What's New in Family Cruising: 2008

So, what is new in family cruising? The buzz words these days in family cruising are upgrades and incentives. A few lines are offering discounts for children and families while a number of others have upgraded family facilities or youth program policies so that they are more family friendly than ever. Following are the details:

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Shot of Carnival's New Pool Area   Carnival's New "Waterworks" Park   Carival's New 300-foot Waterslide
Double Water Slide   A Diver Heading Down the Slide   Entrance to the 300-foot Waterslide

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES There is plenty going when it comes to Carnival and facilities upgrades for kids, teens and families.

The line recently rolled out 'Circle C' programming for 12 to 14-year-olds in conjunction with new 'Circle C' facilities on many of its ships. 'Circle C' teen rooms are in place on the Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride, Carnival Victory, and Carnival Valor. Later this spring, the following ships will be retrofitted with 'Circle C': Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, and Carnival Legend. Additionally, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Paradise and Carnival Glory will be done by the end of the year while the rest of the fleet is expected to be completed by 2010. These new 'Circle C' rooms are modern in design and feature: dance floors with high-tech sound and lighting systems; 42-inch plasma screen TVs; touch screen jukebox; Sony PlayStations; Nintendo Wii; and Guitar Hero. The new logo and theme for 'Circle C' is 'cruise.chill.connect.'

In conjunction with the launch of 'Circle C,' Carnival is offering lowered third and fourth berth rates which are a big help when traveling with a family. Rates for third and fourth guests in a stateroom start at $199 per person for three-day cruises and $329 per person for seven-day cruises on select dates. Go to www.carnival.com/family for more details.

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Ready to slide 300-feet into the drink   The view looking down from the top of the double slide   Photo finish!

Carnival has also recently unveiled new collateral material for Camp Carnival (2 to 11 year olds); Circle C (12 to 14); and Club O2 (15 to 17). Each child or teen receives a sleek, colorfully designed folder at the orientation meeting the first day, which includes the program of youth or teen activities for their age group; a welcome letter from the counselors; a brochure about children's portraits; and postcards regarding any special activities for their age group (such as late night deck parties); and flyer regarding Camp Carnival souvenirs and merchandise.

Also new for families is Carnival WaterWorks, which is an aqua park featuring a 300-foot long twister water slide, dual lane racing slides and water spray apparatus. This is being rolled out gradually on Fantasy-class ships as part of the Evolutions of Fun refurbishment program. At present, Imagination and Inspiration have WaterWorks while Fantasy, Sensation and Paradise will have the water park installed later this year. Carnival Splendor, set to enter the market in July, will include Carnival WaterWorks as well as the largest play area in the Carnival fleet.

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The Entrance to Carnival's "Circle C" Club for Tweens   Here's another View of the "Circle C" Club Lounging Area

CRUISE WEST CruiseWest is offering substantial discounts for children sailing its Glacier Bay Highlights itineraries this summer aboard the Spirit of Glacier Bay. These three- and four-night cruises offer children between the ages of two and 18 the following: those in AAA and deluxe cabin categories receive 75% off the standard rate for sharing a triple; those in A and AA cabin categories receive 50% off the standard rate based on double occupancy (no triples in these categories). Children under two are free. All rates are inclusive except for optional shore excursions (there is a shore excursion included per port). While there isn't a youth program on board, the wonders of nature and spotting wildlife provide entertainment for children.

CRYSTAL CRUISES Crystal Cruises' "Mediterranean Memories" family promotion offers groups of 10 members (related or not related) who book and sail at the same time aboard Crystal Serenity this summer, the following: one complimentary berth for every 10 paid berths; additional free third berth for those 17 years and under sharing with an adult; $100 per person shipboard credit; one group portrait per stateroom; and pre-paid gratuities. This is available on all Serenity sailings between May 19 and October 30, except for August 24 departure. Both Crystal ships have youth and teen rooms.

Crystal Private Adventures is a program that has recently become popular with multi-generational families. Passengers can customize their shore excursions so that they can travel just with their families to unique spots in ports of call. Cost varies depending on the complexity of arrangements.

CUNARD LINE Cunard Line added the Queen Victoria to its fleet this January with a number of kid-friendly spots aboard ship. The Play Zone Nursery and Children's Center is supervised by British nannies and is geared for those aged one to six years old. Adjacent to the center is an outdoor climbing area for little ones.

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Youth Center - Queen Victoria   Youth Computer Center   Play area for Tots

The Zone is for older children aged seven to 17 years. It includes: 28 PlayStation 3 game systems; jukebox; foosball tables, air hockey tables, and karaoke. Those 16 years and older can join daily fencing lessons with a certified fencing instructor in the sports and recreation center.

Outdoor facilities include pools, ping pong, paddle tennis, chess, and deck quoits (the maritime version of horse shoes).

Additionally, complimentary group babysitting is offered in The Play Zone and The Zone until midnight daily.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE Disney Cruise Line has some new itinerary offerings. This summer, DCL will be offering itineraries to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles that can be combined with a visit to DisneyLand. Also, this summer, four-night Bahamas itineraries will include two calls at Castaway Cay, the line's private island. In 2009, the line is offering new Eastern Caribbean itinerary options which call at Tortola or St. Croix.

Disney Cruise Line is adding a new musical to its roster of elaborate theatrical productions this spring aboard both the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. "Toy Story -- The Musical" debuts in April and marks the first time this movie has been adapted to the stage. As with all Disney productions, there will be plenty of staging techniques to wow both parents and kids.

LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS Lindblad Expeditions announced recently its support of two new programs for young sea explorers who want to learn about the natural world through field exploration. Firstly, Lindblad is participating in the Kalpana Chawla Ocean Journey Scholarship which is offered to two high school or college science students who show a strong interest in studying oceans and who would not otherwise have an opportunity to travel at sea. The recipients take part in a week long Lindblad Expeditions voyage in the presence of scientists, naturalists and researchers. Click here for more information.

Additionally, Lindblad also now sponsors a field experience awards program. The Young Explorers Grant program is run by the National Geographic Society and supports research, conservation and exploration initiatives proposed by young scientists and explorers aged 18 to 25 years. Since 2006, 32 YEG have been funded for young people to pursue their first field experience worldwide. Click here for more information about YEG grants.

MSC CRUISES All MSC Cruises -- both in Europe this summer as well as the Caribbean next fall and winter -- offer a "Kids Sail Free" promotion. All children 17 years and younger staying in the same cabin as two full paying guests get to sail for free on all MSC ships. Mention this promotion at the time of booking your children.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE Norwegian Cruise Line is in the midst of rolling out its Freestyle 2.0 amenities upgrade which will affect all aspects of cruising with NCL. As part of Freestyle 2.0, NCL has made a number of significant changes to its youth programming.

As of June 1 when 2.0 is rolled out on all its vessels, there will no longer be a fee for children to attend the youth program on sea days as in the past. This now is similar to the complimentary daytime programming that all other cruise lines offer.

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Aqua Kids Club - Pearl   Pearl Pool Deck   Kids Pool - Pearl

In addition, NCL is adding a unique aspect to its programming hours in that the youth rooms will now be open from 9 a.m. (or on sea days, from whenever the ship arrives in port if it's earlier than 9 a.m.) until 10:30 p.m. There aren't any closing hours for lunch or dinner as on most lines. This is because with Freestyle cruising, there are no set dining hours. Youth counselors do ask parents to come at some point to feed their children for lunch and dinner. From 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., there is group babysitting which is $5 per child per hour and $3 for each additional child in the same family.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL On May 2, Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas will sail her inaugural cruise. This Freedom-class ship is very family friendly for kids of all ages. Like her sister ships, Independence will boast FlowRider surfing; a rock wall; ice skating rink; H2O Zone water park complete with whimsical statues spouting water and a small lazy river pool; two lap pools; and a mini-golf course and basketball court. Additionally, the ship has youth and teen facilities all dedicated to their specific age groups. These facilities are all adjacent to a large video arcade.

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Teen's Living Room   Water Park Freedom of the Seas   Mini-golf on Freedom

Like her sister ships, Independence will feature plenty of family programming in addition to the youth programs. From family scavenger hunts to family bingo, there's more than plenty to keep kids, teens and adults happily entertained all cruise long.

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