Last week we were invited on the 8-day southern Caribbean cruise of the Carnival Freedom to check out the new Camp Ocean and “Seuss at Sea” program for kids. We are avid cruisers but this was our first time on Carnival so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the whole trip. Over the next couple weeks we will share different aspects of our cruise with you, but today we are starting with my kids’ favorite part – Camp Ocean.
Before you read what I have to say about the program, take a peek at what the kids thought of it in our Baby Gizmo Travel Video…
Carnival is a favorite of parents since they carry more kids than any cruise line in the world – approximately 700,000 per year. Knowing their audience, Carnival wants to make it the best experience not only for adults but for their littlest passengers as well! Camp Ocean is the new ocean-themed children’s program for kids aged 2-11. There are so many great things about this program that includes more than 200 ocean-inspired activities each week.
AGES FOR CAMP OCEAN
If you have cruised before with children, you may notice that Carnival accepts some of the youngest sailors into their program. While other cruise lines require kids to be a minimum of 3 or 4 years old AND potty trained, Carnival welcomes the two-year-old tots with open arms. And if that isn’t enough, the little ones don’t even need to be fully potty-trained because the staff will change diapers! That is HUGE in the cruise world! Have a child under 2? They have dedicated times that they accept babies for an additional fee.
Camp Ocean is separated into three age groups: “Penguins” (ages 2-5), “Stingrays” (ages 6-8) and “Sharks” (ages 9-11). I have three kids (ages 4, 7, and 9) that fit perfectly into each category so we really got to see the entire program up close and personal. Each age group has their own room in Camp Ocean so you won’t have an 11 year old knocking down the toddlers during play.
The Penguin room is filled with toys, mats, a large TV, its own bathroom and a fun igloo for kids to climb on.
The Stingrays and Sharks rooms are decked out with video games and plenty of space for play.
There are also two additional rooms in Camp Ocean – Creative Cove (for crafts!) and Party Reef for dancing and magic shows! (By the way, according to the kids, the magic show is a can’t miss activity!)
CHECK-IN and CHECK-OUT
Camp Ocean is open most days between 10am – 10pm to check your children in and out as much as you please (hours do vary for sea days and for mealtimes). From 10pm to 1am, they offer “night owl” activities that cost $6.75/hr per child. This is a good option for those kids who can handle the late hours and parents who want to hit the casino, show or just have a little me-time. My kids don’t handle late nights very well, so we only did one night owl hour during our trip so that we could finish a show we were watching.
Parents need to check the kids in and out UNLESS you have a 9-11 year old and give them permission to do it themselves. My daughter is nine but I was not comfortable allowing her to roam the ship by herself so we didn’t take advantage of that option.
CAMP OCEAN ACTIVITIES
Each age category has their own weekly schedule that is available at the beginning of the cruise. There is something planned for the kids every single hour that Camp Ocean is open. Sure, they have “cruiser’s choice” but they are on it with the activities. Since they don’t take your kids swimming or to the water slide, I secretly thought they might be bored after their first visit. I was SO wrong! My kids begged to go to Camp Ocean every day. If we weren’t off the ship at a port or on an excursion, they were asking and planning to hit the kid center. I was shocked! I saw all the activities on the schedule and gathered all the crafts and artwork when they went there each day but I was still stumped.
“What are you doing in there?” I would ask as they whined when I made them leave. “Is it really THAT fun?”
“YES! It is THAT fun. We just do a ton of things. Games. Crafts. Dance. Play with friends. Grandma’s underwear,” they would say as they burst into giggles.
They couldn’t get enough. In an attempt to be “good parents,” we didn’t let them just stay in there all day long though. We thought just maybe they would like to hang with their old parents by the pool sometimes or catch a family-friendly comedy show with us. Sure, they went along with our plans but I secretly think they were just buying time until they could get back to their new best friends.
I’m telling you – They. Couldn’t. Get. Enough.
Even my 4-year-old was drinking the Camp Ocean koolaid.
“Don’t you want to hang out with mama, buddy?” I’d
beg ask. He is going to kindergarten this year, you know!
“No thanks. I really love my new friends there! I can hang out with you later,” he said matter-of-factly. Sigh.
Camp Ocean would close each day for an hour around lunch time. So, that gave us a great excuse to get them, have lunch and fit in one activity before they wanted to head back. Dinner was a whole different story. The Camp Ocean staff would actually take your kids to dinner each night while parents enjoy a quiet, kids-free dinner in the dining room. And you know what? No extra fee. Nope. It’s all included in your cruise price.
We took advantage of this mealtime escape every other day. We’d have them at dinner one night and realize how antsy they would get and let them eat with their friends the next night. Then we’d forget and have them join us in the dining room. That was our cycle for the week and it worked out great for us. We just dropped the kids off at the Lido restaurant, checked them in with the staff and they took it from there. They had everything ready to go and had a set food schedule each night. So easy! (At least for me! Not sure how easy it was for the staff!)
SEUSS AT SEA
Another new additional to the Carnival children’s program is the the Seuss at Sea program. This exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss will bring the fun and wacky Cat & the Hat brand to the entire 24-ship fleet in 2014 and 2015. We were on the Freedom which was one of the first ships to have Seuss at Sea. It debuted on the Carnival Splendor in March 2014.
Seuss at Sea will hit these ships in this order:
- Carnival Breeze – June 2014
- Carnival Sunshine – June 2014
- Carnival Dream – July 2014
- Carnival Magic – July 2014
- Carnival Legend – August 2014
- Carnival Liberty – September 2014
- Rest of the fleet to be completed in 2015.
Seuss at Sea is geared towards kids and families and includes fun activities such as Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast (more on this one in a later post!), Seuss-a-Poolza Story Time, Seuss-a-Poolza Parade and the Dr. Seuss Bookville.
Bookville was a hit with the kids! It’s a room right next to the Camp Ocean check-in desk that is open to kids AND adults. This whimsical room is filled with all the beloved Dr. Seuss books to read, games, puzzles and fun, colorful furniture to chill on.
The Seuss-a-Poolza Parade is a can’t-miss on the boat! My kids had so much fun waving Dr. Seuss signs and shaking pom-poms in a parade following Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 around the ship.
CAMP OCEAN PRICE
It’s included! That’s right, let me say that one more time. Camp Ocean is INCLUDED in your cruise! No additional fees (unless you have a tot under 2 or want to do the Cat in the Hat breakfast!) for your kids to spend as little or as much time as they would like in this amazing on-board kid program.
Do you realize how awesome that is? Parents, you can have a calm, quiet dinner or watch an evening show or hit the spa or gamble the night away in the casino and it won’t cost you a single penny more for “babysitting.” And by seeing firsthand my kids’ love of Camp Ocean, I can tell you that this isn’t your typical babysitting! It’s WAY more than that! It’s the 200-activities-to-choose-from-during-the-week type of fun!!
So, that’s it! Camp Ocean was a huge hit with my family! Stay tuned for more coverage of the Carnival Freedom in the coming weeks!
In the meantime, if you’d like more information or to find out how to book your own Carnival cruise, contact a travel agent or go to Carnival.com.
*Disclosure: Our travel expenses were covered by Carnival as part of a media press trip. As always, all our thoughts, opinions and statements are our own.