Best Cruise Lines for Teens
Match the ship’s personality to your teenager’s interests
Reality check – most teenagers don’t relish the idea of a cruise vacation entailing 24/7 togetherness with Mom and Dad or, egads, their younger siblings.
They’re going to want to go their own way, at least part of the time (a win-win proposition for most parents, too). Ensuring your hard-to-please teens have plenty of onboard activities to explore, places to chill and opportunities to mingle amongst their peers helps keep them engaged, entertained and, hopefully, out of trouble.
Cruises are often more about the journey than the destination(s), and these floating resorts pull out all the stops to lure passengers of all ages aboard. You need to do a little research before selecting a cruise with your adolescent in mind. After all, teenagers aren’t a one-size-fits-all demographic group and cruise lines aren’t interchangeable.
Furthermore, not all ships in a particular company’s fleet feature the kinds of facilities, amenities and programs you might have heard about. Once you have narrowed down your cruise line, time frame and ports-of-call, go online and seek out information about the specific vessel you’re considering. The last thing you want to do is hype your 16-year-old about the on-board surf simulator only to find out that ship has sailed.
It’s in a cruise line’s best interest to keep its teenage passengers happy. After all, they are the next generation of adult cruisers.
Here’s a quick overview of some popular programs and features out on the seas that appeal to a variety of teen types.
For Fun-Seeking Teens
Carnival bills itself as The Fun Ships and are one of the most recommended family-friendly cruise lines on the seas. They segment their youth programs between ages 12 to 14 (Circle C) and ages 15 to 17 (Club 02) to keep things age-relevant. Tween and teen fun includes activities like Freaky Food Fear Factor, Teen Idol, dance parties, spa programs and poolside movies, not to mention their signature water slides.
For Sporty/Active Teens
Programs are relatively unstructured on Royal Caribbean, letting older teens come and go as they please without too much commitment. They can lounge around places like the laid-back Living Room and then head to Fuel nightclub if they want to party. Cool offerings include improv classes, a DJ Academy, Wii games, dive-in movie/pool parties and jam sessions, not to mention action on the famous 43 ft. rock wall, H20 water park, skating rink, inline skating track, mini-golf course and Flow Rider wave simulator (some features only available on Freedom ships).
For Teens with Younger Siblings
Disney Cruise Line
Think your teen is too cool for Mickey? You may be inclined to assume this cruise line is geared towards younger kids, but they also cater to teenagers well, making it a good choice for families with a range of ages. The teen retreats Aloft and The Stack are the gathering points for teen activities like animation, film making and hip hop classes, plus there are pool parties, digital trivia contests and a wide range of other programs. Their big claim to fame is Castaway Cay, a private Bahamian island featuring an exclusive just-for-teens beach.
For Teens Looking to Hang Out
Holland American ships have set aside indoor and outdoor chill spaces exclusively for teenagers. At The Oasis lounge they can literally hang around in hammocks by a shipboard 9 ft. waterfall, cave and juice bar, and then meander into The Loft to listen to music on a state-of-the-art sound system. Luau parties, karaoke and Dance Dance Revolution contests get the fun going.
For the Gaming Teen
Norweigan Cruise Line
Norweigan has one of the newest fleets at sea, so facilities are the latest and greatest. They’ve developed the flexible, no-stress, “freestyle” cruising philosophy – no stuffy, communal, dress-up dining required here. Teens can try Nintendo Wii and XBox tournaments on a 2-storey plasma screen in the atrium. Norweigan also has rock walls and water slides to add a little action to the day.
For the Green Teen
Regent Seven Seas
Sailing to destinations like Tahiti and Alaska, Regent Seven Seas boasts the Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program, created by Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team of naturalists from the Oceans Future Society. Children from 9 to 17 participate in hands-on ecology projects, conservation activities, scientific experiments and nature watches that are both fun and educational – learn navigation with a sextant, examine plankton under a microscope, go whale watching. Ocean-themed art activities and special shore excursions make this a cool cruise for eco-conscious teens.
For Multi-Generational Family Travelers
On European and Caribbean itineraries, youthful passengers can enjoy activities like movies under the stars, golf simulators, music, teen spa programs, arcade games and PlayStations while older generations (parents and grandparents alike) are well taken care of. Some ships also have teen-only sundecks and Jacuzzis.