Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cruising on the Disney Dream: Youth Activities Clubs

I'll admit that I was a tad apprehensive about the how much fun my kids would have at the Kids Clubs when we went cruising on the Disney Dream. With my youngest one being 9 years old, everyone was far past the stage of being fascinated by princesses, Cars, or Toy Story. I had long ago stopped leaving them in the free childcare at the gym because they were completely bored. As it turns out, I had no reason to worry. Trying to compare a gym's childcare to one on a Disney cruise ship is like trying to compare a tilt-a-whirl ride at the county fair to Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain. When it comes to entertaining kids, Disney truly excels.

Youth Activities clubs are divided up by age

  • Nursery for infants up to 3 years old
  • Oceaneer Club for kids ages 3-7 years old (must be potty trained)
  • Oceaneer Lab for kids ages 7-12 years old
  • Edge for tweens ages 11-14 years old
  • Vibe for teens ages 14-17 years old
There's some overlap in ages between the clubs, and you can designate upon arrival which club you'd like your child to be in. My 12-year-old son had his choice of hanging out with younger kids in the Oceaneer Lab or with tweens at Edge.

Kids are allowed to move freely between the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab via a long classroom at the back that connects them on the Dream. This is great for siblings who care more about staying together than being with strangers of the same age or for kids whose idea of fun does not align neatly with their age. While the activities have suggested age ranges, kids can participate wherever they like.

Scuttles Cove  is the Castaway Cay youth activities club for kids ages 3-12 years. We found it really handy when my hubby and I wanted to go snorkeling but my daughter had no interest in looking for underwater Mickies. The Scuttles Cove staff did an excellent job of keeping the kids entertained with plenty of outdoor beachy fun and mandatory water breaks. 

Take a look around during an Open House

We visited three clubs during their Open Houses on Embarkation Day so that I could take a look around where I hoped my kids would be enjoying themselves during the cruise. Oceaneer Club/Lab has additional Open Houses after the ship sets sail so that kids can preview the club with their parent along. Since we were one of the earlier boarding groups, all the clubs were still rather empty. All of them had distinct styles that are on par with the theming you see at their parks. Best of all, the caretakers all seemed like the type of friendly, enthusiastic counselors you hope to get at summer camp. It all boded well for fun place where kids could escape their parents during a cruise.
Tip: Check the Personal Navigator to see what activities are happening at the kids clubs that day. 

Oceaneer Club is like stepping into a Disney Movie

The Oceaneer Club is aimed at preschoolers and early elementary school aged kids, this is the one club that clearly takes inspiration from Disney movies. 

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Disney Dream's Oceaneer Club for kids ages 3-7 years old

The fun never seems to stop at the Oceaneer Club according to the Personal Navigator which lists the ship's activities each day. Storytelling, group games and character appearances are scheduled throughout the day.

A main central area had themed rooms branching off from it which seemed perfect for unstructured free play. Andy's Room from toy story has larger-than-life recreations of some supporting characters from Toy Story. Kids can crawl through the spiral wire tube of Slinky Dog or plug facial parts into Mr. Potato Head. The Monsters, Inc. room encouraged children to climb through the "factory" where laughs were converted into the power that kept the ship cruising along. Pixie Hollow where TinkerBell and her fairy friends live has a coloring and crafts table as well as computers with games for youngsters. This is also where they get to play dress-up with costumes. After all, little kids love playing dress-up, and a Disney cruise seems like the perfect place to do it. The Explorer Pod looks like a submarine from Finding Nemo (not that I remember one from the movie) and contains interactive game stations. This area leads into a long, wide classroom with tables and chairs where kids can have meals or take a fun class.

Tip: Even though the Youth Activities clubs are spectacular, your child may still not want to go there. My friend's daughter preferred being with her family than with total strangers. If you suspect your child will react similarly, rest assured that there are tons of other family oriented activities around the ship outside of these clubs.

Every child is given a RFID wristband that looks like the Magic Bands at the parks when they register in person or check in for the first time. They are meant to be worn during the entire cruise, not just when your kid is using Youth Activities. The wristbands are scanned each time a child enters or exits the club/lab. Personal information is linked to each wristband such as your Wave phone number in case if you need to be contacted. They are also used to pinpoint the location of your child in the spacious club/lab so you can find them when you come to pick them up. Pretty cool technology, right?
Tip: Return the RFID wristband by 11PM on the last night of the cruise to avoid a souvenir charge.

Oceaneer Lab is perfect for the tech-savvy youngster

The first thing I noticed about the Oceaneer Lab was how much interactive computer technology is incorporated into the kids club. All the glowing screens combined with the posh Victorian nautical decor gave the whole area a steampunk, Jules Verne atmosphere.

cruise, kids club
Disney Dream's Oceaneer Lab for kids ages 7-12 years old

Kids were already playing on the touch-sensitive Magic Play Floor in the main area. Alcoves off the central room had different activities such as the Media Lounge movie theatre, Craft Studio for arts and crafts afficianados and an Explorer's Room . An Animator's Studio teaches kids how to create Disney characters with pencil on paper and how to make them move on a computer screen. In the Sound Studio, kids can record and manipulate music. My girl's favorite section was The Wheelhouse which was video game central on the ship.

Like the Oceaneer Club, kids in the Lab have an RFID wristband used to check them in and out of Youth Activities as well as track their location in the spacious area. Kids 8 years old and over are permitted to check themselves in and out if the parents have given prior approval. 

Tweens hang out on the Edge

Edge looks like a it could be the a set from a Disney Channel show — the kind of place where kids would just hang out and relax with each other. It is located at the top of one of the ship's funnels (faux smokestacks). Of all the Youth Activities clubs, this one catering to kids ages 11-14 years old is the smallest and seems to get the least use by its target demographic.  I chalk it up to a combination of tweens being old enough to not require constant supervision yet young enough that they don't feel the need to assert their independence by escaping their parents.

Disney Dream's Edge club for kids ages 11-14 years old

The staff were the kind of people that tweens would treat as super cool, older siblings rather than parental types.  A large video screen was front and center in the room, and a lounge area with cube-shaped stools and bean bag chairs over a light-up dance floor took up the other half of the main room. Smaller alcoves with computer equipment and Wii-U's lined the edges of the room, and a big window let in tons of sunshine. Next to the video wall, a few desks had computers for gaming. I liked that there were also board games and books in case if kids wanted some unplugged activities.

A schedule of organized activities at Edge from 9AM until midnight appears in the daily Personal Navigator. Ice cream socials, Sloppy Science, comedy improv, GaGa Ball and Gender Wars quiz night are some of the highlights. The even have some group activities planned on Castaway Cay.

Kids using Edge are allowed to check themselves in and out as they please using their stateroom key card which can also act as a charge card.
Tip: If you question your children's ability to control personal spending, you can block purchases on their cards. One friend wished she had done this after discovering her kids had spent tons of money on smoothies during their cruise. 

The Vibe is the place for Teens

The vibe of The Vibe is that of an exclusive, secret club. You get there by taking an inconspicuous staircase from Deck 4 at the front of the ship up to Deck 5. If it's not an Open House, an imposing door blocks your way and only opens for those with the right credentials — being a 14-17 years old. Once the door slides open, walk through a tunnel of neon lights and make your way to  a surprisingly spacious, hip hangout.

Disney Dream's Vibe club for teens ages 14-17 years

The main room has a stage with a large video screen and a dance floor surrounded by seating. You'd almost feel like you are in a nightclub except that the bar only serves nonalcoholic drinks. My own teen was immediately drawn to the individual tilted oval lounging seats with a small interactive touchscreen overhead. A side room had computer stations and a foosball table for those wanting to socialize in small groups. Best of all, the teens have their own private pool and outdoor deck far, far way from the youngsters screaming for princesses and Mickey.

Like the other Youth Activities clubs, Vibe has tons of activities scheduled throughout the day. A Scavenger Hunt helps teens get acquainted with the Dream. They can also take part in creating a zombie movie throughout the trip which premieres on the last night of the cruise. Other activities include pizza making, animation, karaoke, and a Wii tournament.

Tip: If your teen has disappeared into The Vibe for hours and won't respond to your calls, there's a telephone on the wall across from the entrance door. It connects you to the Vibe staff who can find your teen and send him out.
When you're in port, consider booking a Teen Adventure port excursion if you teens want to explore with people their own age. My son really enjoyed the Wild Side Teen Adventure at Castaway Cay. They met at Vibe and then left the boat as a group. The next four hours were spent bicycling, riding a speedboat, snorkeling, and then having lunch together. There's also a Teen Hideout on Castaway Cay with hammocks, beach sports, and a deck with lounge chairs.

Disney really is an expert at entertaining kids

Disney may be more expensive than other cruise lines, but I thought that the did a superior job of keeping the kids entertained and cared for both on and off the ship. We spent tons of time together as a family, but the kids were able to escape us parents if they felt the need.

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  1. It seems that you all had a fantastic time. Who doesn't love Disney?

  2. What a great post for travelling families Michele. I love that you can preview the clubs beforehand. I think that would make lots of kids more at ease with the clubs. Now I know what a Disney Cruise is.

  3. The Oceaner Club looks like so much fun! I see neat places like this for kids and I wish I was a kid again so I could enjoy them! Cheers - Ellen

  4. They really look like great places for kids!

  5. Never mind the kids, I wanna hang out in the Oceaner lab. That dancefloor looks fab! And I want a steampunk techno study!

  6. What a fabulous cruise for parents and kids alike. The kids would never be bored for entertainment!

  7. One of the things we really like about cruising with kids is the activities available for them, and I am not surprised to see that Disney does such a great job with this. I am pleased to see the overlap in age groups. We have had issues with lack of flexibility in other non-Disney ships as our girls like to be together. I think if I had known this when they were just a bit younger, we would have chosen Disney.

  8. Disney always does it best! I like the technology they use to keep track of the kids :) Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

  9. What a well thought range of kids clubs. I like that the kids can move between the 2 clubs which as you mentioned means they can stay near siblings and also gives freedom of choice for those kids on the cusp of both age groups.

  10. It's not a surprise that Disney Cruises would have a great kids program, but it really looks spectacular. I like that they have a "tween" group even if it is used the least. I think your thoughts for why it is not used as much sounds like sound reasoning. We took our 12 year old granddaughter with us on our cruise to Alaska with Holland America and she had zero interest in checking out the kid program. I was kind of surprised that she just wanted to hang out with us, but we were happy to include her in our activities. HAL didn't have a tween program, which is unfortunate because most 12 year-olds don't think they have a lot in common with a bunch of younger kids down to 8 years old.

  11. I talked with the kids activities director on an NCL cruise I took. He told me was the the 7-12 group is where they have the highest participation and the most enthusiasm. They are mature and independent and capable than the younger group. But they aren't "too cool" teens yet. They still get excited about pretend play and games and want to do fun things. That seems to correlate with your experience.

  12. I was thinking about my childhood life as I read your article and was sorry not to experience Disney before. Yet, it is not to late to travel with my anti jet lag buddy, jetLAGFX and visit Disney with youngsters.


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