a DJ, SpongeBob and other characters. In Know Your Nick Nickelodeon Trivia, guests might want to win — or perhaps not, as the winner gets a pie in the face. Nick Live Poolside features audience participation, and the winner is also rewarded with a pie in the face. Kids absolutely love Slime Time Live, offered once per cruise; it’s an interactive, gooey game for kids of all ages.

Character activities and timing may vary per sailing. Nickelodeon goes dormant during the European season on Norwegian Epic; only character meet-and-greets and arts/crafts are offered. 

Norwegian Breakaway’s Kids’ Aqua Park features large statues of SpongeBob and other Nickelodeon characters. Norwegian Getaway will also have those characters in its pirate-themed Nickelodeon splash area. Splash Academy, the supervised children’s club program on both these ships, is also Nickelodeon-themed. 

From the “trivia” side, on Norwegian Breakaway, families will likely giggle at seeing the Nickelodeon characters in “tacky tourist” outfits. 

Barbie and Shrek 

Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean International launched its fleet-wide Barbie program. Girls 4-11 who participate in the line’s Adventure Ocean youth program can be part of a complimentary experience that includes Barbie Movie Night, Barbie Story Time, other themed activities and Barbie movies on stateroom TVs. 

New to Disney is Marvel’s Captain America experience.
New to Disney is Marvel’s Captain America experience.

A separate “Barbie Premium Experience” is the ultimate indulgence for kids; cost is $199 for all sailings departing on or after January 1. The family will arrive to find their stateroom adorned in the doll’s signature style and pink colors. Stateroom keepsakes include a Barbie doll and fashions, blanket and pillowcase, tote bag, toothbrush and toiletries bag. Premium experience participants also enjoy the following: At a Mermaid Dance Class, girls learn moves from the movie Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2. At a fashion designer workshop, girls sketch and create their own Barbie doll fashions. During a Barbie fashion show, girls dress up, walk the pink carpet, perform a dance route and show off their Barbie fashions. 

Six Royal Caribbean ships are home for DreamWorks Animation’s movie characters. So while on Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas, your clients might encounter Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots of Shrek; Alex, Mort and the penguins of Madagascar; Po of Kung Fu Panda; and Hiccup of How to Train Your Dragon.

Kids who participate in Adventure Ocean also enjoy a line-up of DreamWorks activities, games and adventures. Royal Caribbean has also introduced 3D movie screens in the theaters of these ships so families can watch first-run DreamWorks 3D movies.

On Allure of the Seas the DreamWorks Animation characters also perform as part of a show at AquaTheater, the outdoor water venue that’s home to acrobatics and high diving stunts. Allure of the Seas’ ice rink also features a show with characters. 

While most clients won’t book a cruise solely for the character action, character programs create added value for families with children.