Kids

Eight lessons I learned by going on a cruise with kids

In:
Category: 
12May2020

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise is a great family vacation idea, but cruising with kids is definitely a different cruise compared to without them.

Having started cruising as an adult, and then bringing my children on Royal Caribbean, I have made quite a few shifts and adjustments in how I cruise, and here are some important things anyone going on a Royal Caribbean cruise should know about for their trip!

Cruise at their speed

One of the earliest lessons I learned about cruising with kids is to slow our routine down, and let the kids have time for them.

As adults, it feels natural to do a lot of walking around the ship and exploring different venues.  In addition, "burning the candle at both ends" is something else we parents tend to do, in terms of waking up early for excursions and staying up late for shows and dinner.

While you do not have to give up everything you are used to, slowing the pace down is a great idea for the sanity of everyone included.

One thing I always try to include now is time for the kids to splash and slide on the pool deck, sleep in some more, and provide breaks where they can chill out in the room.

Providing kids time to "do their own thing" helps them either burn some of the energy they have, or regain it by taking it easy. 

Two rooms or bust!

I love my children, but I do not love sharing and sleeping in the same room as them.

Most families look for a single stateroom that can accommodate everyone, but from one parent to another, let me emphasize the importance of getting two smaller connecting rooms.

The cost of two staterooms is often cheaper than some of the family staterooms, and can offer more separation between family members (a plus for families with teenagers).

Booking two staterooms also allows for connecting staterooms, in which there is a door between the staterooms that allows for easy flow between them.  This can be convenient during the day to keep the doors open, essentially creating a two room stateroom.

Splashaway Bay is the best onboard feature

Royal Caribbean has been a family-friendly cruise line since its inception, and among all the features and amenities it has added for kids, nothing has been as big of a hit with kids as Splashaway Bay.

The kid-focused aquatic park is the destination for my kids on any ship and has become a must-have onboard amenity for them.

They love the slides, splash buckets, geysers, and fountains.

I love the lounge chairs that surround the area, as well as the conveniently located nearby bars.

Register for Adventure Ocean on the first day

Just like the first day of school, it is important to register your kids for Adventure Ocean on the first day of the cruise.

Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean's award-winning children's programming and it is the focal point of what the cruise line offers for kids to do onboard.

Many parents are just as apprehensive about their kids going in there as the kids are about fitting in.  My best advice is to go to Adventure Ocean on the first day during the open house hours in the early afternoon.

Not only is this meant for registration, but it allows the kids to explore the facility, meet the counselors, and ask questions. Taking advantage of the open house tends to alleviate a great deal of concern from parent and child alike.

By the same token, going to Adventure Ocean on the first evening is when a lot of the friendships and social circles are formed, so ideally have the kids go up on the first day.

Leave the stroller at home

My wife and I argued about this point when my children were younger, but I say leave the stroller at home.

Strollers are great, but on a cruise ship I find them more of a hindrance then a benefit due to their size.

I totally understand how nice it is not to have to carry kids, but I find strollers totally impractical in many Caribbean ports due to uneven paving, lots of beaches, and of course the added weight of dealing with it. On the ship, they just take up space and narrow hallways make them a pain to navigate.

If you really need a stroller, I would concede an umbrella stroller that can fold down and is not too heavy is not a terrible idea, especially if it can fit under the bed.

What car seats?

This may be the most shocking aspect of this post, but a lot of parents ask how I bring a car seat to use in taxis in Caribbean ports and the answer is I don't.

Bringing a car seat is about the most impractical thing you can have on a cruise, and in almost every single Caribbean port, no taxis provide them.  So I do what my parents did with me when I was a kid, and have the kids on our lap or buckle them in with regular seat belts.

I know, it is sacrilegious to do that back at home, but it is the way it is when traveling in the Caribbean.

Don't be afraid to ask the waiter for something else

Kids are notoriously picky eaters, but that does not mean you have to relegate yourself to only eating at Sorrento's or the Windjammer.

At any restaurant you dine at, be sure to ask the waiter for something else if the kids are not finding anything to their liking on the printed menu.

Many restaurants have a kids menu, and in addition to that, I have found waiters more than happy to grab a slice of pizza or a hot dog from Sorrento's or the Windjammer for the kids.

The key is not to feel bashful for asking for something else. Your child is far from the first to chomp down on pizza and fries while dining at Izumi.

Saving money with kids

My final lesson with cruising with kids is a smattering of ways to save a few bucks along the way.

  • Do not prebook kids at specialty dining (or buy them a dining package). Kids ages 6-12 can dine at specialty restaurants for a $10 cover charge.
    • The exception is Izumi Hibachi because it is so popular, book them at the adult price and ask the wait staff at check-in to refund the difference.
  • There is complimentary ice cream on the pool deck throughout the day.
  • Be on the lookout for Kids Sail Free deals. These have the potential to be very lucrative, especially in Alaska or Europe.

What is your best tip for cruising with kids? Share your ideas and lessons you have learned in the comments!

Introduction to bringing toddlers on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
07Apr2020

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with young children has its own set of challenges, so we have a look at the most important things you should know about cruising with babies on Royal Caribbean.

Just like teens, adults and senior citizens, everyone cruises differently, so there is not a "one approach for everyone" I can provide. However, there are some helpful tips most families can take advantage of prior to their cruise.

1. Book a ship that has a nursery

These days, most Royal Caribbean ships have a nursery onboard, but there are still a few that do not.

If you are cruising with a child that is under the age of three, I highly recommend you avoid any ships that do not have a nursery yet. 

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6-36 months) program. 

The advantages of a ship with a nursery are numerous, and it provides the best possible experience. As a parent of two kids, Royal Caribbean's nursery has proven to be a critical and super-helpful option.

If you are wondering, Royal Caribbean no longer offers in-room babysitting, so a nursery is a must-have.

2. Pack at least 25% more baby supplies than you need

When you are packing diapers, formula, wipes, medicine and anything else your baby needs, be sure to pack much more than you could ever think you would need.

On a cruise, it seems like you will go through many more supplies than at home, especially on shore excursions. The last thing you want to do is run out of supplies.

Royal Caribbean stocks a limited amount of baby supplies, and you may find super market offerings in the islands you are visiting vastly different from the brands you know at home.

Over pack the baby supplies to avoid a problem later.

3. Request a pack-n-play for your room

After you put a deposit on a cruise, make sure your travel agent notes in the reservation you need a pack-n-play for in your room.

Royal Caribbean will provide pack-n-plays, but there is a limited amount of them, so reserving it in advance is very important. Moreover, if the pack-n-play is in your room when you arrive, it means your baby can take a much needed nap.

Something else to know is that even if you note this in your reservation, there is no guarantee the pack-n-play will be waiting right when you arrive. There is sometimes a delay in it being delivered, so be sure to call housekeeping immediately upon entry to the room.

Something else that was important for our kids is to pack some sort of a padded sheet for the bottom of the pack-n-play.  Some babies will sleep better if there is slightly more cushioning, so consider bringing one just in case.

4. Register with the nursery on the first day

In the early afternoon of the first day of your cruise, you will want to stop by the Royal Babies & Tots open house.

This is an important opportunity to meet the staff, register your child and (most importantly) sign up for nursery hours.

Meeting the staff and allowing your child to explore a bit is helpful for everyone, and your best bet is to do this sooner than later. All staff also has at least three to five years qualified experience in working with children ages six months to 17 years. Nursery staff must have the same above qualifications as well attend a 30 hour Nursery Training where the curriculum and hands on experience is in line with Florida State Standards of care.

In most cases, the nursery open hours begin in the early afternoon, with the first session opening up later that evening.

Keep in mind the nursery does have an additional cost, with a different rate for the daytime versus evening. As a parent, I can tell you it is worth every penny, so budget your vacation costs accordingly.

5. How to maximize nursery hours

At the start of the cruise, Royal Caribbean usually restricts how many hours you can pre-book at the nursery.  This is because the nursery can only accomodate a few children at a time, and they want to be able to offer everyone equal opportunity.

On a seven night cruise, the nursery's policy is usually to allow up to 16 hours bookable per child, until the third or fourth day of the cruise. After that point, nursery hours open up and are unlimited on a first come, first served basis.

My advice is if you want to ensure you child is able to get into the nursery on most (if not all nights), then maximize your hours with this strategy:

  • Register your child on the first day for best selection of times
  • Spread your hours out early. Having a reservation for even a couple hours is better than no reservation at all. 
    • I would usually book 2-3 hours an evening so my wife and I could eat and see a show without the baby.
  • You can always ask to extend times at drop-off. 
    • If you booked two hours, but really need another hour or so, do not hesitate to ask for more. The staff will try their best to accommodate you.

6. Don't be afraid to call the nursery on a whim

While the nursery may be busier at night when parents are off to see a show or eat dinner, during the daytime there is far less demand.

Another favorite nursery strategy is to call the nursery if you need a break and see if there is availability. If it looks like your baby is ready for a nap, call the nursery and see if they can take him/her.  Bring a bottle so the staff can feed him/her, and then put him/her down for a nap. 

The nursery staff is some of the nicest, hardest working crew members you will meet and I have found them to be extremely helpful when they have extra space.

7. Cruise at their pace

One of the biggest adjustments I had as a parent while on a cruise was slowing things down and cruising at my baby's pace.

If you have cruised without kids, you may be used to a different style of cruising, but cruising with young kids means taking things slower and doing your best to maintain their schedule.

This means taking time to let the baby expel energy, with time for them to crawl/stumble/walk and play with toys. In addition, nap time is helpful as well as ensuring they are getting enough to eat throughout the day.

8. You can bring baby food and formula

While Royal Caribbean has rules about soft drinks and alcohol you can or cannot bring onboard, baby food and formula is unregulated, so bring as much as you can.

For children that are not quite yet at the eating solid food stage, this is very important, so do not hold back on what you bring to ensure you child eats what they love the most.

9. Look for open play areas

In addition to the Nursery, there is often a open play area set up during the day for parents to bring their young children to and play.  

This is unsupervised play time, but does provide an opportunity every day for parents with toddlers to have space to crawl, play, and have some fun.

Ask the nursery staff about this option. In my experience, it has usually been held in the Teens Club during the day.

10. Swimming on a cruise with a baby

On select Royal Caribbean ships, guests will find a special pool just for little ones that are still wearing diapers.

The splash pad (also known as the baby pool ) is an ankle deep pool, where infants and toddlers can crawl around and splash to their heart's content.  

Parents can sit on the pool's edge or with their child in the pool as the kids enjoy cooling off, just like the big kids. This area is restricted to only children wearing diapers, and is common on ships that have Splashaway Bay.

Keep in mind there are no restrictions on kids with swim diapers at Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee.

11. Download favorite movies or tv shows before the cruise

At home, it is easy enough to let your child stream their favorite YouTube clip or TV show, but WiFi on Royal Caribbean is not that responsive.

Instead, download a couple of shows or movies to your device so there is instant access if your child needs it.

12. Nap at all costs

Of all the tips I can share, maintaining the nap schedule is among the most important to your baby's enjoyment and subsequently, yours too.

Babies need naps, and on a cruise it seems like skipping a nap would not be a big deal, but it can have dire consequences later.

Whether onboard the ship or on an excursion, try your very best to allow for naps to occur because the rest of the day relies on it. Skipping a nap can result in a super cranky child, and a far less enjoyable day for you. 

This tip goes back to an earlier suggestion of cruising at your child's pace. On some cruises, my wife and I thought we could "power through" a nap, and each time it was a mistake.

13. Stockpile milk in the day

Milk is available for all guests, but in the evening it becomes harder to find. 

Your best bet is to grab a carton or two extra every morning, and put it in your cabin's mini-fridge.  The fridge will not keep milk cold indefinitely, but for use later in the day it will suffice.

Speaking of milk, if you forget to grab some earlier, you can always ask the nursery for a carton or two.  In addition, Cafe Promenade usually has some.

14. The nursery can feed children

Speaking of milk, unlike Adventure Ocean for children who are at least 3 years old, the Royal Babies & Tots nursery can feed your child while they are there.

When you drop off your kids at the nursery, part of the check-in routine is to indicate if the baby should be fed. There is an assortment of options available, including if you have your own bottle to provide.

If you have formula, be sure to bring that along too for the staff to use later.

15. Pack a couple of toys

While you can borrow toys from the nursery, I would recommend packing a couple of favorite toys to bring along and have in the room.

In times when you are lounging around the room, getting dressed or otherwise being in the room, having a toy or two for your child to play with is quite helpful.

Plan to pack smaller toys that are easier to pack.

Kids stuck at home? Check out these Royal Caribbean coloring sheets!

In:
Category: 
23Mar2020

Kids around the world are at home instead of school due to the worldwide impact of the coronavirus.

As a result, parents are struggling to find activities for kids to keep them occupied, so how about working in Royal Caribbean into that lesson plan?

You can print out these fun coloring sheets and let your children's imaginations run wild.

There are designs with cruise ships, pirates, marine life and more to enjoy.

You can download and print these coloring sheets right here.

Video: My daughter's favorite things to do on Royal Caribbean

In:
Category: 
06Sep2019

Cruising with Royal Caribbean is a family affair, as my kids really love when we take them on a cruise vacation. On today's RoyalCaribbeanBlog video, my 8-year-old daughter shares her top five things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Gabriella loves watching Teen Titans Go, dancing to her favorite music, playing with friends and, of course, going on Royal Caribbean cruises.  She has her list of the top five things kids love to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise to share in this video.

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

Do you have kids? What is your kids favorite things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share their top picks in the comments!

Best reader tips for having fun with kids on a cruise

In:
Category: 
09Aug2019

Cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean means ample opportunity to share in exciting and fun activities. While Royal Caribbean ships are designed with families in mind, we asked our readers for their best tips for maximizing family time while onboard.

We received a lot of great ideas, including these top tips for families to consider before their next cruise vacation.

"At the pool, I create water games in the pool." - Kimberly Sawyer

"They loved movies by the pool every night. " - Kristina Michelle 

"We set rules/guidelines before we ever got on the ship so they always knew the expectations." - Amanda Stieferman  

"Use Adventure Ocean as much as possible! I remember when I was a kid I loved it! I would skip dessert at dinner just to get there early!" - Sean Hurab 

"We always plan "together" and "apart" time. When they were younger: morning in Adventure Ocean, afternoon  lunch and activities (pool, golf, rock climbing, etc.) with the family, dinner together, back to Adventure Ocean for them and entertainment for mom and dad!" - Gayla Steiner     

"Don’t stress, don’t try to do EVERYTHING. Let them go at their own pace and if they want to play putt putt 15 times instead of swimming...let them." - Suzanne Marshall Sexton 

"If they are 11+ and mature enough to check in on time, allow the freedom to explore on their own." - Philip Dickson

"If they are old enough to navigate the ship on their own (especially teens) make sure you talk about ground rules before you leave such as how often they need to check in with you, meal time arrangements, curfew (some of the teen activities may be late at night), are they allowed to go to others cabins with friends that they meet on the ship. It helps to talk about things like this before you go." - Lisa Davis Boetje

"Schedule some down time. So much fun easy to get burned out." - Chris Caulfield 

"When dining ask your waiter to bring the little kid’s food first. Then bring something for them to do while you eat!" - Pam Brown

"Utilize the Royal Tots room so they can run & play!" - Kristina White

What is your best tips for having fun with kids on a cruise? Share your tips in the comments below!

8 cool things for kids to do on your Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
Category: 
07Jan2019

Kids get just as excited for a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation as their parents, because of all the fun activities for them to do onboard. Cruising with kids is an exercise in energetic adventures, big smiles and hopefully a nap in-between. In our many Royal Caribbean cruises, we have discovered certain aspects of the cruise that are real winners with our children and wanted to share them with you.

Consider some, or all, of the following fun things for your kids to do on your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise!

Play in Splashaway Bay

Splashaway Bay is Royal Caribbean's new generation of aqua park that combines slides, water cannons, drenching buckets, geysers and more into a kid-approved playground.

Royal Caribbean is slowly adding Splashaway Bay to many of its ships (including Perfect Day at CocoCay) and it represents a fresh look at what kids enjoy about splashing around for hours by the pool.

Movie night in the pool

If there are two things kids love, it is swimming and watching movies.  On Royal Caribbean ships, you will regularly find popular feature films shown on the big screen near the pool each evening.  After dinner, you and the kids can hop in the pool and splash away while enjoying a great flick!

Royal Caribbean shows all sorts of films, from recent releases to classics, and adding in the ambiance of a night swim is always a fun treat as well.  Plus, the pools and hot tubs are much less busy at night, so that means more opportunity for your kids to act like kids and enjoy time in the pool while everyone in the family gets to enjoy a great flick.

Climb the rock wall

A signature Royal Caribbean activity is the rock climbing wall. The 30-foot rock wall offers different tracks for various experience levels and is open for most of the day.  

It's open to kids and adults and Royal Caribbean provides all the safety equipment that you will need, including helmets, harnesses and shoes.  You just need to bring a pair of socks.

What makes the rock climbing wall so much fun is that it is an exhilarating challenge to try and climb up all the way to the top and ring that bell to let everyone around know you conquered it.

There are different paths on the rock wall to allow beginner climbers and advanced climbers alike have a go at it.  Once you conquer one side, try the next side!

Ride the carousel

If you are going on an Oasis class cruise ship (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas or Symphony of the Seas), then your family must go on a carousel ride in the Boardwalk neighborhood.

Royal Caribbean commissioned for each ship a hand-crafted carousel that is inspired by turn-of-the-century carousels. These carousels are as pretty look at, as they are fun to ride.  Plus, rides on the carousel are included in your cruise fare.

Be sure to also get some nighttime carousel rides in too, because the carousel and the entire Boardwalk neighborhood are lit up beautifully once the sun goes down.

Eat frozen yogurt by the pool

Near the pools, you will find free frozen yogurt that is available most times of the day and there is as much of as you want. I do not think there needs to be any more elaborating.

Decorate your stateroom door

Your Royal Caribbean stateroom door is made of metal, which means it is magnetic and a great family project prior to the cruise to create the decorations.  It can be a fun family activity to come up with different ways to personalize your door to share with everyone how excited you are for the cruise.

Often you will find other doors decorated with pictures, magnets of various sizes and shapes, leis, and more.  Your kids could draw something to put on the door, or you could help them create name tags to decorate and then put on the door with magnets.

Keep in mind that you will need to supply your own magnets to affix anything to the stateroom door.  Tape is not allowed.

For those less artistically inclined, Royal Caribbean does offer stateroom decorations for purchase that can be delivered and set up for you.  This can be a great way to celebrate a special occasion, or just plain surprise the children.

Slide down the Ultimate Abyss

If your kids want more of a thrill, they need to check out the Ultimate Abyss on Harmony or Symphony of the Seas. The Ultimate Abyss is a 10-story dry slide on the rear of the ship that is advertised as the tallest slide at sea.

The Ultimate Abyss is more than 150 feet above sea level and offers side-by-side slides that send guests down 10 decks at a rate of 9 miles per hour. 

To ride the Ultimate Abyss, kids can climb the steps into the mouth of a fearsome sea predator, the anglerfish, enjoy the unobstructed ocean views, grab a mat, and then launch themselves down 216 feet of twisting tunnels against the background of whizzing lights, sound effects and pumping music.

Royal Caribbean to eliminate in-room babysitting

In:
Category: 
17Sep2018

Royal Caribbean informed guests via email that it will be discontinuing its in-room babysitting service as of September 30, 2018.

Known as Sitters at Sea, Royal Caribbean intends to no longer offer in-stateroom sitter services.  Royal Caribbean offers on most, but not all, of its ships a nursery for children that are up to 3 years old.

Any sailings departing on or before September 30 will still offer Sitters at Sea upon request and subject to availability. Guests can inquire at Guest Services onboard for further information.

The cruise line also re-affirmed its dedication to offering kids programming on its ships.  Its Adventure Ocean and Royal Babies & Tots program will remain unchanged, and Royal Caribbean will still offer "Late Night Party Zone" group sitting by our Adventure Ocean Youth Staff for children between the ages of 3 through 11.

The Sitters at Sea program was a service by Royal Caribbean where guests could inquire if any crew members were willing to baby sit children in a guest stateroom.  The advent of nurseries on many Royal Caribbean ships has likely seen demand for in-room babysitting dwindle in recent years.

The remaining Royal Caribbean ships without a nursery are Empress of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.

We have reached out to Royal Caribbean for further information.

Royal Caribbean Kids Sail Free 2020-2021 Dates & Tips

In:
Category: 
29Aug2018

Kids Sail Free is a promotion Royal Caribbean offers from time to time on select sailings that are usually a great vacation discount.  Throughout the year, Royal Caribbean will offer Kids Sail Free deals as a way to encourage new bookings.  In this post, we will cover information about the promotion, tips for booking it, and offer answers to frequently asked questions.

For starters, Kids Sail Free is an offer Royal Caribbean offers selectively throughout the year.  It is not available all the time and there is no way to know exactly when it will be offered again.  We always post new cruise promotions on this site, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for notifications when a new Kids Sail Free promotion begins.

Kids Sail Free offer details

The exact offer details may vary, but Royal Caribbean's Kids Sail Free offers are usually consistent in their basics. Third guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger on select 4 nights or longer sailings are eligible for free cruise fare.

There are usually many blackout dates associated with any Kids Sail Free offer, which means if your cruise begins on or in any of the blackout dates, the Kids Sail Free offer does not qualify. Not surprisingly, most of the black out dates are over major school holidays in the United States calendar year. 

Here are some sample blackout dates from past Kids Sail Free offers:

  • February 14 – 17, 2020 (Presidents Day)
  • 2020 Spring Break sailings (Sailings between March 14 – 23, 2020)
  • 2020 Holy Week/Easter sailings (Sailings between April 3 – 17, 2020)
  • Peak Summer (Sailings between May 15 – August 31, 2020)
  • 2020 Thanksgiving sailings (Sailings between November 21 – 28, 2020)
  • 2021 President’s Day Sailings (Sailings between February 12 – 15, 2021)
  • 2021 Spring Break and Easter sailings (Sailings between March 13 – April 4, 2021)

How often does Royal Caribbean offer Kids Sail Free?

There is no pattern to how many times a year or when the offer will become available.

Kids Sail Free is usually available a few times throughout the year.

Is it really free?

Assuming your kids qualify for the deal, their cruise fare cost will be zero.You are still responsible for paying for the taxes and port fees associated with the children, along with any other charges onboard.  But if you look at the cruise invoice, their cruise fare will be zero. 

Like all guests, a daily gratuity will be charged per passenger, including the kids.

Be sure to check the fine print before booking to understand exactly the full price of the cruise.

Kids Sail Free dates

(Last updated May 6, 2020)

Royal Caribbean is offering Kids Sail Free during the month of May.

Kids Sail Free applies to new bookings made between May 6 - 31, 2020.

Kids Sail Free provides free cruise fare for 3rd guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger as of cruise departure date, booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests in a triple or quad-occupancy stateroom. Kids Sail Free applies to select 4-night or longer Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, CaribNE, Coastal, Europe, Hawaii, Repositioning and all 2020 Serenade of the Seas sailings departing between September 1, 2020 – December 17, 2020 and January 8, 2021 – May 17, 2021. 

Offer excludes 2020 Thanksgiving sailings (Sailings between November 21 - 28, 2020), 2021 President’s Day Sailings (Sailings between February 12 – 15, 2021), and 2021 Spring Break and Easter sailings (Sailings between March 13 – April 4, 2021). 

Taxes, fees, and port expenses are additional and apply to all guests.

Kids Sail For Less

In addition to the Kids Sail Free offer, Royal Caribbean may also offer the Kids Sail For Less offer, which is typically 25% off cruise fare for third guests and higher booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualified guests.

The primary advantage of Kids Sail For Less is there are no blackout dates associated with Kids Sail For Less.  This means if you have a couple of kids in your stateroom, you receive a discount on them.  Moreover, Kids Sail For Less often does not have age restrictions in place, so really any guest of any age who is a third guest, fourth guest, fifth guest, et al in the same stateroom as the first two guests can get a discount.

Other cruising with kids posts & resources

If you are interested in the Kids Sail Free offer, then you probably will find these blog posts equally helpful:

Your thoughts

Now, we want to hear from you.  Are you a fan of the Kids Sail Free promotion?  Have any tips for someone looking to cruise with kids?  Is there a better deal for families in your opinion? Let us know what you think of the promotion and whether you are planning on taking advantage of it in the comments!

Best Cruises for Kids

In:
Category: 
23Aug2018

Going on a cruise with kids means finding the right cruise ship for your family that offers plenty to keep children entertained, engaged and having a great time.  It also means not compromising on the adult experience as well.  

Cruising with kids is a great family vacation option, and Royal Caribbean offers some wonderful choices for kids, parents, aunts, grandparents, cousins and anyone else who joins in the fun.

When it comes to picking the best cruise for kids, Royal Caribbean's newest and recently refurbished ships tend to be the best choices.  Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships offer the most dedicated space to kids programming, as well as the most onboard activities that kids (and their parents) will enjoy.  This includes rock climbing walls, ice skating, water slides and more.

If you have ever seen a Royal Caribbean television commercial, then you likely know that these cruise ships are designed to wow its customers, and that includes kids.  At the heart of the Royal Caribbean cruise experience for kids is Adventure Ocean.  Adventure Ocean is a supervised programming option that all kids that are 3 - 17 years old may participate in.  There is no additional charge for Adventure Ocean (unless you leave them for late night sessions), and it offers things to do in a camp style environment throughout the day.  Royal Caribbean breaks up Adventure Ocean by ages to ensure the programming is age appropriate and will hold their interest.  Younger kids may do more activities that incorporate music, crafts, creative arts and dinosaurs, where older kids get to enjoy scavenger hunts, video game competitions, talent shows and science experiments.

There is even more fun on Royal Caribbean ships for kids in the form of onboard activities.  Royal Caribbean offers a ton for kids to do on its ships, from family-friendly aerial, ice, stage and aqua entertainment, to racing water slides and even spa programs for the youngsters.  Kids can splash at one of the aqua parks and fire the water cannons, dodge geysers and avoid (or maybe aim for) getting drenched by the giant bucket of water.  

Royal Caribbean is well-known for the incredible adventures offered on its ships.  There is the Ultimate Abyss—the tallest slide at sea (available on select ships); FlowRider surf simulator; SeaPlex indoor venue that offers roller skating, basketball, bumper cars, bites and music from a floating DJ booth suspended overhead; or try one of our other can’t-miss onboard activities like laser tag and ice skating.

If all of this sounds wonderful, here are our picks for the best cruises for kids when it comes to sailing on Royal Caribbean.

Best cruises for kids of all ages

Ships: Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas

The newest Royal Caribbean ships offer the latest and greatest from Royal Caribbean, and they also dedicate the most space towards kids programming.  These ships are filled to the brim with the coolest new things onboard, such as water slides, laser tag, escape room, zip line, Broadway shows, just to name a few.

We believe the Oasis Class ships are an ideal choice for families of all ages for the sheer amount of things to do onboard that cater to guests of all ages. It is incredible to see how much fun Royal Caribbean has packed into these ships, with numerous pools, ice skating rink, zip line, dual FlowRider surf simulators and water slides on Harmony and Symphony.

Looking for more? How about escape room games, a boardwalk carousel, rock climbing wall, DreamWorks characters (excluding Symphony) and video arcades.

Equally impressive in their own way are the Quantum Class ships.  While Oasis Class ships garner a lot of the attention, Anthem of the Seas or Ovation of the Seas both offer some fabulous things to do that are not replicated elsewhere in the fleet.  Your kids will likely never want to leave the SeaPlex, which is an indoor entertainment center.  Bumper cars, XBox gaming, circus school, basketball, dodge ball, ping pong and roller skating are just a few of what is offered in here and it is a huge hit with kids.  Then there is the North Star observational pod that takes you 300 feet above sea level, Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator, FlowRider surf simulator and a lot more.

Best value cruises for kids

Ships: Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Independence of the Seas

While we love Royal Caribbean's newer ships, those ships also come with a premium price tag, and going on a family vacation does not mean you have to spend a lot to have a great time.  Royal Caribbean has spent millions of dollars upgrading and enhancing its existing fleet, and the fruits of its labor make for great cruises for kids that will leave extra money in the vacation budget. This means some really fun cruise ships that offer a great bang for the buck.

Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas both recently completed multi-million dollar refurbishments in 2018 and they are aimed precisely at the family cruising market.  Mariner of the Seas offers short sailings (3 and 4 night getaway cruises) with some new offerings that are taking the cruising industry by storm. Independence of the Seas offers slightly longer sailings, and alternates between North America and Europe. 

Both Independence and Mariner are the first ships to offer the virtual reality bungee trampoline experience, known as Sky Pad.  They also offer a pair of three-story-high racer water slides, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, FlowRider and escape room challenge.

If you are looking for a longer sailing, Liberty of the Seas does seven-night cruises and has her own array of fun activities onboard.  She is the only ship to offer the Tidal Wave slide, which is a boomerang style slide, along with a pair of really fun racer water slides.  Liberty is also home to Splashaway Bay, an aqua park featuring an interactive kid’s play area with water cannons, geysers and much more. 

Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas offer Broadway shows as well, with Saturday Night Fever on Liberty and Grease on Independence.  All ships have an adults-only Solarium pool area, lots of great dining and evening entertainment.

More cruising with kids articles

Cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean

In:
09Jan2018

A Royal Caribbean cruise is a great family vacation choice, where both they and you can enjoy plenty of fun at sea and on shore.

Royal Caribbean welcomes children of all ages, and you will find plenty of other families on all Royal Caribbean sailings.  In fact, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of activities and programming for children and their families to ensure there is plenty to do onboard.  Royal Caribbean has dedicated facilities for children, where trained crew members supervise the children and guide them through different daily offerings.

What's available for kids on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean offers programming for children as young as six months old, all the way through the teenage years.

Infants and babies

For most cruises, infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise. For transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, select South American and other selected cruises, the infant must be at least 12 months old as of the first day of the cruise. Moreover, any cruise that has 3 or more days consecutive at sea will require infants to be 12 months old on the first day of the cruise.

Children between the ages of six months and 36 months old can participate in the Royal Babies and Royal Tots (6-36 months) program.  Most Royal Caribbean ships offer a nursery, where parents can drop children off throughout the day and evening. Use of the nursery comes at an hourly charge. Young children can enjoy soft play areas and age-appropriate toys, as well as cribs and cots for napping or sleeping.

If you have children under the age of three, be sure to book a Royal Caribbean cruise that offers a nursery.  For child and parent alike, the nursery is a wonderful resource.

In addition to the Nursery, there is often a open play area set up during the day for parents to bring their young children to and play.  This is unsupervised play time, but does provide an opportunity every day for parents with toddlers to have space to crawl, play, and have some fun.

Children 3 years and older

Royal Caribbean's primary program for kids is Adventure Ocean and is offered in three segments

  • Aquanauts (3-5 years old)
  • Explorers (6-8 years old)
  • Voyagers (9-11 years old)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary and is offered for most of your day onboard your ship, whether the cruise is in port or at sea.  From when Adventure Ocean opens until 10pm, there is no additional cost to use Adventure Ocean. From 10pm to 2am, Royal Caribbean offers an after hour option that has an hourly cost for parents that want to let kids stay a bit later.

There's a lot for kids to do here and the programs specialize for each age group.  It's a mix of learning, play time and socializing.  

Kids are checked in and out by parents and it's fully supervised by Royal Caribbean staff. The requirement for children to participate is to be at least 3 years old and be fully potty trained.  There are after hours programs offered as well in Adventure Ocean for an hourly fee if parents want their kids to have supervision later into the evening.

On sea days, Adventure Ocean is typically open

  • 9am - noon
  • 2pm - 5pm
  • 7pm - 10pm

On port days, Adventure Ocean is open for the entire duration your Royal Caribbean ship is in port.  Once the ship leaves port, it resumes the normal schedule described in sea days.

In addition, Royal Caribbean will open Adventure Ocean early enough for guests booked on Royal Caribbean shore excursions to drop children off.  Check with the staff on exact times.

Tweens and Teens

Tweens and teens have their own programming on Royal Caribbean ships. Just like the younger children, there is crew member supervision, but the activities are designed to be more open and less restrictive to the kids. Royal Caribbean built the teen programs to be about empowering teens to do their own thing but still offer activities and fun events to help introduce everyone.

There are teen-only spots onboard the ship where they can come and go as they please. Each day there are teen only events planned in the Cruise Planner, where teens can have dedicated time to enjoy special activities. Royal Caribbean ships are known for their amazing features, like ice skating rinks, surf simulators, bumper cars, and more, so teens will have opportunities to enjoy these activities exclusively.

Sample Activities by Age Group

If you want to get an idea of the kind of activities offered by Adventure Ocean, here is a sampling from previous cruises.  This list is not indicative of everything offered by Royal Caribbean, nor is it a guarantee that it will be offered on your sailing.  It is merely an example of the sort of programming available in the past.

Aquanauts (3 - 5 years)

  • Finger Painting
  • Camp Aquanaut
  • Building Blocks
  • Play dough sculptures
  • Music Activities
  • Dot Dancing
  • Games – animal, color and shape BINGO 

Explorers (6 - 8 years)

  • Pirate Night
  • Backstage Tour
  • Nutty Nicknames
  • Carnival Night
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Wide World of Sports Night
  • Autograph Hunts 

Voyagers (9 - 11 years)

  • Karaoke
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Adventure Challenge
  • GaGa Ball
  • H20 Thunder Races
  • List-o-Rama
  • The Art Walk 

Navigators (12 - 14 years)

  • Sports Tournaments
  • Pool Parties
  • College Night
  • Challenge Series
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Karaoke
  • Disco Dancing
  • Video Games 

Teens (15 - 17 years)

  • Dancing
  • Pool Parties
  • DJ Training
  • Battle of the Sexes
  • Karaoke
  • Coffee Talk
  • Talent Show
  • Formal Night
  • Survivor Series 

Cruise pricing for kids

A common question is if kids are charged the same as adults on Royal Caribbean, or if there is a cost to bring infants onboard.  

Like most of the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean charges all of its guests the same regardless of age. Cruise line pricing is based on double occupancy in a stateroom, and this has to do with the pricing model the cruise industry relies on to be profitable.

If your children will be the third or fourth (or more) passengers in the same room as two adults, their cruise fare is usually far less than the first two adults.  Occasionally, Royal Caribbean offers discounts on third and fourth passengers, as well as Kids Sail Free deals.  Be sure to consult your travel agent for guidance on taking advantage of these deals when they are available.

Staterooms

Most families book a single stateroom for their family during the cruise.  Royal Caribbean has staterooms that can accommodate three and four passengers easily, along with some stateroom configurations that can handle even more guests.

In recent years, Royal Caribbean has begun offering family staterooms, which provide extra space and are designed to handle families of five or six passengers.  If you need more space, some suites can handle even more guests.

Depending on your family size, age of your children, and your comfort level, booking multiple staterooms can often be the same or cheaper than booking a large room.  Multiple rooms provides not only additional living space, but extra restrooms and separation from parents and children. Royal Caribbean does offer some rooms with a connecting inside door between rooms.  

If you need a crib, Royal Caribbean can provide a pack 'n play upon request.  You can request this prior to your cruise by contacting Royal Caribbean or your travel agent, however, you can still get one once onboard the ship.

Speaking of toddlers and young children, you will need to bring your own supply of diapers, bottles, and other supplies.  Royal Caribbean provides milk to all guests without an additional charge (skim or regular).  Some parents prefer to bring their own kid-friendly snacks and food, which is permissible by Royal Caribbean. Refer to our Taking an Infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise article for more information.

Kids activities on Royal Caribbean beyond Adventure Ocean

There's lots going on onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise regardless of if your kids are in the kids club or not.  There are pools and even dedicated pool and splash areas on select ships.  Known as the H2O Zone or Splashaway Bay, these areas offer water spouts, slides, colorful decorations and lots of areas to get soaked and the perfect place for kids to run around.

Speaking of fun in the water, Royal Caribbean has begun offering water slides on some of its cruise ships.  Water slides are open to all guests, provided they are tall enough to enjoy the slides safely. We do not have to describe the virtues of water slides, but families with older children may want to ensure they book a cruise that offers water slides.

Oasis, Quantum, and select Freedom and Voyager Class cruise ships offer the DreamWorks Experience, which incorporates the DreamWorks film characters into meet-n-greets, parades and character breakfasts.

Each day of your cruise, the Cruise Director's staff offers many family-friendly activities in the Cruise Compass. Families can join in trivia, scavenger hunts, tournaments on the sports deck, pool games and more. 

The signature activities on many Royal Caribbean ships is also open to children, such as mini-golf, the FlowRider, the rock climbing wall, ice skating and more.

Eating with kids on Royal Caribbean

Every parent knows that dining out with their kids is an adventure that can never be predicted.  Luckily, Royal Caribbean offers a variety of culinary choices that are sure to appeal to all palates.  Whether your child is a pizza and chicken fingers kind of kid, or enjoys the finer foods in life, there is lots available.

The main dining room has a special menu just for kids (adults can order off of it too), which has plenty of kid-friendly fare.  This includes pasta, hot dogs, burgers, mac and cheese, and more.  Of course, kids are free to order off the regular menu too. 

The dining room staff is usually very accommodating to families, and can work with parents to find something that their child will eat.  On past cruises, we have had instances where the waiters went to other restaurants onboard the ship to bring our kids a food not offered in the dining room.  That level of service is what makes dining (and cruising) with kids on Royal Caribbean such a pleasure.

My Family Time Dining

There is a special dinner option in the main dining room known as My Family Time Dining, which is offered for the first seating time in the main dining room, for children ages three to 11.

Here is how it works

  1. You arrive at the dining room with the kids and let your server know that the kids will be headed to Adventure Ocean as part of the My Family Time Dining program.
  2. The kids order and are served right away so that they can finish their meal within the first 40 minutes.
  3. After about 45 minutes, the Adventure Ocean staff arrive in the dining room lobby to sign in and hand off the kids.Parents will need to escort their children to the designated Main Dining room entrance doors at 6:45 pm to check their child in with the Adventure Ocean counselors. Once checked­in, the Adventure Ocean counselors will then escort their children to Adventure Ocean for ongoing evening activities.
  4. Adults return to their table to enjoy the rest of their meal at a more leisurely place.

Prior to the cruise, you can can contact Royal Caribbean or travel agent to book it. Alternatively, guests can sign up onboard in the Adventure Ocean area. Pre­-cruise reservations are encouraged.

Windjammer

The holy grail of kid friendly dining is the Windjammer, which is Royal Caribbean's buffet style restaurant.  Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, it offers the greatest variety of food that includes many different types of food.  

Most importantly, there is lots of ice cream available on Royal Caribbean! In fact, there is usually a self-serve ice cream station conveniently located near the pool for anyone to enjoy throughout the day.

Specialty Dining

If you want to take your children with you to a specialty restaurant, they are more than welcome to eat there as well.  Kids ages 6-12 can dine at specialty restaurants for a $10 cover charge. Kids 5 years old and under eat free.

Kids 5-12 have a modified adult menu,which is a round-up of kid-friendly favorites from the regular menu. Kids under 5 are free and have a kiddies menu similar to the kids menu in the main dining room. Some restaurants do not have kids menus and so kids order off the regular menu.

Royal Caribbean specifies restaurants such as Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, 150 Central Park, and Chef's Table do not have kids menus, as those experiences are better suited for guests age 13 and older.

More cruising with kids info

You may have additional questions about cruising with kids on Royal Caribbean, or simply would like to learn more tips and advice.  Here are some good resources to consider:

Your thoughts

Now that you have read over our guide to taking kids on Royal Caribbean, let's hear from other parents. What tips do you parents think are most important? Which advice we shared do you agree with? Where do you disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Pages