When planning a vacation for the whole family, a cruise can be one of the best options to consider, especially when traveling with active teens. While parents escape to an adults-only venue on the ship and have a quiet dinner for two, teens can mix and mingle with others their age in teen-only clubs, play games, listen to music, or grab a pizza and a movie under the stars. And if your tweens and teens need more action-packed fun to keep them entertained, some cruise ships act like floating amusement parks with zip lines, racetracks, roller coasters, ice skating rinks, laser tag, waterslides and more.
If you’re considering a family getaway or a multigenerational vacation, these top cruise lines offer some of the most exciting and entertaining options to keep teens and tweens – and their parents – happy and engaged at sea.
(Note: Some of the following activities, programs and amenities may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates; in addition, certain cruise offerings may be temporarily suspended. Check with your chosen cruise line, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
(Courtesy of MSC Cruises)
MSC Cruises offers plenty of family fun and activities for teens on its ships, including sports tournaments, waterslides and a family disco. On select ships, you’ll also find a full-size MSC Formula Racer, interactive XD cinema, a virtual reality experience, zip lines and an arcade room. The line’s Young Club programming offers daily activities for 12- to 14-year-old kids while teens 15 to 17 can participate in sports and dance competitions and video game tournaments at the Teen Club. Older kids can also take part in fun themed events, karaoke and even flash mobs – and there’s a teen-only disco.
On the new MSC Seascape (set to debut in December 2022), teens can stay busy in three new concept spaces. “Future” features a state-of-the-art technology area with the latest generation consoles, VR and video screens for hours of entertainment. “Chill out” is just as it sounds – a place to hang out, chat, and play foosball and table tennis. Meanwhile, “Music” is a dance club where kids can choose their own tunes and dance the night away with cool lighting and sound effects. And if that’s not enough, ROBOTRON, the first of its kind at sea, is an amusement park-like ride that combines the thrill of a roller coaster with personalized music and lighting. MSC Seascape also has a VR 360-degree flight simulator, VR motorcycles and high-tech gadgets for teens.
MSC World Europa – another new ship debuting in December 2022 – boasts the largest and most engaging kids area in MSC Cruises’ fleet with an impressive 8,245 square feet of action-packed space. The new TEENS LAB features a completely immersive, technologically advanced and modern area for teenagers with more than 20 of the latest consoles, seven VR stations and dozens of video games. Drone Academy 2.0 is a high-energy relay race where youths have to navigate through 15 obstacles with POV cameras, VR and glow effects. There’s even more onboard fun at Z Active, a new sports program that offers basketball, football and zorb ball alongside two firsts for the line – pickleball and hoverboards.
[Looking to plan a cruise on MSC Cruises? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Norwegian Cruise Line
(Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Cruise Line boasts a teen-only venue, Entourage, that caters to young adults 13 to 17 years old. This supervised space – available on 15 of the line’s 18 ships – keeps teens busy in an adult-free lounge that’s filled with video games, movies, music, arts and sports. Teen counselors plan the activities and challenges to keep kids entertained throughout the cruise – and host the events that take place in Entourage. A list of detailed activities is available on embarkation day so teens can plan out their schedule for the cruise.
The line’s newest ship, Norwegian Prima, the first vessel in the Prima class, features many first-at-sea innovations perfect for entertaining families and energetic teens, including a three-level racetrack called Prima Speedway. The new racetrack is 22 percent longer than the racetrack on Norwegian Encore and the speedway now passes through the funnel of the ship. With 14 nail-biting turns – and cars reaching up to 30 miles per hour – the racetrack is one of the highest-rated attractions on the ship. Adventurous teens will also want to check out The Drop & Rush: Billed as the fastest slides at sea, these chutes offer thrill-seekers a heart-pumping 10-story freefall plunge.
If that’s not enough action, teens can also play Bull’s Eye, a classic game of darts that uses a video tracking system, or check out Tee Time for a pumped-up version of mini-golf set against a Las Vegas backdrop where you can compete for prizes. In The Galaxy Pavilion, an indoor gaming complex, you’ll find 14 attractions, including four immersive simulator experiences, two escape rooms and the Topgolf Swing Suite – all of which are unique to Norwegian Prima. When it’s time to cool off, the Tidal Wave waterslide is another first for the brand, letting guests ride inner tubes to catch the surf and ride out the wave.
Norwegian Viva, set to launch in 2023 as the second vessel in the Prima class, will also feature these exciting new high-tech attractions. The line’s Breakaway class – Norwegian Escape, Joy, Bliss and Encore – are also popular with families as these ships offer plenty of activities and attractions well suited for active teens.
[Want to cruise with your family on Norwegian Cruise Line? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Disney Cruise Line
(Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
Disney Cruise Line features two cool spaces dedicated to teens and tweens, who can hang out on comfy couches, watch shows or movies on large screen televisions, and play video games. These hangouts, called Edge (for ages 11 to 14) and Vibe (ages 14 to 17), are available on all Disney ships.
On Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, the space at Vibe also features a private outdoor deck with chaise lounges, wading pools, foosball and more. While indoors, teenagers can order sodas and smoothies from the fountain bar, mingle with others their age, or just kick back and relax in individual nooks. There’s a dance club area for karaoke contests, talent shows and dance competitions. The trendy indoor/outdoor space – at almost 9,000 square feet – is accessible with a “teen-only” card. On the new Disney Wish ship, Vibe has a French twist inspired by a French artists loft with neon signs and funk pop art.
For tweens sailing on Disney Fantasy or Dream, Edge is a bright, loft-style gathering spot – located in the funnel – that has individual computer stations for gaming and a massive video wall for screening television, movies and games. There’s also a lighted dance floor for dance parties and a photo booth with green-screen technology. Two nifty features of the space – and its location – are views of the pool decks below as well as three portholes that allow for glimpses of the riders on the water coaster, AquaDuck, as they zoom by.
On the first night of the cruise, kids receive information on what activities and events will be available during their vacation so they can curate a personalized entertainment itinerary. Some fun options throughout the week may include “The Wild Side” (a teen-only excursion on the cruise line’s private island, Castaway Cay) and “Gotcha”: a game of elimination where one teen will become the ultimate victor. For a special treat – and a bit of pampering – don’t miss an afternoon at Chill Spa, located inside Senses Spa & Salon. Here, guests ages 13 to 17 can book indulgent specialty spa treatments like an Ice Cream Manicure and Pedicure, a Hot Chocolate Wrap or an organic Fabulously Fruity Facial.
[Searching for a cruise with your family on Disney Cruise Line? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Adventures by Disney
Adventures by Disney offers river and expedition cruises for the whole family; the itineraries span many choices and experiences for tweens and teens with a focus on culture, history, gastronomy and adventure. The river cruises are operated in partnership with AmaWaterways, while the expedition cruises are a collaboration with luxury French cruise line Ponant.
If you’re sailing on the Adventures by Disney Rhine River Cruise itinerary, for example – and docked in Strasbourg, France, for the day – guests can choose between various exciting excursions. Teen-friendly options include a tour of the Black Forest, complete with a toboggan run and a visit to a woodworking museum, or zip lining through the Black Forest combined with a hike to the Triberg Waterfalls. In Melk, Austria, on the Danube itinerary, families can go for a bike ride along the Danube River, hike to the castle in Dürnstein or visit a family-run apricot farm. Another great feature of these cruises is that teens can opt to have dinner and evening get-togethers with same-age cruisers, so they don’t have to dine with their parents or younger siblings every night. Adventure Guides also curate special activities for teens like game shows and pool parties.
In destinations like Antarctica, the Arctic and the Galápagos Islands, expert naturalists lead tours during these bucket list trips. You might even find a bit of Disney storytelling woven into the presentations by the Adventure Guides.
Keep in mind if you have younger kids as well as teens that children need to be 5 or older to sail on the river cruises. For the Galápagos Islands expedition cruises, the minimum age for Junior Adventurers is 7, and for expeditions to the polar regions, kids need to be 10 years of age or older.
Royal Caribbean International
(Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)
The dedicated teen space on Royal Caribbean International vessels offers a wide variety of supervised programming, events and activities for teens and preteens. Youths are divided into two age groups on the ships – 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 – and they’re free to come and go, choosing whatever activities are of interest. If they just want to mix and mingle with other teens, they can always relax and hang out in the teen lounge. Planned activities and events include a nightly teen disco and themed parties like Caribbean night and toga or pajama parties. There are also tournaments for soccer, floor hockey and basketball.
Teens and their families also have plenty of activities they can do together, especially on Oasis-class ships like the new Wonder of the Seas. For an adrenaline rush, check out the 10-story Ultimate Abyss slide or The Perfect Storm, a twisting and turning duo of waterslides. You can also test your surfing skills on the FlowRider surf simulator, go zip lining, try out rock climbing or ice skate. For less adventurous pursuits, play a game of table tennis, mini-golf or basketball.
Social 100 is an exclusive new space for ages 13 to 17 on board Wonder of the Seas. The outdoor space, called The Patio, is located on Deck 17 next to the waterslides and boasts a hot tub, lawn games, cozy seating, a selfie area, and a bar serving zero-proof cocktails and shakes. The indoor Social 100 area sits on Deck 16 and features a gaming area, foosball tables, a vending machine, and more comfortable spaces for teens to mix and mingle.
When you head ashore to the line’s private island, Perfect Day in CocoCay, teen cruisers will also find plenty of fun land-based activities like Thrill Waterpark and 1,600-foot-long zip lines. Be sure not to miss another adrenaline-inducing experience: Up, Up and Away. The helium balloon ride soars 450 feet above the ground to the highest vantage point in the Bahamas, offering incredible panoramic views of the island and surrounding turquoise waters.
[Want to cruise on Royal Caribbean International? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Holland America Line
(Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Holland America Line)
Club HAL on Holland America Line offers a fun supervised program for 13- to 17-year-old guests in an adult-free zone known as The Loft. The teen-only space resembles a New York artists loft where kids can listen to music, watch movies, play games, and meet and hang out with same-age cruisers. Programs and activities at The Loft include themed events, karaoke, a teen disco and other nighttime activities such as sports competitions. Youths can also participate in volleyball games, table tennis tournaments and educational board games (as part of a partnership with Cranium). And if they still need more entertainment to keep them busy, Club HAL also offers hip hop classes, Origami lessons and mixology instruction. Teens and preteens can even show off budding singing or dancing skills during the HAL talent show.
The Oasis, found on many of the line’s ships, is an outdoor sundeck for teens, accessible via a special passageway from The Loft. This space features a wading pool and waterfall, a juice bar, and plenty of space to kick back and relax. Those who prefer sports can opt to join in activities like pickleball and basketball on the top deck. When it comes to dining, there are many teen-friendly dining options – and teens can even enjoy mocktails like nonalcoholic mojitos – at venues throughout the ship.
If you’re cruising to Alaska, Hawaii or other adventure-filled destinations, look for excursions that will appeal to younger family members like zip lining tours, seaplane rides, helicopter tours and small boat rides. Alaska is a teen favorite, especially in Skagway (one of Alaska’s top destinations), where travelers can get a thrill out of dog mushing with a team of Alaskan huskies or going on a rock-climbing excursion. Youths up to 16 years of age can also participate in the Junior Ranger program when cruising through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
[Looking to cruise with Holland America Line? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
(Courtesy of Princess Cruises)
The modern Beach House lounge is the go-to place for passengers ages 13 to 17 to socialize and meet others their age when sailing on a Princess Cruises ship. Fun activities for teens include tournaments where they can challenge their peers at video games or in air hockey, table tennis or foosball. For more energetic activities, join in the fun during indoor dodgeball and basketball games – or learn new dance moves from some of the dancers in the crew and then hit the dance floor for one of the competitions. At the “Rock the Boat Party,” teenagers can dress up and party the night away with mocktails and new friends on the ship.
“Movies Under the Stars” is one of Princess’ signature events; guests can watch movies, sporting events and concerts while bundled up with cozy blankets on the pool deck outdoors. Teens will enjoy the complimentary popcorn, cookies and milk – not to mention special movie nights designed with them in mind, such as Scary Movie Night.
The line’s three newest ships – Discovery Princess, Enchanted Princess and Sky Princess – offer the most activities for teens, but all of the ships in the fleet host youth programs in partnership with Discovery, along with plenty of other family-friendly activities. These offerings include Discovery Family and Animal Planet shore excursions and onboard entertainment like “The Voice of the Ocean,” a musical competition.
Parents will be able to keep track of their busy teens anywhere on the ship with the state-of-the-art Princess MedallionClass system. The quarter-size wearable medallion and accompanying app allow guests to personalize their itinerary – and locate family members and friends on board.
[Interested in cruising with Princess Cruises? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Carnival Cruise Line
The Carnival Cruise Line teen programming is offered at Circle “C” for tweens between the ages of 12 to 14 and at Club O2 for ages 15 to 17. Here you’ll find entertaining themed dance parties – such as Prom Night – and other activities like video game tournaments, outdoor movies and Late-night Uno Challenges. Circle “C” stands for “Cruise, chill and connect,” and that’s what teens can do at this colorful, contemporary space with engaging counselors.
Another feature that teens will appreciate on Carnival’s ships is the onboard water park, Waterworks, which includes a splash park and slides. In addition, Carnival Panorama has Skyzone, a fun-filled trampoline park. Teenage passengers won’t want to miss the thrilling first roller coaster at sea, BOLT, on the Excel-class ships Mardi Gras and Celebration. For even more action, Vista-class ships feature Skyride. This two-lane bike-like ride is suspended above the top deck of the ships and extends out over the ocean. More indoor fun continues at Thrill Theater, an immersive cinematic experience where you’ll feel the seat rumble, the wind blow through your hair and even a spritz of water during the action-packed video.
[Looking to cruise with Carnival Cruise Line? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
(Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)
The Teen Club on Celebrity Cruises ships features activities focused on ages 13 to 17. Some of the events offered for tweens and teens in the Camp at Sea program include video game tournaments, sports competitions, STEM and culinary classes, and silent disco parties. They can even book glass-blowing classes on Celebrity Solstice, Equinox and Eclipse. While some of the offerings for young passengers are similar on all the line’s ships, The Basement on Celebrity Beyond and X Club on Solstice-class ships feature the most amenities for teens. Families who need certain accommodations will also find autism-friendly cruises on Celebrity.
At the Teen Spa, 13- to 17-year-olds can book pampering spa treatments like a facial that targets typical teen skin problems like breakouts and an express version of a manicure or pedicure. The spa professionals share tips on achieving healthier hair and can even help with gait and posture so teens can avoid health and joint problems as they grow older. When you’re ready to relax, book the Two-by-Two Massage, where moms and daughters – or dads and their sons – can have a side-by-side treatment.
Celebrity also offers family-focused excursions that highlight cultural attractions, wildlife sightings and adventure. Some of these tours include seeing gentoo and Magellanic penguins in the Falkland Islands, taking a Sky Gondola through the treetop canopies of a rainforest in Costa Rica, and learning about the Fijian firewalkers in Fiji. On Caribbean sailings – especially when school is out for summer or on holidays – Celebrity offers additional family-friendly shore excursions on its five- and seven-night sailings.
[Interested in a multigenerational vacation on Celebrity Cruises? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Cunard Line offers programs and activities for passengers ages 13 to 17 years old in its Teen Zone. This dedicated space is a place for teens and preteens to hang out with cruisers their own age and play video and team games, table tennis and more. On the first day of the cruise, you’ll find an activity program for young guests delivered to the stateroom so your teens can plan out their vacation experience, which may include entertaining theme days, deck sports, quizzes and dancing at the disco. Teens can participate in the activities around the ship, hit the pool for a dip, practice their putting or try their hand at croquet. Those interested in science, wildlife and the solar system can watch up to four 3D films a day (on sea days) in the largest planetarium at sea.
[Searching for a cruise with your family on Cunard Line? See the top cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]