CarnHorizonCampOcean02 - credit CCL Andy Newman
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Camp Ocean 101: Things to Know About Carnival’s Onboard Camp for Kids

One of the most asked questions I receive each time we go on a Carnival cruise? “Can you tell me more about Camp Ocean?”

So, it seemed only natural that I put together a list of FAQs and things to know about Camp Ocean – Carnival Cruise Line’s onboard camp for kids. Camp Ocean is filled with fun and a great team ready to make sure your kids have a great vacation too.

Camp Ocean 101 - Things to Know About Carnival's Onboard Camp for Kids

As mom to nine-year-old Maggie and Molly, eight years old and born with Down Syndrome, my girls have been fortunate (or spoiled!) to sail with Carnival Cruise Line numerous times — they know the in’s and out’s of cruising and I’ve decided that they actually like playing at Camp Ocean more than they like hanging out with me.

Here’s a look at everything you need to know about Carnival Cruise Line’s Camp Ocean —

What Are The Age Groups for Camp Ocean?

Kids ages 2 to 11 years old can participate in Camp Ocean activities. The kids are split up into age-appropriate groups with age-appropriate activities — the Penguins group is for 2 to 5-year-olds, the Stingrays group is for 6 to 8 years old, and all 9 to 11-year-olds are in the Sharks group.

Camp Ocean 101 FAQs - Entrance

Is There a Cost for Camp Ocean?

Camp Ocean is included in the overall cost of the cruise (aka FREE!) – fees only apply after 10 p.m. when the Night Owls programming begins, which is an additional $6.75 per hour per child, plus a 15% gratuity per child. Night Owls runs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night.

On select nights, the Night Owls programming host Owl Jams parties which are typically a flat rate of $15 per party, plus a 15% gratuity per child. My girls always want to stay on the party nights as they have themed activities, games and usually receive a fun gift to take home at the end of the night too.

Camp Ocean 101 Things to Know -- Gift Bags

What is the Check-In Experience Like at Camp Ocean?

When you do the online check-in for your cruise, be sure to sign your kids up for Camp Ocean. That will streamline the process once you get onboard.

You’ll be asked about any allergies, special needs, restrictions, etc. Plus, they’ll be ready to welcome you as soon as Camp Ocean opens! (TIP: Camp usually opens on the first day at 10 p.m. for Night Owls, the next morning they’ll be ready for everyone to arrive at camp.)

Camp Ocean Collage

You can designate who can check your child in and out of Camp Ocean, even if you have family members (grandparents, etc.) staying in a different room. When you arrive at Camp Ocean, your child will find their name tag, they’ll be asked to wash their hands and then they’ll be ready to join the activities.

If your child is in the Sharks group (ages 9 to 11) you can decide whether they are allowed to check themselves in and out without being accompanied by a parent.

Will My Child Like Camp Ocean?

My girls get mad when I come to pick them up from Camp Ocean — they always want to stay longer and that makes me so incredibly happy. The crew at Camp Ocean does a fantastic job at making everyone feel welcome and the schedule of events is filled with a variety of fun and themed activities throughout the day, so your child can definitely find something that interests them.

Camp Ocean Interior - Camp Ocean 101 FAQs

There’s not much interaction between the age groups, so if you have siblings of different ages, they may not spend too much time together during their time at camp. (And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!)

If your child is feeling anxious about Camp, stop by for a tour on embarkation day. You’ll be able to meet some of the staff, pick up a schedule of events for your age group and take a look around at the games, crafts, books, movies and more ready for playing. My girls usually go through the Schedule of Events and circle their ‘can’t’ miss’ activities.

Can My Child Stay at Camp Ocean While I Go On A Shore Excursion? 

Yep! Our girls have chosen to stay onboard the ship a few times, rather than get off in a port. While we don’t leave them for too long, it is fun for us to explore a city for a few hours on our own. Just recently in St. Kitts, the girls wanted to stay at Camp Ocean, so my husband and I ventured out to shop and have a drink in town. Perfect date!

St. Kitts View from Ship

Plus, on port days, Camp Ocean is a bit quieter since most families are off the ship exploring, so they can pick and choose activities they’d like to do during the day.

Which leads me to the food questions….

Is There Food Available at Camp Ocean?

Yes and no. On sea days, there is no scheduled lunch so you’ll have to pick your child up when you are ready for them to eat.

On Port Days, if your child is at camp, typically they will take campers to the Lido deck for a kid-friendly lunch. Be sure to ask about the staff about the day’s lunch plans on port days. During typical Camp Ocean hours, there are no snacks made available.

During Night Owls activities, they’ll typically offer a small snack of Goldfish crackers, pretzels, etc and either juice or water. I’ve seen that vary depending on the ship, so be sure to ask the Camp Ocean team when you check-in.

Camp Ocean Penguins FAQs

Camp Ocean does host a kid-friendly dinner nightly on the Lido Deck, usually at 6 p.m. Check the Camp Ocean schedule for the time and the menu for the evening. You can enjoy a kid-free dinner in the dining room or a signature dining restaurant (hello, Steakhouse!) and your kids can eat with their new camp friends. Everyone is happy. On our last sailing, my girls opted for Camp Ocean dinner six out of eight nights.

What If There Is An Emergency?

Every child is given a green, plastic bracelet on embarkation day that tells their Muster station. (Aka your assigned area for emergencies and lifeboats!) If there is an onboard emergency during a sailing, Camp Ocean team members will take your child to their assigned Muster Station and wait for you to arrive there. Simple and efficient.

During the online check-in, you’ll be asked if you allow staffers to take your children to the ship doctor’s office, in case of emergency. And if your child does have an emergency while at Camp Ocean, they’ll locate you on the ship (probably via the loudspeaker) and handle the situation.

CarnHorizonCampOcean02 - credit CCL Andy Newman

image provided by Carnival Cruise Line / Andy Newman

When Molly was in the Penguins group, I asked if it was possible to receive a ship phone so they could call me directly in case of any emergencies. Since she has special needs, they were happy to accommodate my request. And out of our seven-day sailing, they only called me once — easy peasy. With that said, after our first sailing, I was much more at ease and haven’t requested a phone since that first sailing.

Tell Me About the Camp Ocean Staff

Last year, while sailing on the Carnival Liberty, the above card was delivered to our room — and it is just a true testament that the folks at Camp Ocean are a welcoming (and fun!) group of folks. I love that Melissa remembered my girls, even four years after we sailed on the Breeze. That’s pretty incredible!

Things to Know About Camp Ocean - Mail Collage

On every sailing, the team at Camp Ocean has been so accommodating with making sure everyone is having fun and comfortable with the activities.

My youngest daughter Molly has Down syndrome and I’ve never once felt hesitant dropping her off at camp. The team there are well-trained with kids of all abilities and ready for any situation.

What Do Kids Think About Camp Ocean?

What’s not to love? From arts and crafts to dance parties (lots of them!), active games, board games and even a few educational activities like erupting volcanos and ‘build your own craft aquarium’ – you’ll come home with some fun mementos of their time at camp.

For older kids in the Sharks group, there’s time for video games (but not too much!) and a bit of freedom in the Sharks area for plenty of fun. Kids make friends in no time and if your child is shy – Camp Ocean team members are great in helping them warm up to the new situations.

things to know about camp ocean - mr potato head

What Else Would You Like to Know About Camp Ocean?

So what questions do you have that I may have missed answering about Camp Ocean? From food options to late-night activities and tips on enrolling in Camp before you get onboard the ship — there’s a lot to take in, but your kids will love the excitement and fun of Camp Ocean. And you will enjoy having some ‘kid-free’ time on the ship too!


Have Your Kids Been to Camp Ocean? 



** My family and I have a longstanding partnership with Carnival Cruise Line. The thoughts and opinions you see here are 100% my own – and my children’s too! ** 

Hi there!

I'm Carrie McLaren,

based in Jacksonville, Fla. Family travel is my passion and I want to help you succeed in making fantastic memories with your family.




  1. Charlotte

    Do you know what the rule is on going down an age group? My oldest will be just barely 9, and her little sister will be 7. They (usually) prefer to be together. Any knowledge on whether the older one will be allowed to back down a group and be with her sister?

    • Christie Stafford

      They do not usually allow kids to move to a different age group. I have had them allow my son though when he was just over the switch age. For him it was more about his development. He was really immature for the group he technically belonged in. When I suggested the change, the ladies at the camp said they were going to approach me about it. If you 9 year old has just turned 9 they will be more likely to allow a swap than if she is 9 1/2. Either way, you have to register her in the camp for her age group and then inquire about making a change.

  2. Matt

    Will I need to pick them during at the end of each of those 3 hour activity slots they mentioned for travel days, or can they just stay through to the next one? (I understand I’ll need to feed them breakfast/lunch).

  3. Leslie

    Does Camp Ocean allow for specifics for the campers? For example, we don’t allow our children to watch a lot of videos or have a lot of technology time and we are very specific about what they can watch? Is there room for that at camp?

  4. Michelle

    Is there an area for the kiddos to sleep if you sign them up for the night owls program?

  5. Jess

    just wondering if they have a place for little ones to nap? My three year old needs naps but we don’t want to sit in the room for 2-3 hours. Thanks. Love your review. Not a ton about it on our booking page, just basic so good to see more here.

  6. Leslie

    Hi….my daughter turned 12 in Janurary and we will be leaving for our cruise in June. Do you think they will make an exception so she is not separated from her cousins who are only 11.



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