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In heated competition to secure the family and multigenerational markets, cruise lines are scrambling to provide more unusual and exciting experiences than ever for younger cruisers and their families. Kids can now explore the underwater world with one of the greatest names in oceanography, climb the mast of a tall sailing ship, fly on a trapeze, get into digital filmmaking and learn to pitch with baseball greats — all onboard a cruise ship.
Television shows have inspired quite a few experiences for families. On Inside Passage cruises in Alaska, Holland America Line offers its Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour, which sails on Aleutian Ballad, the crab boat from Discovery Channel’s award-winning series “Deadliest Catch.” Princess Cruises has new Discovery at Sea programming, with creative animal-related activities connected to Animal Planet, as well as 3-D puzzles, books and DVDs inspired by the network. Preteens can partake in science programs and activities made popular by programs such as “MythBusters” and “Gold Rush.”
Celebrity Cruises offers iTake, where guests create short videos from storyboard to screen, shooting above and under water with GoPro Hero3 high-definition, wide-angle video cameras (used to film extreme sports). The complimentary program is available on Eclipse, Summit, Silhouette, Reflection, Infinity, Solstice, Millennium and Constellation.
Star Clippers’ square-rigged tall ships give young sailors the chance to learn to sail and tie knots with friendly and personable crew members. Children can even climb the ships’ masts (with a harness).
Families can attend free clinics given by baseball stars on MSC Cruises’ Baseball Greats Cruises this winter. Activities include an autograph session, trivia, a pitching contest and storytelling. The players, who include former Yankee star Stan Bahnsen as cruise host, are extremely gracious and chat with fans above and beyond the planned sessions.
Norwegian Cruise Line was the first in the industry to offer guests Nintendo Wii video game systems onboard, allowing children and parents to play tennis, golf, baseball, boxing and bowling games against each other. Norwegian has since expanded its partnership with Nintendo to include Wii U consoles fleetwide. Spectators can watch the games on two-story-high video screens.
On Crystal Cruises, family members with iPads can attend a set of five classes on how to shoot and edit short movies with a program from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Guests must preload the iMovie application prior to boarding, and signing up early online is recommended, as class size is limited.
Disney is famous for its unusual tours, and Adventures by Disney’s new exclusive Danube River cruise with AmaWaterways next year will include experiences such as walking connected rope paths among 41 treetop towers in the Austrian Alps, as well as a private marionette show and strudel-making demonstration at Schonbrunn Palace.
Paul Gauguin Cruises provides the Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program, developed by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. Offered on select sailings in Tahiti and the French South Pacific, program activities can include day and night snorkeling, swimming with rays and sharks, cycling and rainforest hikes. Cousteau himself is onboard two select South Pacific cruises this year and four in 2016.
Carnival Cruise Lines has new budget-friendly family beach excursions in ports throughout the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Mexico, with children ages 5 and under free with their parents’ paid tours. Events include a Family Beach Escape in Freeport, Bahamas, complete with sandcastle-making competitions, treasure hunts and face painting.
Now, kids don’t have to run away from home to join the circus: Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum-class ships offer a circus school, complete with full trapezes, safety harnesses and nets.
Cruise lines are providing experiences that tempt the entire family to spend time together and bring their imaginations to life. And programs suited to younger cruisers leave parents free to enjoy their own activities, or to do nothing — possibly the ultimate adult dream come to life.