|Carnival Magic’s SkyCourse is the cruise industry’s first ropes course.|
Getting away for a summer vacation in the past often meant piling the kids in the car and hitting the road. Fast forward a few decades: families may set out for a European vacation aboard the new 130,000-ton Carnival Magic.
Christened in Venice, Italy, in early May, the new 3,690-passenger ship has 19,000 square feet of space just for kids and teens. So, as the ship sails between ports, the kids dine, enjoy activities, watch a movie or sleep, allowing mom and dad to avoid such road trip questions as: “Are we there yet?”
Carnival Cruises carries 670,000 children annually aboard its 23-ship fleet. That’s nearly half of all kids carried by the North American cruise industry. Not surprisingly, Carnival Magic has large indoor and outdoor play areas, a sprawling water park featuring the line’s longest waterslide at 312 feet and multiple youth facilities.
Camp Carnival is the hot spot for kids 2 to 11, Circle “C” is for those 12 to 14 and Club O2 appeals to teens 15 to 17. Participation in the children or teen programs is complimentary.
“The kids’ club programs are great, with something for every age group,” says Sabine Harris, owner, Cruise Planners, Tampa. “And when you have several families traveling together, it makes it easier on the parents knowing their children will have a good time too.”
On Deck 11, Camp Carnival’s 5,000-square-foot play area is divided into three age-appropriate and supervised sections. Toys, games, and arts and crafts entertain kids 2 to 5 years old. Kids 6 to 8 may play video games, watch TV, use a sand art machine or participate in themed activities. Nine- to 11-year-olds will enjoy video game consoles, swimming under the stars, scavenger hunts and sports challenges.
Both Circle “C” tween and Club O2 teen programs have a dedicated director who oversees activities, including late-night movies, video game contests, trivia and scavenger hunts. On Deck 4, the 1,075-square-foot Circle “C” lounge for young teens has a dance floor, video jukebox, music, video game consoles and computer work stations.
Adjacent to Circle “C” is the 2,740-square-foot Club O2. It’s a good place for older kids to make new friends and dance to hits cranked out from the DJ booth. Teens will also find a soda bar, video gaming consoles, computer work stations and a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system.
While children and teen club activity programs are complimentary for guests, a special Camp Carnival Night Owls program offers a new take on evening and nighttime babysitting. This fee-based program lets parents enjoy evening activities and dinner, while providing adult supervision, movies, games and snacks from room service for the little ones. At $13 per child 2 to 11, Party Owl Jams runs from 10 p.m. to midnight. At $20 per child 6 to 8, Party Fun ‘Til One goes on from 10 p.m. till 1 a.m. At $33 per child 9 to 11, Party Fun at Sea starts at 10 p.m. and ends at 3 a.m. A 15 percent gratuity is charged on all Night Owls fees.
Beyond the dedicated children’s clubs, Carnival Magic has other family-friendly activities. A 2,700-square-foot Warehouse boasts the latest video and arcade games. For something truly pampering, children 12-17 may book a soothing spa treatment at Generation Z; mother/daughter and father/son spa treatments are also available.
Carnival Magic’s recreational complex, SportSquare, features the cruise industry’s first ropes course. It’s also home to the EA SPORTS gaming system, a jogging track, volleyball, minigolf and basketball. Most guests can’t wait to get wet at WaterWorks, a massive, elaborate water park.
Kid-friendly dining choices? Families will find hamburgers, hot dogs, 24-hour pizza and soft-serve ice cream. The main dining rooms also serve a children’s menu with daily junior specials. Camp Carnival offers a “kid’s only” dinner with a different dinner menu each night, so the little ones may chow down on pasta, chicken nuggets, quesadillas, fresh vegetables, fruit and dessert. Kids dine with the youth staff in the Lido Restaurant, allowing parents to dine on their own.
Families may also make a reservation at the new family-style Cucina del Capitano, which means “captain’s kitchen.” One savory dish? Il Capitano’s Signature Arancini consists of fried risotto balls piled high with baby arugula and shaved parmesan cheese. Evening dining at Cucina del Capitano carries a $10 fee for those 12 and older, $5 for kids who are 11 years and younger.
Carnival Magic’s family-friendly accommodations include 100 deluxe oceanview family staterooms, also known as “quints.” They’re designed for two parents and three kids. Spacious at 220 square feet, they have twin beds that convert to a king bed, along with two upper berths and a convertible sofa.
The quint staterooms also have one full bathroom and a second bathroom with a junior tub, shower and sink. In addition, the ship has dozens of connecting staterooms. “With so many family-friendly options on board and quint cabins that comfortably sleep a family of five, the Carnival Magic is a home run for families looking to travel to Europe this summer and fall,” says Joni Rein, Carnival’s vice president of worldwide sales, who adds that many families were on board its inaugural cruise.
Carnival Magic sails through October on seven-, nine- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises roundtrip from Barcelona. Seven-day cruises on July 3, 10 and 17 visit Monaco, Civitavecchia (for Rome), Livorno (for Florence), Naples, and Messina, Sicily. Nine-day cruises will depart on June 24, Aug. 5 and 26, Sept. 16 and Oct. 7. Ports of call are Monaco, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Naples, Messina, Palma de Mallorca (Spain) and Marseilles (France).
Twelve-day Grand Mediterranean cruises sail on July 24, Aug. 14, Sept. 4 and 25 and Oct. 16 with calls at Civitavecchia, Livorno, Naples, Messina, Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Venice.
Although Carnival’s per-person fares fall in the $730 to $1,000 range for mid-summer sailings, depending on cabin category, “the drawback with Europe right now is the airline [cost] to get there,” says Harris. “Sure, they have incredible deals [on cruises] there, but when you have four or more in a family, airfare eats up the majority of the budget.” And that could impact spending for such “extras” as shore trips, shopping or spa treatments.
“For those traveling from the U.S., we recommend booking air early,” Rein says, but she notes that “when you factor in everything you get with the cruise—from meals to WaterWorks, Camp Carnival and entertainment, the value is still so favorable [compared with a land-based European vacation].”
For a cruise closer to home, Carnival Magic will be homeported in Galveston, TX, year-round, starting in November. From Galveston, western Caribbean voyages will call at Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico, while eastern Caribbean cruises will call at Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas, as well as Key West. In addition, Carnival Magic will sail an eight-day western Caribbean cruise on Dec. 18 with calls at Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, as well as Belize and Honduras’ Isla Roatan.
Agents may recheck data bases to identify clients whose children are graduating from high school and heading off to college this fall. That’s particularly important if the family includes younger siblings as well. “I just booked a family cruise for clients who are spending their last ‘family’ vacation together since one of the kids is off to college in fall,” says Sabine Harris, owner, Cruise Planners, Tampa. While she had to do quite a bit of selling, she adds, “In the end, they knew that it would probably be their last real trip together as a family.” Remind clients that the window of opportunity is short for such a family cruise, as college-bound kids will soon embark on a new chapter of their lives.
|One of the onboard dining options is the family-friendly Cucina del Capitano.|