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Carnival Cruise Line Activities for Kids

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Carnival may be best known as a party cruise line, but families also love Carnival Cruise Line for its kids’ camps, pools and waterslides, kid-friendly activities and affordable price tag. Last year my family embarked on an eight-day cruise on Carnival Spirit to Mexico for Thanksgiving with our friends, Vessa and Randy and their son, Tanner. Our dos familias enjoyed the journey from our hometown of San Diego to Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo and back again. Between the seven of us, we explored quite a bit of what the ship had to offer. Here is a sampling of Carnival Cruise Line activities for kids.

Miniature golf on a Carnival Cruise ~ Carnival Cruise Line with Kids

My husband, Phil, playing miniature golf with our son (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Miniature Golf

Both preschoolers in our travel party, Tanner and my daughter, Karissa, adored playing miniature golf aboard Spirit. It was not the most elaborate course and it was a bit windy on the high deck, but it was a pleasant diversion nonetheless.

Childcare and Youth Programs

Camp Carnival accepts kids aged 2 to 11. In the evening, children can be dropped off to eat an early dinner with other campers but most nights our kids ate with us in the main dining room – until Karissa and Tanner started crawling under the table. That was our cue to cart the three-year-olds off to camp! Each night when I retrieved my little girl, her face was painted up – like a clown, a bunny, a butterfly – or whatever character coincided with the night’s theme. There were arts and crafts, toys, and activities galore. With the exception of one surly woman, the camp counselors were bubbly, sweet twenty-something gals whom the kids adored.

If your kid tends to get seasick (as does my daughter), keep in mind that Camp Carnival is located aft (at the back of the ship) and therefore tends to sway a great deal on rough seas. On most days this was not a problem, but on our last day at sea Karissa opted out of kids’ club activities due to the boat’s rockiness.

Although none in our party qualified for participation, Carnival offers youth activities for older kids too. Circle C provides supervised activities for tweens aged 12 to 14, such as dance parties, board games, sports, and scavenger hunts. For teens aged 15 to 17, there is Club O2, with Karaoke, pool parties, video games and the like.

Beware there is very limited childcare for babies. The Carnival website is cryptic about the times that children under age two are permitted in the childcare program. Here’s the deal – besides the group babysitting late at night, under twos are only allowed in Camp Carnival when the other kids are not permitted (during lunch, mostly). I never did leave my son, Leo (then nine-months-old), because dropping him off for such a short period of time did not seem worth the separation anxiety it would induce, especially when I’d need to take care of Karissa during that time anyway.

Group babysitting for children (babies to age 11) is available from 10 pm to 3 am daily. My children did not participate since a good night’s sleep is of great import to our family, especially when traveling.

My daughter with her face painted like a clown posing with a bunny-shaped towel sculpture aboard a Carnival Cruise ~ Carnival Cruise Line with Kids

My daughter with her face painted like a clown posing with a bunny-shaped towel sculpture (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Towel Sculptures

It’s a little thing, but a delightful thing for kids (and grown-ups)! Our room steward shaped our towel into some sort of animal while we were away at dinner each evening. It was always a treat to discover what creature would be waiting upon our return. The stingray sporting sunglasses was my daughter’s favorite!

Teddy Bear Workshop

We paid extra to participate in a Teddy Bear Workshop at Camp Carnival. This was basically an opportunity for Carnival to make some cash by selling a plush toy with a Velcro back into which my daughter stuffed a bunch of fluff. Outfits were for sale separately but all animals came with a Carnival t-shirt. It wasn’t much of a “workshop” but my daughter loved her stuffed dog nonetheless.


The ship’s arcade is located in a rocky locale just below Camp Carnival on Spirit. Tanner especially enjoyed playing car-driving video games and air hockey (while standing on a chair) with his dad here.

Chamber Music

Listening to live chamber music one evening in a bar near the Empire Dining Room was one of my favorite family moments aboard Spirit. The entertainment made a nice distraction before dinner service during “the witching hour.” My daughter adores music, so it was a treat for her to watch a pianist, cellist and two violinists perform. Leo was calmed by the soothing songs while my daughter twirled in front of the quartet. The older passengers who gathered to listen probably were counting on less lively fellow audience members but we did a pretty good job of keeping our crowd under control.

Carnival Cruise waterslide ~ Carnival Cruise Line Activities for Kids

My husband taking the waterslide for a test spin (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Some of Carnival’s other ships have extensive splash areas and waterslides. Spirit has just one tall curlicue slide. It is located far from the regular pools so we only visited it once. Since our children were too young, my husband braved the waterslide alone while I waited with the kids at the bottom to cheer his finish.

Most cruise lines, Carnival included, do not allow non-potty trained children in their pools for sanitary reasons. The only ships I know of that have splash pools with special filtration systems for babies are Disney’s two ships, Wonder and Magic, and Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2. Therefore, if you are traveling with a baby or toddler, I recommend bringing a small inflatable baby pool. This worked out well for our family but it would have been more fun if we all could have gone swimming together. My husband and I took turns swimming with Karissa in the big pool while the other parent minded Leo, who splashed about in his mini pool on the deck. The steel drum band and pina coladas deckside were an added bonus!

Carnival Cruise Line Activities for Kids

Would I recommend a Carnival cruise to traveling families? Yes! There are oodles of enjoyable activities for a variety of ages and interests at an affordable price. However, if you are traveling with a baby, you might want to consider booking a Disney Cruise or waiting to cruise until your child is a tad older. Carnival caters to families, just not to families with babies.

Do you have any cruising questions or tips? Let us know in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Amy @ The Q Family says

    We love cruising! Our experience at Carnival camp was very positive. My kids really liked it that they refused to come back to our cabin. 🙂

  2. LiLing Pang - Trekaroo says

    Great run down of a Carnival Cruise! Love the clarification of the under 2’s babysitting situation. They really are unclear about it. We went when our son was 22 months and were pretty much tied to him the whole time. No lazy afternoons on the deck reading books, no swimming in the pool because he was still in diapers. But it sounds like with older kids it’s a ton of fun. Maybe one day we’ll go cruising again.

  3. WE took a carnival cruise when my daughter was nine months old and had a great time! We brought grandparents along so they could spend time with her and help us out with taking care of her.

  4. We took our twins on a Nile River cruise just before their first birthday. The Nile cruises aren’t anything like a Carnival cruise at all – there ain’t much on board except enormous amounts of food. That being said, all was well and we all had a blast getting off the boat every day to explore ancient Egyptian ruins.

    We were quite scared having the boys up on deck though – it would have been too easy for them to fall over.

  5. Colleen Lanin at Travel Mamas says

    I’m glad to hear from others who have had positive (and not so positive) cruise experiences with little ones. I think that LiLing’s idea to bring the grandparents along so the parents can have a bit of free-time is an excellent idea! I must start concocting a way to convince my parents to join us on our next cruise…:-)

  6. Very funny, you blog is very nice to read.

  7. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says

    Great info! We’re thinking of taking our first cruise this year with our (then) three year old son. Fingers crossed he’ll be potty trained by then as he loves to swim.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Bethaney – If your son isn’t quite potty trained by the time you cruise, I highly recommend bringing a splash pool of some sort, like we did. Enjoy your cruise!

      • How did you go about filling and emptying the splash pool?

        • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

          Hi Kristi – Bring along a small bucket to fill the play pool with water from the ship’s pool, or use an ice bucket provided by the ship. Alternatively, you can dunk the inflatable pool into the large pool to fill it that way. Have a wonderful time on your Carnival Cruise!

  8. So wait… Even if you put your toddler in a swim diaper- they can’t get in the big pools? 🙁

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Meg – Yes, all children must be fully potty trained to swim in pools on ships for health reasons. This is for all cruise lines, not just Carnival. With the easy transfer of Noro Virus, I am thankful for this rule. I am not, however, thankful that many people break this rule. I was on one cruise with my family (not Carnival) during which some child in the pool had an “accident” and I had to quickly get my kids out. The whole pool was drained and sanitized, but no one could swim in it for 24 hours or so. Non-potty trained youngsters are allowed in specially filtered splash areas on some cruise ships. I am not aware of any Carnival ships that offer such splash areas. Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Cunard and Royal Caribbean all offer some ships with splash areas for tots. Truly, bringing an inflatable pool worked out well for us on our Carnival Cruise (when our son was 9 months old) but it might be a harder sell with an older toddler.


  1. Two Kids and a Map » Travel Blogger Tuesday – Travel Mamas says:

    […] Carnival Cruise Line’s Onboard Activities for Kids – My husband and I have been on one cruise and it was pre-kids.  This article points out some of the kid-friendly activities.  […]

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