Walk to dinner aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship Norwegian Epic, and you might bump into SpongeBob SquarePants.

But the Nickelodeon network character, part of the standard on-board entertainment on some Norwegian ships, won’t invade your room and won’t cost you anything.

Not so for Mattel Inc.’s Barbie. To meet her on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you’ll have to pay extra – but you’ll get to stay in a stateroom decorated in Barbie pink.

Starting in January, Miami’s Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will offer passengers a special Barbie package that includes Barbie-themed activities and souvenirs. It will cost $349 per child – on top of the cost of the cruise. The two companies announced the Barbie package last week.

Called the Barbie Premium Experience, the package is aimed at girls age 4 to 11 and goes on sale next month for a limited number of ships. By March, Royal Caribbean plans to make the package available on all 22 of its ships, which visit the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and other destinations.

The open seas are new territory for the El Segundo toy company, but the Barbie-branded packages are just the latest on-board entertainment offering from cruise lines that have been trying to bring in more passengers and revenue since traffic fell by as much as 25 percent during the recession.

The package includes a specially decorated stateroom with a Barbie blanket, pillowcase, tote bag and toothbrush, all of which guests can take home. But the heart of the package is the bevy of activities geared toward fans of the iconic doll.

Activities include a tea party during which girls will learn table etiquette while sipping pink lemonade and noshing on pink pastries. Add in a dance class where they’ll learn moves from the latest Barbie movie and a design workshop that culminates in a dance recital and fashion show.

All that pink could help Royal Caribbean attract new customers, said Teijo Niemala, publisher of Kerava, Finland trade publication Cruise Business Review.

“I think it helps for people who might be a little hesitant to go on a cruise in the first place,” he said. “That can be a gimmick for them to buy a cruise.”

Focusing on young girls also plays into Royal Caribbean’s strategy of catering to young and middle-aged families rather than to older, more luxury-minded customers.

Royal Caribbean and Mattel officials did not return calls for comment. The companies described the Barbie offering as a partnership when it was announced last week but did not disclose further details.


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