A Family-Friendly Cruise Includes Youth Programs

Splash Academy Youth ProgramsIf you are thinking about  taking a family cruise, you need to know more about the ship than if it has laundry services, kid-friendly meals, and on board medical care; you need to think about the availability of youth programs that are age appropriate, interesting, and well supervised by staff that are experienced in caring for and recreating children.

During the December holidays, I took a cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway that I would describe, not only as kid-friendly, but family friendly as well. Each morning, before I got on an elevator near my cabin, I caught a brief glimpse of young children making their way into one of the youth programs sites for a day of learning activities, games, crafts, and free play with new friends.

The Breakaway’s Splash Academy hosts complimentary youth programs that provide children with fun-filled days at sea. Programs give parents the opportunity to enjoy a variety of cruise activities knowing their children are well supervised, and enjoy meeting and playing with others their own age.

Given my years of running a preschool and  seasonal day camps, I was interested in learning more about the Splash Academy and its youth programs while at sea, and when in ports of call. I was given permission to meet with the manager of the youth programs, Carlos Perez. Carlos gave me a tour of the several large, well-maintained and colorfully decorated recreation rooms that are home to the Splash Academy on the 12th floor of the ship.

As Carlos described the youth programs, children are grouped by age and activities as follows:

  • Guppies – ages 6 months to 2 years. Parents participate in the activities, which take place in the Guppies Playroom and are hosted by a certified staff. Activities include, but are not limited to, sensory play, music and movement, ball play and building with blocks.
  • Turtles – Ages 3-5 years. Programs take place in the main Splash Academy recreation areas and include: Arts and crafts, painting, games, sensory play, storytelling, developmental activities, parades and treasure hunts.
  • Seals – Ages 6-9 years. Programs are held in the Splash Academy recreation areas and include: Circus Skills and Show (Scarf Juggling, Plate Spinning, Devil Sticks, and Rope Spinning) theme nights, painting, sports and games, parades, treasure hunts, and video games
  • Dolphins – Ages 10-12 years. Programs are in Splash Academy recreation areas and include: Entourage Takeover, Circus skills and Show (Stilts, Ball Juggling, Chinese Yo-Yo, Plate Spinner and Devil Sticks) scavenger hunts, sports and team building, theme nights, and video games.
  • Entourage – Teens get to hang out and play video games, see movies, enjoy music and sports with others their own age in supervised teen centers around the ship.

During days at sea, Splash Academy is open from 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm and 7pm until 10:30 pm.

Carlos shared that Splash Academy has a staff of over 25+ men and women experienced in providing youth programs for children. During my tour, I was impressed to see the modern equipment, and well maintained play areas. The kitchen area and bathroom facilities are sized appropriately for young children.

On the last day of the trip, the children who participated in the youth programs, put on a production for their families and other shipboard guests.

Norwegian Breakaway delivered a cruise experience for the whole family. Thanks to Splash Academy, parents had free time to enjoy shipboard activities. In addition, kid friendly meals, pool time fun as a family, and other shared activities made for a family-friendly cruise.

Not every cruise line offers youth programs, and not all youth programs are created equal; make sure you pick a cruise that has youth programs that will interest each of your children.

 

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Turtles as Pets

turtles

Here comes summer complete with walks in the woods, camping, and other outdoor activities that can bring children in contact with turtles and other reptiles. The Centers for Disease Control, CDC want you to be aware of the germs that turtles and reptiles may carry that can make people sick.

According to the CDC turtles and other reptiles are risky pets.

Turtles are colorful and cute and are often kept as pets. However, many people don’t know that turtles and other reptiles like snakes and lizards can carry harmful germs that can make people very sick. For this reason, turtles and other reptiles might not be the best pets for your family, particularly if there are young children, 5 years-old and younger, or people with weakened immune systems in your home.

Turtles, and other reptiles, often carry a germ called Salmonella, but appear perfectly healthy and clean. People think these infections are caused only by contaminated food, but these germs can also be caught by touching animals, including reptiles or amphibians, such as frogs. Salmonella infections can also result from having contact with an animal’s habitat, including the water from containers or tanks where they live.

Salmonella germs can make people sick with diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and sometimes abdominal cramps. This illness is called “salmonellosis.” Some people can become so sick that they need to go to the hospital. In severe illnesses, the Salmonella bacteria may spread to the bloodstream and can lead to death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Young children are at increased risk for Salmonella illness because their immune systems are still developing. They also are more likely to put their fingers or other items that have come into contact with germs into their mouths. So, families with young children should avoid keeping turtles as pets, and turtles should not be allowed in schools or child care facilities with young children.

Since 1975, it has been illegal in the United States to sell or distribute small turtles with shells that measure less than 4 inches in length. This size was chosen because young children are more likely to treat smaller turtles as toys and put them in their mouths. This ban, enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, likely remains the most effective public health action to prevent Salmonella infections associated with turtles.

Since 2006, CDC has received reports of 11 multistate outbreaks, including 6 ongoing outbreaks, and more than 535 cases of laboratory-confirmed Salmonella infections linked to contact with small turtles and their habitats. These illnesses resulted in about 85 hospitalizations and one death. Because many people with salmonellosis do not seek medical care or are not tested, it is estimated that 16 times as many illnesses occurred than were reported.

Tips to reduce the risk of illness from turtles and other reptiles:

1. Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

3. Don’t let young children handle or touch reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or tanks.

4. Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.

5. Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

6. Don’t touch your mouth after handling reptiles and do not eat or drink around these animals.

7. Don’t let reptiles roam freely throughout the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, pantries, or outdoor patios.

For more information on protecting yourself and your family from illness and to learn more about safely cleaning reptile habitats, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaFrogTurtle/

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