Cruise Diaries: Cruising with Teens

As a long-time British travel journalist but also a mom, I know too well the challenges of keeping cool teens happy on vacation. Sound familiar? Then read on, because I have also found the perfect solution: A cruise.

Tourists and their children hiking on the side of a mountain during their cruise experience

While larger, resort-like cruise ships emphasize activities suited to specific age ranges, including children and teens, small ultra-luxury ships or expedition vessels where destination is king, offer an alternative for families – especially those with teens who want to be treated like grown-ups.

My daughter started cruising when she was six and loved the kids’ clubs on Royal Caribbean International and Princess. She graduated to teen activities but by the age of 14, she was bored of the organized fun. It was time to try a different approach, to focus on the places we cruised to and the people she could meet rather than provide non-stop teen entertainment. It was a gamble, but it paid off.

“Oh! The places you’ll go!” – Dr. Seuss.

She has had amazing adventures cruising around the Spitsbergen Archipelago in the Arctic and the Kimberley region in western Australia with National Geographic, an exploration cruise line with small ships and entertainment provided by scientists and biologists. Together, we have seen polar bears, crocodiles and coral reefs; scrambled up a waterfall and been showered beneath it; and even flown in a helicopter without doors. It was real James Bond stuff that I would not have tried on my own.

Nor would I have dared ride a Segway around Stockholm, but we did on a Regent Seven Seas luxury cruise in the Baltic region of Europe. I also would not have gone canyoning in the South of France (climbing over and sliding down boulders as we ‘walked’ through a river), but again was persuaded to do it by my fearless teen on a cruise with Azamara.

Then there was scuba diving in Bermuda, visited with Holland America, and our hike up Masada, the mountain-top fortress in Israel, as well as a cooling dip in the Dead Sea, from a luxury cruise with Crystal.

Let your teen take the lead

On each cruise, I let her decide the excursions so I was pried out of my comfort zone as much as she was back onboard, where she had to socialize with traveling companions my age and older.

True, this won’t suit every teen. They must have an interest in a world outside Xbox and iPads. Also true, now and then she takes time off to become a cool teen again, watching films or listening to her music in the cabin. But I have never heard the words “I’m bored” or “Do I have to?” Well, the latter only when I ask her to change for dinner. But it is a small price to pay for a great vacation we can all enjoy.

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