Explorer 6/12/05: Ocean Adventure Review

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#1
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I wanted to do this section of my review seperately because it will only interest those bringing children along (I think?!). I'll try to be as specific as I can - bare with me. It wasn't so long ago that I was looking for this information.
THE FACTS: 6 Kids with us : Boys, 14, 12, 10, 8 Girls, 11, 6

Approx. 800 kids on our particular sailing

Our kids are: sports/game oriented, fairly outgoing,
rookies at cruising
Adventure Ocean (A.O.) is divided by ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14 15-17. We did not have anyone in the 3-5 or the 15-17 age groups.

Before you board, in the terminal, you will be asked if your child's seapass can be activated for charging. You decide this - one time - I don't believe you can change it later.

Upon boarding the ship, anyone with kids was directed to a seperate table where a counselor provided any child 11 and under with a plastic wrist band with their muster station # on it. This way, in an emergency, a counselor will bring your child to his designated area.

The first evening on board, I think around 8pm - there is a A.O. show in Studio B. At this time the counselors introduce themselves and explain the program in a "stage show" format. The highlight here is a short ice show by the skating performers. This is not mandatory. You can register any time.

Afterward, we all headed to Deck 12 to A.O. and registered our kids. Here you decide if your child can have the privledge of signing themselves in/out. Anyone 9-11 can do this with parents approval. We decided to let our 9 & 11 yr. olds sign themselves out AND the ability to sign out (and pick up) our 6 & 8 yr. old. It became apparent VERY QUICKLY that they never wanted to leave. Worrying about them signing out and roaming the ship became a non-issue.

The first time we went to A.O., there were several parents that couldn't find the door. It's kinda confusing! You have to go OUTSIDE, thru a gate that says " Adventure Ocean" and then each section (age group) has their own sliding door entrance. It's basically 3 rooms that connect w/ doorways. The 9-11 room being the largest, is used for Late Nite Party Zone (more on that later!).

Each kid receives a RCL landyard for signing up (a 3.95 value in the ship gift store). So don't bring one with you. Most nights they also give out prizes like small stuff animals (beanie baby-like), visors, RCL metals, etc.

Each room has T.V.'s, computers, portable B-Ball nets,... The 9-11 has a seperate area with approx. 15 Play Station 2 systems.

Each age group has organized events as well as free time to play. Every night, your cabin attendent will leave an itinerary for your kids A.O. group on your bed. That became our families new daytimer.

Snacks like fruit, brownies, cookies, cupcakes and donuts were served every day and night. Water is available for self serve.

Counselors would take them to the sports deck for organized games like octupus tag, knock out and relay races. Here's just some thing they did: Pirates Night (make-up on faces, search for treasury on the ship), made silly putty, science experiments, human bingo, Circus Day (dress up as a circus person, taught them circus acts to perform in the promenade for general public), talent show, endless songs with coordinating hand gestures, hoola hoop contest. etc, etc etc...

Gaga ball deserves a section of its own! It's a tame version of Dodge ball. My kids loved this game and could have played it endlessly.

At 10pm A.O. had Late Nite Party Zone. The only changes were they combined 6-11 together and you were charged $5 per hour for each kid there. The nightly gaga ball tournament would start at 10:30 and end at 11:30. Picking up the kids BEFORE this event ended could induce tears and screams of major magnitude! Also, any children still in A.O. at 1am gets their picture taken and put on the Wall of Fame. Another incentive to stay! (mine only made it Once!)

Almost everynight they offered a Johnny Rockets dinner at 6pm - FREE! This means no cover charge for entering. You could sign them up in the morning or afternoon but they only take 15 per age group. After dinner they will bring them to A.O. for the nights events. So basically your free from 6 until whenever?!? Beware! On our 2nd formal night, the kids DID NOT want to dress up AGAIN. The Johnny Rockets dinner sign up sheet filled up very very fast. Clearly there were other kids who felt the same way about those fancy clothes.

The 12- 14 yr. olds had a blast as well but this is run slightly different and I think this is one area that RCL could improve. For example, their meeting room is in the Optix Teen Disco. While all our younger kids could be in A.o. until 1am our 12-14 got "kicked out" of Optix at 11pm so that the 16+ crowd could enter. There was no organized activities for them and no place to go. Of course, I realize at this age, they often don't want organized activties. However, I could see how "trouble" could occurr.

12-14 y.o. do not have the "sign in/out" system. They did do organized activities - capture the flag, savenger hunts, rock climbing, water slide. But much of their time was spent sitting in Optix listening to music. Erin, the counselor, was always in attendence. This group was also given FREE play time in the arcade (during limited times) - NICE!

MISC. NOTES~
900 kids on the ship? I never saw more than 15 or 20 in A.O. at one time.

We thought the arcade (which is big and very nice) would be where our kids would spend most of their allowances. HA! It was never even used!

A.O. HOURS: (it varies a little) 9-12, 2-5, 7-1am

We gave some of our kids (under 11) walkie talkies. They kept them in their shoes on the shelf. They could not hear us call them but if they wanted out they could get it and call us. Of course, they never did.

In the begining, an adult would check on the kids in the club every hour or so. But soon we realized they thought we were coming to get them and they'd start begging to stay. I knew then that, THIS KIDS CLUB WAS AS GREAT AS I'D READ ON THESE THREADS.

We printed business cards on our computer for our older kids. Ya know, name address, email. to give to their new friends. BIG HIT!

One night 6-11 y.o. have a Pajama party and decorate pillowcases. make sure they all pack P.J.'s (naturally they can wear anything they want).

TIPPING: The purser's desk guy told us that they don't really do anything for the couneslors. But these 14 counselors made our kids vacation more memorable then anything in their lives (except maybe Xmas). They pool their tips together and divide it up. There biggest pleasure is going off the ship in port and eating in a restaurant. They don't eat the same food the passengers get and its the same stuff week after week, after week. I think these people should NOT be over looked...just my opinion.

Our kids were asking us 'when are we were going on another cruise?' before we even hit land in Miami. This was their first experience on a cruise ship and we're a little worried that anything else just won't do. We set the bar for vacations way too high!
#2
61 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
THANK YOU!

This information you posted is terrific! We are off on our voyage in three weeks and this will be the first cruise experience for my 9 & 12 year-old kiddos! I really appreciate the time you took to educate the rest of us!!

Sounds like you had a terrific time and we too, we make sure that these counselors get another meal at port!!
#3
17 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
Thanks for you input! I will be leaving for our cruise in a few weeks. My son is 13 and this will be his first cruise. What would you recommend for him to bring for evening attire? Does the program have something for them to do every night besides dinning with their parents? I know you mentioned Johnny Rockets. What are the hours for this age group?


Thanks again for your help!

Skipgil - We might be cruising the same time. EOS, 17th -24th July, West. Carb.
#4
jersey
2,664 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I've been looking for a good "AO" review! I have 3 dd's (9,11,&13) and this is our 1st cruise. You answered alot of my questions!!!!

BTW, Did you give your kids charging privledges? How does that work? Will they even NEED money while on the ship? (I don't plan on getting the soda cards because they really don't drink soda at home and will be happy with ice tea or lemonade.)

Thanks!
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#5
61 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
Jellybeantj...my family will be on the Mariner that same week (7/17). Maybe our ships will cross paths?

Some people view the teen center as a place to "dump" their excess baggage...my wife and I view this trip as a total family experience. In fact, we are gearing every excursion around activities that all of us will enjoy. You cannot go wrong with sun and warm water can you??

It is refreshing to see that the kids will have a fun place to visit, on occasion, whenever they want.

RE: soda cards, they can drink as much as they want. Isn't this experience a massive week of OVERINDULGENCE!

Looking forward to getting aboard!
#6
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I'm so glad that you all liked my review. I was looking for the same info. a few months ago and was so surprised that I couldn't really get a straight answer.

Jellybeantj ~
I really brought TOO much for my kids to wear. One pair of docker-type pants for dinner is fine. Even if they get dirty, its like $3 to have them cleaned the same day. IF your kids are like mine, they want to eat early in the windjammer or Johnny Rockets, so they can get to their new found friends. So the pants get woren maybe an hour a day. then they go to the cabin and change.
A typical day's itinerary for 12-14 is as follows:
10am Talent show rehearsal
11am Talent show
Noon Juggling w/ the krooz komics
2pm family feud
4pm Teen Quest
4:45 Rock Climbing
8pm Teen Dinner in Windjammer
9pm Prom night
Beware though, if no one shows up for these events, they are automatically cancelled. And that did happen a fair amount. They did offer alternate dinning in the Windjammer and Johnny Rockets but not every night.
#7
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Oh, my son just told me that they also offered dinner in the Optix disco one night too.

As for charging privledges...
we went round and round about this before we left. When we got to the pier the check-in agent looked at us and said, "if they want something make them come and find you to purchase it. This way you still have controll". I think she was right. There was very little if anything that they needed to purchase. Food isn't an issue and mine had the soda sticker so they could get a drink ANYWHERE.
Keep in mind, they do offer Ice tea and lemonaide however, it's not located all over the ship. I think its in the Windjammer and maybe the bars (not sure about the bars). The cafe on the promenade DID NOT have either of these drinks. So retreiving ice tea or lemonaide could be tricky.
By the way, I like Ice Tea, but this was very strong Ice Tea. I didn't care for it, the lemonaide was good though.

If I can answer anything else just keep asking...
#8
Raleigh, NC
1,007 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
mamax4:

how did your kids like being divided up in different age groups? Did they the 8 and 10 yr olds get time to play together in AO, or were they kept in separate groups? Or were they content to be in their own group all the time?
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#9
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by cmason
mamax4:

how did your kids like being divided up in different age groups? Did they the 8 and 10 yr olds get time to play together in AO, or were they kept in separate groups? Or were they content to be in their own group all the time?
We were lucky, each group had TWO of our kids in it, so they all had "a buddy". But that was quickly overlooked as they met new friends that they wanted to play with more. Don't let that discourage them for going. Most of the kids are all in the same boat, pardon the pun.

During the day - for the most part - they were seperate groups. At night, 10:00pm, the 6-11 were all combine together and I think thats when they had the most fun. On some occasions they would combine the two ages. For example, the 9-11y.o. created a carnival in their room (making balloon animals, bean bag toss,...) and then they brought the 6-8 y.o. in with tickets and they were the customers. It was really cute!
#10
Kansas City, Missouri
25 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
Thank you for all the helpful information. Could you tell me what they had in the main dining room for kids to eat? Since we are going in Sept. I am a little nervous that there won't be many activities because of the lack of kids on our cruise. We do want our daughter to spend time with us though.
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#11
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
They will give them a kids menu - the kind that they can color on/puzzles & games (crayons were on the table). Their menu offered things like: chicken nuggets, pizza, peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich, cheeseburgers, hamburgers, grilled cheese, spaghetti.

They also have the option of ordering off the regular menu. If you want something different or something slightly changed, just ask. If they can accommodate you they certainly will.

My kids loved the pizza and the spaghetti! They would ask for 2 pieces and french fries almost every night. Our friends daughter asked for fruit salad as an appetizer and it wasn't on the menu but they brought it to her.
#12
313 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Thanks for the great review.
I would like to ask you about registering on the first night. We are on late dining- will the kids be able to register before dinner? I think dinner is at 9 first night. If we don't make it on the first night, can you go the next morning?
Thank you
Fran
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#13
Conception Bay South, NF, Canada
974 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
Thank you so much for writing such a wonderful review.

I had a ton of questions about AO but now they are all answered.

Did most kids eat in the dining room each night?

My DD (9) can hardly wait to go on her first cruise. However, she is afraid that there will be no kids her age on it. I have since convinced her not to worry there will be other kids with her.

I will definately let her sign herself in/out but being allowed to use her seapass card for charging - not sure about that one. I heard that you could put a daily limit on her charge card - perhaps you can confirm if that can be done.

Again, thank you for answering so many questions and glad you had a great cruise.

One more question, did you book another cruise yet??
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#14
Ithaca, NY
1,108 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Good review of the program. My 7yo DS loved the Explorer when we sailed last summer. From what you wrote, it seems like the program has changed a bit, but for the better. I don't remember him getting prizes everyday, just the last day when he turned in his "dollars".

The menu in the dining room is very flexible. I always use cruising as a time to experiment with new foods. I try to get my DS to order at least an appetizer from the adult menu to try it, and then will let him order his entree from the kids menu if nothing on the adult menu is to his liking. He is usually pretty good about this.
#15
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Remember this is just answers based on my experiences w/ my kids...

Fran~ Can you register before Late seating dinner?

The A.O. welcome aboard show starts at 8:15, the registeration runs from 8:50 until 10pm. You could see the show, run up to A.O. and register and then go to dinner. The A.O. is not open for anything but registering the first night. (Actually the welcome parade on the promenade is the first night at 10:45. That's what we did with the kids and its just a way of getting everyone excited to be there!) You can register your kids in the A.O. really ANYTIME during the cruise. But I think alot of families don't even do it until the following morning. So either way you should be okay!
#16
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by BLUEICE
Thank you so much for writing such a wonderful review.

I had a ton of questions about AO but now they are all answered.

Did most kids eat in the dining room each night?

My DD (9) can hardly wait to go on her first cruise. However, she is afraid that there will be no kids her age on it. I have since convinced her not to worry there will be other kids with her.

I will definately let her sign herself in/out but being allowed to use her seapass card for charging - not sure about that one. I heard that you could put a daily limit on her charge card - perhaps you can confirm if that can be done.

Again, thank you for answering so many questions and glad you had a great cruise.

One more question, did you book another cruise yet??

Mind you this was just our kids!...
We expected our kids to eat with us every night in the dining room. This would give us time to regroup and review the days activites together but thats not exactly what happened.
They eat w/ us the 1st night, the 1st formal night, and the last night. They were so excited about that darn A.O. they either were begging to eat in Johnny's with the group or they wanted to get there at 7:00 sharp. Our waiter must be use to this because he just automatically brought there main course out when he was bringing our appetizers. They were all done eating by 5 minutes to 7 and looking for the "okay" to GO!

I asked the check-in agent if we could put a limited amount on their seapass each day and she told us NO. I'm not sure that she was really telling the truth, my gut told me she didn't want to hassle with it and that her idea was the right one. So, the bottom line, ask at the purser's desk the first day for an official answer.

I'm hunting now for the next big thing. We spent so much $$$ on this one that I'm convinced we should take the kids out of school and go when its much less expensive. No definate answer on this one yet. Thanks for asking though!

There will be plenty of girls for your DD to "hang" with. I heard that on average there's 500+ on every sailing. I'm sure there's a friend or two in there for her!
#17
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Hey Dad Son Team-
Before we left I had read about the "dollars" for attending the A.O. activities and then the kids turned them in for prizes the last day.

You're right, they don't do any of that anymore. I wonder if its because they've gotten this reputation for being a great program and they don't need to entice them anymore. Just a thought...
#18
17 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
mamax4 - You rock! Thanks for the info on the clothing issue for my son. On the one formal night your son ate with you, was he required a jacket and tie? I have been in another forum for the cruise I will be on. One person did state on their previouse cruise with RC he was able to put a $100 limit on his son's seapass card, plus his soda card. Not sure I want to do that, but his teenage son discovered non-alcoholic frozen drinks and that comes off the seapass card.

I do agree with what was said in a previous post...this is our family vacation, so our excursions will be with our son. But it does sound like his evenings will be planned well. Burgers or pizza everynight? He will he be very happy!


If I think of any more questions (serious or off the wall) I wll fire away! Thanks again! ~Tammy
#19
Ohio
3,052 Posts
Joined Sep 2003
Thank you for the highly detailed review. Some things have changed. Genni will miss collecting those A.O. dollars ... she was really into that. Fortunately she will start our next cruise as an 11-year old, so she will be in the more structured program.

You don't mention any parent-child activities organized by the ship. They didn't have much on the Voyager, but on the Splendour last year they had a number of things, like bingo and a quiz show. That was a big plus. Did they have anything like that?

I had to negotiate with Genni prior to booking the second cruise regarding the number of times she was going to have to skip A.O. and hang with me. Despite having to honor her contract, she still had an incredibly memorable vacation. She'll even pick that over a Disney vacation.

I let her sign herself in ... but not out. And I said 'NO' to the opportunity to charge on the card. Once you give them that, it is unlimited.
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#20
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by jellybeantj
mamax4 - You rock! Thanks for the info on the clothing issue for my son. On the one formal night your son ate with you, was he required a jacket and tie? I have been in another forum for the cruise I will be on. One person did state on their previouse cruise with RC he was able to put a $100 limit on his son's seapass card, plus his soda card. Not sure I want to do that, but his teenage son discovered non-alcoholic frozen drinks and that comes off the seapass card.
Like I said, I think that check-in agent wasn't completely honest. Let me know what you find out when its your turn to go (I'm so jealous).

I'm not sure what you mean by limiting his soda card. The sticker they put on your seapass will allow you any soda, anytime, there is no limit.

I should have mentioned in my review that when you check-in, and your given your seapasses, anyone who is "underage" for alcohol will have a serious of pre-punched holes in it so that they can never be served a drink.

These holes at great for attaching the landyard to. BUT! then you realize that they - the kids - need to take it off the landyard everytime to fit it into the cabin door to unlock it. (The holes are punch in the middle of the card.) We solved the problem by going to guest relations and having them punch a hole in the end of everyones card - worked like a charm. I don't think I explained this one very well...if your confused let me know.