Starting in 2015, all Windstar Cruises’ itineraries will feature a spectacular onshore private event created exclusively for Windstar guests. These complimentary events are crafted to give you an in-depth and authentic local experience that compliments your voyage making their sailings appealing to families. Private events include activities such as an after-hours tour and dinner under the stars in the magnificent Celsus Library of Ephesus or a private ballet performance in the famed Odessa National Opera and Ballet Theatre. The cruise line’s goal is to provide a deeper involvement into the local culture. Windstar debuted its first exclusive private event on its Dreams of Tahiti voyage in May. The event, included on all 2014 sailings through the South Pacific, features an evening of entertainment with music and a dazzling performance by local fire dancers on a secluded island or “motu.” The evening also includes a dinner of local Tahitian cuisine with tender suckling pig slowly steamed in a traditional ”ahima’a” earth oven.
Norwegian Cruise Line is expanding their exclusive Nickelodeon entertainment with new activities, themed dinners in the buffet, Nickelodeon-inspired menu items and additional meet and greets, allowing more interaction with your favorite characters. And what’s Nickelodeon without Slime? Guests on many of NCL’s ships will soon have the opportunity to get slimed on the cruise line’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, as part of the expanded Nickelodeon beach activities. Plus, NCL is adding more Nickelodeon experiences in Splash Academy kids club. Currently 5 ships feature Nickelodeon experiences. And coming fall 2015, NCL’s newest eco-friendly cruise destination in southern Belize will be transformed into a 75-acre experience featuring a floating pier, island village, marina, tours to the mainland, a lagoon for water sports for a fun beach day.
One of the most baby-friendly cruise lines will get a little less friendly next year when Disney Cruise Line raises the minimum age for babies permitted on its ships from 12 weeks to 6 months. Beginning January 1, 2015, the age of babies on longer sailings, including transatlantic crossings, Hawaii voyages and Panama Canal transits will also go up to 1 year old. Disney explains that this puts them in line with most other cruise lines. And now is a great time to take your babies and toddlers on a Disney Cruise as they are currently offering a rare 20 percent or more off week long sailings out of San Juan on September 20 and 27 on the Disney Magic. The wonderful itinerary includes Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and St. Kitts. The special is for ocean view cabins and full payment is due at time of booking.
Disney Cruise Line plans to return to Hawaii and the Mexican Riviera in the fall of 2015. The Disney Wonder will sail September 7 from Vancouver for Oahu, with stops at two other Hawaiian islands. It will make the reverse journey on Septermber 17. The ship will also offer six cruises on the U.S. West Coast to Baja Mexico and then do nine sailings from Galveston, Texas, to the Bahamas, Key West and Castaway Cay. In October, the Wonder will sail several cruises from San Diego on itineraries that include Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It will transition to Galveston in November and do mostly seven-day cruises to the Bahamas, Key West and Castaway Cay, with a sprinkling of other lengths and itineraries mixed in.
Looking for a boutique style cruise experience with your family? Small Ship Safaris offers a variety of family cruises to Alaska, Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands with ship sizes ranging from only 36-60 guests and with discounted rates for children age 12 and under. The Alaska cruise, available July 26 and August 9, sails for 7-days. Visit the Tongass National Forest, Frederick Sound and Stephen’s Passage with activities ranghing from hiking to kayaking and skiffing and snorkeling. An 8-day tropical escape to the Hawaiian Islands includes snorkeling, sailing and land excursions, with visit to waterfalls, museums and night snorkeling with manta rays. Sailings take place from November to December. The 8-day Galapagos trip takes place year-round. Visit Black Turtle Cove, Fernandina Island, Isabela Island and Genovesa Island. A Child Coordinator organizes learning exercises throughout this cruise, teaching children about the species found on the islands. book early for the best availability. Photo courtesy on Un-Cruise Adventures.
During the summer ROW Adventures offers two of their Family Magic Rafting trips at a discounted price. This summer’s dates are already sold-out; so book early for their 5-day rafting trip on July 12 or August 16, 2015. This fun trip through the Lower Salmon River Canyons in Idaho allows children as young as age 5. ROW brings along their signature “River Jester”, a specially trained guide who entertains children with nature hikes and games. The pace of the trip includes plenty of stops to play on the magical Salmon River beaches, explore Indian rock art and pioneer homesteads. And when you arrive at camp, your tent is already set up. Each night the children’s meal is served prior to the gourmet adult meal. Campfires, star gazing and evening stories round out your day. Other trips are available for 4- or 5-days from July through September. Private trips can also be arranged which is ideal for families traveling together or multi-generational groups.
Celebrity Cruises is hosting a Flyers Alumni Cruise from August 17-24, 2014 to Bermuda. Sail aboard the Celebrity Summit out of Cape Liberty, NJ with some of your favorite former Flyers from the Broad Street Bullies era greats to more recent players. Your cruise will include a welcome cocktail party, hockey clinic, Q&A panel and autograph session, breakfast with the Flyers and a sunset BBQ on the pool deck. The ship will spend 3 nights in Bermuda where you can explore caves, enjoy beautiful beaches, bike the railway trails, scuba dive, play golf and more. Rates start at $999/person (1st and 2nd in the cabin plus taxes). The Summit was renovated in 2012 and provides great dining options, pools, spa, gym, kids and teen clubs, evening entertainment, casino, daily activities and more.
Carnival Cruise Line will debut Camp Ocean, a marine-themed children’s program, onboard Carnival Freedom on May 24 and roll it out fleetwide by 2016. The program, which will replace the line’s Camp Carnival program, will immerse children ages 2 to 11 in the “wonders of the sea” through fun, educational onboard activities. Among the 200 ocean-inspired activities will be games such as Sea Creature Discovery, Marine Life Trivia, Under the Sea Mad Libs and Ocean Artifacts Memory Tray, as well as creative arts exercises like Design Your Own Aquarium, Make Your Own Sailboat, Sea Salt Art and Create a Penguin from Oreos. The program also will incorporate a Badge Challenge, which gives your children the chance to earn and collect badges for completing special tasks such as trying new foods, making an aquatic animal towel or riding the water slide. Children’s spaces also will be redesigned. In developing the Camp Ocean program, Carnival created a Carnival Play Panel consisting of experts in child education, media and play. Carnival’s programs for tweens and teens, Circle C and Club O2 will remain unchanged.
Looking for a small ship cruising experience in Alaska? This year AdventureSmith Explorations is offering new cruise itineraries that take outdoor-loving families paddling and hiking through the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Among the six distinct family trips offered is the Discoverers Glacier Country Tour, an eight-day cruise that explores sites such as Glacier Bay National Park and includes daily hiking, kayaking or whale watching excursions. Another great option is the nine-day True Alaska Family Cruise which takes you to Sitka, Petersburg, Juneau and Hoonah. 2014 and 2015 departure dates are available for booking with ships ranging from 22-84 passengers. Alaska is a spectacular and easy destination for family vacations. Small ship cruises are inherently family friendly with comfortable accommodations, professional guides, a variety of activities, child-friendly meals and educational programs.
Royal Caribbean is recreating the dining experience on their next two ships, the Quantum of the Seas (due in November) and the Anthem of the Seas (due in April, 2015) and calling it Dynamic Dining. Instead of a large main dining room, there will be 5 smaller and complimentary dining rooms each with its own cuisine: 1) American Icon, which will serve regional American cuisine; 2) Chic, which will place an emphasis on highly sophisticated cuisine; 3) Silk, a Pan-Asian eatery in a format that allows for sharing at the tables; 4) The Grande, which restores the classic age of European ocean liner dining, serving classic continental to diners dressed appropriately; and 5) The Coastal Kitchen, which will serve Mediterranean with a signature California touch. You will be able to dine in different restaurants at any time and a new online system will allow you to make reservations for particular meals online using smart phones and tablets before and during your cruise. The system launches May 15 and will list seat availability at every restaurant with customer ratings of each restaurant. Specialty restaurants will still be available including options from celebrity chefs such as Jaimie Oliver, Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander. Both ships are also bringing new innovations in shipboard activities such as a sky-diving experience and the North Star, a 15-person capsule that extends 300 feet above the ocean and over the sides of the ship at the end of a crane. The SeaPlex, another innovation, is an indoor sports and entertainment complex with bumper cars, roller skating and more. For multi-generational families, there will be connected staterooms that combine staterooms in three categories to form a special layout that provides separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all.