Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest generation ship, debuting May 2016, will span 16 guest decks, carry 5,497 guests at double occupancy, contain 2,747 staterooms, and for the first time in Royal Caribbean’s history, feature Splashaway Bay, an aquatic adventure park for children. The vessel will be the first of its kind in a new line of Oasis class ships, all of which boast seven “neighborhoods”—Central Park, the Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place, and Youth Zone. At Splashaway Bay, small children and toddlers can splash around with their friends using sea creature water cannons, glide down winding slides, and swing on a multi-platform jungle-gym. Adults and older children can get in on the action by taking a plunge on the 10-story-high Ultimate Abyss, as well as the Cyclone, the Typhoon and the Supercell waterslides. Harmony of the Seas’ inaugural 2016 season includes 7-night Western Mediterranean sailings in the summer and 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings in the fall.
Costa Cruises has developed a program that lets children be Captain for a Day. The program features an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the role the master fulfills onboard and learn a few tricks of the trade. There are three levels of packages available. At the basic level captain trainees get a uniform to wear for the day, full captain’s training plus dinner at the captain’s table with other participants. Your children will learn about signal flags, nautical weather and how to navigate with their own map and compass. After dinner, the junior captains get a diploma and two 8 x 11 photos. The program will initially be offered on Costa’s Fascinosa and Diadema ships.
Due to greater demand (and new competition from Disney Adventures), Tauck Bridges is doubling the number of family-friendly river cruises it offers in 2017. The company will offer 20 departures, up from 10 in 2016. Tauck launched family-friendly river cruises in 2008 and already has three ships designed for families and will add a fourth 2017. Among the features that make the vessels amenable to families are suites with pull-out sofas that allow for three or four people in one stateroom. Cruises include activities such as a scavenger hunt in the Louvre in Paris; guided cycling near Durnstein, Austria; and interactive cooking demonstrations. In 2016, Tauck’s family river cruises will include the eight-day Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure from Budapest to Regensburg; the 10-day Bon Voyage! France Family River Cruise including a two-night hotel stay in Paris; and the eight-day Castles on the Rhine: Family Riverboat Adventure from Basel to Amsterdam. We are eager to find out if Tauck will add any other rivers to the family line-up. Stay tuned!
This winter, you can navigate the southernmost Chilean-Argentinian Patagonian channels with your children at no additional cost. One child age 17 or under accompanying a paying adult on three- or four-day excursions sails free with Australis. Bookings must be made by the end of October and are redeemable for trips sailing in December. Rates for the all-inclusive programs begin at $1,895 per adult for the three-day program and $2,298 for the four-day program. Australis carries travelers onboard expedition cruise ships to see one of the wildest and most beautiful regions of the world, sailing through Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. With Zodiac tours and landings, the cruise takes you to see the main points of interest through Tierra del Fuego: the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, Cape Horn, glaciers and National Parks. Expert guides in local geography, cultural history, flora and fauna lead all expeditions. Let The Family Traveler combine the short cruise with time in Chile, Argentina or elsewhere in South America for an amazing winter break!
Backroads has teamed up with AmaWaterways to bring you a revolutionary Backroads experience: incredible River Cruise Biking and River Cruise Walking Trips with an elegant ship as your home base! Enjoy the best of river cruising through some of the world’s most captivating cityscapes and countryside—along with the outstanding Trip Leaders, routes and support that travelers expect from Backroads. Choose from the Danube, Rhine, Seine and Douro Rivers in Europe as well as Mekong in Asia. Backroads is chartering a full ship in September 2016. Their Danube Full Ship Celebration on the new AmaViola will start Prague and then you’ll sail and bike from Passau to Vienna, Bratislava and on to Budapest. All enhanced by the camaraderie of 150 or so fellow Backroads travelers!
Windstar Cruise is currently offering a terrific added value package. Get three free shore events, a private event experience, unlimited beverage package including cocktails and wine by the glass, free internet and tips for their tropical sailings in Tahiti, the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Panama including some holiday travel weeks! Pricing starts at $2,499 per person and sailings are appropriate for ages 7 and older. There are no kids or teen programs, but the ships are in port nearly every day offering your family plenty of outdoor adventures or relaxation. Windstar Cruises operates a fleet of small luxury cruise ships known for its intimate, yacht-style experience and unique voyages to the world’s best small ports and hidden harbors.
Carnival Corp. has recently announced the launch of a new cruise brand that will take your family to foreign countries to do cooperative social projects. Called fathom, its first destination will be the Dominican Republic with a sailing from Miami in April 2016. The 710-passenger ship is designed for voluntourism to transport people eager help teach English, work on reforestation or water purification projects, or help a women’s cooperative harvest cocoa. You will have a choice of projects as well as a choice of traditional excursions such as windsurfing or hiking as well as on board activities. Travel with a purpose!
Disney Cruise Line is bringing Star Wars to eight sailings next year. Star Wars Day at Sea will feature a full day of celebrations including a deck party, meet-and-greets with characters, Star Wars-themed youth activities, unique food and beverage offerings and merchandise. Also featured will be exclusive at-sea screenings of the Star Wars films and the new Disney XD animated series Star Wars Rebels. An evening deck party culminates in a display of themed pyrotechnics, lighting, sound effects and lasers. The cruises will depart Port Canaveral on January 9 and 23; February 6 and 20; March 5 and 19; and April 2 and 16, 2016.
In other Disney news, the Disney Magic will return to New York City in October 2016 with four southbound cruises to the Bahamas and Disney World (park ticket included!) for 7- or 8-nights and a 5- night cruise to Canada to take advantage of the fall foliage.
Adventures by Disney is adding Danube River cruising to its roster of vacation options next summer using AmaWaterways ships. These sailings feature eight destinations across four countries—Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, and revisit scenes from the movie, “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg and explore Devin Castle in Bratislava, as well as offer lessons in traditional Austrian folk dancing in Melk. Eight Adventures by Disney Adventure Guides will be on each sailing in addition to the AmaWaterways crew. Special activities for children include activity nights, movies, karaoke, relay games, life-size chess lessons, video games, and more. Teens can take part in activities and themed nights specifically created for them. Sailing dates are July 7-14, July 14-21, July 21-28, and July 28-August. 4 and August 4-11, 2016. The holiday-themed sailing departs on December 15-22 or December 22-29, 2016 and includes visits to the Christmas markets in Budapest and Vienna, a Vienna Boys Choir Christmas performance in the Hofburg Palace Chapel, and a special holiday menu lunch. You can also add an Adventures by Disney 3-day pre- or post-stay experience in Prague, Czech Republic.
Crystal Cruises is offering a variety of Kids Sail Free voyages in 2015 and 2016 when booked by June 30. The promotion is available for a 3rd guest (17 and under) sharing a cabin with two passengers. Family groups of six or more can qualify for $400 in onboard spending credits, $500 credit toward a Crystal Private Adventure, family photo and other benefits offered with the line’s Crystal Family Memories program. The ships feature kids and teen clubs as well as kid-friendly events, video games and toys. Choose from a variety of destinations to Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Canada and Alaska. Your cruise rates include alcohol; tips; enrichment classes in diverse topics such as world affairs, art, wine appreciation, digital photography and iPad filmmaking, evening entertainment and extensive fitness programs.