When Carnival Cruise Line announced the roll out earlier this year of its at-sea version of the globally popular toy store activity Build-A-Bear Workshop, there were some initial nerves on just how much like the land-based version it would be and whether they would be able to properly bring the concept alive.

Armed with the help of our very own junior cruiser (who was only too eager to help), Cruise Advice jumped aboard Carnival Legend yesterday to put the new Build-A-Bear Workshop program through its cuddly and fluffy paces.

It’s important to note from the outset that the teddy building program is not available on a ‘come when you’re ready’ basis. As part of the existing Camp Ocean Kids Club, this feature is run on multiple occasions per cruise, but only at set times – so you’ll need to keep your eye on your daily ‘Fun Times’ newsletter to see when it is open.

Some of the outfit options for your new Build-A-Bear.
Some of the outfit options for your new Build-A-Bear.

We loved the way the program is set up, with one of the numerous kids club spaces onboard turned into the Build-A-Bear Workshop for a day. Every detail you would see in the onshore equivalent is there, from beautiful displays of the many items of bear clothing on offer, to the patented stuffing machine are all there and accounted. The Camp Ocean crew even turn into Build-A-Bear employees for the day, complete with special aprons and T-shirts.

During our visit, our junior cruiser had his name taken and was given a soft red heart. This heart would be used later as the literal heartbeat in each of their finished bears – after a cute “heart activation” ceremony.

While there is a slightly smaller selection of ten bears from which to choose, each child is invited to select his or her favourite style and this was a relatively quick and painless process for even the fussiest of children. The children (and big kids at heart taking part) are then allowed to stuff their bear using Build-A-Bear’s stuffing machine. This was quite an enjoyable process for many of the kids, with most taking great pleasure in controlling how much stuffing their stuffed animal had, using the foot pedal controls.

The famed stuffing machine is a popular part of the Build-A-Bear process.
The famed stuffing machine is a popular part of the Build-A-Bear process.

Moving along from the stuffing machine, it was time to dress our bears from a huge range of outfits on offer.

The selection was quite extensive, with skeleton suits, cargo pants and even branded Carnival Cruise Line T-shirts from which to choose, there was something for every bear, with shoes and accessories to match also available.

Parents and those responsible for the final bill at the end of the cruise should take note that there is a cost for every outfit and accessory added. Our junior cruiser restricted himself to one outfit and pair of shoes – making the bear look great, without breaking the bank. It is easy to quickly run up a large tab on outfits and shoes alone.

Our Carnival Cruise Line Build-A-Bear gets stitched up in preparation for the outfitting process.
Our bear gets stitched up in preparation for the outfitting process.

When fully stuffed, stitched and outfitted there is one final step to the process – giving your newfound friend a voice. A selection of conventional, yet customisable voice boxes are available in both female and male voices. For an added quirk, kids will also find a range of “character” voices available to choose from with both comical accents and famous voices rounding out the choices.

Once your bear has its sound, kids are then invited to “give birth” to their bear or animal, with a fully included birth certificate outlining the details of the big day for your little one’s new friend. A special “bear bag” is included to act as a home for the finished product as it travels the oceans with you during your Carnival cruise.

The "family" of bears created during our time at Carnival's Build-A-Bear Workshop.
The “family” of bears created during our time at Carnival’s Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Overall, we loved the experience offered by Carnival. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind opportunity unlike any other at sea which is sure to put an enormous smile on little faces.

This joyous look was plainly evident on the face of our junior cruiser at the end of the day, which more than cancels out the additional cost of participating in the activity in an already comprehensive Camp Ocean kids club program.

Build-A-Bear Workshop at sea is offered onboard both of Carnival Cruise Line’s two Australian ships, Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend. The participation fee starts from AUD$30 as a base price for each bear and and AUD$10 for each outfit and accessory. Numbers are limited for each session and bookings can be placed through the Camp Ocean Kids Counsellors. It is highly recommended to book early to secure your place.