Tuesday, 27 September 2011

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Disney Cruise Line - The Kids Clubs

You knew they'd be good at this right?  I mean, it's Disney.  Of course they know how to entertain kids.  There is, however, a difference between having to keep a child mesmerized for two hours while watching a cartoon and entertaining them for a week.  Heck I can't even entertain my kids for a week (and if you asked them, the two hours would be in doubt as well).  Obviously what I need is a setup like Disney has put together on their cruise ship, as my kids were off and having a blast for our entire trip.

You thought your pilates class was tough...
Well, two of the three were.  There are different age groups for the Disney Kids Clubs, and the dividing line just happened to fall between our two girls.  Our older two children were eligible for "The Edge" - Disney's tween group - while youngest was left in the Oceaneer Lab for kids 10 and under.  She also happens to be our child who doesn't like new things and isn't particularly fond of crowds, so after the first couple of attempts, she decided that she'd rather spend her days with us.  Actually it was kind of handy having her around, as it gave Lori and I an excuse to attend some of the fun kids events like the Character Dance Party.  We wouldn't have been the only adults there without a child, but my dance moves are the kind that are far better appreciated by children than adults.

Even through my limited experience with the Oceaneer Lab, it looked like a pretty fun place to be.  The Lab is the place for 6-10 year olds to hang out (5 and under go to the Oceaneer Club) and enjoy some non-Mom and Dad time.  It's stocked with games, puzzles, crafts, videos and a whole lot of computers.  Parents can drop their children off (the older kids can sign themselves in and out) and go have some quiet time knowing that their kiddies have more than enough stuff available to keep them entertained.  One side of the room is designated for free play, while the other side hosted structured events.  The Disney touch on this, is that the
events are hosted by the characters, so a game of Mousetrap would be led by Mickey himself, Pluto held his own pajama party, and the Royal Ball was graced by a few of the Disney Princesses. The two events that we tried with our daughter were Flubber, where a mad scientist led the class in making the super bouncy structure from the movie, and the Ratatouille cooking school which taught the kids how to make chocolate chip cookies.  Both classes were filled with loud and exuberant children which just didn't work well for my daughter.  I can't blame the class though, as everybody else seemed to be having a great time, so I'll just say that while it wasn't a good fit for my youngest, it would probably be a very good option for most people.

Did I say a "little" more relaxed?
The pre-teen club "The Edge" however, was the perfect fit for my older two.  It was run in a little bit more of a relaxed atmosphere, so while there was always a structured event going on such as a trivia competition or a video game tournament, the room was quite often just used as a hang out place and the kids were free to come and go as they wanted.  The counsellors were absolutely amazing at keeping everybody entertained as they moved the kids around the ship from activity to activity.   My contact with my Edge kids was quite often limited to when I happened to encounter a group of 15 or 20 of them moving from one activity to the next.

Just as a side note, I learned a couple of physics lessons while watching the Edge kids one day.  There is a giant sports deck at the front of the ship where the Edge would frequently set up shop.  On the first day I watched them shooting basketball free throws as part of a timed relay race, and I couldn't believe just how terrible my kids were.  Actually all the kids were pretty bad.  Later, when I was taunting my son about his lack of basketball skills (because that's what Dads do), he pointed out to me that, unlike at school, on the boat you're not shooting at a stationary target.  As soon as you put that ball up, the basketball hoop is moving towards the shot, making it almost impossible to judge the proper distance.  This concept became even more clear during the dodgeball tournament, where you had to throw the ball towards the front of the ship, and then wait as the boat moved your opponents forward into the shot.  Also, should you decide to play a little ping pong, please note that with the aid of the wind and the motion of the boat, the person serving towards the back of the ship is most likely capable of breaking the sound barrier with anything heavier than a slight tap.

I'm very grateful for how much my kids enjoyed their time at the Edge, as I don't think they would have lasted too long sitting by the pool or playing Who Wants to be a Mouseketeer with us.  The highest praise I can give the program is that my children, who usually never want to leave the comfort of the nearest couch, would wake up in the morning, get dressed, and shout "I'm going to Edge!"  If I didn't go looking for them, that was the last I would see of my kids until closing time at midnight each night. While I wouldn't have minded a little more family time (the kids did consent to appear at a couple of Mother mandated mealtimes) the fact that at the end of the cruise my kids didn't want to leave a boat that they originally hadn't been all that enthused about getting on, proved to me that they'd had a great time.  For my older two kids, I give the credit for that to the Disney Kids Club.