During a recent QM2 transatlantic crossing with my 11-year-old daughter Alex, 10-year-old niece Krissy, and sister-in-law Janine, we observed the caring and gentle attitude of Cunard Line's nannies (dedicated to toddlers and pre-schoolers) as well as its traditional youth counselors (who oversee grade-school children and teens). While the youth and teen program might not be as action-packed as some others, the personal touch that the Captain, nannies, and youth counselors showed kids on board QM2 was a big plus.
Options for Infants and Toddlers
During our early July sailing, four nannies were dedicated to the toddler facility (under 24 months) and the pre-schooler room (24 months-five years). According to Helen Brown, youth program supervisor, "nursery nurses" is the correct title for nannies. To become a British trained nursery nurse, candidates must have two years of specialized training with children from three months to seven years old, including one year of course work and one year of placement in a variety of settings, like working with special needs children. Brown said one of the many advantages of having nursery nurses on board is that they are qualified to care for all of a young child's needs, including diaper changes, bottles and getting fussy babies and toddlers to nap.
Parents of those less than two years old receive beepers in case of emergency. Additionally, parents of little ones are asked to call the youth room one half hour after their initial drop-off to make sure their child is adjusting well.
If you're debating whether to bring a stroller for your infant or toddler, do so. The QM2 is a whopping four football fields long and requires lots of walking, which may be tough for little ones.
Youth Program Details
The age grouping of children depends on the number of youngsters aboard, according to Brown. Our cruise had more than 300 youngsters, a large number for QM2. Brown said that for most of the summer, children are split into many age groups, and the number of counselors and nannies staffing The Zone is at its peak. On our cruise, children were grouped as follows: 13 to 23 months in the nursery room; 24 months to three years; four to five years; six to seven years; eight to nine years; and 10 to 12 year-olds. The teens were divided into 13 to 14 year-olds; and 15 to 17 year-olds.
The ratio of youth counselors to children varies according to age: There is one staff member for every eight children in the under-six group; one counselor for every 16 kids in the 7 to 9 year-old group; and one for every 20 kids in the 10 to 12 year group.
Across the hall is a brightly colored room facing the deck; it's for toddlers and pre-schoolers from 24 months to five years. The facility includes a ball pit; padded area for blowing off steam; large TV for videos; a few small tables for crafts and snacks; and three screens for computer games.
Down the hall is a large room used at various times by the six to eight year-olds, eight and nine year-olds, or ten to 12 year-olds. The facility has 11 X-Boxes; one air hockey table; one foosball table; two tables for crafts; and a dance floor with disco lighting.
The six and seven year-olds played lots of group games. Some were indoors and involved themes like pirates; others were out on deck and included relay games, dodgeball or basketball.
Programming for the eight and nine year-olds was comprised of group games, such as Battle of the Sexes, and scavenger and autograph hunts, which were accompanied by youth counselors. There was also an ongoing foosball and air hockey tournament in The Zone for this age group.
The 10 to 12 year-olds focused mainly on fun treasure hunts such as "orienteering," where they had to find clues throughout the ship; or "swap shop," in which the kids were given a cup by youth counselors and had to try to trade it to shipboard personnel for something better. While Alex and Krissy really enjoyed all the treasure hunt type activities they participated in, there could have been a greater variety of activities, such as a pool party or a few craft projects.
On the last afternoon, there's a party for the under-five group in The Zone that features face painting, balloons and treats. For those six years and older, there is a big party in the disco including snacks, a DJ, and a special visit by Captain Bernard Warner. From letting the kids wear his captain's hat to patiently posing with them for photos, the Captain showed a genuine interest in the children. He even knew and participated in the group line dances, which really won the kids over!
Alex and Krissy usually participated in one long youth program activity each day and then enjoyed spending time with us poolside or exploring the ship. We found that there were plenty of family oriented activities to do together day and night, and even though we were at sea for five days, the girls were never bored.
Out on Deck
The girls loved going to the daily afternoon planetarium shows in Illuminations, the dedicated planetarium theater with comfortable reclining seats and an overhead dome. Make sure you get free tickets for your desired show in the morning before they "sell out."
Although I usually am not a big fan of the typical cruise line evening entertainment, we attended every show and enjoyed them all. The entertainment was a step above the usual and devoid of feathered, Las Vegas-style dancers, which I feel is a big plus for families. During our cruise we were entertained by a Broadway soloist, a comedian who also played the violin, a concert pianist, and dance revues. Both Alex and Krissy looked forward to the shows each night.
Cabins and Food
Food was family-friendly and featured a "Children's Tea" from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Chef's Galley, part of the buffet area. There parents could accompany their children for a fast off-the-menu meal consisting of chicken fingers, pasta, pizza and fish sticks. For those under seven years old, the youth program resumes at 6 p.m. so that parents could feed little fidgety ones at tea time, drop them off at the youth program, and then dine alone. Other dinner options are Asian cuisine at the casual Lotus buffet area or Italian specialties at La Piazza, all part of the King's Court buffet area.
We loved the King's Court buffet for lunch; its many options ranged from Asian, to Italian, burgers and fries, and standard continental buffet food. This area also had wonderful made-to-order waffles in the morning as well as a whopping 16 ingredients to choose from at its omelet station. The dining area was full of little alcoves with ocean views; walls were decorated with Asian murals in the Lotus area and English pastoral scenes in the Carvery area. Dinner in the main Brittania dining room featured a fairly extensive children's menu.
Overall, we found that cruising aboard QM2 with children was a pleasant mix of time apart and time together to enjoy all that this one-of-a-kind ship has to offer.
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