Summer Family Vacations are practically an institution here in the USA. I usually pack up the kids and we trek across Arizona and New Mexico so that we can spend time with family in Texas. Last summer we spent some time with my Aunt who lives and New Braunfels, Tx, home of one of the country’s largest water parks, the Schlitterbahn. With so many of the kid friendly ships having some sort of water recreation area, I thought I might be nice to share my experience at the Schlitterbahn and compare it to the typical experience that one might have with the water recreation areas on a cruise.
If I had to use one word to describe the Schlitterbahn, it would have to be crowded. We went in the middle of the week on a non-holiday week and still the lines for many of the rides were over 1 hour long. That was an hour wait, many times in a stair tower, to go on a water coaster that lasted less than 30 seconds. You can imagine we did not do many of the water coaster rides. Now granted, while the water coasters have the longest lines, some of the more traditional rides have slightly shorter waits at around 35-45 minutes. Even so we spent much more time waiting for rides than we did actually riding on those rides. On the positive side, the Schlitterbahn has many tube flume rides that last about 10 to 15 minutes, so the 35-45 minute waits for those rides seem much more worth it. They also have a lazy river, rushing river, and smaller slides with no wait. The park also has the Boogie Bahn which is much like Royal Caribbeans FlowRider. The wait for the Boogie Bahn was about 30 minutes, but we could watch others attempt to ride it with varying degrees of success while in line. Tickets for a one day admission are around $60 per person when purchased as a single day, and $39 per person per day when purchased as a two day pass. Visitors can pack a picnic lunch and food is also available for purchase.
Cruise Ship Water Parks
Many of the newest cruise ships that target families are putting in different types of water attractions. Royal Caribbean ships have splash areas for small children and the famous FlowRiders on their newest ships. Columbus Cove on their private “island” in Labadee, Haiti, features inflatable water attractions. Carnival and Norwegian have water slides on many of their newer or recently upgraded ships. The Breeze and Miracle, among other Carnival ships, have large colorful slides that rival any theme park. The brand new Norwegian Epic and the upcoming Breakaway both feature extensive slides and water features. On Half Moon Cay, the private island utilized by Carnival and many of its sister brands, guest can enjoy a multitude of ocean related activities like snorkeling, but they also have some kid friendly water slides on the island as well. Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay now features a huge inflatable water slide in addition to their other water related attractions. Disney’s newest ship, The Disney Dream, feature the “Aqua-Duck” which is a huge water coaster that has a clear tube even extends out over the side of the ship. Other ships like the Disney Wonder have a two story corkscrew slide next to the main pool deck. Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, features the Pelican Plunge water slide area.
In the case of the private islands, access to the amenities is limited strictly to guest arriving by the corresponding cruise company that owns the private island. This is going to keep the guest from experiencing the huge crowds we had at the park in Texas. However, the problem of crowding may be slightly evident if there is more than one ship at the private island at a time.
When thinking about the water slides on the ship, perhaps the best aspect is the ability for passengers to avoid crowds on select days. Some friends of mine recently went on the brand new Carnival Breeze which features two huge theme park sized water slides. They said that on a few port days they chose to stay on board and their kids practically had the water slides to themselves. When I was at the Schlitterbahn, I asked if they ever had uncrowded days and they said they are pretty much full from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so there is not much opportunity to avoid crowds there. Even on sea days the number of people waiting in line for the slides on a cruise ship would be miniscule compared to the massive amounts of people waiting in lines at the Texas based water park. The children on board would probably number in the hundreds, and the number of kids wanting to use the slide at any given time is made smaller due to the many other children’s activities offered on board.
When evaluating plans for your family’s next vacation, it might be a good idea to consider the crowd control advantages that cruising might have over a water park and the overall value of a cruise verses a theme park land vacation.