Instinct may guide even the savviest of travel agents to the
Disney Cruise Line or one of Carnival’s colorful ships when
children are on the passenger list. While there’s no question that
those lines are more commonly associated with family trips, it
certainly behooves agents and vacationers to consider luxury lines
Our recent family voyage on the six-star Radisson Seven Seas
Navigator proved relaxing, engaging, edifying and energizing for
both adults and children. Radisson has four ships that travel to
350 destinations, including the much-heralded 320-passenger Paul
Gauguin, which travels to Tahiti and features, on select sailings,
an intensive children’s program in conjunction with Jean-Michel
Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society.
Our New York to Bermuda cruise on Navigator featured the Club
Mariner children’s program, operated on select summer and holiday
cruises. The program, according to Navigator’s hotel director
Martin van der Laan, “offers kids a more personalized service while
their parents are treated to a luxury cruise.”
For us, the “luxury” began with embarkation. Instead of waiting
for hours in line, as is commonplace with larger ships, we breezed
right through. In fact, our bags were taken directly from our cab
at the port of New York, scanned through an X-ray machine and then
delivered promptly to our cabin. The entire check-in process took
less than 15 minutes, a welcomed advantage of traveling on a vessel
with only 490 passengers. It was also a big relief for those
traveling with kids as we were not to have to keep them occupied
during a tedious check-in process.
On the contrary, our 8-year-old son Bean was thrilled when he
received his own key card in an elegant black card case at
check-in. The feeling of responsibility, coupled with a sense of
belonging, endeared the ship and crew to him from the get-go.
The first evening of the cruise, the Club Mariner staff
organized a ship-wide invitational meeting of all parents and
children. The youth program is divided up into groups, those from 5
to 11 years of age and the “teen” group, from 12 to 17. We were
happy to see that the Club Mariner staff included educators, such
as elementary school teacher Christine Oastler, and pre-school
teacher Crystal Deschamps, who directs the program.
“The same level of service Radisson offers
to their parents, we offer to the children,” explained
Oastler, who has worked for some of the larger lines, noted that
the smaller number of children on Radisson ships is an advantage.
Our cruise carried 47 passengers under the age of 21. Bean
participated in all the Club Mariner programs, and usually had no
more than 10 other kids with him. By the first evening, the staff
knew every child’s name. Parents are invited to come to any
activity, and either parents or caretakers can take younger
children to participate. It’s not unusual for nannies to bring
their young charges to the Club Mariner activities.
Like many of today’s parents, Club Mariner counselors operate on
a “token economy” children receive tokens for attendance, good
behavior and helping out. Some nights, a child can tell a joke or
sing a song to a counselor to receive a prized token, which, at the
end of the cruise, are turned in for prizes that include magnets,
wallets, key chains, pens, backpacks and temporary tattoos.
Rules are basic and practical: keep feet on the ground at all
times; stay away from the ship’s railing; no non-attended visits to
the balcony; don’t press all the buttons on the elevators; no
children under 14 in the Jacuzzi; and no kids in the casino.
The lure of prizes at the end of the cruise provided extra
incentive for kids to remain on their best behavior during the Club
Mariner activities. Those activities were plentiful, and quite
unique, thanks to the intimate size of the group. Bean and his
friends met with the captain in the bridge, baked cookies in the
galley with the ship’s executive chef and visited with marine
biologist and lecturer John Palmisano. They even enjoyed a ride on
one of the ship’s lifeboats; that is, until Bermudian authorities
cut the venture short.
The Backstage Tour gave kids and parents a chance to meet
dancers, as well as try on hats, wigs and costumes from the nightly
entertainment shows. One of the cast members even provided an
interactive lesson in lighting and sound effects.
Our seven-day cruise included two special Club Mariner dinners
as well as a breakfast. All Radisson ships feature a kid’s menu on
all sailings. Bean quickly selected a favorite a hot dog and
ordered it at every meal.
Theme nights kept kids busy (including “Movie Night,”
“Olympics,” “Survivor,” “Cowboy,” “Camping” and more). Although the
ship didn’t have a dedicated children’s lounge, Club Mariner’s
“home,” the Navigator Lounge, was amply stocked with traditional
games and craft projects, video games and even a karaoke machine.
Bean didn’t notice a difference between this “kid’s area” and the
elaborately equipped ones on larger ships he’s cruised on. On
Navigator, the personalized attention and action-packed activities
schedule were quite enough to keep the kids happy as we cruised the
The Club Mariner staff was clearly dedicated to keeping young
cruisers engaged and entertained. And that made it all the more
possible for parents to partake of the Navigator’s deluxe
amenities, fine dining and quiet elegance.
“When their kids are happy, parents are happy,” said van der
Not all Radisson ships and itineraries offer Club Mariner
“We consider where we’re traveling, the time of year, the length
of time at sea. Most parents aren’t going to want to bring children
with them on cruises where there are six days at sea,” said van der
His comments made us all the more grateful that we chose a Club
And Bean’s found a new favorite cruise line.
|Creating Your Own Club Mariner|
Even if clients are not on a Club Mariner cruise, parents and
children can still enjoy the luxurious benefits of a Radisson
sailing. The line’s “all-suite” accommodations feature generously
sized rooms, the majority of which have balconies. The suites can
be configured so children can sleep on rollaway beds brought in by
the room stewards nightly.
The children’s menu is available on all sailings, both in the
dining areas and through room service.
All Radisson ships have DVD players in the staterooms, as well as
an extensive library of DVDs (including family-friendly selections)
Radisson staff members are trained to be flexible, so passengers
should ask about setting up individualized tours of the bridge,
galley or lifeboats.