Nick-At-Sea: SpongeBob's Parent Teams With Royal Caribbean

Nickelodeon and Royal Caribbean International are joining forces, launching the "Nickelodeon Family Cruise with Royal Caribbean," with its first cruise scheduled for August. Departing from Miami, the seven-day adventure will include guests like Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, and plenty of games featuring Nickelodeon's trademark green slime.

Nickelodeon, a division of MTV Networks, has been expanding its brand to hotels, theatrical shows and theme parks, and it says cruises represent a logical next step. "Combined with the ground-breaking of our first Marriott Hotel and the opening of the biggest indoor theme park in the country at the Mall of America, Nickelodeon will be offering more family experiences this year than ever before," it says in its release of the announcement.

A spokesperson says the company is targeting families with kids between the ages of 2 and 14--the target audience for Nickelodeon's TV programming. Marketing support includes TV, with spots running on Nickelodeon, Nicktoons and The N, and online banner ads on company-owned sites, including,, and, as well as print ads in Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. Magazine.



The move makes sense, experts say, and may even be well-timed. Disney, which created the segment when it launched the Disney Cruise line back in 1998, continues to be "the king of family branding," says Kyle McCarthy, a consultant and editor at "But Royal Caribbean has done a great job reaching out to a younger and younger market, including tie-ins with companies like Fisher-Price." (Fisher-Price has developed Aqua Babies and Aqua Tots learning classes for little cruisers.)

In addition, she says, the timing of this announcement might find an economic sweet spot. The family market is one of the fastest-growing segments of the cruise market, with more and more cruise lines offering larger rooms and amenities that appeal to families, extended families and doting grandparents, she says. And while a softer economy certainly impacts travel plans, "cruises, because of their fixed price, tend to be seen as a good value."

Nick passengers will cruise on RC's Freedom of the Seas, the largest ship in the cruise industry with a capacity of more than 4,000 passengers, with stops in Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and a special stop at Royal Caribbean's private beach destination, Labadee, which will be Nickelodeon-themed.

During the second quarter of 2007, the last period for which figures are available, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 16.1 million passenger nights were booked on North American cruises--up 2.5% from the same period a year earlier--and about 2.5 million passengers were carried on 1,063 cruises by the 17 largest cruise lines, the highest second-quarter levels in four years.

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