Who’s watching the kids?

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Unless you live in an opulent mansion, your home is very likely tiny compared to the amount of real estate Royal Caribbean has dedicated to kids on board the largest cruise ships in the world, those of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class.

To truly appreciate the number, it is necessary to understand that every square inch on a cruise ship is used with great planning and care. There’s absolutely no room for wasted space. So 28,000 square feet – the amount of floor space allotted to professional childcare on Oasis-class ships – speaks loudly to the priority Royal Caribbean gives children.

Even on the smaller Majesty of the Seas, some 6,000 square feet belong to the supervision and entertainment of youth.

“That’s how much we care about this program,” says Jeannette Loury, Royal Caribbean manager for guest activities and entertainment.

Even more to the point are the minimal requirements for a job on Royal Caribbean’s youth staff, those directly responsible for onboard childcare.

For starters, no matter what corner of the world they come from, applicants must speak English – a requirement for all RCL employees.

Then they need this:

  • A four-year accredited university degree in education, recreation or a related field, or the international equivalent.
  • At least three years of experience working with large groups of youngsters from ages 6 months to 17 years.
  • Some experience working in YMCA camps, school-sponsored activities or similar youth-oriented programs.
  • CPR certification.
  • Computer savviness across a range of such commonly used software as MS Word, Power Point and Excel.
  • Physical fitness.

“It’s definitely more robust than just babysitting,” says Loury, who started as a youth staffer and over time advanced to her current shoreside management position. “We really combine active versus passive activities. “So the kids get to run a bit and they settle down and do some sedentary activities, then we get them excited and run around to burn off some energy, and we sort of go back and forth throughout the whole day with that.”

Nearly all RCL ships are equipped with a nursery for the care of infants and toddlers. For 3 year olds through teens, groups of kids are organized by age to participate in the dozens of appropriate activities included in RCL’s free Adventure Ocean program.

These include such diversions as finger painting and crafts, educational games, karaoke, scavenger hunts, video games and much more for the younger charges.

Then there are the teens.

“They’re teens, so they’re definitely a harder age group to cater to,” Loury says. “The teens get a list of activities that we host – sporting activities or craft activities, games, you name it – and then they pick and choose what they want to attend in the teen-specific lounges or anywhere around the ship. In the teen program, because we don’t do a sign-in sign-out procedure [as with younger kids], parents are still responsible.”

And even as teens are maintaining their cool, they’re given an incentive to participate in the youth programs and give their parents a break:

Time is set aside for exclusive teens-only use of sports venues, climbing walls, Ripcord by iFly and other wildly popular onboard attractions.