Mommy, When Do We Cruise Again?
NCL Pampers Toddlers
By Lizz Dinnigan
Before he was 3, our son Jack was a seasoned traveler. He had been to Florida four times to visit friends, the Catskills for our annual family vacation and Vermont to see the fiery autumn leaves. He is a natural, easy traveler. So we didn’t hesitate in 2007 when my aunt and uncle invited us to join their family on a weeklong cruise.
We sailed on Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) 2,244-passenger Norwegian Dawn. Ports on our itinerary included King’s Wharf, Bermuda, and NCL’s private island Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas, with three sea days.
Traveling with a group of relatives who wanted to entertain our toddler was extremely helpful. And when we wanted some adult time, NCL’s free Kid’s Crew program proved invaluable. Age-appropriate, year-round activities cater to kids 2 to 17. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon, 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. on sea days, and 7 to 10 p.m. on port days.
Signing Jack up was a cinch. My husband and I registered him at the Kid’s Crew reception desk using our driver’s licenses and ship key cards. Jack was assigned to the Junior Sailors category (ages 2 to 5).
Participants are given wristbands with their name, cabin number, emergency muster station, allergies and medications. We were asked to provide the names of people authorized to pick him up from the center. Only a designated adult with photo ID may sign kids under 13 in and out.
After registering, kids can join the fun as often as they choose, with no reservations required. Since my son was not potty trained, they gave us a beeper to let us know when to change his diaper. (Note: Swimmies and other diapers are not permitted in the pools.)
Participants are supervised in a secure environment by a staff of trained youth counselors selected from education and recreation programs at universities and organizations worldwide. They are CPR and first aid certified.
The Kid’s Crew Experience
Jack’s group enjoyed arts and crafts, storytelling, a treasure hunt and marching around the sundeck in a costume parade. He loved the T-Rex Kids Center, with its indoor jungle gym and obstacle course.
First Mates (6 to 9) can partake in a talent show, and pizza-making, pajama and pirate-themed parties. Navigators (10 to 12) can join in sports activities, arts and crafts, team-building challenges, video arcade time and scavenger hunts. Teens (13 to 17) enjoy a toga party, karaoke, nightclub, ultimate pillow fighting, trivia challenge, secret agent training, movies and an Olympic sports night.
In addition to Kid’s Crew activities, which are featured across the fleet, ships positioned at southern U.S. ports have designated areas onboard for children as well as kid-friendly amenities.
The Dawn has a colorful T-Rex Kids Pool area flanked by three gigantic dinosaurs. It features a wave pool, and cool-temperature plunge pools and whirlpools. Fun splash pools are also available on the Star, Spirit and Majesty.
The Pearl just debuted with a bowling alley and rock-climbing wall. The Dawn, Star, Spirit and Jewel feature jungle gyms with ball pits and tunnels. The Sun has a batting cage, and the Dream offers a golf driving net.
The cruise line does not offer private or in-cabin babysitting services, but two types of Group Sitting Services for kids 2 to 12 are available in the Kid’s Crew facilities.
The Late Night Party Zone is offered onboard nightly from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Port Play is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for kids whose parents have booked shore excursions. The rate is $5 per hour, per child; each additional sibling from the same family is charged $3 per hour.
Dining & Details
Within the Dawn’s Garden Café buffet restaurant is a Kids Cafe. This roped-off seating area, with kid-size tables, chairs and food stations, is also offered on the Star, Jewel and all future ships. The Kids Cafe serves burgers, hotdogs, French fries, fruit salad and cookies.
Special Kid’s Crew dinners allow kids to eat with their new friends while their parents dine alone. For the Kid’s Crew Night Out, the children are taken to see a production in the main theater.
Before you leave in vacation, be sure to take certain items with you, even if it means schlepping an extra suitcase. After all, cruise lines can’t think of everything!
These include juice boxes and small water bottles, portable DVD player, toys and books for the cabin and portable activities such as stickers or coloring books for the dining room. Be sure to take a stroller and a plastic bowl for washing soap out of their hair if your stateroom has a shower-stall-only bathroom.
The vacation dynamic changes dramatically when there are kids in the picture. Forget sleeping past 6 a.m. and lounging around by the pool all day. But one early morning, we watched the sunrise over Paradise Island with Jack bouncing all around us. And I thought: this is the perfect vacation for a toddler. Just looking at the photo above, I think Jack agrees.
For More Information
Call your travel agent. Or, contact NCL at 866-625-1166 or www.ncl.com.
Lizz Dinnigan is a freelance writer and senior contributing editor-family cruising for SouthernCruising.com™. She is the former associate editor - cruise for Travel Agent Magazine, a major national weekly trade publication.
*Photo by Lizz Dinnigan. All rights assigned to SouthernTravelNews.com. Please do not link to nor copy this photo. Thank you.