Kids' Clubs - The Secret to Family Cruising
One of my main area of expertise in travel is for Family trips and I’ve been lucky enough to have gone on my fair share of family vacations, most of them being cruises. One of the biggest attractions to us taking a cruise, over taking a land trip, is the kids clubs on board the ships. My youngest has been sailing since he was 2 and while I did have some Mom guilt about sending him to a kids club while we were on a “family trip”, I’m here to tell you that you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about! I have been lucky to utilize every option from the nurseries to the teen clubs and all have been amazing.
We tend to stick to the more 'family friendly' ships like Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian. While Princess cruises does have kids’ clubs, the cruise line currently does not offer anything for kids under the age of 3. I know before Covid-19 hit, Princess Cruises had plans to start revamping their kid’s clubs on a bunch of ships however, now, I'm not entirely sure what will happen.
All the cruise lines really try to cater to the family aspect and my kids have always had a blast. While there are other lines - such as Carnival and Celebrity - that have kids’ programs, I don’t have any personal experience with these.
My kids would honestly stay in them all night if they could! Much of the time my husband has to drag them out after I have already fallen asleep for the night. Hey, in my defense, the kids clubs on some of the ships can stay open until midnight and that is WAY past my bedtime! One thing you should know about me is that I LOVE my sleep…
I plan on going over all the kid’s programs on each different cruise lines, but my kids do have a favorite…. DISNEY! There is nothing like a Disney ship for a kid, or an adult (I love it too) so I will begin there....
Disney is on a whole different level then most cruise lines! I sent my son to the ‘It’s a Small World’ nursery (ages 6 months-3 years) on our first family cruise, as we had a special shore excursion with my daughter. I was worried sick the whole time, that is until I picked him up. The Nursery Counselors go above and beyond caring for our little ones, not to mention super attentive. Even after I would go to drop him off, my son would be beaming to see the girls working. There is a small fee for the nursery (I believe its $9 an hour) on all the Disney ships, but to me it is well worth it to be able to know that my baby was being so well taken care of. My daughter would go to the kid’s club, for ages 3-12 (either the ‘Oceaneer Lab’ and the ‘Oceaneer Club’) and they would fill their time cooking, doing crafts, playing games and the themed areas… WOW!
You can probably see now why I still have to drag them out of the clubs to enjoy some family time even now being 10 and 12! The beauty of being those ages is that they can pick and choose whether they want to do ‘Edge’ (normally for 11-14 but they have a special waiver for 10yr olds) or if they want to go in the Club/Lab spaces. The teen areas are just as fascinating for the kids, and really helps your older ones to feel like they have a little bit more freedom on the ship.
While on the ships, to use the kids programs your kids are usually able to check themselves in alone (counselors always check if they have permission) but a parent, or someone that has been authorized, will have to be present for them to be checked out. Some, like Disney require a password, and it’s one that the parents create, and only authorized people will know. Once your kids turn 10, they DO have the ability to check themselves out, but this is just an option – if you don’t feel safe, you don’t have to give them that privilege!
Most of the time adults (and kids) who are not the correct age are not allowed into the different kids’ areas. The only time they are able to even go inside, is when there is ‘Open House’. Open House is great to be able to see where your kids get to play and meet more of the staff that they hang out with all day.
If you have any questions about the kids’ areas on the ship, L And C Adventures co-owner Lauren used to work in the clubs and can answer any questions or concerns you might have!
My kids have also really enjoyed Royal Caribbean’s kids’ program. While not as fantastically themed as Disney, they do enjoy meeting other kids and getting to play games, color, make arts and crafts, and run around to exert some energy. I personally like that the entire kid’s space, ‘Adventure Ocean’ is close together and all have their own little areas within – ‘Aquanauts’ (3-5years), ‘Explorers’ (6-8 years) and ‘Voyagers’ (9-11years). There is a teen program on board the ships, as well as select ships having nurseries.
NCL has an amazing kids’ program too from nursery age (most ships do not have a drop off option) to teens. The ‘Splash Academy’ that hosts ages 3-12 has special areas within that do activities that cater to each specific age level. Here, they can work off their energy playing soccer, or do one of the awesome activities on the day’s agenda. I have found on some of the newer ships, especially on the Breakaway Plus Class, that they have some great on-board family orientated activities that happen during the day and tend to keep kids from wanting to go to the kids’ club.
I don’t feel guilty anymore about my kids going into the kid’s areas like I use to. My husband and I don’t get a lot of chances at home to go out or have a date night and we take advantage of it while we can! We sip our wine peacefully, knowing that our kids are having a blast and are being taken care of by the best in the business. There’s ALWAYS a way for one of the crew members to get ahold of us in case there is ever any issues. With all the cruises we have taken, I have never received such a call (knock on wood)! I believe the kids spaces to be the secret to a happy family cruise! They are there to be utilized and Mom's should never feel guilty about wanting some time 'off'!
If you don’t believe me – here’s what my kids have to say about it...
“My favorite part of the kid’s clubs is the unique activities and themed nights that each ship puts on. But the best part is getting to meet new friends!”- Landin
“The best part of the Disney Oceaneer Club/Lab is the awesome themed rooms, getting to see different characters that come in, and that everything feels so magical.”- Ava