Cruise lines aim to cater to kids

If you didn't know it already, kids play a big part in deciding a family vacation — and the cruise lines certainly know it. 

With the growing popularity of multigenerational travel, competition to capture the attention of both younger children and teens is heating up. Cruise lines are spending hundreds of millions of dollars focusing on this market. Recent surveys, according to a Travel Weekly article, support this view. These studies show that children play a big role in the discussion when families start talking about where and how to vacation. Here are a couple of results:

In a report from GfK Mediamark Research and Intelligence, 62 percent of parents surveyed said their children have an effect on family vacation purchases.

The website reports even higher numbers, indicating that kids influence 93 percent of family vacation choices.

And Ypartnership, in a study commissioned by Disney Cruise Line, found that nearly seven in 10 children helped plan where to go and what to do on vacation.


So, if you've cruised lately, particularly during school vacation times, you'll likely find kids sporting T-shirts or caps proclaiming they're First Mates, Navigators, Voyagers, Explorers or Royal Tots.

Disney ships set the standard in attracting kids, ever since their first ship, the Disney Magic, was launched more than a decade ago. Disney now has three ships on the water, the Disney Wonder and its latest, the Disney Dream. The latter, costing more than a billion dollars, was launched earlier this year — and we were among its first passengers with our granddaughter. Disney will launch a fourth ship, the Disney Fantasy, next spring.

The Disney Dream offers so many options that many kids have a hard time choosing where to spend the day, a cruise coordinator told us. Easily the favorite was the Dream's water ride, the Aquaduck, which propels guests through a clear acrylic tube that loops out over the edge of the ship and over the ocean. The guests ride some 765 feet on rubber rafts on this elevated flume ride, a portion of which is 150 feet above the ship. Another portion goes down seven decks. It was jammed all day when we cruised.

The ship also offered plenty of educational and entertaining options, particularly the Oceaneer Club for ages 3 to 10 and the Oceaneer Lab for kids up to age 12. Disney, of course, has no peer in animation, and the Dream introduced the Animators' Palate restaurant, where video screens on the wall come alive with characters from Disney's various underwater worlds. The characters "swim" from screen to screen to talk to diners.

But Disney is not alone when it comes to attracting children on board. According to Travel Weekly, here's a sampling of what other major cruise lines are doing:

• Carnival Cruise Line offers baby-sitting for a fee, as most other cruise lines do, and children's activities are offered at their Camp Carnival for ages 2 to 11; Circle C for ages 12 to 14, and Club O2 for ages 15 to 17. There are several onboard characters too, led by Fun Ship Freddy.

• Royal Caribbean International has sitting for children 1 year and older, also for a fee; and programs for Royal Babies and Royal Tots, up to age 3; Adventure Ocean, ages 3 to 11;  and Tweens and Teens, ages 12 and up; plus onboard characters.

• Norwegian Cruise Line offers baby-sitting in a group atmosphere for kids age 2-12; and then has Kid's Crew, ages 2-12; Teen's Center and Teen's Crew, ages 13-17; and onboard characters to entertain.


• Holland American Line has baby-sitting plus Club Hal, for kids 3 to 6; Club Hal, Tweens, ages 8 to 12; the Loft and the Oasis, ages 13-17; and HAL Kids Culinary Wokrshops, ages 3 to 7, and 8 and up. We've been with our grandkids several times on Holland America and have been impressed with their program — a good second choice to Disney.

Other attractions that many of the cruise lines offer are kid-oriented shore trips that are well-supervised by college-age youths. They are particularly effective, according to what we've seen, on Alaska cruises.

It's rapidly becoming a kids' market when you cruise on family-oriented lines. If you didn't know it before, you know it now.

What To Read Next
Get Local