In an email sent to booked guests, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the temporary suspension of its Splash Academy youth program. In its place, a variety of family-friendly activities will be offered, but parents must attend with their children.
Youth Program Suspended
An email sent to guests booked on upcoming Norwegian sailings has outlined the suspension of the Splash Academy program, Norwegian’s supervised youth program for ages 5-12. The email reads:
“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic and CDC Guidelines, Splash Academy will not be offering drop-off services during your sailing for children ages 5-12 years old.”
Splash Academy is Norwegian Cruise Line’s youth program with three tiers available for the young cruisers: Turtles (ages 3-5), Seals (ages 6-9), and Dolphins (ages 10-12). Activities vary at each tier and often include craft projects, sensory play, parades, storytelling, and treasure hunts for the youngest cruisers; circus skills classes, games, theme nights, and team-building for middle youth ages; and take overs, scavenger hunts, sports, and video games for the oldest children.
Booked passengers have confirmed receiving this email for upcoming January and February sailings on the Norwegian Breakaway, currently sailing from New Orleans, as well as the Norwegian Getaway, currently sailing from Miami and transitioning to New York in February.
It is likely the suspension is valid fleet-wide on all Norwegian cruise ships currently sailing, though exceptions may be made if individual circumstances on a voyage may permit or if local guidelines vary for non-United States homeports.
At this time, the Entourage Teen Program, which offers activities for ages 13-17, is still available, offering more advanced circus skill classes, movie nights, sports tournaments, theme parties, and more.
Alternative Activities Offered
While Splash Academy is not currently available, the email goes on to state that:
“We will be providing tailored activities for youth and families on board. We are offering a range of daily activities from relaxing movie nights and game shows to our fun Feel Free Play sessions. Feel Free Play is not a drop off service and parents must attend the session with their children.”
The extent of activities offered is not mentioned, and will likely vary on different ships based on the number of young cruisers aboard, staffing availability, and COVID-19 protocols if there are positive cases recorded during a sailing. Guests are encouraged to check the Freestyle Daily newsletter or the NCL mobile app for details during their voyage.
Guests are also advised that “To ensure your health & safety, and with an abundance of care, all activities will follow the social distancing, sanitizing and mask protocols that are in place on board.”
Why Are Youth Programs Canceled?
There is no explanation offered beyond “ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic and CDC Guidelines” as to why Splash Academy is currently suspended, but there are several possible explanations.
Historically, January and February are months when there are fewest young cruisers, so this suspension is likely to impact fewer guests at this time. Furthermore, with cruise ship staffing impacted by COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols, it may be necessary to reduce staffing in some areas in order to maintain service levels for more popular onboard activities.
Temporarily changing to a parent-accompanied model rather than the drop-off service of Splash Academy may also permit activities to be spread to more areas of the ship, allowing for better social distancing as well as enhanced cleaning and sanitation between activities.
Flexibility Is Essential
As cruisers are rapidly learning in recent weeks, last-minute changes are becoming commonplace on cruises. This may mean canceled ports of call, itinerary changes, canceled entertainment, and onboard activity changes as health and safety protocols are adapted to a rapidly changing situation.
Above all, cruisers should remain flexible with their expectations at this time, and enjoy what peace, relaxation, and enjoyment cruising can bring them even as the situation evolves and circumstances change. It is critical to stay alert to changes that may affect an upcoming sailing, and to communicate with the cruise line if there are any problems or adjustments necessary.