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Kids Clubs Info, please


Milos mom
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Hi, everyone. It's been a while since I've cruised and now I have a 6 year old with autism. He's uses some words and he's not usually disruptive unless he gets very agitated. I'm wondering how the kids clubs work these days in terms of sharing information with the crew members. What is the intake like? How do they keep up with information? I heard something about special wristbands to keep track of where kids are on the ship - are most cruise lines using these? How do they get in touch with you if there's an emergency?

 

Does anyone have any positive (or maybe more importantly, negative) experiences with particular cruise line that we should consider before we book a cruise with Milo?

 

TIA

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I don't have much info on kid's clubs because our kid refuses to use them. He used to have moderate stranger and separation anxiety and only tried the kid's club twice since he started sailing at 3. He is 11 now and adamantly refuses to go to the kid's club. Are you sure Milo will want to stay with a bunch of strangers?

 

We tried it on RCI and NCL ships. Many years ago RCI ship had a pager for us and they paged us to come get DS because he was inconsolable. I am not sure how it's done now, but I am sure you can find the info in the reviews of travelers with kids on the line's pages.

 

NCL ships tend to have a more active, sports and outdoor oriented kid's club.

On Princess it's more indoors and crafts oriented for younger ages. Our friends' kids love going, and at some point the kid's club becomes the all you can play video games (for older kids), so they were there from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep.

 

Did you do a search of this board and this one https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/114-disabled-cruise-travel/ with the word "autism" and "kid's club"? I also recommend doing so on the major line's subforums. Good luck with your search - I hope Milo loves cruising.

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Here is my two cents..... My kids went to the kids club when they were 4 and 5 on Disney(pre-pandemic) and also when they were 5 and 7 on Carnival after the pandemic. My younger child has a speech delay (about 50% intelligible).

 

On Disney they did provide wristband that they could track the kids (at least in the kids clubs- I'm not sure about the ship). Carnival did not provide wristbands with tracking technology. Both have pre-check in and asked about allergies and concerns during the open registration time or in the computer file before hand. Because of the speech delay Carnival provided a phone that they could reach me with- they do not provide a charger but they will charge it in the kids club for you but you have to stay on top of it (ours died but by then we didn't really need it). 

 

Over all both myself and the kids liked the Carnival Kids Club more. While the Disney space is more interactive and looks amazing at their ages it was almost to much (and my daughter is shy). I think I was sort of disappointed when I would pick up my daughter and she was in a corner alone watching a movie and not really interacting with others. Was she safe- absolutely; but she never was to excited to go back. With Carnival, the kids do activities in a group and they are encouraged to participate and both kids were excited to go. They did really well with my son and his speech issues (note because of the pandemic restrictions he was only in a room with other 5 year olds so the adults in that room had fewer kids). They both brought back ton of crafts and my daughter must have made 20 or more bracelets. I also talked to one of the adults incharge in the youngest room it was interesting because she was a trained teacher in her native country.

 

When I plan time on a cruise I tend to try to have a backup plan with the kids. Kids clubs tend to be hit or miss and I would make sure that other activities on board fit your needs as well. If you can get this narrowed down to 2-3 cruise lines I would ask directly on the cruise line boards. I say this because between my two cruises I felt Disney provided more activities that we could enjoy as a family. Without the kids clubs (which we enjoyed) on Carnival it became difficult to find activities we could enjoy together.  One of the things to check when you get a smaller list of cruise lines is to look at their daily scheduled activities aboard- most include a kids club schedule and other activities you can enjoy as a family.

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I don't know the current rules, but precovid Princess let parents attend the kids club with children under 3.  You could contact their special needs department to see if that's an option for your child if you think they might have trouble separating and attending the kids club independently.  Precovid the princess kids club staff was outstanding.

 

I was recently on Adventure of the Seas, and RC still has phones for children with autism, and they will call you if your child needs help (my daughter is 3 and needed help wiping so they called me).  

 

If you are trying to get Milo to go to the kids club alone, please try to sail during the school year because the kids clubs will be much less crowded, the staff will have more time to help your child and it will be much less overwhelming.   On our January 11 Panama Canal Princess sailing, there were 11 children; on the previous sailing, there were 200 children.   

 

I've never sailed Disney, but at least precovid, they had wide age ranges so some kids got overwhelmed and parents reported on these forums that some young children refused to go.

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Our 3 year old grandson has been diagnosed on the spectrum and is also speech delayed.  We cruised with him and his family this past June on the Caribbean Princess, and we couldn't have been happier with their kids club.  He loved it.  He would ask each morning, "Kids Club? Go play?" 

 

They were made aware of his disability and were wonderful with him.  His parents were given a pager in case they were needed and it did go off once...he had gotten his clothes wet while washing his hands.  

 

I would not hesitate to bring him on another Princess cruise and take advantage of their kids club.

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We were on Ruby Princess in June and Navigator OTS in August. Princess gives you a pager at the kids club while RC does not. The RC ship had more family activities like putt-putt/mini golf and poolside activities and parties that we all liked.

 

As someone previously said, the experience really depends on the kids club team regarding how conflicts with kids are handled. On the Princess cruise, there was one disruptive child in the kids club, but the kids club team didn't do anything about it so my kids went less often. So perhaps also consider how your child would react to a disruptive child at the kids club. I heard RC kids club team members let parents know that their kids are disruptive and potential consequences. RC kids club uses an iPad for sign-in/sign out which probably makes it easier to monitor disruptive kids.

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