Cruising is the perfect vacation option for families. You are able to have time together as a family, explore different countries, eat great food, have tons of fun together and separately. Parents can have together time (or solo time) away from kids thanks to the awesome kids programs.
I’ve been asked so many questions about the kids programs on Royal and Norwegian so here are my answers, info and tips. But first, our experience:
We have only used the children’s facilities on two ships: Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas and Norwegian Escape. On Royal, Rohan was 11 months old and we made use of the Royal Babies program. On Norwegian, we used the Norwegian Splash Academy for Rohan (age 3) and the Guppies program for Kaya (age 2). On the first day of our cruise I was sure to visit with the staff for all age groups, and tour the facility so I could better answer questions in the future. We have yet to try Carnival and other cruise lines, but when we do I’ll update this to include them.
Is my baby too young/old?
Babies can cruise starting at 6 months of age. Up until recent years, the only option for children under 3 were in-room babysitting services. Now, babies 6 months through 2 years old have programs on board just for them. On Royal there is the Royal Babies & Tots program, and on Norwegian it was the Guppies program.
From age 3 – 17 your children can participate in the main “kids club” offerings. They are grouped by age and have activities catered to their level.
Is it expensive?
Age 3+ is free!
On Royal, it was $8/hour for the Royal Babies program. On Norwegian we paid $20 per session for Kaya. The session is just under 2 hours. So at night we put her in from 7pm-8:50 session and she stayed for the 9pm -10:50 session, but we picked her up at 10:30 when we picked up Ro.
After 10:30pm the Splash Academy for 3 years and up charges a fee. I didn’t ask what that price was, though.
What kind of activities do they have?
For Rohan in Royal Babies they had tons of Fisher Price toys, and would read to the babies, and sing songs. For Rohan there wasn’t much of a “curriculum” just lots of free play with heavy interaction from the staff. So few children were in the program that it was 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of staff to kids.
The Guppies (0-2) program on Norwegian had so much planned for the kids each session. We dropped Kaya only at night from 7pm to 10:30pm. During that time she did active games, singing, storytime, arts & crafts, had snacks and free play with the blocks/puzzles (her fave). We received a printout each time we picked her up which logged her diaper changes, feeding, activities down to her mood during each activity! (ie: loved 3 little pigs story, was excited for puzzles, disengaged during beauty and the beast storytime, focused during painting, two wet diapers, not hungry…) We got beautiful art each night from Kaya’s program as well:
The Splash Academy Turtles (3-5 years) did lots of active games, songs, building, toy time, got face painted, had story time and always had a fun theme that ran through the day. On fairy tale day and pirate day the kids paraded through the ship (indoors, not near the exterior of the ship) for us parents and other passengers to ooh ahh and aww over them.
Older kids played age appropriate games, have video game time, and “chill out” style areas to enjoy each others company and feel “cool” and less like they’re being babysat. 🙂 The oldest group (14-17 I believe) can check themselves in and out of the program, come and go as they please, and had a teen club all to themselves.
What if my kid doesn’t like it?
It’s not a mandatory program. If your child doesn’t like it, they do not have to go. Additionally, if you’re nervous about their experience you can request a beeper (no matter your child’s age) and have the staff beep you if your child is crying, or acting up, or asks to go back to their parents.
Is there video or a way to keep tabs on the children?
The beeper mentioned above is the only way for the staff to contact you. You can always call and check in on how your child is doing, or go by the kids club and spy out like I did. 🙂 There is no video of the kids club area for parents to monitor their child. Be sure you let the staff know what part of the ship you’ll be, so if they do need to reach you, they can.
Is it safe?
Yes. The baby areas on both Royal and Norwegian were locked up and had 2 barriers to entry for folks who weren’t the child’s parents. The kiddie area itself is on the inside of the ship, so unruly sprinting kids cant go running/climbing/falling anywhere but inside the designated child areas.
What is the staff like?
On the two ships we’ve used the children’s facilities on, the staff has been awesome. The Royal Nursery staff were so sweet and gentle, and had such a calming vibe to them. The Norwegian Guppies staff seemed to really love babies, and had lots of tricks up their sleeves to quickly calm fussy kids.
The kids club staff had energy for days…no…weeks. They had that fun/gentle leadership quality that was able to hype the kids up for their activities, and also guide them and be obeyed. We went to visit the Splash Academy on Norwegian Escape before we registered ro, I went to the bathroom and came back and Ro was pushing one of the staff, Curly, around in his stroller and they were both laughing hysterically. They were a well oiled machine and a fun group, just perfect for kids.
Did your kids like it?
Yes, they loved it. We didn’t use the kids club all day. We used them only in the evening after we fed the kids dinner. I think if we tried to send Rohan to all the sessions (On Norwegian it’s 10am-12pm, 3pm-5pm, and 7pm-10:30pm +late night sessions $$) he may have pushed back, plus…we wanted to spend the days with the kids.
There was only one night where Ro said he didn’t want to go, and that was the day after he had a crash into another boy and hit his head. When we asked why he didn’t want to go, he said it was because he didn’t want to bump his head again. So, other than that night, they went and loved it. Kaya was really into the art work, and Rohan loved the parades, face painting and active play.
Can they watch the kids while we are on an excursion?
That wasn’t something we were interested in so I didn’t ask when we were on board, but I did just find out that they do offer that service on Norwegian. You do have to pay for the hours that the child would be in their care outside of their normal hours mentioned above. They will feed the kids and everything for you while you’re out enjoying your excursion. I didn’t ask about the service on Royal.
Do they have in-room babysitting options?
On Norwegian they don’t offer it, which was a major bummer for us. On Royal Caribbean they offer it for (i think) $8 or $10/hour. We will make use of this service on our next Royal Caribbean cruise for sure. You just have to reserve in advance so they can figure out scheduling.
Do they feed / change / soothe the children?
In the Splash Academy for older kids they do not feed the kids. And you children have to be potty trained 3 year olds in order to attend. They do soothe them, like when Ro and the other kid crashed into each other. Both cried and both were soothed. In the Guppy program they will feed per your directions, change diapers and soothe and even rock your child to sleep.
Will they let my children stay together if in different age groups?
I’ve heard of this….but it wasn’t allowed for us on Norwegian Escape. (I asked just in hopes, even though Kai isn’t fully potty trained and couldn’t stay with her brother even if they made the age exception.) I can’t speak for Royal or other lines. I have only heard stories from other cruisers on cruisecritic saying that their children of various ages were able to stay together in one of the age groups.
a separate little free-play area for young kids near the kids club and baby club
What do they provide?
The Splash Academy provides everything. One day, they did tell us to bring Rohan dressed in pjs for the pajama party and parade. Other than that, we never had to supply a thing. They weren’t allowed to give him juice or snacks though. Only water. So if he was hungry he would’ve had to wait for pickup or have us found. Kids were encouraged to come with no toys, etc. (They did allow Rohan to bring in his Elmo lovey though. PS: There was a staff member on board named Elmo too)
The Guppies provided everything for activities, but we had to bring Kai’s sippy cups, diapers (they had wipes), snacks, lovey.
On Royal they have a great program where you can get a big bag of toys for your children to use in the stateroom and while on board. It’s free, and you can swap out the toys for a different bag if your child gets bored. You just return it on the last night. (You can ask for cleaning wipes – if you didn’t pack your own- when you pick up the bag so you can wipe down the toys… if you’re a weirdo like me)
- Register your children for the kids club on day one even if you dont think you’ll use it
- Always bring your kid to the club well fed, hydrated and freshly pottied
- Visit the baby/kids area with your children and stay and play a bit to get them used to the area and staff (especially if they are not in day care)
- Make use of the ‘free play’ areas when kids club is not in session for age appropriate baby playtime
- Be honest, upfront, and vocal about what you do and don’t want your children exposed to/doing/sleeping/eating etc. They will cater to your requests.
- Trust the staff and treat them kindly. They’re really good with children (and parents).
- Pick up a bit earlier than the closing time to avoid a long line of parents waiting for pickup
- Have a fun activity waiting for your child to entice them to leave because they won’t want to.
Any other kids club questions send em my way!