Cruises make a great family vacation. Bringing children along provides many entertaining, interesting, and sometimes exasperating moments. The cruise lines all have children’s programs with different activities for kids ranging from preschoolers to teens. Norwegian’s was called Kid’s Club at the time we went on this cruise, but they have since updated their children’s programs. The youth programs on the cruise ships serve the dual purpose of giving the kids not only something to do, but a place to meet others near their own age, and giving the parents some child-free time to explore the adult areas of the ship. All the big cruise ships have casinos and bars, and some also have adult-only pools or deck areas.
While exploring the Norwegian Sun, we found the kids area, and the appropriate room for six-year-olds like Justin. While we talked to the people in charge, Justin wandered about the room discovering toys and a TV where kids could watch movies or play video games. Nobody else was using it at the time, so Justin got into playing a game, and wanted to stay when Chris and I were ready to go. That’s what the kid’s area is for, right, leave the kid and go off and do your own thing? Yeah, we thought so. Time to hit the casino.
At the casino they gave us coupon books with special deals for a variety of games. Slot machines were always open, but some of the table games just had dealers in the busy evening hours so we couldn’t try everything at that time. After a bit one of us thought we needed to get something from the room, so we went back there intending to return to the casino afterword. We entered the room and saw the message light on the phone flashing ominously. Kid’s club had called. The free play time Justin wanted to stay there for had ended, and when a scheduled activity started that he had no interest in he became quite disruptive and they wanted us to come and get him. No more casino that day. We went to get him and found him isolated and shoeless in the time-out area with a frustrated-looking caregiver who couldn’t possibly have looked any happier when we said who we came to pick up.
A schedule of the next day’s events appeared in our room each night alongside the nightly towel animal. This schedule also included a list of times and events for kid’s club activities as well as when they had time for free play. So we decided never to leave Justin there randomly again, but to first go over the schedule and make sure any activity that would happen during his time there was something he chose and wanted to do.
He chose an activity, and we brought him there early for the free play time, which he quite enjoyed. Once again though, when the scheduled activity started Justin could not manage to behave himself like all the other kids even though this time he had chosen what he wanted to do. Again he ended up in time-out, this time for hitting someone, and we got paged. A couple more coupons through our casino book, but still a lot left.
One day they had rocket-making as one of the kid’s club activities. Justin said he really wanted to do that. So we tried again, bringing him early for his favorite free play time. They must have had some good video games. We still did not get through our coupon book before getting paged to go to kid’s club. His rocket did not turn out the way he wanted it to, and he took out his frustration by smashing other kid’s rockets before they got to test-fly them. Back to time-out for him. Third strike, you’re out. We were asked not to bring him to Kid’s Club again, not even just for free play. The rest of those unused casino coupons were doomed to stay unused.
We still had a great time on this cruise. After that we just picked activities that included Justin. He probably saved us some money that we didn’t lose in the casino.
Justin had a lot of energy. He liked to run down the hallway on the way to our cabin. Chris frowned upon this behavior and never allowed it. When I was alone with Justin though, I never saw the harm in it if it was mid-day when nobody was likely to be in their room sleeping. Good way for him to work off some energy I thought. He’d run right past our cabin door, but when I got to the door and he’d turn around and run back. So much the better, that much more energy used up.
Justin has always been a very hard child to feed. There is an extremely limited menu of items he will actually eat, and those only if they are presented exactly to his liking. On a cruise ship full of more food than anyone could possibly eat, he could actually starve. The only things he ever ate at dinner were either a grilled cheese sandwich or pizza. We saw other people’s kids eating lobster on lobster night, but while we enjoyed our lobster, Justin ate grilled cheese. At least he ate something.
His mother said he would eat broccoli. We found some on the lunch buffet one day, but his idea of eating broccoli was to slowly nibble so few of the very tips that after half an hour of grazing on the same piece of broccoli, it just about took a magnifying glass to actually find any gone. Perhaps he ate it better at home, but we didn’t try feeding it to him again that trip. He found something wrong with just about everything at the buffet. He didn’t like the color of a perfectly normal slice of cheese, wouldn’t even eat bread or a roll sometimes, and that’s normally one thing he’ll eat.
One morning when we decided to have breakfast in the dining room Justin ordered french toast. We told the waiter plain french toast with nothing on it. The plate came with powdered sugar on the toast and a strawberry off to the side. Justin wouldn’t touch it. We had to ask for another plate, stressing just the french toast, nothing else. Apparently the chef had issues with an ungarnished plate because the next one came out with no powdered sugar, but still a strawberry. No amount of pointing out that we could take the strawberry off the plate and it hadn’t touched the french toast would convince him to eat it. Nope, they had to bring out a third plate with nothing but the piece of french toast on it before he would eat.
His slow eating did come in handy one day. The ship was scheduled to go through Tracy Arm for glacier watching, but for some reason went through Endicott Arm instead. Being in an inside cabin, we obviously could not watch from our room, so we opted for a slightly early dinner at the very beginning of the time they started serving it. The fanciest of the two main dining rooms had some nice large windows and since we got there right when it opened we got seated next to one, as was our plan for going there at that time. We also got lucky in that all the glaciers turned out to be on just one side of the boat, and we got seated on that side. We had such a great view even the waiter found excuses to come often and pause by our table. For once long after Chris and I finished eating, we didn’t mind how much time it took Justin to nibble his way through his food. We just sat back and enjoyed the view. Justin’s slow eating ways gave us an excuse to stay for a long time, but even he eventually finished eating so finally we had to leave our wonderful view in the dining room.
We stopped by our cabin for coats and went up on deck to see the glaciers from outside. Justin found another little boy there who could have been his twin in size and personality. The two of them ran around the deck having a great old time while everyone else looked for glaciers and watched chunks of ice float past, some with birds of one type or another sitting on them. The other kid had some toy cars that the two of them drove around in the recessed area next to the railing intended for draining water off the deck when it rains. Luckily that deck was not very crowded.
Children on a cruise ship will likely behave similar to the way they behave at home. This particular child got suspended in kindergarten for throwing stuffed animals at his teacher. We actually thought that was a bit ridiculous since his dad once threw a chair at his kindergarten teacher and we didn’t even hear about it until the parent-teacher conference.