The Barbie Girls pose for photos after their fashion show. // © 2013 Ken Shapiro
It’s no secret that cruising makes for a great family vacation, but I got to witness this fact firsthand when my 8-year-old daughter, Sally, and I took a spring break cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. That week, Oasis, the largest passenger ship in the world, carried the largest group of happy, excited kids in one place that I have ever seen. With all those princes and princesses onboard, Sally might have felt like just another face in the crowd. Luckily, however, she was participating in Royal Caribbean’s new Barbie Premium Experience and, at every turn, she was spoiled by plenty of special attention.
Launched in January, the exclusive Barbie Premium Experience is the first partnership between a cruise line and the iconic Mattel toy brand. On our sailing, there were about 15 girls, ranging in age from 5 to 9 years old, who were participating in the program — a small enough group that the girls had a chance to get to know each other and make fast friendships (something we parents appreciated).
The program began as soon as Sally and I boarded Oasis. On our stateroom door was a sign proclaiming “Barbie Girl Onboard,” which led to our stateroom neighbors asking Sally if she was a famous Barbie celebrity. (Of course, Sally loved that.) Once inside, our stateroom was decked out with special pink touches, including a Barbie blanket and pillow on the bed. There was also a brand-new Barbie doll, along with several doll-size outfits. A Barbie Girls’ agenda for the week informed Sally of all the special events and reminded her to bring her Barbie along to all of the happenings.
Included with the welcome package was also a Barbie Girls Onboard pin that Sally wore around the ship. Thanks to the pin, she was soon meeting other Barbie Girls and hanging out with them in the kids’ club and around the pool.
The first Barbie Girls event was a Tiaras and Teacups Party. This private reception, hosted by staff from the ship’s kids’ club, was held in one of the empty dining rooms and it was available only to families participating in the package. All the girls (and their Barbie dolls) sat around a long table as they enjoyed pink pastries and pink lemonade and got to know each other. They were also given hilarious etiquette lessons by staff members who seemed to enjoy providing examples of what not to do.
The next sea day, the Barbie Girls were back together for a private dance class and a “Fashion Designer Workshop.” The dance class gave the girls a chance to rehearse for something that was to come later on in the cruise. During the workshop, the girls learned how to sketch outfits for their dolls just like real fashion designers.
The final event was a Barbie Fashion Show. The event took place during the day in one of the ships’ nightclubs, decked out in, what else, hot pink. With an audience of around 50 family members in attendance, the girls came out one at a time, talked on stage with the “host” of the fashion show and then did their best runway walk — accompanied by their very stylish Barbie dolls. Once all the girls had come out, the group performed the two dance numbers they had learned earlier in the week in dance class.
The whole show was beyond adorable, and it was a lot of fun to see even the shyest girls sporting hot-pink feather boas and sunglasses and acting fierce on the runway.
At $349 per child, the cost of the Barbie Premium Experience is about the same as many of the shore excursions but, of course, it runs the entire length of the cruise. For the right girl — a Barbie fan who could benefit from an easy way to meet other girls — the program is a sure winner.