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FAMILY TRAVEL

7 Reasons to Do a Cruise Character Breakfast

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One of the best things to do on a cruise with young kids (or kids at heart!) is a character breakfast. The main cruise lines that come to mind when thinking about a special meal like this is Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney Cruise Line, so this article will be focused on those.  Here are seven great benefits of attending a character breakfast experience!

1. Character Interaction

Though it’s arguably much easier and quicker to meet your favorite characters on a cruise in general than it is on land *cough Disney*, a character breakfast literally brings them to your table. They will usually walk around the room to each and every family, greeting each person, giving hugs, and maybe even exchanging a few words.  What better way for kids to meet their favorite movie icons?

2. Different Food

The menus for a character dining experience are carefully curated, often fitting in with the theme of the characters and their popular stories.  The Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast on Carnival is a perfect example; characters from beloved Dr. Seuss stories are there and, you guessed it, green eggs and ham is served (among other options).

3. Affordable Pricing

With the exception of the outrageously expensive Royal Court’s Royal Tea on Disney, character breakfasts are very reasonably priced.  Disney’s Classic Characters Breakfast and Disney Junior Breakfasts are free.  Royal Caribbean’s DreamWorks character breakfasts are $10 per person age 6 or older, and Carnival’s Green Eggs & Ham breakfasts are $5 per person.

4. No Lines

Unlike the crazy busy buffet which is the usual breakfast option, a character breakfast gives you a chance to sit back and relax a little bit.  There’s no line to wait in; just order your selections and let the servers bring them to you.

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5. Better Behavior

This will end up varying depending on your particular voyage and the guests on it, but in general kids tend to be on their better behavior during a breakfast experience like this.  Maybe it’s because they’re so awestruck to see their favorite characters, maybe it’s just the ambiance of the setting.  Either way, it’s probably going to be more calm and quiet here than the buffet any day.

6. Photo Opportunities

With meet and greets comes the always-essential photo ops.  Did you really meet Alex the Lion, Shrek, Mickey Mouse, or The Cat in The Hat if there’s no picture to prove it?  Smile big, because otherwise we’ll never know!

7. Private Dining Room

It may sound like we’re starting to repeat ourselves here, but this is a major plus – especially for tired adults and exhausted parents.  A character breakfast is always held in a private dining room – usually one of the main ones used for dinner.  The space is more intimate, the ceilings are lower, and your character experience becomes that much more special.

Disney Pinterest Image photo: David Richards on Flickr

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FAMILY TRAVEL

7 Reasons to Take a Norwegian Getaway Family Cruise

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Norwegian Getaway is a great choice for families seeking a wide variety of dining venues and lounges, non-stop entertainment, and exciting activities for everyone. Norwegian Getaway’s hallmarks include an oceanfront boardwalk lined with bars and restaurants, a massive waterpark and ropes course, top Broadway-style shows and entertainment, and some of the most extensive youth program facilities in the fleet. This amenity-packed ship delivers tons of fun for families with kids of all ages, from toddlers to young adults.

Here are seven of the many things families will love about Norwegian Getaway:

Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway is a great ship for families

1. Extensive Choice of Family Accommodations

With over 2,000 staterooms, Norwegian Getaway has accommodations to fit every family’s vacation budget. The ship offers a wide array of options, from sumptuous suites and villas to solo cabins for single multigenerational family members. Family members seeking VIP treatment can opt for posh suites and family villas in The Haven. These accommodations come with their own butler and private dining options at The Haven Restaurant. The Norwegian Breakaway also offers a number of Family Staterooms located near the youth club areas, connecting staterooms, and a variety of staterooms accommodating children in the same cabin.

2. Awesome Aqua Park

Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway’s massive Aqua Park

Norwegian Getaway’s multi-story Aqua Park features five waterslides, two pools, and four hot tubs. This water park located atop the ship will appeal to families, thrill seekers, and kids at heart. The ship’s multi-story waterslides include two of the fastest waterslides at sea. Don’t miss plummeting almost straight down on The Whip and taking The Free Fall – pulling almost 4Gs. In addition to an adult pool, there’s also a mini-waterpark area that’s just the right size for little ones.

3. Huge Kids and Teen Spaces

Norwegian Getaway’s Splash Academy youth area sprawls across two decks and is located close to the ship’s family staterooms, upping the convenience factor for parents. Splash Academy features sections designed specifically for three age groups: Turtles for ages 3-5; Seals for ages 6-9; and Dolphins for ages 10-12. Splash Academy also offers activities for Guppies, tiny cruisers from 6 months up to 3 years of age. Parents with kids of this age can enjoy fun events and activities with their child. Located separately on Deck 16, Entourage is a high energy zone exclusively designed for teens ages 13-17.

4. Wide Array of Dining Options

Norwegian Getaway

Dining venues along The Waterfront offer beautiful sea views.

With 26 dining choices available onboard, families won’t be bored with their dining alternatives on Norwegian Getaway. The Waterfront is a stunning quarter-mile outdoor promenade lined with a variety of seaside restaurants offering beautiful ocean views. Celebrity Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian has three seafood venues on Norwegian Getaway: Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian; Ocean Blue on The Waterfront; and The Raw Bar. 678 Ocean Place makes navigating Norwegian Getaway seamless, interconnecting three decks of dining and entertainment areas.

For variety, guests can sample cuisines from around the world, including French, Italian, Brazilian, and Far East delights such as Teppanyaki, Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, and sushi at Wasabi. Those craving well-marbled steak should look no further than Cagney’s Steakhouse, while Le Bistro is the place to go for a memorable French meal. Guests with a sweet tooth should make sure to save some room for treats from The Bake Shop. Families will be happy to know there’s a Dolce Gelato shop on the ship, too.

Some Norwegian Getaway restaurants carry additional charges, but others including the popular O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, Savor, Taste, Garden Café’s casual buffet, Flamingo Bar & Grill, and the Tropicana Room are free of charge.

5. Outstanding Entertainment

Norwegian Getaway features live Broadway-style performances and tons of exciting nightly shows. One of the most popular shows is Million Dollar Quartet, a musical inspired by a one-night recording session that brought together music legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Guests can also take in the ship’s Cirque Dreams and Steam dinner show, enjoy nightly live blues performances at Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club, the sizzling Burn The Floor dance show, live comedy at Headliners Comedy Club, Howl at the Moon dueling pianos show, and much more. Families will love Escape the Big Top, a fast-paced activity allowing them to solve challenges together and break a magician’s spell.

6. Ropes Course Thrills

Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway’s ropes course features over forty different elements.

Norwegian Getaway’s massive multi-level ropes course consists of over forty different components including a zip line. Adventurous guests can walk The Plank out to its end to find themselves standing eight feet out off the side of the ship. Not to be left out, there’s even a pint-sized ropes course for younger kids who aren’t yet 48-inches tall. Norwegian Getaway’s Sports Complex also features a nine-hole miniature golf course located right beneath the ropes course, a huge rock climbing wall, a bungee trampoline and spider web, a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage, a basketball court, and more.

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7. Non-Stop Fun for Parents and Young Adults

Norwegian Getaway offers several adults-only venues aboard the ship. Located on Deck 16, Miami-themed Spice H2O is the place to go both day and night. This area features two hot tubs, a calming double waterfall, sun loungers, a large video screen, a bar and lounge area, and plenty of space for dancing. Deck 17 is home to the private Vibe Beach Club, an exclusive oasis for sunning and relaxing for guests 18 and older. Norwegian Getaway’s world-class Mandarin Spa, Salon & Fitness Center is popular with adults as well. Guests can choose from the vessel’s huge collection of bars and lounges ranging from Bliss Ultra Lounge to the expansive Bar at the Atrium with its two-story LED screen. Lounges such as the Sugarcane Mojito Bar and Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club offer live entertainment. Located on 678 Ocean Place, Prime Meridian is a classy spot to enjoy a signature cocktail. Adult guests also enjoy cooling off in the SVEDKA/Inniskillin Ice Bar inspired by Scandinavia’s ice hotels. It’s truly a memorable experience.

For more information about Norwegian Getaway, visit ncl.com.

Nancy Schretter is Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network.

Photos: Nancy Schretter

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FAMILY TRAVEL

9 Cruise Ship Attractions for Kids

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If you’re on a cruise ship with teens and not planning to purchase a wifi plan, don’t be afraid of them “getting bored.” These days, it seems as if there are more activities for kids to do on one cruise ship than in an entire city, like these 9 cruise ship attractions that go beyond the onboard youth club.

1. Zip Lining

Photo: Royal Caribbean

If your family can’t agree on a zip lining excursion in one of your ports of call, then just book your cruise on one of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, as these ships have their own ziplines onboard! Found on Deck 16, you get to zipline across the middle of the ship and over the Boardwalk neighborhood while enjoying aft views of the ocean.

2. Ropes Course

health at sea

Carnival introduced the first ropes course at sea on Carnival Magic in 2010, and the idea has since been introduced on some Norwegian ships as well. Strapped in high above the ship, you move through a challenging ropes course. But don’t worry, you’re still able to change the level of difficulty as you go along.

3. Escape Room

New to several of Norwegian’s ships is an “escape room.” This is a fairly new concept that has quickly risen in popularity on land, so it’s no surprise that it’s already made its way onto a ship. An escape room is a game in which you and a few friends must work together to solve a puzzle within a given timeframe. This new thriller has turned out to be award-winning and is a big hit among kids (and parents!) as well. Royal Caribbean also has a puzzle room on their newer ships. 

4. Rock Climbing

photo: Royal Caribbean

Rock climbing walls are found on many cruise ships, namely almost all Royal Caribbean ships and several Norwegian ships. It’s no surprise that this activity is so popular among kids, since it’s not something most have the opportunity to do at home.

5. FlowRider

the FlowRider. photo credit: flickr/David Spinks

Royal Caribbean once again makes the list with its famous FlowRider, a surfing simulator found aboard many of its ships. Whether you’re a pro surfer or have never seen a board in your life, staff are on site to help. The trick is to try not to wipe out, whether you hang ten or twenty.

6. RipCord by iFLY

iFly on Anthem of the Seas. (photo: Royal Caribbean)

A first at sea, the RipCord is a skydiving simulator that lets you feel the thrill of skydiving in a controlled space on the ship. The best part is that you get to enjoy ocean views while you do it. The RipCord can be found on Quantum-class ships.

7. SkyRide

Photo: Carnival

Found only on Carnival Vista (that is, until her sister ship Carnival Horizon debuts next year), the SkyRide adventure is a pedal-powered bicycle ride suspended high above the upper deck of the ship, meaning you get unbeatable ocean views as you pedal around the perimeter of the ship. Since there’s two bikes, one red and one blue, kids can make it even more fun by racing each other around the dips and turns.

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8. Bumper Cars

Bumper cars on Quantum of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships debuted a multi-purpose space called “SeaPlex” that can be converted for multiple uses, one of which is as a floor for bumper cars. Who would have ever imagined bumper cars on a cruise ships even just a few years ago? Not me!

9. Racetrack

Norwegian Joy is the first and only ship at sea to have a two-level racetrack onboard. Unfortunately, you’ll have to travel all the way to Asia for this one, as this ship was purpose-built for the Chinese market. We can only hope upcoming ships copy this fun idea, because racing cars while at sea sounds too cool!

What keeps your kids busy on a cruise ship?

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Disney Cruise Line

5 Cool New Attractions on Disney Fantasy

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Launched in 2012, Disney Fantasy is the newest of Disney Cruise Line’s family of four ships. Sailing on this ship has always been a memorable experience. Recently, the newly reimagined Disney Fantasy emerged from dry dock with some wonderful upgrades. These new additions top off an already superb ship, with exciting activities and amenities that have become guest favorites.

Check out these five features and attractions that will make your Disney Fantasy cruise extra special.

1. Marvel Super Hero Academy

Disney Fantasy’s Marvel Super Hero Academy has a unique set of heroes including the mighty Thor.

Disney Fantasy’s Oceaneer Club for kids ages 3-12 now has its own Marvel Super Hero Academy with a unique set of heroes. This space is designed to resemble Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. Kids on Disney Fantasy can learn the mystic arts with Doctor Strange, opening portals to places all around the Marvel universe. The Disney Fantasy Marvel Super Hero Academy marks Doctor Strange’s first in-person appearance on a Disney Cruise Line ship. At the Oceaneer Club, kids also have the chance to meet the mighty Thor and learn what it takes to be a real hero. From Marvel’s Super Heroes, the kids learn about the importance of values like loyalty, enlightenment, and worthiness. Disney Fantasy’s Oceaneer Club also has exclusive super hero courses, video games, and immersive experiences that aren’t available on other Disney ships.

2. Star Wars: Command Post

BB-8 visits Star Wars: Command Post in Disney Fantasy’s Oceaneer Club.

In Disney Fantasy’s Oceaneer Club’s new Star Wars: Command Post area, kids can train with their heroes from the Star Wars saga and help with missions against the First Order. They’ll meet members of the Resistance and learn to channel the Force. Kids will be thrilled when BB-8, First Order Stormtroopers, and other figures from the Star Wars saga come to visit as well. One of the coolest features is interacting with holographic models at Disney Fantasy‘s one-of-a-kind Star Wars holotable, which projects 3-D images of the Millennium Falcon, the Death Star, and other Star Wars ships. The Star Wars: Command Post area also has individual flight training simulators, allowing kids to choose their mission and test their skills. Meeting heroes and other cool activities are scheduled during specific times, so make sure to check your daily Navigator to see what’s going on. If your kids want to meet a specific hero or do a certain activity, talk with the Oceaneer Club Youth Counselors and they can tell you exactly when it’s scheduled so you won’t miss it.

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3. Sweet on You

Sweet on You features hand-crafted ice cream, gelato and other treats.

If sweet treats are an important part of your family’s cruise experience, you’ll be thrilled with this new addition on Disney Fantasy. This cool specialty ice cream shop offers hand-crafted ice cream and gelato, specialty sundaes, homemade chocolates, truffles, and all types of candy for purchase. Themed after cartoon shorts starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Sweet on You features 20 different flavors of gelato and 16 different flavors of ice cream which change throughout the cruise. Thirty-two different toppings are available to help make your frozen treat even more unique. Oreo is the most popular flavor of gelato, but Sweet on You has a number of unique varieties like caramel popcorn, oatmeal cookie, and red velvet cake. Strawberry and mint chocolate chip are the most popular flavors of ice cream. Sweet on You is conveniently located on Deck 11 near the family pool.

4. Tiffany & Co.

Disney Fantasy guests can now enjoy shopping at Tiffany & Co.

Disney Fantasy’s exclusive Tiffany & Co. store will delight guests seeking a special luxury shopping experience. This upscale specialty store is a great place for celebrating and commemorating special moments made on a Disney cruise. Guests can browse Tiffany’s iconic collections of jewelry and luxury accessories, including the Tiffany T collection and pieces featuring Tiffany diamonds. All purchased items come in one of Tiffany’s coveted blue boxes topped with a white ribbon bow. There’s even a collection of Tiffany diamond engagement rings for those who may want to pop the question on their cruise. Tiffany & Co. merchandise prices start at $125 on Disney Fantasy. If you’ve found the perfect gift while shopping and want to leave a hint for someone, Tiffany’s staff can help make that dream come true. Just ask about their special “Drop a Hint” service.

5. Senses Juice Bar

This quick-serve juice bar is another awesome spot right next to Disney Fantasy‘s Senses Spa & Salon. Senses Juice Bar features a wide variety of freshly squeezed juices and smoothies made from fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s the perfect place for adults to go after a workout or a massage at the spa. Guests can choose their made-to-order juice tonic from the Senses Juice Bar menu or create their own from a wide selection of fresh berries, fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious ingredients.

Nancy Schretter is the Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network.

Photos: Nancy Schretter

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