The learning portion of a cruise usually happens on port excursions. In recent years, however, cruise lines have gone all out with onboard education programs for kids — think drama workshops, environmental awareness activities, science experiments, and art projects which relate to the cruise ship’s destination.
Generally, youth programs are offered from 9 a.m. to noon; 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. The action usually happens in Youth Rooms filled with crafts, Sony PlayStations, fussball tables, or computers. Many of the educational activities are offered many times throughout the cruise and are listed in the children’s program guide you’ll receive upon embarkation.
Here are some examples of educational programs for kids on the high seas.
Since Carnival Cruise Lines is known for its “Fun Ships,” its youth counselors are experts at turning academic subjects like science and geography into child’s play. During the course of a seven-day cruise, youngsters from age two to 14 can participate in varied programming, like:
H2Ocean: This science-based program involves creating hands on projects such as an air-powered rocket with a balloon. Kids then test it in the Youth Room.
Edu-Cruise: Kids create projects which directly relate to the destination visited. On Western Caribbean cruises that call in Mexico, for example, kids learn a bit about Mayan culture and then construct a Mayan temple out of blocks.
Water Colors: Kids who like to paint will enjoy creating art projects in Carnival’s Water Colors programming. Youth counselors share various artistic techniques with youngsters, including printmaking without a press.
Sea Notes: Younger kids get a basic intro to music, learning to play various hand-held instruments (maracas, drums). Older kids compete in games like Name that Tune.
A-B Seas: Moms or dads can share quiet time with their child during the cruise by reading to them from book selections at each Camp Carnival Youth Room during A-B-Seas family activity. The library has classics like Dr. Seuss and books for teens.
Disney’s youth programming is more than just Goofy games and activities. The lines educational programming includes:
Planet Pebbles, where children make fake space rocks.
Gasses in Action, which includes experiments with different states of matter.
li>Star-gazing on deck.
Making “Flubber,” which is a rubbery substance that bounces all over your stateroom.
All HAL ships recently introduced a Culinary Arts program for kids and teens. Youngsters can attend complimentary 45-minute cooking classes and learn to prepare such dishes as “salad people art” and “Denali peaks” (Alaska- themed scones).
Holland America is also calling all future park rangers to participate in a number of programs while in Alaska that educate children about the state’s environment:
Park Ranger programming: Park rangers board the ship while in Glacier Bay National Park and discuss the ecology and wildlife of the surrounding park with youngsters aged three to 12.
Junior Ranger badge: Children aged eight to 12 can earn their junior ranger badge by completing activities in the complimentary junior ranger books they receive. Among other things, they’ll learn why glaciers calve.
Native American culture: A Huna interpreter from a local tribe comes aboard to discuss Alaskan lore with the older children and pre-teens.
Teens: Young adults receive a journal for documenting their day in Glacier Bay.
Where in the world is Officer Snook? This cartoon fish is getting along swimmingly at Norwegian Cruise Line’s youth program, which is held on its ships all over the world. The Officer Snook Water Pollution Program, which is also available in select schools nationwide, teaches youngsters about the importance of clean water, the affects of marine pollution, and ways to prevent it. Elements of the Officer Snook Water Pollution Program are incorporated into NCL’s Kids’ Crew activities:
Younger children can play with an undersea hospital.
“Tweens” participate in a simulated “beach clean up” or a catch and release game.
Teens earn one to five community service hours for their participation in the onboard programming. (Community service hours are often needed for teens to make their confirmation or are also necessary for induction into honor societies.)
While youngsters might feel like they”re being treated royally by staff while on a Princess cruise, even the royals need to get an education. Princess thus offers a number of science-oriented, edu-taining programs for kids including:
Pete’s Pals: This environmental awareness program teaches kids about endangered species through fun ‘n’ games.
Junior Ranger program: Princess also features a Junior Ranger program in Alaska’s Glacier Bay which is highlighted by park ranger visits on board ship.
Science on the Seas: Princess’ youth staff, which is trained by the California Science Center, tackles various aspects of science daily. While on a Princess cruise, my daughter got to dissect a squid for the first time, and on another day she learned about centrifugal force and then constructed a miniature roller coaster with other kids.
Jr. Chef@Sea: Youngsters get to work behind-the-scenes in a shipboard kitchen and learn to prepare a number of fun dishes such as fruit pizza. The junior chefs wear aprons, receive a certificate of achievement and photo of themselves, and of course, get to devour their edible creations.
Royal Caribbean leads the pack with its vast array of hands-on learning programming. For many years, the line has offered:
Adventure Art by Crayola: This focuses on artistic projects tied into the destination or culture visited on the cruise. While on a Mediterranean cruise, my daughter used Crayola clay to create “ancient” Greek pottery.
Sail Into Storytime: Counselors read books to the littlest participants.
Adventure Science: Got kids itching to get slimed? Then make sure they participate in Adventure Science where they can make slime and other concoctions.
AquaBabies and AquaTots: Royal Caribbean has a daily 45-minute program for infants, toddlers and their caregivers called Aqua Babies. Featuring Fisher-Price toys and interactive songs, the program is meant for kids 6- to 18-months old, and Aqua Tots 18- to 36-months old.
While the line’s newest ship, Liberty of the Seas, may be best known for its surf park, it’s got plenty to offer youngsters who don’t want to hang ten. RCI just rolled out additional edu-tainment for kids on this ship that will be fleet wide by 2008, including:
Adventure Theater: Each sailing offers a series of 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions, which are sponsored by Camp Broadway in New York City and feature acting, singing and dancing workshops.
Build and Grow with Lowe’s: Children aged five to 11 years construct and decorate a small model cruise ship with their families. Youngsters receive a cruise ship construction kit, a Lowe’s apron and safety goggles, a certificate, and a commemorative patch. They then get to take their wooden ship home to display with other mementoes from their cruise.
—Luisa Frey Gaynor