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The idea of designating a special concierge, lounge and accommodations area just for families is so logical, it’s hard to believe it isn’t already an industry-wide service.
After all, cruise lines have already set up similar arrangements for singles, spa-goers and high-end category guests, and family travel is one of the fastest-growing markets of all.
This is particularly true for Carnival Cruise Line, which carries more than 700,000 children annually. Its newest ship, the recently launched 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, is catering directly to these young guests with Family Harbor, an onboard accommodations area and 24-hour lounge designated for young cruisers.
Caroline Lombardi, Carnival’s director of youth services, said the company had an “aha!” moment after speaking with guests and gathering ideas on how to improve the experience for this large and important market segment.
“A lot of families travel together, and we wanted to give them new touches both in hardware and programming,” she said.
The result is the aforementioned Family Harbor on Deck 2 aft, which includes 96 accommodations in different configurations.
Clients can choose from seven accommodations in Family Harbor: Ocean View (connected); Ocean View (not connected); Ocean View (ADA); Deluxe Ocean View; Cove Balcony; Interior; and Suite. These cabins range from 142 square feet for an interior stateroom to 238 square feet for a suite. Some onboard suites can accommodate up to five passengers and have two bathrooms.
Although Family Harbor accommodations carry premium rates — similar to spa-category staterooms — the benefits are impressive. Staterooms come furnished with kid-friendly toiletries and walk-in closets, and curtains can provide parents with privacy. Carnival distinguishes Family Harbor from the rest of the ship with a nautical, New England color scheme that incorporates red, white and blue.
Family Harbor also has an exclusive-access lounge, with two big-screen televisions and sofa nooks, two FunHub Internet computers, video games, continental breakfast and a dedicated concierge who helps with everything from choosing shore excursions to supplying extra towels. Available hours for ordering meals and snacks are generous, with breakfast served from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on port days and 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on sea days; sandwiches and snacks from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; cookies and milk from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and a 24-hour ice cream machine.
“When you have your children along, going to the Lido for breakfast can be a big production,” Lombardi said. “But here, one parent can just bring them into the lounge and get everyone fed while the other has time to organize things in the room and then step out and join them.”
In addition, Family Harbor guests receive unlimited free meals for children under 12 years old in specialty restaurants. They can choose to order from the kids’ menu at Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, Ji-Ji Asian Kitchen and the onboard Italian restaurant Cucina del Capitano.
Parents are also granted one “night on the town” with a complimentary use of the Night Owls program for children who are 11 years old and under. Additional use of the program, which runs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., will cost $6.75 per hour.
In addition, Carnival Vista’s youth staff offers family-friendly activities in the Family Harbor lounge twice during each voyage. There is also a family movie night with popcorn.
If families are looking for accommodations providing direct access to the outdoors, however, they can opt for the new Havana Cabanas that feature private outdoor patios, two of which have connecting rooms. Including Family Harbor, Vista has 379 connecting rooms spread across all stateroom categories, allowing families to ultimately choose accommodations according to their needs.
New family activities onboard Vista include the Clubhouse, also a product of guest feedback, which provides indoor sports recreation when the weather is too hot or rainy. One of the more intriguing games within Clubhouse is minibowling, where passengers can play with palm-size bowling balls. Sports-themed video games, pingpong and arcade-style sports games are also available. The ship also has the first IMAX Theater at sea, showing classic movies and documentaries, along with big Hollywood blockbusters and family favorites.
Adventurous passengers can choose to spend time soaring on suspended recumbent-like bikes 150 feet above the sea on SkyRide, or venture to the nearby ropes course at SkyCourse. There is no charge for SkyRide, and guests can ride at a leisurely pace in tandem with a friend or race up to 18 miles per hour. According to Lombardi, SkyRide is not suited for those who have a fear of heights, but it doesn’t require great athletic skill or strength and provides beautiful views.
Another new feature is Kaleid-O-Slide in WaterWorks, the biggest aqua park in Carnival’s fleet. Kaleid-O-Slide features 455 feet of corkscrew twists and turns with music and light effects. Carnival’s signature water park features are also present, including the 300-foot, high-speed Twister Waterslide and the 300-gallon PowerDrencher. The kiddie play area comes equipped with 30 spray toys and miniature racing slides.
Other offerings include the Thrill Theater; Hasbro, the Game Show; and the family-friendly comedy shows at the Punchliner Comedy Club, as well as activities from the well-known partnership with Dr. Seuss products, including the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast and Story Time at Dr. Seuss Bookville, a family reading venue.
Carnival Vista is open for bookings in Europe through October. In November, she sails to her homeport in Miami for year-round sailings in the Caribbean.
Square footage of cabins in Carnival Vista's Family Harbor:- Family Harbor Ocean View (not connected): 181 square feet
- Family Harbor Ocean View (connected): 195 square feet
- Family Harbor Deluxe Ocean View: 215 square feet
- Family Harbor Interior: 142 square feet
- Family Harbor Suite: 238 square feet
- Family Harbor Cove Balcony: 169 quare feet
- Family Harbor Ocean View (ADA-compliant): 233 square feet
Connecting rooms onboard Carnival Vista:- Interior: 132
- Balcony: 150
- Ocean View: 17
- Deluxe Ocean View: 38
- Havana Cabin: 2
- Cove Balcony: 16
- Family Harbor Suite: 4
- Family Harbor Cove Balcony: 4
- Family Harbor Ocean View: 4
- Family Harbor Interior: 12