Last updated: 06:41 PM ET, Thu August 11 2016

Children on Board

Here are some of the less-publicized, more unusual activities for young cruisers

Agent@Home | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Theresa Norton

Children on Board

PHOTO: Snorkeling is among the activities in Paul Gauguin Cruises’ Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program.

Whether you’re new to selling cruises or an experienced veteran, you undoubtedly know that families love seagoing vacations. In the process of qualifying families to find the ship that meets their needs and desires, you certainly look at the family programs.

While most cruise ships offer supervised children’s programs — even several of the luxury lines have youth programs — we thought we’d take a look at some of the less-publicized, more unusual activities for young cruisers.

Some of these appeal to kids and teens with special interests in marine biology, Alaska wildlife, or cooking.

Here’s a sampling of what’s available.

Learn about the ocean from a Cousteau: Paul Gauguin Cruises, a luxury line that’s an expert in French Polynesia, offers the ground-breaking Ambassadors of the Environment (AOTE) Youth Program on select voyages of the m/s Paul Gauguin.

Developed by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, the program offers young travelers ages 9 to 17 hands-on experiences with marine and island ecosystems. Under the guidance of Ocean Futures Society naturalists, children might attend lectures, snorkel day and night, swim with rays and sharks, play onboard games, participate in educational activities, ride bikes, hike in the rainforest and learn about the importance of environmentally sustainable practices.

Sometimes, Jean-Michel Cousteau sails on the Paul Gauguin, offering lectures with videos of his work in the world’s oceans and even accompanying several dives from the ship.

The son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel has had an association with Paul Gauguin Cruises for 14 years. He founded the Ocean Futures Society in 1999 to explore the oceans and inspire people to act responsibly for their protection. The organization celebrates the vital importance of oceans to the survival of all life on our planet.

READ MORE: The Evolution of Cruise Kids Programs 

Cousteau serves as president and chairman of the board of the Ocean Futures Society and also has produced environmentally oriented adventure programs and television specials, public service announcements, multimedia programs for schools, web-based marine content, books, articles for magazines and public lectures.

Lest you think a luxury cruise ship is not an ideal environment for children, consider that Paul Gauguin Cruises was named the No. 1 Small-Ship Cruise Line for Families in Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards in both 2013 and 2014.

The AOTE Program is available on select summer and holiday sailings in 2015 and 2016, for one all-inclusive fee of $329 to $399 per child.

The program will cost $329 on the seven-night “Tahiti & the Society Islands” departures on Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, 2015, and next year on June 11, June 18, July 9, July 16, July 23, Dec. 21 and Dec. 28 sailings.

As a special offer, the AOTE program is free on Aug. 8, Aug. 15 and Aug. 22, 2015, sailings.

For 10-night “Society Islands & Tuamotus” voyages, the fee is $359 per child. The program is available on the June 1 and Aug. 10, 2016, departures.

For 11-night “Cook Islands & Society Islands” cruises, the fee is $379 per child for the July 30, 2016, departure. And, the AOTE fee is $399 for children on the June 25, 2016, 14-night “Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands” voyage.

Other family members are encouraged to participate in most AOTE activities and excursions, for the additional cost of the shore excursions.

Jean-Michel Cousteau is scheduled to sail on the Nov. 21, 2015, “Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands” cruise, as well as the March 2, June 1 and Sept. 21, 2016, “Society Islands & Tuamotus” voyages and the Nov. 19, 2016, “Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands” sailing.

Trapeze lessons and bumper cars: You’ve probably heard about the North Star thrill ride and the sky-diving simulator on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum-class ships. But did you know that Quantum, Anthem and Ovation of the Seas also offer trapeze lessons in the same space as bumper cars and roller skating?

SeaPlex, located on deck 15, is a sports and entertainment complex with a full-size basketball court also used for soccer, volleyball and badminton.

And then, at certain times, the trapeze is unfurled for free lessons, so your kids can find out if they have enough arm strength to fly through the air. Other circus lessons might include juggling or Lyra hoops, which are big suspended rings for aerial skills and moves. While complimentary, guests can pay extra for more in-depth, private circus experiences.

When the trapeze is rolled up, kids of all ages can play bumper cars or roller skate in SeaPlex, amid flashing lights and music from a DJ booth floating overhead.

Speaking of circus school … : Norwegian Cruise Line also offers circus workshops for the whole family and for children participating in Splash Academy, the program for kids ages 3 to 12. They can learn how to balance feathers, juggle scarves and balls, master Chinese yo-yo’s, spin plates and even walk on stilts. Children then can showcase their new skills in a Splashtacular Extravaganza performed at the end of the cruise for all guests, hosted by a ringmaster. If your clients are interested in the circus school, double-check because it’s not available on all ships.

Green eggs and ham, anyone? Carnival Cruise Line offers Seuss at Sea activities on 20 ships, including the Carnival Vista due out in May 2016 and soon on Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration.

Most of the Seuss-inspired activities are free, including a character parade, interactive story time, and arts and crafts activities.

Of special note is the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends. The menu features, of course, green eggs and ham, along with brightly colored fruit, pancake stacks, French toast and beverages called “moose juice” and ”goose juice.” (Some adults might prefer the classic breakfast offerings also available.) The breakfast is also a great time to meet and take photos with Dr. Seuss characters. There is a $5 fee for each adult and child attending the Seuss brunch.

Dr. Seuss Bookville, available on Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista, is a reading room decked out in bright colors with cushy furniture and Dr. Seuss characters on the walls. And of course, the shelves are full of those Dr. Seuss books.

What’s cooking? Several cruise lines offer cooking lessons tailored for young cruisers. Princess Cruises has the Jr. CHEF@Sea Program, in which the ships’ chefs host a hands-on food preparation workshop in the galley. The young passengers learn how to decorate a cake or make a fruit pizza.

The Junior Chefs even suit up in mini toques and chef aprons, and receive a special certificate of achievement and photo at the end of the workshop, touting their culinary achievement. Parents are invited to attend along with their children.

Holland America Line also offers hands-on cooking classes in two age groups, 3-7 and 8-15, in the fully equipped Culinary Arts Centers onboard. They’ll learn basic cooking techniques and kitchen safety, as well as how to make fruit roll-ups, soft pretzels, saltwater taffy and more.

Crystal Cruises also offers galley tours and lessons in cookie baking or pizza making for young passengers. The luxury line offers Junior Activities program for kids between the ages of 3 and 17 on holiday voyages and nearly all summer sailings.

Disney Cruise Line’s Oceaneer Labs sometimes teach kids how to bake cookies. They wear aprons and chef hats to learn how to mix ingredients and bake under the direction of a chef. Of course, they then get to taste their creations.

Learn about Alaska wildlife: Princess Cruises offers Junior Ranger and Teen Explorer programs developed with the National Park Service to bring Glacier Bay and the Alaska wilderness to life.

The program includes games, activity books and presentations by park rangers. Upon completion of the program, each child receives a Junior Ranger badge and certificate. The corresponding Teen Explorer program offers similar learning activities designed for older participants.

On other cruises, Princess offers the Science on the Seas program developed with the California Science Center. Princess Cruises youth staff members are trained and certified by the center to teach youngsters about sharks, building roller coasters, marine biology, chemistry, and more.


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Agent@Home Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the July 2015 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.


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