Carnival is right up there with the best ships for families -- the line estimates that about 625,000 kids sail aboard its ships annually. Some 600 to 800 children per cruise is pretty normal, and there can be in the neighborhood of 1,000 on holiday cruises and during the summer months, when it'll be difficult to find a kid-free hot tub. The child facilities are fairly extensive, with the newest and biggest Dream- and Conquest-class ships boasting the biggest and brightest playrooms in the fleet, with arts and crafts, oodles of toys and games, video screens and televisions showing movies and cartoons, and computer stations loaded with the latest educational and entertainment software.
The Camp Carnival program has complimentary supervised kids' activities on sea days nearly nonstop from 9am to 10pm, and on port days, from 8am (or earlier, if there are shore excursions departing earlier) for ages 2 through 14 in four age groups: toddlers 2 to 5, juniors 6 to 8, intermediates 9 to 11, and teens 12 to 14. The latter are part of a teen program called Circle C. The 10 to 16 counselors (all of whom are trained in CPR and first aid) organize the fun and games on each ship, which include face painting, computer games, puzzles, fun with Play-Doh, picture bingo, pirate hat making, and pizza parties for toddlers. For juniors, there's PlayStation, computer games, ice-cream parties, story time and library visits, T-shirt coloring, and swimming. For intermediates, there are scavenger hunts, trivia and bingo, Ping-Pong, video-game competitions, arts and crafts, computer games, dance classes, and talent shows.
Across all age groups, activities with a somewhat educational bent may include art projects with papier-m?ch?, oil paintings, and watercolors; music appreciation, which gets kids acquainted with different musical instruments; science projects where kids can make their own ice cream and create mini-helicopters; and a fitness program that encourages today's couch-potato computer-head kids to actually get up and run around. Club 02 teen centers are geared to the 15- to 17-year-old set and are quite elaborate on the newest ships. Besides karaoke parties, computer games, scavenger hunts, talent shows, card and trivia games, and Ping-Pong, teens can watch movies at the centers and go to dance parties. Some ships are also equipped with iMacs, but there is no Internet center specifically for teens as on some ships. Of course, teens can also hang out in the video arcades -- the newest ships have virtual-reality games and air-hockey tables. For something more refined, Carnival now provides a collection of spa treatments geared to teens (along with their parents).
The Carnival Dream has the line's most impressive water features, with her WaterWorks aqua-park comprising a pair of twin 80-foot-long racing slides; a 104-foot-long enclosed spiral slide called the DrainPipe; and squirting fountains, splash zones, and dump buckets. Carnival Splendor, Fantasy, Imagination, Inspiration, Sensation, Ecstasy, and Fascination also have the WaterWorks aqua-park (sans the Dream's DrainPipe). The rest of the Carnival ships all have two- or three-deck-high Twister slides adjacent to the main Lido Deck pools or aft of the funnel, ranging in length from 72 feet on the Spirit class to 214 feet on the Conquest-class ships.
Parents desiring a kid-free evening can make use of the supervised children's activities, offered from 7 to 10pm nightly free of charge, after which time group slumber-party-style babysitting kicks in for ages 6 months through 11 years until 3am in the playroom, at $6 per hour for the first child, $4 per hour for each additional child. No private babysitting is available. Infants between 6 and 23 months can also be cared for on port days between 8am and noon, but it's considered babysitting and the hourly fee mentioned above will apply. On sea days between noon and 2pm, you can also drop off children ages 1 and under at the rate above, or parents may use the playroom with their babies for these 2 hours at no charge. And, yes, counselors will change diapers (though parents are asked to provide them, along with wipes)! Parents with kids ages 8 and under who are checked into the children's program get free use of cellphones on most ships, in case their kids need to contact them. A handful of strollers are available for rent fleetwide for $25 for 7- and 8-night cruises (less for shorter cruises), and a limited number of bouncy seats, travel swings, and Game Boys are for rent.
Mom and Dad can get an earlier start on their kid-free evening, when the counselors supervise kids' mealtime in the Lido restaurant between about 6 and 7pm in a special section reserved for kids; it's offered nightly except the first night of the cruise. The children's dining room menu, printed on the back of a fun coloring/activity book (crayons are provided), has the usual favorites -- hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, pepperoni pizza, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, banana splits, Jell-O, and a daily special.
Cribs are available if you request them when making your reservations. When you first board, head for the kids' playroom to get a schedule for the week and to sign up your child for the program. Children must be at least 6 months old to sail on board.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.