It's no secret that a dissatisfied teen on vacation can create a messy imbalance among an otherwise happy family. Parents are wise to seriously consider their teen's personality and input when choosing a cruise ship for their next family cruise. Today's cruise ships cater to teens more than ever before with increasingly larger teen clubs (some of which have discos, lounges and outdoor sun decks), spa treatments for adolescents and casual and flexible dining options. The smartest cruise lines also separate out tweens (generally ages 12 to 14) from older teens.
Speaking from experience, here are our editor's picks of best cruise options for families with teenagers.
When planning family cruises, parents would do well to consider the input of teens. Holidays with teenagers must be chosen carefully, but the best cruises for kids should have fast internet, teen clubs and lots of free food.
Cruise lines are very interested in attracting teenagers, knowing they have a big impact on family holiday choices. And there's another reason: Today's teens are tomorrow's twenty-something adult passengers. As such, most cruise lines offer special programs, facilities and amenities for the teenage cruise traveller.
Like the cruise lines themselves, teens come with distinct personalities -- from party animals to nature-lovers and online addicts. Some enjoy organised activities, while others prefer roaming independently on a ship the size of a small town.
As well as matching your child's personality with a cruise line, the cruise length can be an important factor, too. Short itineraries, 10 days or less, often work best.
Families with both older and younger siblings will want to select a ship with a solid children's program for kids of all ages so the entire clan will be happy.
Here are our picks of the best cruise ships for Australian families with teenagers.
Why: These huge ships are literally floating playgrounds with features that include surf simulators, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, mini golf courses, full-size basketball courts and plenty of teen facilities. There's enough to keep them entertained for days alongside the various dining options where they can refuel. Depending on which ship, options include Johnny Rockets -- serving the best burgers with an ocean view -- and Ben & Jerry's for ice cream. High-speed 'Voom' internet has also been installed to keep up with movies, music and social media.
Best Features: Like many other lines, Royal Caribbean divides teens into two groups in its youth program. Navigators (12- to14-year-olds) are wisely separated from the teens (15- to 17-year-olds) for activities such as karaoke, open mic nights, toga parties and sports tournaments. Teens will love the FlowRider surf simulator, exclusive lounge areas and rock climbing walls. Spas on both ships also offer an array of treatments tailored for teenagers.
Beware: While bigger is often better when it comes to ships for teens, it can be easy to lose track of your kids on such big ships, and unsupervised teens are one of the cruise industry's biggest hassles. If you can't count on mobile phone service, consider bringing walkie-talkies for teens spending a lot of time roaming alone. On these ships, you could literally go days without running into one another.
Carnival Cruise Line
Why: Globally, more children sail on Carnival than any other cruise line, and the party atmosphere onboard Carnival definitely lends itself to teens. Super-cool water parks, poolside cinemas, teen-only shore excursions, and plenty of fun and casual places to eat make teens feel right at home. Cheaper and faster internet and social media packages, introduced in 2016, will also help keep them entertained.
Best Features: Club 02 lets 15-17 year olds have their own holiday onboard where they can hang out and watch movies, sing their hearts out on karaoke nights or have a pool party. At some ports of call, on teen-only shore tours, they can explore the sights with their new friends. Guy's Burger Joint is also popular for its free burgers, and there are also free burritos and tacos near the main pool.
Beware: Many young adults sail with Carnival, and you may not want their influence on your teenager. Participation in the supervised teen clubs is a good way to avoid that situation.
Why: P&O is the perfect fit for thrill-seeking teens. At the HQ+ Teen Club (aged 15-17) they can hang out with passengers their own age. With the line's great filmmaking program, Stop Motion Pro, they can get behind a camera and make their own movie on board the ship. To keep their energy up, there are poolside burgers and chips; The Pantry's free food hall, as well as an ice cream fix at New Zealand Natural (for an extra cost).
Pacific Explorer, arriving in 2017, will have two waterslides -- one with sound effects and the other with lighting effects. This ship will also introduce barefoot bowls on a newly laid green, and nine outlets in The Pantry.
Top-deck sail-away parties, held on the first evening as the ship departs, and theme party nights are also great fun for all the family, especially if you like to dance.
Best Features: P&O Edge Adventure Park gives teens a chance to race down a zipline, climb up to the jaw-dropping views at the top of the rock wall, and reach new heights on the Funnel Abseil or even Walk The Plank! They can challenge themselves and friends at the Cargo Net Race, Laser Tag or a High Ropes course that hangs three metres high.
Beware: P&O Edge Adventure Park's prices can start to pile up; fortunately, you can get your hands on various package deals to save on multiple activities.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Why: Coming to Australia for its first season in 2017, Norwegian's casual atmosphere and teen-friendly dining will attract many families. There is a lot of flexibility at dinnertime, which means teenagers can eat with -- or without -- their parents. If they aren't too busy making a splash in the Oasis Pool or its two hot tubs they can get competitive at the air hockey table with new friends in the Teen Club. High-speed internet is also available shipwide.
Best Features: NCL offers various entertainment options ranging from magicians to black-light parties. Make sure the kids pack something white to wear so that they can join in on the party on the pool deck beneath the stars.
Beware: With the Video Zone close by, your teens can easily become glued to the screen. Taking the family to the basketball/volleyball court could be an easy fix to curing their competitiveness.
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