Top Ships for Teens
Teens are a special breed of cruise-ship passenger (just as they often seem to be a special breed in need of entertaining back on land). Older teens, especially, don't want to be lumped into the kiddie-pool area, but they also will not be allowed into the grown-up spaces aboard cruise ships such as casinos and wine bars, even if they are more mature than half the people already inside. Teenagers can often feel stuck in between two catered-to age groups on cruise ships, just as they occasionally do back home.
A handful of cruise ships have lounges and discos created especially for teens. In a few cases you can even find a “teen center” separate from the children's activity zone aboard. For the most part, a cruise ship with a lot of outdoor activities as well as at least one indoor teen-friendly area will work for your older children—especially when combined with excursions that they will find interesting ashore.
As is the case with the best boats for family cruises in general, Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean are the companies that most frequently pop up in surveys ranking the best cruises for older children and teenagers. Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, and Princess Cruises also get the occasional nod, just as they do for cruises with younger children.
The popular and informative Web site CruiseMates.com did a survey of teenagers themselves to find out which particular ships their age group prefers. Royal Caribbean and Carnival dominated the list.
Here is what CruiseMates.com ended up ranking as its Top Ten, with the most popular ships for teens listed first:
Mariner of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Navigator of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Adventure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Each of these ships has the kinds of amenities you might expect teenagers to rate highly, from teen-friendly clubs with names like Fuel and Frankenstein's Lab to onboard activity areas including rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, and miniature golf courses. These ships also tend to have more teenagers aboard than any other cruise line—more new friends for your child to hang out with—so perhaps that factors into the survey results, as well. If you plan to spend the majority of your time aboard the ship and not in port, or if you are taking a “cruise to nowhere,” you may want to book one of these ships so that your teenagers will have plenty of options for keeping busy.
As with family-friendly cruising in general, your teenagers will also find dedicated activities for their age group aboard Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Lines, Princess Cruises, and Radisson Seven Seas Cruises—but perhaps in a less-abundant, subtler way. Instead of a water slide and a basketball court, for instance, you might find a pizza party or a teens’ card tournament.
No matter which cruise company you choose, if your child is a more studious type who would rather read books and learn about your cruising destinations than scream all night in a disco, you might consider putting your vacation dollars into a trip that offers an exotic itinerary instead of a rock-climbing wall. That way, the ship won't be a destination unto itself, and your teenager can join you in focusing on a bit more adventurous exploration ashore.