Radisson Seas Kids

Luxury cruise line spoils children and adults

By: N.F. Mendoza

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 as well.

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.

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 Atlantic.
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 Laan.

Not all Radisson ships and itineraries offer Club Mariner programs.

“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 Laan.

His comments made us all the more grateful that we chose a Club Mariner voyage.

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) onboard.
Radisson staff members are trained to be flexible, so passengers should ask about setting up individualized tours of the bridge, galley or lifeboats.