By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids contributor
DAY THREE ABOARD ROYAL CARIBBEAN FREEDOM OF THE SEAS — Today was all about exploring shipboard options for kids and specialty dining options.
We started the day at an early morning character breakfast with some of our favorite cuddly creatures. When you sail on Freedom of the Seas, you get to watch Dreamworks latest movies as well as interact with the studio’s popular characters. We consumed tasty breakfast classics while Shrek, Princess Fiona and The Madagascar Penguins paid us tableside visits, before breaking into hilarious dance moves. This is obviously geared to young children, but as we are movie buffs, Alec and I found the experience delightful.
Although my son is too old to participate, the complimentary Adventure Ocean Youth Program is a winner. It is staffed with high-energy young adults who really connect with their charges. The entire staff holds degrees in education or child development from four-year universities. Programs for children ages 3-17 are age-specific and feature theme-based activities. Your child will be with peers within two years of his or her age. I toured the facility and was pleasantly surprised to find an atmosphere where kids were actually engaged in supervised activities, as opposed to simply parked in front of a video or television screen. Arts and crafts, science projects, structured theatre games and story time were some of the activities. Teen activities included pool parties, sports competitions, dance parties and Karaoke. Teens must abide by a 1 am curfew when they are not with an adult. Teens may also hang out in a teen only lounge that is unsupervised. Parents of adolescents know that this can be a difficult age group, but I saw nothing but happy teenagers roaming the ship in packs.
If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, the ship offers a drop-off nursery for tiny travelers age 6-36 months old. If you are not quite ready to leave your baby, a playgroup for parents and tots 6-36 months is a fine option. These playgroups are stocked with Fisher-Price toys and include a variety of age-appropriate activities for little ones.
As satisfied as I was with the overall quality of the food on board, I was ready to indulge my epicurean proclivities and try one of the specialty dining choices. Chops Grille and Portofino both charge a modest supplement. As a lover of Italian food, I selected Portofino. It promised an authentic dining experience and it did not disappoint. The food, presentation and service were molto Italiano and delicious. We feasted on risotto, fresh tuna, pasta and tiramisu, accompanied by very palatable Tuscan wines. If you are celebrating a special occasion onboard, I recommend treating your taste buds and booking a table.