The Latest in Family-Friendly Cruises

Carnival Vista will have the new nautically themed Family Harbor staterooms and suites.
Carnival Vista will have the new nautically themed Family Harbor staterooms and suites.

Cruise lines are targeting a growing market by launching a variety of new family-friendly options for the summer of 2016 and beyond. “Our agents have seen solid growth with regard to family cruising and with promoting cruises to a more multigenerational consumer,” says Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance for the Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. brands.

Daly cites the draw this summer of such snazzy new cruise industry features as Royal Caribbean International’s “Ultimate Abyss” on the new Harmony of the Seas. If adults and teens are waterslide fans, they’ll certainly get a thrilling ride as they vertically curve and careen down 10 decks on this tallest slide at sea. This purplish, 100-foot-long slide is located within the aft, open Boardwalk area of the 5,497-passenger Harmony of the Seas, debuting in Europe this summer, and coming to Port Everglades, FL, in November.

The new ship also offers the DreamWorks Experience with character meet-and-greets with Po of “Kung Fu Panda”; Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots of “Shrek”; and Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo and the Penguins from “Madagascar.” Plus, the ship’s 3D movie theater and in-stateroom TV system will show DreamWorks Animation films. Harmony of the Seas also boasts a Royal Babies & Tots Nursery, Splashaway Bay interactive kids’ aqua park, Adventure Ocean youth facilities for kids 3 to 11, “Away We Go,” a black light puppet show in Adventure Ocean Theater and “Muffalo Potato” programming.

For all Oasis-class ships, Royal Caribbean is introducing new perks for balcony staterooms overlooking Central Park and Boardwalk. Starting in November, guests staying in these staterooms receive lunch for two at Jamie’s Italian (Harmony of the Seas) or Giovanni’s Table (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas), plus red wine upon arrival and Casino Royale perks. Guests in Boardwalk accommodations will receive lunch or dinner for four at Johnny Rockets; a soda beverage package for two; and private time on the ship’s rock wall.

Daly also cited a new military family partnership by Carnival Cruise Line, country music star Carrie Underwood and Operation Homefront. For example, Underwood hosted a meet-and-greet for military families prior to her recent show in Philadelphia; she was joined by Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president. One family was given an invitation to a private concert for military families aboard the new Carnival Vista (launching this spring in Europe), during its New York debut in November. Similar invites also issued will occur in St. Louis, March 24; Colorado Springs, CO, March 29; Phoenix, April 14; San Antonio, TX, April 18; Houston, April 19; and Little Rock, AR, April 28. Carnival also will sell “dog tags” onboard its ships to benefit Operation Homefront.

For all families, Carnival Vista will have the first IMAX Theater at sea; a new SkyRide aerial attraction; and new nautically themed Family Harbor staterooms and suites, which include access to a Family Harbor Lounge, an exclusive 24-hour spot serving morning breakfast, snacks throughout the day, concierge service and activities like Hasbro board games, family movies and video games. Family Harbor stateroom perks also include “kids eat free” in most premium onboard restaurants and one free evening of Night Owls babysitting service.

Starting in April, Costa Cruises will offer kids’ programming themed around the cartoon character Peppa Pig.
Starting in April, Costa Cruises will offer kids’ programming themed around the cartoon character Peppa Pig.

Starting in April, Costa Cruises will offer kids’ programming themed around the cartoon character Peppa Pig, beloved in more than 180 countries worldwide. Children will meet and play with the beloved character in games and educational activities in the ships’ Squok Clubs, each with a space reflecting a cartoon location. Sets vary from ship to ship. 

For families on an Alaska sea-and-land journey, Holland America Line is opening a new dining, shopping and relaxation complex this spring at the Denali National Park and Preserve entrance, Base Camp. Part of McKinley Chalet Resort enhancements, guests also will enjoy a new amphitheater with a covered performance stage and fire circles. Separately, Holland America and BBC Earth have launched a new partnership in April with fleetwide perks by September. Junior cruisers can explore an onboard explorer trail, participate in fun workshops and BBC Earth animal and dinosaur fact shows and even try being a journalist.

New in Alaska for Princess Cruises this coming season is “Cook My Catch,” available on select cruise excursions in Juneau and Ketchikan, as well as for Princess Land & Sea Vacations with stays at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge and Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. As guests return from their excursion, the line’s culinary team will prepare their catch. For families, kids will likely love the new “Puppies in the Piazza” excursion which is sure to please the youngest cruisers who can’t wait to interact with the dogs and handlers from Skagway in the ship’s atrium and take photos.

Families sailing on Disney Wonder can also pan for gold and play with sled dogs in “The Klondike Family Challenge” during a Skagway port call; adults can also tour and taste at the Klondike Gold Fields Brewery. Adult siblings seeking a family “bonding” adventure might consider Crystal Cruises’ 32-day voyage from Anchorage to New York City through the Arctic. Departing August 16, its calls include Kodiak, Dutch Harbor and Nome in Alaska; Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Canada; Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston; Newport, Rhode Island; and New York City. 

Clients can gain value with Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Freestyle Choice Hawaii” promotion, offering up to $980 in added value offers to clients booking a new Pride of America Hawaii cruise through April 29, 2016. Guests receive one of these: a free one-night pre-cruise Waikiki Marriott Resort (or similar hotel) stay in a city-view room; free specialty dining package; free pre-paid gratuities for the stateroom’s first and second guests; or free $50 per port shore excursion credits in up to four ports. Suite guests receive all four offers. The offer does not apply to cruises booked less than 30 days prior to departure. Sailing year-round from Honolulu, Pride of America visits Hawaii’s four main islands.

Later this year, Abercrombie & Kent will operate a second family departure of “Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands” on the all-balcony, modern Le Boreal, chartered from Ponant. This 17-day wilderness adventure roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina, sails from December 19 through January 4. Children ages 7-18 will enjoy special shipboard activities, including hands-on kids’ workshops such as marine mammal identification, squid biology, charting the ship’s course, fish of the southern ocean and “penguin drawing.” Hurtigruten also has a new Young Explorers program for kids 7-13 headed to Antarctica on MS Midnatsol starting in November. Families can expect field research, games, re-enactments, lectures and activities to assist the Expedition Team.

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