Cruising is without a doubt a great way to vacation for the entire family. Whether you are 8 or 80, there is always something for you to do. But that doesn’t mean a family traveling together always wants to spend every moment together.
Sometimes parents want some time without the kids. And sometimes the kids want to play with other people their age. That’s where the dedicated kid areas — like Carnival’s Camp Ocean — can be the perfect solution.
These spots give children a place to play and hang out without their parents while still being watched by the staff. That means for both kids and adults, it may end up being their favorite places on the Carnival ship.
But if you and your kids have never visited Camp Ocean before, you might have some questions about how it works. We have you covered below…
What Is Camp Ocean?
First things first, Camp Ocean is a dedicated kid area that’s available across the entire Carnival fleet. It offers staff that supervises the kids and tons of things for kids to do from video games to arts and crafts to physical activities to movie nights.
Parents can drop off their children while Mom and Dad get some time to enjoy the cruise on their own terms. Kids get to play and do things they want to do with other kids their own age.
Think of it as daycare on the cruise ship, allowing everyone to have a good time.
Is Camp Ocean Free for Kids to Attend?
For the vast majority of times, admission to Camp Ocean is included in your cruise fare. So you simply check your child in and pick them up when ready at no additional charge. That means you won’t pay anything extra whether your kids stay there for an hour or all day.
The one exception is after 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Carnival’s Camp Ocean offers the “Night Owls” session. During this time there is a charge of $7.50 (plus 18% gratuity, for a total of $8.85) per hour for each kid who stays.
So if you have a kid that stays anytime up until 10 p.m. there is no charge. It’s about $9 per hour after that.
As well, there is an hourly charge for kids staying in Camp Ocean during the more limited hours for children aged 0-2 years old.
What Age Groups Are Available to Participate?
As mentioned, children are grouped by age. Camp Ocean offers the following groups on the ship:
- Turtles (0-1 years)
- Penguins (2-5 years)
- Stingrays (6-8 years)
- Sharks (9-11 years)
For older kids there are also youth areas known as “Circle C” (12-14 years old) and Club O2 (15-17 years old) that technically aren’t part of Camp Ocean, but offer a dedicated spot and programming for older kids. These two spots still offer things for kids to do but on a more independent basis. For example, teens in these groups can sign themselves in and out as they please.
I Have Kids in Two Different Age Groups. Can They Go to the Same Area?
Carnival’s website says they have a “strict policy” of not moving kids from one age group to another.
In our experience, however, we noticed some leniency. Say you have a 9 year-old and an 8 year-old. In that case we’ve seen some bending on the age policy to allow the siblings to be in the same group. You can just talk to the Camp Ocean staff when you first arrive.
However, larger age differences likely won’t be accommodated. Don’t expect a 5 year-old to be able to go to the same group with a 9 year-old.
How Does the Drop-Off/Pick-Up Process Work?
Before your child can join Camp Ocean, you’ll need to go through a registration process. This can be done online ahead of time, which is highly suggested. If you don’t do it before the cruise then you can visit once on the ship. During embarkation day there is an open house where kids and parents can come, meet the staff, register (if not already done), and then explore Camp Ocean.
Once the camp opens, then you’ll simply arrive at the front desk when you want to drop off your kid. The staff will take your room number to bring up your account, check your room keycard to make sure you have pick-up/drop-off privileges, and then have the child get their name tag to wear in camp. The staff will then take the child back. You’ll be able to see the time of check-in on the Carnival Hub app.
When it’s time to pick-up, the process is similar, just reversed. You’ll arrive at the front desk, provide your room number, and show your keycard. The staff will then go back and get your child.
Who Can Pick-Up/Drop-Off a Child in Camp Ocean?
When you register, you can provide who has the ability to pick-up and drop-off. There are different rules based on their age that you can choose from.
- Kids Under 9: May be picked up by a designated adult over 18 years old only.
- Kids 9-11: If a parent/guardian chooses, then kids 9-11 are allowed to sign themselves in and out of Camp Ocean until 10 p.m. After that time, an authorized adult must sign them out. As well, a parent can opt to not let kids 9-11 be able to sign themselves in/out.
- Kids 12 and Older: Children over 12 years are allowed to sign themselves in/out as they wish.
What Hours Is the Camp Open?
Hours vary based on whether you are at sea or in port. During a recent cruise, we found the following schedule:
- Sea Days: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. | 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. (Charge applies after 10 p.m.)
- Port Days: Port Arrival – 12 p.m. | 1 p.m. – 1 a.m. (Charge applies after 10 p.m.) Kids-only lunch from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
As you can see, there are some hour-long breaks during the day where the camp closes around dinner time. Carnival says that parents are “encouraged to pick up for meal times.” However, there is also the option on some days in port to have your child eat lunch/dinner with Camp Ocean.
To be sure, you’ll want to check the Carnival Hub app when you are on your cruise to see the exact opening hours each day.
Can My Child Stay in Camp While I Go to Port?
Everyone knows that having a small child with you completely changes the dynamic of exploring a new place. And whether it be that a shore excursion you’ve booked is only for kids above a certain age or you just don’t want to try and plan a day in an unfamiliar port around a child’s needs, you do have an option with Camp Ocean.
Kids are welcomed to stay at Camp Ocean while a parent goes off the ship into port. The only issue is if something goes wrong at camp while you are off the ship, then there may be no way to contact you. Carnival says if you are on a Carnival excursion, they will contact the tour operator if something goes wrong. Otherwise, you will be notified when you get back on the ship.
What if my Child Has a Problem While at Camp?
Anyone that has a kid knows that occasionally issues do come up. From smaller kids who miss their parents to older kids that get too rough, there may be times when the staff can’t fix the situation and need to get in touch with parents.
For smaller kids, the camp will have a limited number of shipboard phones that you will be provided. For older kids they are available on request, but are meant for those with younger children. These phones work on the ship and allow the staff to call you directly should there be an issue where a parent is needed.
If you don’t get one of these phones, then the staff will try to contact you other ways. For instance, this might be a call to your stateroom phone. If something is extremely urgent and you can’t be reached over your cabin phone, there could be a shipboard announcement.
What Is There For Kids to Do?
During the day there is a schedule of different activities arranged.
For instance, during “Kid’s Choice” campers get to do what they please, whether that’s playing games, playing with toys, video games, and more.
During “Active” times, campers do things like play Capture the Flag, Dodgeball, or Bean Bag Toss.
Arts & Crafts sessions include everything from jewelry making to creating whatever you want. There are also movie times, themed parties, and karaoke. You’ll see a full schedule of what’s available each day on the Carnival Hub app once your board.
A Special Word About Kids Under 2 Years Old
Kids under 2 years-old are treated a little differently with Camp Ocean. For most kids, the camp is simple. You bring your child, check them in, and they have fun while you go around the ship.
That’s not the case for the youngest children. These kids are in the “Turtles” group. Because smaller children require more care, Carnival offers more limited times for them.
In this case, there are times where you and your child can go enjoy the area designed for smaller kids for no charge. But if you want to leave your child during these times, then it’s a $7.50 per hour (plus 18% service charge) per child.
Available times will vary based on sea days/port days, so you’ll want to check the Hub app once you board. However, just know that it won’t be as inexpensive or flexible as sailing with an older kid.
Our Personal Experience With Camp Ocean
We recently cruised with our 6 year-old who attended Camp Ocean for the first time. During past cruises the area was closed (sailing right after cruises returned) or he wasn’t yet old enough to attend.
First things first, our son loved the experience. He would regularly ask during the day if he could go back to “Ocean Camp” (as he wanted to call it for some reason) multiple times during the day. For him, the chance to be social with other kids and also play video games were big draws. In fact, there were even times when we went to pick him up after a couple of hours, only for him to ask to stay longer.
On the parent side, the staff put us at ease and despite there being a lot of kids around, things seemed to be organized well. Lines during peak check-out times were long, but took no more than five minutes of waiting. As well, having the ability to drop off our kid and then go do things like have a drink, gamble in the casino, or just have some peace and quiet was amazing.
The cost is included in your cruise fare. Definitely take advantage.
More Tips & Advice
- If you have a child that requires medicine during their stay at Camp Ocean, know that the staff isn’t allowed to give it. Also, no medicines other than epi-pens and inhalers are allowed at camp. Parents will have to come to give medicine if it’s required during the stay.
- The person picking up a child doesn’t have to be the same one who dropped off. It also doesn’t have to be a parent or guardian. It just has to be someone that was authorized during registration and over 18 years old. So, for example, if you are sailing with another family, you can each authorize the other to be able to pick up kids. That way only one person of the group would have to go grab the kids when it’s time.
- Look on the schedule for family programming. These are activities that parents and kids can do together, giving you a chance to do some things that are designed for kids to enjoy while spending some time together.