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by Helen Rosengren Freedman


You stand with your group under a huge bucket of “slime”, waiting anxiously for its contents to devour you in a pool of yellowy-green muck. Sound like a great vacation? Get with it, Mom and Dad! This is the kind of stuff adored by SpongeBob Square Pants fans. And Wyndham resorts hasn’t missed a beat. They have SpongeBob, Nickelodeon’s hottest cartoon character, as their current mascot. Actually, they’re doing SpongeBob in such a big way, it makes you feel sorry for the childless people trying to snooze by the pool. When the regular SpongeBob Splash Party hits the water, it becomes a fine test of the Biological Tick Tock — the kids go wild! A huge blow-up of SpongeBob’s pineapple-under-the-sea-house is erected; the pool is set up for splash games like pool volleyball, family limbo, jellyfish tossing and SpongeBob’s briefs relay. Kid activity staffers turn up the volume and the kids go non-stop. After dinner one night recently, we ran into a young couple we’d met earlier. Their adorable 3-year-old, who we’d spotted dancing his little legs off at the Splash Party and following fast on the heels of the SpongeBob costumed character who appears at all the activities, was now fast asleep. He would miss the Dive-In Movie that night, another of the theme activities; kids (and parents, too) grab tubes and rafts and float in the pool while watching SpongeBob episodes al fresco. It’s a perfect wind-down after days filled with a myriad of fun in the sun. Kids and parents doing things together is the idea behind Wyndham’s Family Retreat, the program they introduced three years ago. They believed that because parents were spending more time at work, not less, vacation time was the opportunity for families to reconnect. Rather than send youngsters off to the resorts’ kids’ clubs (although you can do that, too), they designed programs that all family members can do together. These include ‘Campfire Celebrations’ which combine campfire traditions with local culture and cuisine; and ‘Cooking with the Chef’ classes, where kids prepare a special meal for their parents under the guidance of the resort chef. But for SpongeBob fans ages 3-12, the current program offers a vacation to remember with themed scavenger hunts, face painting, sand sculpting, and ice cream sundae bars, as well as the Splash Parties; special SpongeBob food (like Barnacle Burgers and Squidward-etti) on resort menus; and upon arrival — a SpongeBob beachball and beach towel awaits in each room. Kids under 12 also get free breakfast when accompanied by a parent. We experienced the SpongeBob extravaganza at the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and Spa in Puerto Rico. Here, aside from poolside fun, you can swim, play beach games, and go horseback riding at the resort’s private island, Palomino, where frequent ferry service provides the transportation. The famous El Yunque rainforest with its spectacular trails and waterfalls is a half-hour drive from the resort. You can also take a catamaran to snorkel out on the reef, and memorable are the night kayaking trips into a phosphorescent lagoon filled with glowing plankton (minimum age 6 for this one). The SpongeBob Package is being offered at the following Wyndham Resorts: El Conquistador in Los Croabas, P.R.; Condado Plaza in San Juan; Aruba Beach; Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Sugar Bay in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.; and Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace in the Bahamas. Call 1-866-WYN-SPONGE, or go online at: www.wyndham.com.


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