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HAL with young children?

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Hello fellow cruisers!

 

I've been reading the HAL board for a few months now - since we booked the Rotterdam for our family vacation coming up here very soon.

 

We travel quite a bit with our children - both by land and sea, but this will be our first family trip on board Holland America. My children are ages 8 (this will be his 12th cruise) and 2 (this will be her 4th cruise).

 

Just wondering what some notable differences might be for families with young children sailing HAL? We've primarily sailed Royal and Carnival with our kids.

 

We don't love the huge/loud ship atmosphere, so we were drawn to a smaller/quieter ship...

 

Just not sure what to expect...For example, I took a peek at the room service menu and couldn't believe the extensive options there - especially for children! My son is so excited about this!

 

Anything else we should keep an eye out for?

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Hello fellow cruisers!

 

I've been reading the HAL board for a few months now - since we booked the Rotterdam for our family vacation coming up here very soon.

 

We travel quite a bit with our children - both by land and sea, but this will be our first family trip on board Holland America. My children are ages 8 (this will be his 12th cruise) and 2 (this will be her 4th cruise).

 

Just wondering what some notable differences might be for families with young children sailing HAL? We've primarily sailed Royal and Carnival with our kids.

 

We don't love the huge/loud ship atmosphere, so we were drawn to a smaller/quieter ship...

 

Just not sure what to expect...For example, I took a peek at the room service menu and couldn't believe the extensive options there - especially for children! My son is so excited about this!

 

Anything else we should keep an eye out for?

 

Welcome to the HAL Forum.

 

Here is a link to the HAL kids menu that is available in the MDR:

 

http://www.rogerjett-photography.com/here/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/HAL-Kids-Menu.pdf

 

Here is a link to some of the kids activities I have collected at Club HAL:

 

http://www.rogerjett-photography.com/specialty-2/holland-america-lines-kids-activities-examples/

 

You will all enjoy the Pizza Inn, Taco Bar near the retractable-roof indoor pool, and especially the compact size of the Rotterdam.

 

Enjoy your cruise planning.

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HAL encourages the officers families to join them on cruises so occasionally we do see very young toddlers on board - the younger crew members who are also parents love seeing young passengers, since they are often homesick for their own. I think you will have a very good time since your family is already well-traveled. Particularly being on a smaller ships, where you can be out and about almost anywhere in very short order.

 

And your children may actually like the "splash pool" added to the aft deck - bird bath to others who miss the full size pool that was taken out when they added more aft cabins underneath, but it could be just right to be kid size - back where the pizza is too. I think the lovely art on board the Rotterdam would also be very appealing to young people too -colorful, whimsical and lots of "faces" to discover as they move about the ship.

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We had our 8 year old granddaughter traveling with us on the Westerdam in Alaska. She was always eager to go to the kids club. The waiters love having children on board. They are served first in the dining room. We would do this again.

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I absolutely loved being a kid on HAL cruises! If you travel on a 7-day Caribbean itinerary at peak family travel times (Christmas/New Years week, Spring Break), there will be a fair amount of kids - up to 200 to 300 on a 2000-passenger sailing. If your cruise is longer or outside holiday times, your kids may be just two of a few young ones, which is awesome because they'll get extra-special treatment. The staff are amazing with kids. They'll make animals out of napkins and all sorts of origami and teach them some Indonesian or Filipino words.

 

The Club HAL program is great as well - and completely free - and provides some fun activities throughout the day and a dedicated kids' space with computers, board games, video games, etc.

 

Kid-friendly food can always be found - even if you're in the Main Dining Room and they don't see anything on the menu they like, just ask, and the staff can make anything.

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In general, you will find far few kids on HAL than on Royal or Carnival. It will definitely be calmer and quieter. While I don't have kids, I have chatted with a few on our cruises and they all seem to enjoy their time on HAL.

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We just got off the Volendam in Alaska and had a very different experience with the kids club. There were 32 kids on board for our sailing so they combined ages 3-12 into one group. My 11 year old (going on 21 - ha!) refused to hang out with 3 year olds. He wanted to be with his 13 year old sister in the teen room but they wouldn't allow that. We dropped in and checked in a few times during the week for the schedule and there were never any kids in either the kids room or teen room. They ended up cancelling the activities. So, we all played scrabble and monopoly, my daughter read a book, and my son played ping pong and swam in the pool. It worked out for us in the end, but the kids club was a total bust. Other than that, we absolutely loved the Volendam!!!

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We just got off the Eurodam with a 6 yo to Alaska and she loved club Hal. There were quite a few kids taking part in club Hal. Every time we picked her up there were at least 7-8 other kids there. The staff at the kids club were so nice!

 

We only did it about 4 times but she loved it each time! Hrs were about 9-11:30, 1-4 pm and 7-11.

 

On the glacier bay day they earned a junior ranger badge and they were taken on deck to see the glaciers.

 

On the last day, they had the magician come to do a few magic tricks after his show on the main stage. That’s a really nice touch!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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We always dined late and ds just did not like taking 2 hours for dinner so we would head to the lido about an hour before the kids club opened for his supper and a wee snack for ourselves (generally a preview of the nights MDR fare), then he would happily head off to the kids club for the usual nighttime shenanigans. Dh and I would then make ourselves presentable and have a leisurely dinner in the MDR and a cocktail in the piano bar afterwards. Win/Win.

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I absolutely loved being a kid on HAL cruises! If you travel on a 7-day Caribbean itinerary at peak family travel times (Christmas/New Years week, Spring Break), there will be a fair amount of kids - up to 200 to 300 on a 2000-passenger sailing. If your cruise is longer or outside holiday times, your kids may be just two of a few young ones, which is awesome because they'll get extra-special treatment. The staff are amazing with kids. They'll make animals out of napkins and all sorts of origami and teach them some Indonesian or Filipino words.

 

The Club HAL program is great as well - and completely free - and provides some fun activities throughout the day and a dedicated kids' space with computers, board games, video games, etc.

 

Kid-friendly food can always be found - even if you're in the Main Dining Room and they don't see anything on the menu they like, just ask, and the staff can make anything.

 

I'm so relieved to read all these positive things about kids on HAL! That was my 1 fear when we booked our multigenerational cruise (with my parents).

 

We will be on the Eurodam in the end of Sept with my almost 4yo daughter. She is very smart and mature but a bit hesitant and wary of new/strange situations so while the above activities will greatly appeal to her, I'm pretty sure she won't allow us to drop her off and leave her there. Are parents allowed in Club HAL? Could it be a place we take her to play and one of us (or a grandparent) could stay with her while she enjoys herself? Or must it be a "drop off"? Thank you so much!!

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I'm not sure about staying in the Club Hal area - however I can say that we took our 4 year granddaughter to Club Hal on boarding day - introduced her to the Club area and the Club leaders. We checked everything and everyone out. The next day - she couldn't wait to go meet her Club leaders and other friends! An incredible experience for everyone.

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Great reading these posts as we are looking at a HAL cruise next time Baltic and Copenhagen to NYC with 10 and 8 year olds.

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We booked the 29 day Baltic/Viking Passage for August 2020 cruise so I would love some updates about taking kids on HAL cruises - anyone been lately? Particularly interested in the Zuiderdam, Baltic and Transatlantic cruises, kids club when there are very few kids on-board etc. 

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Here is a great review by the OP of this thread about their HAL cruise with kids.

 

 

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My now 8 year old son has been cruising every year (sometimes twice a year) on HAL since he was 6 months old.  He actually just received his bronze medallion last year for having sailed more than 100 days with HAL. He is an only child and is autistic with ADHD. He doesn’t like large groups of kids as he feels out of place and he feels stressed with loud noises.  The reason we love HAL is because there are less kids on board versus other cruise lines. We’ve done Celebrity and Norwegian with him but he didn’t like the fact that there were so many children in the club all the time. He loves HAL because the groups are small so he gets more attention from the staff and the activities are more “personal” since they get a lot of 1:1 time with the staff.  There have been at least 3 cruises where he has been the only child on-board.  Those times he loved being able to have free reign of the games he would play with the staff.  It was so hard to pull him away when it was time for lunch or dinner as he wanted to spend the whole day at the club.  There are plenty of activities for kids of all ages. Toys and board games along with art projects for younger kids and they have movies and gaming consoles like a WII on-board for the older kids to use.  Although there are no fancy activities like rock climbing or ice skating or water slides, I find there is still a lot to do at the club. Hope this helps!

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22 hours ago, fatcat04 said:

Here is a great review by the OP of this thread about their HAL cruise with kids.

 

 

 

thanks, will read x

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My kids are 7 and 9 and just completed their 10th cruise and have sailed on 5 different cruise lines. 

 

They’ve always enjoyed all the cruises that they’ve sailed on, but our cruise on the Westerdam to Alaska was the only time that our son didn’t want to attend the kid’s club. I don’t know specifically what it was about it that he didn’t like. We just couldn’t get him to go. With that said, we still had an absolutely fantastic cruise. We just didn’t use Club HAL. 

 

I want to reemphasize that we had a fantastic cruise on HAL, but of all the cruise lines that we’ve sailed on with our kids, HAL has felt the least “kid friendly”. Although the crew in general was absolutely wonderful and accommodating, several didn’t seem quite “at ease” with children as what we’ve experienced on other cruise lines. 

 

It’s been hard to determine specifically what makes my kids love a specific cruise line or kids club. We sailed on the Disney Fantasy 2 years ago, and they weren’t as excited about that as I thought, specially considering the premium that they charge. Last year we sailed on the MSC Meraviglia in the Mediterranean and we couldn’t pry the kids away from the kids club (they did say they loved the Lego partnership and the indoor sports complex). We just returned from a dirt cheap cruise on Carnival’s oldest ship, the Fantasy, out of Mobile and the kids have been on severe cruise withdrawal (lol). They also said that it’s been one of their most fun cruises ever (whaaaaaat?!?). I keep asking them specifically what they liked and they just say “I don’t know. It was fun!”

 

As my kids get older, they are gradually showing more interest in flashier ships with more “amusement park like” entertainment (specially my 9 year old son). He’s salivating over the rollercoaster on Carnival’s new Mardi Gras. I personally prefer a more “traditional” and sedate experience. I currently have my eyes on the Niew Statendam, and I hope that it provides enough of a “happy medium” to keep kids and parents happy. We’ll see.

 

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21 hours ago, CDP Cruiser said:

My now 8 year old son has been cruising every year (sometimes twice a year) on HAL since he was 6 months old.  He actually just received his bronze medallion last year for having sailed more than 100 days with HAL. He is an only child and is autistic with ADHD. He doesn’t like large groups of kids as he feels out of place and he feels stressed with loud noises.  The reason we love HAL is because there are less kids on board versus other cruise lines. We’ve done Celebrity and Norwegian with him but he didn’t like the fact that there were so many children in the club all the time. He loves HAL because the groups are small so he gets more attention from the staff and the activities are more “personal” since they get a lot of 1:1 time with the staff.  There have been at least 3 cruises where he has been the only child on-board.  Those times he loved being able to have free reign of the games he would play with the staff.  It was so hard to pull him away when it was time for lunch or dinner as he wanted to spend the whole day at the club.  There are plenty of activities for kids of all ages. Toys and board games along with art projects for younger kids and they have movies and gaming consoles like a WII on-board for the older kids to use.  Although there are no fancy activities like rock climbing or ice skating or water slides, I find there is still a lot to do at the club. Hope this helps!

 

This is really great to read. Our two are via foster care and my youngest who is now 8, will be 9 at the time of the cruise next year, has a few sensory issues - doesn't like anything too crowded, doesn't like a lot of noise etc. We did a Carnival in school holidays and it was hell...for all of us. We also did a Carnival out of school holidays which was much better. 

 

So I think you are also saying that there is definitely kids club even if there are minimal children on-board - that is great. Our cruise is quite port heavy and our two didn't really like Carnival kids club but always great to have the option there. I think small groups would definitely be better for our two. 

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On 3/7/2019 at 7:54 PM, shudie said:

 

This is really great to read. Our two are via foster care and my youngest who is now 8, will be 9 at the time of the cruise next year, has a few sensory issues - doesn't like anything too crowded, doesn't like a lot of noise etc. We did a Carnival in school holidays and it was hell...for all of us. We also did a Carnival out of school holidays which was much better. 

 

So I think you are also saying that there is definitely kids club even if there are minimal children on-board - that is great. Our cruise is quite port heavy and our two didn't really like Carnival kids club but always great to have the option there. I think small groups would definitely be better for our two. 

Club HAL is always open, even when my son was the only child on-board.  Out of courtesy to the staff, we would always give them advance notice if my son wasn’t going to the club that day. The staff were allowed to go out in port or even take a well deserved break the days he wasn’t in the club.  When we knew we were going to a port where we would be doing a lot of walking or sightseeing, we sometimes would leave him for the day at the Club as he was still young and really didn’t have an interest in sightseeing. He loved that he could stay on-board and play games and do art. You do have to leave a cellphone number where they can call you if there is an emergency but it made the trip that much better for all of us.  My husband and I didn’t need to worry that he was bored or unhappy walking in port with us and we had the piece of mind that he was safe and happy on-board with the staff. Enjoy your cruise!

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On 3/6/2019 at 6:46 PM, CDP Cruiser said:

My now 8 year old son has been cruising every year (sometimes twice a year) on HAL since he was 6 months old.  He actually just received his bronze medallion last year for having sailed more than 100 days with HAL. He is an only child and is autistic with ADHD. He doesn’t like large groups of kids as he feels out of place and he feels stressed with loud noises.  The reason we love HAL is because there are less kids on board versus other cruise lines. We’ve done Celebrity and Norwegian with him but he didn’t like the fact that there were so many children in the club all the time. He loves HAL because the groups are small so he gets more attention from the staff and the activities are more “personal” since they get a lot of 1:1 time with the staff.  There have been at least 3 cruises where he has been the only child on-board.  Those times he loved being able to have free reign of the games he would play with the staff.  It was so hard to pull him away when it was time for lunch or dinner as he wanted to spend the whole day at the club.  There are plenty of activities for kids of all ages. Toys and board games along with art projects for younger kids and they have movies and gaming consoles like a WII on-board for the older kids to use.  Although there are no fancy activities like rock climbing or ice skating or water slides, I find there is still a lot to do at the club. Hope this helps!

My son has Autism as well and we are traveling on the NS in April. We have never cruised with him before and only have experience cruising with our older child (now an adult) with no disabilities.  Does HAL offer any accommodations for Autism? I filled out the online disability forms but have not heard anything back yet.  Looking for possible alternative boarding areas with less crowds/lines etc.  in case of sensory overload/meltdown.

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14 hours ago, CDP Cruiser said:

Club HAL is always open, even when my son was the only child on-board.  Out of courtesy to the staff, we would always give them advance notice if my son wasn’t going to the club that day. The staff were allowed to go out in port or even take a well deserved break the days he wasn’t in the club.  When we knew we were going to a port where we would be doing a lot of walking or sightseeing, we sometimes would leave him for the day at the Club as he was still young and really didn’t have an interest in sightseeing. He loved that he could stay on-board and play games and do art. You do have to leave a cellphone number where they can call you if there is an emergency but it made the trip that much better for all of us.  My husband and I didn’t need to worry that he was bored or unhappy walking in port with us and we had the piece of mind that he was safe and happy on-board with the staff. Enjoy your cruise!

 

Wow - that is great news re it always being open. So good to have that option if needed. Yes, makes sense to notify them if there are so few kids on-board. 

 

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