Explorer - May 22 - Part 3: Adventure Ocean (6-8 and 15-17)

Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!

#1
576 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
This is a 3 part review of our May 22 – 29 Western Caribbean cruise on Explorer of the Seas. The three parts will be: The Facts, Our Observations/Opinions, and Adventure Ocean (age groups 6-8 and 15-17).

This section is ADVENTURE OCEAN:


We traveled with our children, currently ages 6 and 15. Previously, our youngest has had experience in the 3-5 year old group on Explorer and Mariner and the 6-8 year old group on Navigator. Our oldest has been in the 12-14 year old group previously on Explorer, Mariner and Navigator -- this cruise was her first experience in the 15-17 group.

On the first day, there was an Adventure Ocean Open House from 1p-4p for all age groups. There was really only 2 or 3 Adventure Ocean (AO) staff there and all you could do was look around and ask a few basic questions.

The real information was given at the Adventure Ocean Welcome Aboard Presentation for ages 3-11 at 8:15pm in Studio B (this is for parents and kids). After the presentation, from 8:50pm – 10pm, is when you needed to return to the Adventure Ocean facilities on Deck 12 to sign all the waivers and medical release forms so that your child could be dropped off for activities the remainder of the week. FYI – if you hang out for a little bit the AO staff does a cool volcano science experiment and the kids get to help. There are no drop-off activities for kids 11 and younger on Day 1.

For the 15-17 group, their teen-only information session was from 8:30-9:00 in Optix (the teen night club). The 15-17 group continued to have activities until about 1am on the first night.

HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE 6-8 GROUP:

Dinner with AO staff at Johnny Rockets (no charge) Monday, Tuesday and Friday (Monday and Friday were formal nights)

Monday afternoon – Circus of the Seas in the Promenade

Pirate Parade thru Promenade and dining room (late seating) on Wed. night (9:15pm)

Friday – pajama party night (and yes your child can do the dinner at Johnny Rocket’s in their PJ’s so you don’t have to come pick them up and change them between dinner and the PJ party activities.)

Saturday morning – talent show in Maharajas lounge.

Lots of the 6-8 year olds took advantage of the Late Night Party Zone at $5 per hour from 10pm-1am. They even had a special wall with a Polaroid photo of the kids in the “1am club”. Our son never made it that late, but when we’d pick him up between 12-12:30 there were always at least 10-15 kids there. (They combined the 6-8 and 9-11 gruops in the 9-11 room for late night).

For the 15-17 group, there were definitely more activities offered than I had expected, but my daughter said that some of the activities just never happened. Things she participated in and enjoyed were the late-night ice skating party for teens from 11p-midnight on Day 2 (parents need t sign a waiver ahead of time), the nightly dance parties in Optix, the teen dinner in the Windjammer on Day 4 (there’s also one on Day 6). Other activities included a Famous People Photo Hunt, a late night pool party, teen rock climbing…There were other advertised events, like a toga party on Day 4, that my daughter said were never mentioned by the AO staff even though there were kids in Optix at the time the event was scheduled to begin. There was no mention, either verbal or written, of a teen curfew. The AO staff often hung out with the teens in Fuel until nearly 2am. In fact, instead of the teen activities having a specific ending time on Compasses it said until “wee hours.”


Back to the younger kids, my son did enjoy on one of the sea days the Adventure Beach pool area located behind the AO facility on Deck 12. The water slide was open daily for about 3-4 hours and the general kids’ pool are was open from 9a-6p. We only went there one day because I was kind of grossed out by the woman who had her young baby (maybe about 10 mos-12 mos) in the pool in a regular diaper – even though there are signs everywhere saying no diapers of any kind in the pools). From then on I took him swimming in the main pools during times when most others were off the ship in port.

I mentioned this in another part of my review, but I’ll re-state it here: We had a great beach day in Costa Maya at Tapas Bar in Majahual. We had an Oceanside table and the water was calm and shallow enough that my 6 year old kept himself entertained in the water for the entire 3 hours we were there. They even had an “ok” unisex single-stall restroom facility. In Cozumel, we had a great time playing mini-golf – go to the flagpole downtown and walk 2 blocks inland.

Any questions, feel free to ask!!
#2
32 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
I'm leaving on the Explorer with my boys (6 and 14) and a large group of extended family this weekend. We are attending a wedding onboard the day of departure and I wasn't sure if my kids would miss out on the "opening" activities or not. Looks like they'll be able to get registered and attend some part of the first nights activities. Thank you for your very nice review!
#3
576 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Originally posted by isshin
I'm leaving on the Explorer with my boys (6 and 14) and a large group of extended family this weekend. We are attending a wedding onboard the day of departure and I wasn't sure if my kids would miss out on the "opening" activities or not. Looks like they'll be able to get registered and attend some part of the first nights activities. Thank you for your very nice review!

If for some reason you miss the sign-up time from 8:50p-10p for your 6-year old you can still show up at Adventure Ocean during any scheduled activity throughout the week and fill out the paperwork -- it just has to be completed before the child is dropped off for the first time.
#4
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Paga I need you knowledge and experience.

Traveling with 6 kids, 6G, 8B, 10B, 11G, 12B, 14B. My question is regarding the 12/14 boys. (haven't cruised with kids before) How much "alone time" do I give to my 12 yr. old? I know they can check themselves out of the AO so, can I just let them go when they want? Will they want to leave the club or is it so much fun it will never be an issue? Both boys are very active, sports oriented...

My 12 yr old is at a age that he thinks he's capable of being on his own, personally, I have a hard time letting go but, in this case, I don't know what to expect on a ship situation. I don't want to promise them priviledges that won't be applicable when we're actually there.

Thanks for any suggestions (and sorry I was so long winded!!!) Kelly
#5
576 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Originally posted by mamax4
Paga I need you knowledge and experience.

Traveling with 6 kids, 6G, 8B, 10B, 11G, 12B, 14B. My question is regarding the 12/14 boys. (haven't cruised with kids before) How much "alone time" do I give to my 12 yr. old? I know they can check themselves out of the AO so, can I just let them go when they want? Will they want to leave the club or is it so much fun it will never be an issue? Both boys are very active, sports oriented...

My 12 yr old is at a age that he thinks he's capable of being on his own, personally, I have a hard time letting go but, in this case, I don't know what to expect on a ship situation. I don't want to promise them priviledges that won't be applicable when we're actually there.

Thanks for any suggestions (and sorry I was so long winded!!!) Kelly

We did not sail with our daughter until she was only a few months shy of 14, so I can understand your concern about your 12 year old and exactly how much freedom is "ok". I can tell you that starting in the 6-8 year old group parents can allow their kids to sign themselves in and out of the AO program, so from RCCL's standpoint it's "ok" for kids to be on their own around the ship. Personally, my youngest will not get that privilege until RCCL forces me into it (at age 12). There is no sign in or out starting with the 12-14 age group -- this means that you can't even stop by the teen area to see if your child was ever there.

For our teen, we allowed her the freedom to leave the teen center -- it wuold be near impossible to require a child to stay. We kept up with her by having frequent face-to-face check-ins (we reviewed both of our Cruise Compasses and set times that would not interfere with activities either of us wanted to attend). She knew that if she was late for any check-in she would spend the remainder of that day and all of the next with me. She also knew that going into anyone else's stateroom (or having anyone in ours) would result in her losing all priveleges for the remainder of the week. Her curfew was 1:15am (most teen activites end around 1:00am) -- be prepared, many of those she hung out with were allowed out even later than that!!

The 12-14 group has lots of activities that will keep your 12 year old occupied, but these kids definitely wander...to get ice cream, go swimming, play on the sports court, mini golf, stroll on the Promenade, etc. Even some of the teen activities send the kids out and about on the ship (scavenger hunts starting in the 9-11 group).

Your best bet is to set your expectations before getting on the ship...curfew, which meals you will eat together (there are teen dinners 2 nights and the younger age groups usually have 3 dinners with the AO staff), whether you expect your kids to do a certain number of activities with you each day, etc. Be prepared to be firm because inevitably there will be kids who your son will befriend who have more lenient priveleges and there is a certain amount of peer pressure to stay out later, skip dinner with the family, etc.

While the ships are self-contained, there are definitely dangers as in any community (most recently, I was conerned to hear my daughter report that some of the female friends she made in the 15-17 group were hanging out with 19 year old guys who were buying them drinks...). Advising your kids to stay in public areas (no reason to be wandering around the decks that only have passenger cabins) and to travel around the ship with at least one other person at all times will help ensure their safety. Frequent check-ins will help ensure your peace-of-mind.
#6
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I don't know if your reply makes me feel better and worse! But I truely appreciate your obvious words of wisdom. I copied the thread to show my husband ~ we need to have a united front!

I'm hoping that we won't have too many problems with the freedom factor and the more we talk to him BEFORE we go the better I'll feel.

So thanks again for your candid reply and wish me luck (if it doesn't go well, the next time it'll be a cruise for TWO!)
#7
138 Posts
Joined Oct 2002
Just thought I would give my view. My kids, now 13 & 15 have been on 3 cruises starting at age 8 & 10. The very first year, the youngest had sign in/out privileges. It worked out great. He really enjoyed the club and was there until it closed each night. Keeping in mind the first cruise was Disney, that would be until 12 or 1 am since they stay open longer. He checked in with me every meal and when we had things to do together. Didn't realize how many times he left the kids club to go for pizza. I guess it was really good. The second cruise was RCCL. Went to some club activities and did alot with family around the ship. Much more to do with golf and skating, etc. The third time on Carnival. Did very little in kids clubs because the scheduled events just didn't seem to take place. We did cruise the week after New Years, so not as many kids. Had to call the club to get counselors to show up in the designated meeting areas. No specific kids area. Not much to do on those ships. Spent a lot of time just wandering. None of these cruises did he find any friends he wanted to run around with, but had fun with them in the first two clubs. Now I was the with the problem the 1st cruise. I couldn't relax and do my activities because I was worried about the kids having fun, etc. I would check up on them and make sure they were in the club. I wish now that I would have just relaxed and they would have told me if something wasn't going well. By the second cruise I had a blast, however, the older boy didn't participate in Adventure Ocean's teen club much. The one (yes, only one) counselor for that group always had to help the other age groups, and the teens were left to just hang. Needless to say, he just hung with me. And like I said before, on Carnival he tried many times to go the activities and no counselor showed up. I feel the kids enjoy the clubs much more when younger and have more structured activities. We will be sailing on the Voyager this year and the 15yr old has already stated that he will just do all the activities with me. Prices were high on RCCL so we had booked Carnival. When prices went down we jumped on RCCL. So, the 13 yr old was very happy to be able to have a designated teen club area. He plans on taking part in the activities. I look at the these experiences as lessons in responsibility. I do let them have a lot of leeway, but feel that because of this, they could handle themselves in most situations. They have never given me any reason to not trust them. I feel that if you treat them with respect, they will give that in return.
#8
576 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Originally posted by mamax4
I don't know if your reply makes me feel better and worse! But I truely appreciate your obvious words of wisdom. I copied the thread to show my husband ~ we need to have a united front!

I'm hoping that we won't have too many problems with the freedom factor and the more we talk to him BEFORE we go the better I'll feel.

So thanks again for your candid reply and wish me luck (if it doesn't go well, the next time it'll be a cruise for TWO!)
I certainly didn't intend to make you concerned!! We have had nothing but positive experiences with our kids on all 4 of our RCCL cruises. I just wanted to emphasize that the freedom can go to their heads and it helps to set some guidelines ahead of time (and be prepared to follow thru on punishments -- my daughter missed 1 check-in by 20 minutes on our 3rd cruise and after spending the day with me, knowing she was missing out on plans and activities with her new friends, I know she will never do that again!! Her tardiness wasn't entirely her fault, but by following thru she knows I mean business!).

In our personal experiences we've always found the ship to be a safe environment -- and it reassures me to know that I've presented some possible negative scenarios to our daughter so she knows what to look out for and what kind of situations to avoid. Better to have discussed potential situations (alcohol, peer pressure to explore secured/crew areas, invitations to people's cabins, etc) ahead of time than to have your child confronted with these issues for the first time among their peers and feel the need to go-with-the-flow.

I believe your children will all have a wonderful, safe time. That has been our experience on all 4 of our children's cruises and we have 3 more RCCL cruises planned (with our children) over the next 2 years. I really believe you will find cruising to be an ideal family vacation -- time together and time on your own.

I also want to address one of the previous poster's statements -- it is true that there is only 1 teen AO staff person -- but it is 1 per age group (so one for 12-14 and one for 15-17). Every cruise is different and the number of children vary, but the teen counselor assigned to my daughter's age group has always been present at their activities held within the teen center. (I'll be honest, they have not necessarily always attended the teen dinners in the Windjammer or teen ice skating sessions). And, the teen's Cruise Compasses are clear that if there are no teens present/interested in a given activity during the first 15 minutes of time alotted for that event the activity will be canceled.

The most important thing for the 12-14 and 15-17 age groups is to attend all the teen activites on the first night (including the information session). This is when and where teens will meet and create their core social group for the week. My daughter has always left the teen activites on the first night with specific plans to meet up the following day with a group of people...either at a scheduled activity or at the pool or mini golf, etc.

Have a great cruise!!
#9
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Paga, trust me, you've really helped out here in my house with all your suggestions and advice!!!!! My concerns are only with the "unknown" not with you.
My husband's reaction to all this is, "has anyone ever had an incident with stalkers/child petafiles (sp?) ? I've been reading these boards for almost a year and I've NEVER read one slight or blunt comment regarding irregular behavior. Has anyone else?

I know, I know, I'm just getting paranoid the week before...probably just nervous excitement!!! Concsidering we booked this cruise 1 year ago, we only have 11 days to go~OMYGA!

Really, thanks again for all your comments!! Kelly