An unhappy teenager, arms crossed and mouth a hardened scowl, is the last thing you need hanging around on your family vacation. A happy teenager, on the other hand, couldn't be better. Keep your picky young adult pleased and the frowns at bay by planning a cruise on a teen-friendly ship. Cruises, many of which offer a wide range of activities for everyone from 2-year-old-tots to bingo playin' grandparents, almost always feature something special for older kids and teens. But some ships are more suitable for teens than others. Below are our favorite cruise ships for teenagers.

1. and 2. Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas, the world's second largest ship, and newer sister ship Allure of the Seas, the world's biggest cruise ship by 5 centimeters, offer myriad bells and whistles for passengers of any age -- and teens are certainly no exception. Let's see... there are two teen centers, divided by age. The special teen-only areas are equipped with unique offerings like DJ lessons, a juice bar and hip lounges, and a youth spa with treatments geared toward teens. There's one club for kids ages 15 to 17, and another separate club for kids ages 12 to 14. Ship staff host fun theme nights and events just for teens, such as karaoke competitions. This is all in addition to a spate of activities the whole family -- including your finicky 15-year-old -- will enjoy, like FlowRider, an onboard surfing simulator; a rock-climbing wall; a zip-line; the AquaTheater, with its jaw-dropping water-themed performances; and even a cupcake shop.

Allure of the Seas offers 3D movies, and Oasis of the Seas will be featuring in-your-face 3D films by spring of 2011.

3. Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic is decidedly NCL's most innovative ship. Some of the ship's offerings for teens are new to cruising, and the entertainment offerings blow other ships' lame shuffleboard sessions and cheesy musical theater (which, of course, make most teens cringe with fear), out of the water. Shows range from Second City improv comedy shows to Blue Man Group. And yes, there's a teens-only center. It's called Entourage, and it's filled with, stylish couches (good for loungin' with the iPod), air hockey, foosball and a flat-screen TV with video games.

Epic's cabins are pretty cool, too -- we're confident teens will like 'em. Think circular beds, trendy colors, interesting lighting effects, curvy walls and flat-screen TV's.

4. Disney Dream and Fantasy

Brand-new Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are, as you've already guessed, of the Mickey Mouse persuasion. But don't let that discourage your older kids who think they've outgrown cartoon characters. There's tons that teens will love on Dream and Fantasy, which were designed to cater to young adults as well as smaller children. The AquaDuck, for one, is cruising's first "watercoaster" at sea. It runs the span of 2 1/2 football fields with hair-raising twists and turns, even zigzagging over the ocean! Dream's tween club, The Edge, feels grown-up and sophisticated (cool fact: it's located in the ship's funnel), with a massive video wall for gaming. Teens 14 and older can enjoy Vibe, which has its own splash pools, lounges and club far removed from adults and little brothers and sisters. Facebook-addicted teens will be ecstatic when they discover the computers with social media apps that allow teens to tweet or post pictures of themselves splashing down the AquaDuck on Facebook.

5. Carnival Dream

Carnival's biggest ship, the 3,646-passenger Dream, is as teen-friendly as they come. Carnival wisely created two separate clubs for teens onboard Dream: a special tween-only club for 12 to 14 year olds, called Circle C, plus a club for older teens, ages 15 to 17, Club 02. Circle C boasts a dance floor and movie screenings, while Club 02 kicks the sophistication up a notch with its own dedicated DJ and a cheeky soda bar.

For spa-going teens, Carnival's fleet-wide youth spa is tops. Treatments include Surfer's Scrub, a sea salt body scrub that incorporates seaweed and mint, and Y Care for Your Hair, a conditioning hair treatment with a French braid styling session.

6. Ruby Princess

Older kids who aren't into typical teen stuff like video games and dance clubs may be interested in Princess' fleet-wide ScholarShip@Sea program. Various enrichment sessions are offered onboard each Princess sailing, from pottery classes to cooking demonstrations. As many as 40 classes may be available on every Princess cruise.

On Ruby Princess, teens will find Nintendo Wii and Sony Play Station 3 in the well-appointed teen center, Remix (for kids ages 15 to 17). Princess Links, an onboard mini-golf course, is a fun diversion for teens (or even the whole family), as well as Movies Under the Stars, during which films are shown beneath the night sky.

7. Freedom of the Seas

Freedom is one of Royal Caribbean's Freedom-class ships, all of which have been built with kids and teens -- and parents -- in mind. (The other Freedom-class ships include Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas, which are nearly identical to Freedom of the Seas.) The ships have two teen clubs (one for younger teens and one for older teens) and a youth spa for the young adults onboard -- but one interesting perk is a special teens-only fitness area in the gym.

Our favorite attraction for teens on Freedom and other Freedom-class ships? It's the ice skating rink, which, really, is great for the entire family. We also love the ship's giant arcade video game area, and the Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop in the promenade.

8. Ventura

British cruise line P&O Cruises had families in mind when they created Ventura. The ship boasts the fleet's first-ever family cabins, plus the cruise line's biggest kids' club (which includes a separate teen section for kids ages 13 to 12, called H2O). Some out-of-the-box features for teens on Ventura include a bungee trampoline, a rock music school and teen-only talent shows. Another awesome activity for teens -- and really, for any adult with a young-at-heart spirit -- is the Cirque circus school. Cirque features workshops in which passengers can learn to trapeze and tightrope walk. This makes for some wild vacation photos.

9. Royal Clipper

Star Clippers is a smaller luxury cruise line comprised of three majestic masted ships, of which Royal Clipper is the largest. Any teens with the slightest interest in pirates, ships or sailing will swoon at Royal Clipper's romantic sail away, during which 42 billowing sails are unfurled to the sound of symphony music. Teens are permitted to climb the ship's crow's nest to watch the ceremony from the highest point on the ship.

Clipper is a heaven for teens or anyone else addicted to water sports. There's a platform that lowers from the ship from which passengers can snorkel or dive. Keep in mind that Royal Clipper isn't popular with families with young children (none of the Star Clipper ships are, for that matter). While many teens will enjoy a trip on the world's largest full-rigged sailing ship, families are not advised to bring children under the age of 8 onboard.

10. Carnival Splendor

The massive Carnival Splendor, Carnival Cruise Line's largest ship, lures teens with zany attractions and activities that are sure to please even the pickiest youths. A three-deck-high waterslide, a huge seaside theater, a mini-golf course and even signing Maitre D's can be found onboard Splendor. If your teen pretty much lives in a swimming pool, Splendor is a good choice, as its pool is covered with a retractable sky dome and is open no matter what the weather.

Splendor offers the same top-notch teen clubs as the aforementioned Dream, which are divided into two age groups. From dance classes to late-night movies to smoothie tastings, both teen clubs have plenty to offer the 12- to 17-year-old set.

For more ideas of traveling with teens, check out:
  • Traveling With Teens
  • 10 Best Resorts for Teens
  • 8 Electrifying Amusement Parks
  • Share tips and advice for keeping teens and tweens happy on cruises on our Family Cruising Forum

  • Written by Caroline Costello

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