Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest Post: Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab: A Child's Dream Come True

As some of you know, I recently returned from my first cruise experience which was on the amazing Disney Dream. The ship is absolutely gorgeous, the service is top notch, and don't even get me started on the fabulous food! One of the areas I was most impressed with however, was the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab. These are the activity centers designed for children ages 3-10 years of old. There are other centers for tweens (Edge) as well as for teens (Vibe) and I'm sure they are equally as impressive. However, I am going to give you my first hand experience for the area my 7 year old son used. Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are huge and they actually connect to each other in one large area on deck 5. You can drop your child off at Oceaneer Club and if they want to spend part of their time in that area they can and then they can just walk over to Oceaneer Lab next door and vice versa. Both are open from 9:00 AM until midnight which allows parents to enjoy some much needed relaxing at the spa, an adults only meal at Remy or Palo or perhaps an evening visiting the lounges or dancing in one of the clubs on board.

You will need to register your child online prior to arrival or as soon as you get onboard. I recommend taking care of this online so you don't have to deal with waiting in line as soon as you get on board. Upon arrival, each child is given a waterproof armband which they will have to wear for their entire stay if frequenting the clubs. The armbands allow the cast members in the clubs to know exactly where your child is at all times. So when you go to pick up your child, they will look at their computer system and let you know, little Johnny is at Oceaneer Lab right now. So cool! As soon as kids arrive after checking in, they wash their hands and I can tell you that machine alone is an experience in itself! My son constantly wanted to wash his hands in the automatic hand washing machines! Each day I had to say, “C'mon Banks, stop washing your hands and go play!”

Each day a Personal Navigator can be found outside your stateroom. Inside the Navigator, you will find all the activities listed for the day and what times they will be held. There is always some sort an activity to participate in. The only issue you may have will be choosing which activity to do because they are all fun! Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab do have activities going on at the same time. So if you like both activities, you'll have to choose a favorite. Each activity is divided into a category. For example, there is a “Clubhouse Series” which focuses on movement and is geared toward younger children. There is a “Storybook Series” which is storytelling time Disney style featuring a large screen showing pictures, a narrator telling the story and characters who make an appearance of course! The interactive storytelling adventure I happened to see featured Princess Tiana. There is the “Jump Up Series” which involves the impressive interactive magic playfloor. There are actually two of them, one is located in Oceaneer Club as you walk in and the other is located in Oceaneer Lab. One day, I got to witness the kids “making” a virtual pizza for Stitch who was interacting with the children (think Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot). Seriously, how cool is that? I won't go into the toppings Stitch wanted on his pizza but I will say they were quite interesting and the kids got a kick out of them! There is also an “In the Spotlight Series” which allows your future starlet to participate in talent shows, open mike nights, or they can get in touch with with their inner Jonas brother and sing and dance to the Camp Rock films for example. They have the “Solve It! Series” which allows kids to become a member of the top deck detective agency and solve clues. And last but not least, the “Create & Invent Series” which features my personal favorite, Sloppy Science! One of the days I witnessed children creating their own Flubber and on a different day they created erupting volcanos! The kids were truly enjoying themselves and the silly scientist with green hair is beyond entertaining. I will admit to laughing out loud just as much as the kids. Another really fun evening activity was Pluto's Pajama Party where kids can wear their PJ's. Kids were given pillow cases to draw on and of course Pluto was in attendance. These are just a few examples of what is offered. There is a ton to choose from! Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are truly a child's paradise and there is something for everyone.

In addition to all the activities, there are different areas where kids can just play on their own and create. There is an area called Explorer Pod which is a submarine with computer games. There is an area to play wii games, a music room where children can actually create their own music, and an arts and crafts room full of endless supplies. My son loved Andy's Room and the Monsters Academy. There is also Pixie Hollow where kids can dress up in costumes (I saw lots of little princesses running around) and more! So, if a child prefers to play on their own, they certainly have that option.

I was extremely impressed with the staff. They were all young and full of energy. They seemed to really love their job and enjoyed interacting with the kids. I was expecting everything to be very structured but it's really not. You just walk in and decide where you want to go. If you want to jump in and get involved in an activity you can or you can do your own thing which some kids may rather do. This environment was a bit overwhelming for my son at first. This is typical for his personality. It takes him a while to adjust to certain situations. He wanted me to stay with him at all times. Normally, I would have left and allowed him to get used to things on his own but I knew this was all new for him so I did stay with him and play with him quite often! Parents have the option to stay if they want to. I saw plenty of other adults playing with their children as well.

The area is also extremely clean and secure as well. Parents must give a password that they decide on at the time of registering to pick up their child and there are gates that automatically lock and can't be opened unless a cast member opens them for you so no worries about having an escapee on board.

On the last night, my husband and I went out to eat at Palo and our son was reluctant to go into the kid centers by himself since this was the first time I wouldn't be with him. When I went to pick him up hours later he exclaimed, “But I don't want to leave!” More than likely your kids won't want to either so be prepared. Who can blame them? Take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy some adult time while you can. I can promise you, they'll be in good hands and a good time will be had by all!

Contributed by Corby C. of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud wife and mom to Banks and Henley, a Disney Destination Planner with Travel with the Magic and one of our Minnie Moms.

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