If you're a parent planning a family cruise with a teenager, you know they can be tough critics. The success of your family's vacation can often be determined by their level of approval.
The good news is your child is at the perfect age for vacation planning. Give them some parameters and definitely get them involved in the decision making process. Let the help you with the research and planning. Hopefully you're working with a travel agent so definitely include your teen in consult meeting or call. Often having a third party pro-compromiser, outside opinion, expert diplomat can take the heat off of you and set the right expectations. (yes, we travel agents do more than just book trips!)
A family cruise can be the perfect vacation choice for teens, especially those looking for a bit of independence...within limits of course. Parents, you're on a ship at sea. They can't go very far! Most of the family friendly cruise lines offer a plethora of interesting onboard attractions, sports, classes and games. In addition, there are supervised teen clubs and entertainment programing.
Discovering new destinations and exotic ports of call are also some of the best parts of a cruise vacation. Some cruise lines like Carnival and Disney offer teen only excursions. Teen club staff from the ship escort and supervise teen activities in certain ports of call for an additional charge. Know the rules and set the rules in advance with your teens to insure everyone has the right expectations and to prevent arguments in the moment. In addition, all the major family cruise lines have their own "private islands". Many Caribbean itineraries will visit these islands offering guests a beach day. Once again, there are plenty of fun activities for all ages. In addition, while many guests are enjoying the island, your teen may prefer to stay on board to beat the lines on surf simulators, waterslides and other ship board attractions.
So here are our staff picks for cruises that teens love:
When it comes to onboard activities that active families of all ages will love, Royal Caribbean is a winner. This is especially true of their fleet of Oasis class ships. Often when you're onboard it feels like you'll never be able to see and fit everything you want to do into a one week vacation. Maybe that's why so many of our families with teens sail with them year after year.
Where do we begin? Depending on your specific ship you can expect skydiving simulators, surf simulators, rock climbing, ice skating, zip lining, 10 story slides, waterparks, bumper cars...(see what we mean!). Nice part for kids, often these attractions are open specifically at certain times for teens only. At night, Royal Caribbean puts on broadway shows, diving shows, ice skating shows that are some of the best at sea.
Royal Caribbean's teen program is divided into two age groups: 12-14 year olds from 9:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. and 15-17 year olds from 10:00 p.m. until the wee hours. Sports, games, crafts and many other activities are offered throughout the day. There's a nightly teen disco and lots of themed parties. Teens can check the daily schedule and come and go as they please.
Disney Cruise Line
Isn't it amazing how the coolest, toughest, uninterested teen can instantly transported back into that adorable, lovable, 4 year old who is full of wonder the moment they meet their favorite Disney character. (Be warned, the magic happens with full fledged adults too). Don't be surprised if you teen doesn't think their too old for a Disney Cruise.
Disney is the granddaddy of family entertainment and they have conquered the high seas too. There is the thrilling over the side aquadunk slides, their magical broadway shows, Wide World of Sports and all those Disney characters we're dying to meet.
Tweens ages 11 - 14 can head to Edge, an interactive play space exclusively for them. Here they can enjoy latest high-tech music, video and gaming systems. Plus karaoke, scavenger hunts, themed nights and other special events.
Older teens ages 14 to 17 can kick back at Vibe lounge, which features a big-screen TV, music stations, video consoles, games, snacks, a dance floor and much more.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Where can teens walk the plank or drive a race car at sea? How about a sky high ropes course or a virtual reality world for laser tag? When it comes to fun activities and innovative fun, NCL has really stepped up their game with the newer ships in their fleet.
Norwegian's supervised teen program Entourage is open for all teens ages 13 - 17. In addition to supervised activities, crafts, games (traditional and electronic), entertainment workshops, lots of socializing, there's a party every night - College Night, White Hot Party, and Glow. Why some parents may have concerns about 13 year olds hanging out with 17 year olds, other families may prefer to have siblings or family members having fun together.
As side note for older teens ages 18-20, NCL is the only cruise line that will allow them to consume beer or wine only while in international waters (3 miles offshore) on itineraries other than Alaska and Hawaii. Parents must sign a waiver and of course be present onboard.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival offers their Circle C Club for tweens ages 12-14 and Club Os for teens ages 15 - 17. Club O2 is sponsored by Coca Cola and features exclusive access for teens. This supervised program does not allow anyone under 15 or those over 18 to participate. Lounge life here includes big screens for X-box and Nintendo gaming, Lights, DJ booth and dance move action are also on offer. A daily activity of scavenger hunts, sports and gaming tournaments and karaoke are part of a long list of fun things to do.
Also onboard teens can expect to enjoy waterslides, rope courses, IMAX and 4D thrill theaters and swim up movies with free popcorn.
Celebrity Cruise Line
Listen not every teen is into waterslides and disco parties. Celebrity has recently created the first ever, totally customizable camp at sea. Teens are separated by age with Junior teens ages 12-14 and Senior teens ages 15-17 in their fully supervised space call "The Basement". The vibe in this hangout place for teens is like an urban loft featuring social activities, the newest Xbox gaming consoles and titles, sports activities, teens-only late night dances. All activities are hosted and supervised by Youth Counselors. Teen events and activities are set up so teens can join in all day or come and go as they choose
Celebrity has creatively based all their teen programming around four fun-filled categories of interest—Art, Recreation, Culinary, and S.T.E.M., and have designed more than 500 activities overall in collaboration with partners like Lonely planet. The Antarus world explorer program offers the basics of Navigation, Time, Weather and more. With each session they come one step closer to becoming a world explorer and learn about the science and technology behind exploration with hands on experiments and media. Teens are invited to help younger sailors while parents and grandparents are also invited to join the fun. In addition, Celebrity recently added family friendly shore excursions to encourage more bonding and memories.
Princess cruises has recently upped their game but announcing their partnership with Discovery channel. Their new Camp Discovery destination-themed programs focusing on the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe will immerse young cruisers into the culture, nature and customs of these region. Fun challenges will include science activities and challenges created by the show "Mythbusters".
The hangout and socializing spot for teens on board for ages 13-17 is called the Beach House. teens can expect gaming tournaments, hip hop dance classes, sports and Rock the Boat parties complete with red carpet walks and mocktails.
So no worries parents, there's plenty on board for your kids to do and enjoy. It might actually make you look like a vacation hero or dare we say, actually appreciated for once!
Parents with tweens and teens over the age of 12 will certainly appreciate the fact that cruises charge by the number of passengers sharing a cabin and not their age. This means it will often cost you less to sail on a cruise than to stay in a resort that makes kids over the age of 13 pay full adult rates. Also remember, all your family's food 24/7 is included in your cruise fare. If you happen to be sailing with teenage boys who normally eat 24/7, just image the grocery savings...that's like winning the lottery!
WIFI is always a topic for conversation when vacation planning with teens. I do not intend on getting in the middle of any family discussions about whether "connected" or "unplugged" vacations are best. That's totally up to all y'all to fight over...I mean "discuss". Being connected is very important for many teens. If this is a "deal breaker" for your family vacation, one tip I would highly suggest is to sail on a much newer cruise ship. Older ships simply do not have the tech boasted by newer ships. Also know you do have to pay for internet service while out at sea. Again, it's your family's decision if you want to be connected in the middle of the ocean or catch up back home with free wifi service while in port.
So if we've convinced you to set sail with your teens, connect with us for a free consultation and discovery call.
Did you know our travel agent commission is already included in the advertised cruise prices you're seeing online? If you book it yourself, you get no help or service and the cruise line pocket's the profits.
Did you know we usually have unadvertised, exclusive cruise deals and perks that you won't find online or get by booking direct? See what you might discover by chatting with us!