February 26, 2004 -- Lordy knows teens these days can be demanding. They want what they want, and they want it now. We, the adults of the world, just want them happy ... so that we can enjoy our vacations. A bored, miserable teen is not a pretty picture.
To keep the peace as more families cruise with teens, cruise lines are designing bigger and better teen hangout areas to accommodate them. Dedicated space and activities for teenagers were all but non-existent on most ships just a few years ago, when lines focused more on creating playrooms and activities for younger kids. But times they are a'changin', and now teen areas are the next big thing that cruiselines are scrambling to offer. And it's not just the hardware, cruise lines are tailoring many of their services to teens too, from special shore excursions like hikes and kayaking on Carnival, Disney and Holland America, to the spa treatments offered to teens on Princess and Disney cruises.
"Teens are a big priority for cruise lines today because they're the future cruisers of tomorrow. If teens are having a great time on vacation, parents are as well," says Charly McDonald, an executive in the children's programming department for Royal Caribbean.
The best cruises for families with teenagers are the big ship lines, including Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Princess and Celebrity. Generally, their newest ships are the best equipped.
Here are our top picks for teens:
Carnival's Conquest & Glory (www.carnival.com):> Both have a self-contained teen club with a disco, soda bar, video games and teen promenade area. Each follows a funky design theme, the Glory a Monopoly motif and on the Conquest, a back alley in Paris. Plus, there's combo basketball/volleyball court and four pools, including one with a snaking slide.
Disney Magic (www.disneycruise.com): A new space three times the size of the old one was just created on the ship for teens 13 to 17. Two separate rooms include one offering a video screen for movies and another, with a teen disco and a teens-only Internet center. Plus, the ship has three pools and a basketball court. Sister ship Disney Wonder may also expand its teen facilities later this year.
Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas & Navigator of the Seas (www.rccl.com): They each have three separate areas for teens, including a nightclub, TV room, and an outdoor deck space. Both also have separate teen Internet centers exclusively reserved for ages 12 to 17, and huge video arcades. Plus, these guys have an awesome rock climbing wall, miniature golf course, ice-skating rink, roller-blading track and a basketball court.
Norwegian Dawn (www.ncl.com): The ship's teen center is spacious and very consciously private (accessed down hallways screened off from adult eyes), with computers, a dance floor and sound/video system, a soda bar, leopard-print loveseats, and Lichtenstein-style pop art on the walls. Next door, a video arcade has about two dozen machines. Plus, the ship has a combo basketball and volleyball court.
Grand Princess & Golden Princess (www.princess.com): On these babies, the teen center has computers, video games, a dance floor, and a sound system. Plus, you'll find a cool outdoor area, with a teens-only sunbathing area with deck chairs and a hot tub. Both ships have a cavernous game arcade, with all sorts of contraptions, from fly-fishing simulators to skiing, hang-gliding, motor cycle riding and more!
Now, if your teen is mature and on the cerebral side (and isn't surgically attached to video games and TVs), then he or she may enjoy the sailing experience on the smaller vessels of Star Clippers (www.starclippers.com) and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (www.windjammer.com). These tall ships carry fewer than 200 passengers, are ultra casual (flip flops and shorts is all you need), and you can swim and snorkel right off the side of the ship when seas are calm. On the higher end, SeaDream Yacht Club's 110-passenger mega yachts are cushier and all-inclusive, with diversions like ski jets, mountain bikes, Segway Human Transporters, and MP3 players included in the rates. All of these small ships visit more out-of-the way Caribbean and/or Mediterranean ports, and make ports just about every day of the cruise (helping to keep teen boredom at bay). You'll more on SeaDream at www.seadreamyachtclub.com.