I love Dr. Seuss, so I was completely charmed by Bookville, which made its first appearance on Carnival Cruise Lines aboard the Freedom after the ship’s recent $10 million refurbishment. And I had plenty of company, not just among the younger kids who are the focus of the program, but also among older kids and wistful adults as emotionally tied to the Lorax and Horton as I am.
Carnival’s exclusive agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises has resulted in a colorful space, so attractive the children in our group literally couldn’t wait to pop through the two differently sized doors. They threw themselves onto bright chairs and fat cushions surrounded by books, toys and games based on Dr. Seuss’ world. The older kids immediately started reading to younger ones.
The Green Eggs and Ham breakfast is one of the best character meals offered at sea. // © 2014 Marilyn Green
Seuss at Sea offers a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast with characters for only $5, but the most wildly appreciated event was the Seuss-a-Paloosa Parade. A crowd of families gathered to join the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and Sam with noisemakers, character cutouts and banners. Delighted kids were encouraged to make as much noise as possible (why didn’t anyone do this when I was that age?) and rehearsed the ongoing chant, “Dr. Seuss is on the loose” for the parade travelling the length of the ship. It all ended with an interactive reading of The Cat in the Hat that brought the excited kids onstage to the Victoriana Theater.
The program for younger kids has had a makeover too, with Camp Carnival transformed into Camp Ocean. More than 200 new activities combine entertainment and ocean education, from Under the Sea Mad Libs to Design Your Own Aquarium and Make Your Own Sailboat.
The program now has separate rooms for kids ages 2-5 (Penguins), 6-8 (Stingrays) and 9-11 (Sharks). The space is used so well that, with about 80 Stingrays onboard during our cruise, half were able to enjoy the program at any given time. There are no limits on numbers, but the families’ schedules keep the flow going naturally.
During certain times, babies under two can use the space; parents provide diapers and wipes and staff does the changing.
The 2-5 year olds also use an outside playground at designated times, while older kids pour their energy into miniature golf and basketball in the ship’s sports area.
The youth staff provides parents with cell phones so they can check on their kids at any time. And when parents are on shore excursions, they leave contact information with the staff.
Youth staff members really like the changes; they say the focus on each age group’s space eliminates the “shy period” for younger cruisers. I returned to Camp Ocean several times during a seven-day cruise, and heard wailing only once: when parents were picking up their children and removing them from the goodies.
Seuss at Sea is scheduled to be available on all Carnival ships by 2015 and Camp Ocean will be available by 2016.