By Eileen Ogintz
ABOARD THE CARNIVAL VISTA (Day 5) — Morgan Hutchinson has decided he’s having the best vacation of his life.
Of course he’s only three years-old but that he and his year-old sister Imogen are happy certainly is upping their parents’ enjoyment as well.
“I wondered why we were spending all this money,” confessed Joanna Hutchinson who is from Wales. “I thought it would be like chasing them around at home. But I’m getting a vacation too. “
Kudos to Carnival for what they have achieved for families on their new and largest ship, Vista, now sailing in the Mediterranean. Joanna and Dave Hutchinson, among other families, gave decided thumbs up to their Family Harbor accommodations— there are 96 specially designed family cabins and suites, some with bathtubs. “It is so much easier to bathe the kids,” said Cecelia Skeen, traveling with her husband and three kids from Florida.
They love the Family Harbor Lounge a few steps from their suite—a separate sleeping area for the kids!—where they can go in their robes and grab coffee or breakfast and the kids can get snacks, even ice cream—or play a board game or watch TV.
When their young kids were jetlagged, said Aimee Arillo, they were able to just go into the lounge late at night to grab some milk and yogurt without having to wander far or call room service
This is the family’s first trip to Europe, Skeen said, and it is so much easier to pack and unpack once and not have to navigate from city to city. They weren’t nervous about bringing the kids here, she said, and at home no one even mentioned concerns about terrorism—just concerns about traveling with three kids overseas. “We were too excited to be nervous,” she said. “It is such an educational trip. With the chance to visit Rome, Pisa, Florence, Pompeii and ancient sites in Greece.”
Another big plus is Camp Ocean, where the kids have been making new friends and enjoying everything from arts and crafts to magic shows on board. There is a staff of 15 who come from nine countries. Each has a college degree and three years of teaching experience, said Ana Klacinski, the Youth Program director. There are 140 kids on board this week but she expects 1100 or more over the summer. The programs start at age two, but there are times when parents can pay for group babysitting ($7.75 an hour) at the Dr. Seuss Bookville area, which is stocked with comfy chairs, books and toys and is open to all as is the outdoor shaded play area. Bookville is part of Seuss at Sea (think character breakfasts with green eggs and ham and a Seuss-a-Palooza Parade and Story Time).
In the 4,000 square foot Camp Ocean play area, kids aged 2-11 are divided in spaces according to age, engaging in a variety of activities during the day and in the evening. There is a separate area on a different deck for 12-14 year-olds, complete with an interactive dance floor and Club 02 for older teens. Except on sea days, Klacinski said, counselors will take the kids for lunch (starting at age nine; with parents permission they can sign themselves in and out). There is also a kids’ dinner at 6 p.m. if parents want the chance to have an adult evening at one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. And there is an interactive NEOS Play Zone for high-tech physical fun outdoors.
“My daughter doesn’t want to hang out with us,” said Aimee Arillo, from Miami, who is traveling with her husband, a three year-old and a 17 month-old. It was also a rare pleasure to leave both kids for a late evening out, knowing they would be happy and well taken care of in Club Ocean. “We don’t get to do that very often at home,” she said.
There is also HASBRO the Game Show, a live action game show that incorporates popular Hasbro games, and kid-friendly comedy performances at the Punchliner Comedy Club. On the first sea day, the kids at Camp Ocean were being treated to a magic show they clearly were enjoying when I visited.
Families like that they get the entire cruise schedule for the organized kids’ programs when they sail so they can choose their “must do” activities—some themed to the ports like making a paper mache volcano in Naples or having a Knight’s night in Rome.
Aboard this ship, the six to nine year-olds play special games on their iPads where they create sea creatures. (Ready to dress up a shark?)
The ship also features the largest WaterWorks water park in the fleet, including Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first water tube attraction where you hop on an inflatable raft for a 455 foot adventure with twists, turns and visual effects. “That’s been my favorite thing,” said Henrietta Skeen, 4.
Those with younger kids give thumbs up to a SplashZone area with mini slides.
The only downside is that on a port-heavy itinerary, there isn’t enough to enjoy all the ship has to offer!
“There is so much going on all the time,” said Joanna Hutchinson.
Definitely the best holiday we’ve had since we’ve had kids!”