Babysitting, er, Kids' Activities

You are gonna love this part.

From about 9am until 10pm, age-delineated, free, supervised activities were available for our kids. By this I mean, broken down from 4-5 years old, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14 and a “teen” group (your ship may divide it differently), you can drop the wee ones off and pick them up later. There are some meals the kids can eat with the minders and some times you have to retrieve your kids, shove food into them, and then return them. On our ship the free activities ended at 10pm, though for-fee activities continued until 1 am.

The system seemed pretty well organized. At the first dump, um, drop off, you the parent fill out a form giving some info about your child, identifying allergies and medications, special needs and the like. Very importantly, you must write on the form who may pick up your child-if grandma's name is not on the form then grandma can't retrieve Junior at 10pm no matter what. You may also specify of the child may sign him/herself out if your older kid can handle that kind of thing.

The children's area is strictly off-limits to all adults except the ship's kid minders. While most of the crew otherwise comes from developing world countries and commands varying levels of English and education, the kid staff were all from native English speaking countries and supposedly all had college degrees in related fields (which explains all those “Parks and Recreation” majors I saw walking past the library when I was at school ended up).

The activities looked decent. Most were active fun, such as scavenger hunts and games. A maybe bigger than I would have liked portion were passive, such as watching movies or playing video games. A small portion were pseudo-educational, simple science stunts and the like. You could see the day's schedule but other than picking your kids up early you could not pick and choose among what was on tap that day. Nobody asked us to approve or disapprove the movies shown or video games played.

We didn't see paper diapers sold anywhere on the ship, by the way.

Should we feel concerned about this?

A little to a lot, depending on where you are on the parenting scale. There was a large element of trust involved; the minders were sort of young (I am certain none had kids of their own) and we of course did not know them at all. We had to decide to trust them to keep and eye on our kids so they didn't end up hanging from the yardarm. The geography helped: the room was off-limits to all other adults, even parents, and the doors were locked once the sessions started. Sometimes they asked for ID when we got the kids, sometimes not (though to be fair our kids would come running saying “Papa, check this out!”). No one seemed hurt or unhappy in any way and we heard no complaints from any other parent or child, and we did ask around. You'll need to look at what the specific situation on your ship is, take a look at your child, and think this through as a parent and decide for yourself. Some parents enjoyed that mid-morning margarita without the kids in tow and some looked around a lot.

Did we feel guilty about this? Hah. Hah, yeah, arm in arm, alone at the railing, sunset in wide screen format with the DVD director's comment, drinks with paper umbrellas in hand, yeah, guilt was the primary emotion.

OK, to be fair, maybe a really little bit. Honest, the kids did enjoy it and that helped. All in all, the whole family was happy.

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