My family recently returned from a 5-night cruise to Bermuda on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. This was our first family cruise on RCCL after having been on seven Disney cruises. Our most recent Disney cruise was on the Disney Fantasy this past January, and I plan to write a post comparing multiple aspects of Disney Cruise Line vs. Royal Caribbean very soon.
However, I found so many differences in the clubs and activities for kids and teens that I feel the category needs a post of its own.
Kids’ Club Ages and Hours
On Disney Cruise Line, the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab host kids ages 3-12 (although 11-and 12-year-olds have the option of going to the Edge tween club). Typical hours are 9:00 a.m. to midnight, and the cost of the clubs is included in your cruise fare.
At times during the day, DCL closes down one of the clubs to secured entry and turns it into an open house where people of all ages can enjoy the club. Families with kids who are too young or too old to check into the club or who just aren’t comfortable with the secure check-in use the clubs at this time.
On Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, Adventure Ocean kids’ club has smaller, separate rooms divided by age. Aquanauts room is for ages 3-5, Explorers room is for ages 6-8 and Voyagers is ages 9-11.
The club is open during chunks of the day. Typical hours are 9:00 a.m. -noon, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. -10:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. Royal Caribbean charges $7/hour after 10:00 p.m.
When my kids were younger, the hours on Royal Caribbean were a deal breaker. We had 3 kids and no help nearby, so on vacation we needed a few meals by ourselves for our sanity. However, now that my kids are older, the hours aren’t such a big deal anymore.
Anthem of the Seas has an open play area for parents to enjoy with toddlers that is always open.
Meals in Clubs
On Disney Cruise Line, kids can eat both lunch and dinner in the clubs. A menu is posted, and no sign-ups are required. The counselors ask all the kids in the club at the time if they would like to be included in lunch or dinner. Meals are served inside the club.
On Royal Caribbean, the clubs are closed during most meal times. However, on our recent cruise on Anthem of the Seas, the club counselors escorted kids to the buffet restaurant for lunch and dinner on port days. You had to sign up to reserve a spot for the meal.
Activities in Clubs
In all honesty, I was very disappointed in the activities in Adventure Ocean on Anthem of the Seas. Why?
On DCL, the kids’ clubs are very large and have multiple stations and activities. There is usually a big group activity going on, plus the kids can choose to do an independent activity like crafts, dress-up or video games. The group activities are over-the-top fun, like a PJ party with Pluto, a Q&A with BB-8, a parade with Mickey Mouse or story time with Belle.
On Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, there is a separate paper “Kids Daily Planner” for Adventure Ocean that describes the activities during the morning, afternoon and evening sessions. The descriptions sound great on paper—every session has themed activities like “Space Invaders”, “Fast Food Frenzy”, “Wild Wild West”, etc. However, from our experience, these themes did not change the activities all that much.
My two younger kids went to Adventure Ocean on the first night of our cruise. My 11-year-old son was a bit bummed because two age groups were combined into one room due to low numbers. So, he was in the same room with his sister and with kids as young as 6 years old. Considering he was old enough for the Edge tween club on our last cruise on the Disney Fantasy, that was a hard pill to swallow.
But the bigger issue was activities in the club. The kids played games with some nerf balls. My daughter wasn’t too keen on that and was hoping for a craft or something different. That first night, the counselors told my kids they would be playing the same games every night. I assumed my kids misunderstood them.
The next day, I convinced my daughter to try Adventure Ocean again because the planner said there would be different activities. I picked her up after a few hours to find her desperately wanting to leave the club and never return. She said all they did was play with balls and hula hoops the whole time, the same thing over and over again.
Later in the cruise, as more kids joined the club, the ages were split into their respective rooms. On the third night of the cruise, I told my daughter we would walk to the club together to see what the activities were for the night, since the planner said it was “Fast Food Frenzy” night. When we walked in, I could see balls soaring across the room. I asked the counselor what was happening tonight. She said the agenda was free time with balls and hula hoops. I couldn’t subject my daughter to that again.
One night, when I picked up my son, the activity was a wall-sit contest. I thought I accidentally entered a middle-school PE class.
Anthem of the Seas had a separate Science Lab room. However, I was disappointed that it was only open one time at 11:00 p.m. (for extra $) and another time as a family activity during dinner hour.
Note: Counselors would not allow me to take any photos inside Adventure Ocean on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, even when my daughter was the only one there. The rooms are very bare.
Counselors in Clubs
On Disney Cruise Line, the majority of counselors we’ve encountered remind me of Mary Poppins. Many of them are studying Early Child Development at college and are working for DCL as part of a special program.
On Anthem of the Seas, the counselors were not as jovial. Some of them seemed like bored teenagers. They really lacked enthusiasm. My son even said to me, “Mom, the counselors don’t seem as happy, and they don’t seem to care if we are happy.”
Tween and Teen Clubs
On Disney Cruise Line, the Edge tween club is for ages 11-14, and the Vibe teen club is for ages 14-17. Both have a dedicated room with group activities and individual activity options like video games, foosball, etc. For some events, teens leave the club with the counselors to do activities around the ship, including teen time at the AquaDuck, teen time at the arcade and dodge ball on the sports deck.
On Anthem of the Seas, the teen clubs were separated for ages 12-14 and 15-17. On our cruise, due to low numbers, the two clubs were combined. Similar to DCL, the teen clubs offered group activities inside the clubs like karaoke and card games. Teens could also play video games or foosball or hang out at individual TV pods.
The biggest difference on Anthem of the Seas was the teen-only gatherings at the ship’s recreational activities. There were a lot more rec options on RCCL compared to DCL that the teens did together as a group. My 15-year-old was out with the teens until 1:00 a.m. every night. He had a blast!
Recreation and Other Activities for Kids and Tweens
Both cruise lines offer other activities outside of the clubs to entertain kids and teens. Obviously, the pools and slides are a big draw.
On Disney Cruise Line, character meet and greets are a huge part of the entertainment. My daughter and I usually spend time every day taking photos with characters.
Shows on DCL are all family-friendly (except for a late-night comedian show), and throughout the day kids can attend animation classes and cooking demonstrations. DCL also offers movies in a separate movie theatre, and stateroom TVs offers free on-demand movies from a huge collection of Disney shows and movies.
On Anthem of the Seas, the SeaPlex area is a flexible space that offers bumper cars (so much fun!), flying trapeze classes, basketball, dodge ball and roller skating. The upper level has a big video gaming area as well as several ping-pong, foosball and air hockey tables. My boys loved hanging out there!
Also on the RCCL ship was RipCord by iFly, rock climbing wall, Flow Rider surf simulator and the North Star robotic observation arm. For adventure seekers, there was no shortage of things to do outside of the kids’ and teen clubs.
However, my 8-year-old daughter was a little lost. She did the rock climbing and bumper cars, but the other activities were a bit too daredevil and rough and tumble for her. Some of the shows were not family-friendly. Since there were no character photos, no movies in a theater or in-room movies on the stateroom TV, she was a bit bored on the sea days.
Overall Thoughts on Kids and Teens on Disney Cruise Line vs. Royal Caribbean
After trying a Royal Caribbean cruise, there is no doubt that the kids’ clubs on Disney Cruise Line are far superior. In our experience, the hours, activities and counselors on DCL can’t be beat.
However, as our kids get older, the kids’ clubs become less important to us. We no longer need the respite from our kids at dinner, so the hours aren’t as crucial.
For my 11-year-old and 15-year-old, recreational activities outside of the kids’ and teen club are now more important. Anthem of the Seas has more activities that appealed to my older, more adventurous boys. However, my younger daughter has requested to go back to Disney Cruise Line for our next cruise.
Have you cruised on Royal Caribbean or Disney Cruise Line? How was your experience with the kids and teens on board?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.