SpongeBob Brings Families Together at Sea

| Sept. 13, 2009

Nickelodeon launched its first family cruise the summer of 2008. Due to its success, there were two Nick Family Cruises this summer.

"Family togetherness is the crux of what we are all about," voiced Stuart Rosenstein, Senior Vice President of Resorts & Live Theatricals for Nickelodeon Recreation, in regards to this summer's two Nick Family Cruises aboard Royal Caribbean International ships.

While all family cruising affords parents, kids, tweens and teens coveted bonding time together that is not usually found amidst their busy schedules at home, Nick Family Cruises bring this concept to new heights. According to Rosenstein, 90% of the Nick entertainment aboard ship was enjoyed by parents and children together. From poolside shows to "Slime Time Live" and Nick character Meet and Greets, Nick Family Cruises offer a plethora of entertaining family activities that foster family bonding.

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Slime Time Live on Nickelodeon Cruise   meeting the fans - Nickelodeon Cruise

A Nick Family What? For those who haven't heard, Nickelodeon launched its first family cruise the summer of 2008. Due to its success, there were two Nick Family Cruises this summer. In July, there was a seven-day cruise from Long Beach, CA to the Western Coast of Mexico (known as the Mexican Riviera) aboard Royal Caribbean International's 3,100-passenger Mariner of the Seas. Similarly, in August, RCI's 3,700-passenger Freedom of the Seas was host to Nick's seven-day Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral. That cruise set a new record for the most kids ever on a Royal Caribbean cruise, totaling 1,800.

"The only difference between the two - other than the ships and itineraries - was that we had different talent on board each," Rosenstein said. The West Coast cruise featured iCarly stars Jeanette McCurdy and Nathan Kress while the Caribbean cruise hosted the three teen stars from the Nick show, "True Jackson, VP" including: Keke Palmer, Matt Shivley and Ashley Argota.

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stars of the Nickelodean cruise

"Having talent on board in the flesh that families only otherwise see on t.v. was great," Rosenstein noted. "It's what makes us unique," he added. All passengers aboard each cruise received a scheduled time in which they could get the stars' autographs and pose for a photo with them.

Family Entertainment Galore Nick knows not to mess with a good thing. Thus, it retained classic Royal Caribbean International entertainment such as its ice and stage production shows, while supplementing with Nick branded family activities and characters.

Rosenstein noted that last year, character Meet and Greets on board were a bit frenzied. This year, all families received a timed ticket packet upon boarding which lessened past crowding issues greatly and also allowed parents to plan their activities during the week better. The highlight for most families was their timed photo session with SpongeBob and Patrick, as well as Dora and Diego. After the pictures were taken, families happily proceeded to get slimed. (For the curious, sliming took place in Studio B ice skating rink in a well-covered area.)

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SpongeBob Squarepants   kids with autographs of the Nickelodeon stars

"What's most memorable for families is that they could experience iconic Nick characters and events in person," Rosenstein said. "We found from our Orlando Nick Family Suites resort that it's a badge of honor for most families to be slimed so we offered that option to everyone on these two cruises." If little ones were apprehensive about being slimed, they could instead pull the cord which dumped the slime on their parents and older siblings. As evidence of how popular slime is with families, a whopping 3,800 gallons were used in a mere week.

Something for Everyone There were a number of Nick specific activities for tots aboard both cruises. Every day, there was Nick story time which culminated in the appearance of a character who appealed specifically to Nick Jr. viewers. In addition, Nick staff set up a Nick Jr. playroom in one of the lounges with lots of big Fisher-Price toys to play with and climb on. Parents had to accompany their little ones and stay there with them while they explored the Nick Jr. playroom. A headliner activity for the younger set was Dora's Sing-A-Long Adventure.

The median age of children aboard ship was eight years old. According to Rosenstein, six to 12 years old is the prime age span for "core Nickers." One of the highlights for this age group was the live stage show by Tom Kenny, the voice behind SpongeBob. Kenny and company catered to this group with a Q & A and mini concert (top hits from the "Yellow Album" - parents, think the Beatles' "White Album" coupled with SpongeBob's classic color). In addition, a never-before-seen Sponge Bob episode was shown.

Spotting the Nick stars of ICarly and True Jackson around the ship and getting their autographs were highlights for tweens and early teens. With approximately 150 older teens, aged 15 to 17 years aboard ship, Nick staff left most of the traditional RCI teen activities intact "because they do it so well," Rosenstein voiced.

The well-known stand-up comedian, Chris Hardwick -- who is also the voice of Otis in Nick's "Back at the Barnyard" t.v. show -- was on also board. For the kids, there was a daytime screening of "Back at the Barnyard" along with a Q & A with Hardwick. For those 18 years and older, Hardwick performed in a late-night comedy show.

Other Nick entertainment highlights included: Nick fall shows which premiered in the theatre and included Glen Martin, DDS; Club Nick deck party, which was in lieu of traditional midnight buffets and a lot livelier; daily character breakfasts in the main dining room; Nick Live Poolside, which featured stunts by Nick entertainment staff; and a Nickathlon.

The Nickathlon was good family fun similar to "The Amazing Race." Families competed against each other in a variation of a scavenger hunt which lead them throughout the ship and prompted them to perform all sorts of antics. The families who knew the ship's layout best were fastest and ultimately winners. Bet you can guess how the winning family was honored - by being slimed!

Sailing Towards a Bright Future Nick is presently in discussions with Royal Caribbean International regarding the number of cruises it will offer in 2010. Wise move to continue the momentum, since as children grow older each year, they move from being a participant at the Nick Jr. story time, to proudly being slimed, and to being "wowed" by Nick tween/early teen talent such as the stars from iCarly and True Jackson VP. Once plans are finalized, Nick will post the 2010 sailing schedule on its website: www.nickfamilycruises.com

According to Rosenstein, Nickelodeon continues to take small steps towards building its family travel presence. This summer, it unveiled Nick Getaway packages at five Marriott resorts domestically. In partnership with Marriott, Nick is providing family programming on weekends at five domestic Marriott resorts that have family-friendly facilities and are located in vacation spots such as Phoenix, Marco Island and Miami. The programming includes character breakfasts, poolside shows, arts and crafts themed around Nick characters, and Nick movies shown on a big screen outside.

"We want to be where families are," Rosenstein noted.

And for the most part, where families want to be during their precious, hard-earned vacation time is together, and Nick is tapping into just that.

"Anchors away," SpongeBob, Patrick, Dora, Diego, Mom, Dad and the kids!

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