The Disney Dream
You've got to hand it to
At the recent christening of
Other cruise lines, of course, are also catering to the growing family cruise market (more than a million kids now cruise each year) with their megaships, water slides and kid-friendly entertainment. (More about that in an upcoming column.) That's a smart move at a time when kids increasingly drive vacation decisions, according to a new Ypartnership survey of kids across the country. The survey found that cruises top kids' list of dream vacation destinations, right behind a trip to
From what I saw on a two-day preview cruise, following the christening (
There are the big new things, like the AquaDuck Water Coaster that sends you careening in rafts (not as fast as I expected) inside clear acrylic tubes around the ship (even 12 feet over the side 150 feet above the ocean). I worry the lines will be long when the ship is full! For the littlest cruisers, there's an expansive (some 1,500 square feet), shaded water play area called Nemo's Reef where diapers are welcome. The expanded on-board nursery, modeled on "It's a Small World," has room for 80 children starting at age three months (parents pay
Teens will think they've discovered family vacation heaven when they step through the door to VIBE, their own club to which only teens are admitted, complete with private sundeck, pool and hot tub, as well as the technology to create and edit videos with the latest software. Did I mention the 103-inch LCD screen or the built-in pods where they can "chill" watching videos on their own, listening to music or playing video games? They can also go to their own
No child will look at paintings the same way after standing in front of a piece of the Enchanted Art displayed around the ship, which comes to life with several seconds of animation as you stand in front of it -- and it won't be the same each time. They won't think of restaurants the same way either after a visit to Animator's Palate where Crush, that loveable, hip sea turtle from "Finding Nemo" speaks to them by name via giant video monitors on the walls. Crush literally "works" the room, engaging the kids in real-time conversations.
I loved the intimate spaces in the
"The idea is to use all of the spaces to enhance creativity -- spaces where they can let their imaginations go wild," says
As a result, parents and grandparents will realize this is one family vacation where they might actually get a break themselves. Spaces have been designed to enable exactly that, including an adult-only pool area, a big spa and fitness center, adult-only excursions (rum tasting in
"To create a great family cruise experience, we have to create a great experience for each member of the family,"
Sitting one night in The Skyline with my
Less-expensive indoor cabins are suddenly cool thanks to "Magical Portholes" that not only provide guests with real-time views outside the ship but visits from favorite animated friends who skip, swim or fly across the windows.
Beds have been raised enough in the cabins so that you can slide your suitcases and duffels underneath, leaving you more floor space. Cabins have a split bath and a half, with a sink and tub/shower in one room and sink and toilet in an adjacent one -- ideal for families.
The two complimentary "wave" phones you get make it easy for the counselors to keep in touch with you via phone or text -- and for you to keep tabs on your tween or teen as they wander around the ship or Castaway Cay on their own.
There's just one downside:
Like Disney World, on your first Dream cruise, you and your gang simply won't have time to experience even half of what's here, including dozens of activities each day (a tutorial on paper airplanes or towel animals?), first-run films and
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It's vacation and the teens are awake and ready to roll before 8 a.m.! The 22-year-old White has come down to Grand Cayman, his parents and sister in tow, to inaugurate Skate Cayman an 11-week summer program
Taking the Kids Camping & the Great Outdoors
Just being in a tent is an adventure for young kids, says Nancy Ritger, an Appalachian Mountain Club naturalist who has camped with her three teens since they were bab
Whether you want to learn to dive with your tween or snorkel with your kindergartner, teach your grade-schooler to sail or fly on a trapeze, you'll find plenty of opportunities at Caribbean resorts -- at prices that are surprisingly affordable.
Kids on a Plane! 5 Fixes for Unruly Junior Passengers
Kids on a plane. No four words incite more acrimonious debate among air travelers. On one side, you have childless customers who just want a little civility while they're locked inside a pressurized aluminum tube. Talk about oil and water.
Children in First Class: 3 Suggestions for the Kids 'Up Front'
The overwhelming number of travelers I spoke with said kids should be able to fly in first class if their parents could afford to pay the freight. But they were quick to add that they expected the children to behave.
(c) 2011 EILEEN OGINTZ DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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