Youth and Teen Programs on Cruise Ships

The majority of the cruise lines allow children to cruise, some as early as 12 weeks old.  For me, I think this is too young.  There are things to do, however, where it’s offered you have to pay for child care until they are old enough for the children’s programming.  Additionally children are not allowed to be in the pools in diapers, even swimmer diapers, so it’s difficult on the parents to have the children around and not allow them in the pools.  Many ships have introduced “splash zones” for the kids so it’s not as much of an issue, but something to consider as far as when to take your kids on a cruise.

Once they are old enough, they can participate in the children’s programming.  Some lines require that the kids are potty trained before this happens, others will require that you come and change the kids if they aren’t potty trained.   A few lines will allow children 2 and older, but most start at 3 years old for the children’s programming.

Some of lines will divide the kids up by age, others by activity.  The kids will have their own space, away from the adults, with youth counselors available for supervision.  Some of the areas will have games, TVs or movies, game consoles and more.  While many of the cruise lines do a great job with the children’s programming, I would have to say that Disney’s is a step above the rest.

Most of the programs offered are complementary and included as part of the cruise fare for the children, though some activities may have separate charges.  One thing that is important when you are booking a cruise is that the children’s programming can get full.  Some of the cruise lines do not limit the number of kids, while others do.  A room for three may be available on Disney for three adults, but not two adults and a child if the children’s programs are full for that sailing.  For this reason it is important to add the children to your room as soon as you know they will be going.  I have seen some parents book only one person in a room until they can afford the deposit or decide to add a friend or other relative later only to find out space isn’t available.

You will generally find a good number of hours available at the children’s programming.  You know the kids are enjoying themselves when you can’t get them to leave for meals, etc.  Most of the programs will feed the kids for you if they want to stay in the clubs.

When parents pick up the kids from the programming, IDs are required for security purposes.  As some have referred to it, there is a tag and release program where all the kids will have some sort of identification on them, like a bracelet they might get at the fair.

Parents are given pagers on some cruise lines, wave phones on others so when the kids need you in the clubs, there is a way to contact you.  This makes it relatively stress free for the kids and parents alike.  Many of the kids clubs will be open on port days as well so the adults can plan a shore excursions worry free.

One thing available that can cause more stress for the parents though makes things more flexible is giving your children sign-in/sign-out privileges.  The ages where this is allowed varies from cruise line to cruise line, but basically it allows your children to come and go as they wish.  Remember though that even though you are on a ship in the ocean, safety for your children should be a concern.

There are activities specially created for pre-teens or tweens.  On Princess they have a a culinary program called Jr.CHEF@Sea.  Disney has an area in the funnel for the tweens.  The teenagers also have special events.  On Princess, they can attend a special formal night dinner with their friends, complete with keepsake photos.

On the private islands, there many times will be a area for the kids that is supervised as well.

When planning a sailing with children, always check out what the children’s programming has to offer.  What are their typical hours?  Will the kids be fed?  What activities will they be able to do?  This will help you to choose the best cruise not just for you but also for the kids.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Steven on August 25, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Though I do not have *young* children any more, it’s always nice to read up on travel tid bits. I have to agree with you about the young ‘uns being too young to cruise. I means, seriously, a 3 month old going on a cruise? I am not sure how I would feel handing over an infant for any extended period of time … let alone for an entire day!


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