My daughter has just turned 13 so that means that both kids are now teenagers since son is 16! We will be taking our yearly cruise on 8/7 on the NCL Gem. This is our 15th cruise and their 8th. We set some very clear rules and they are not usually out and about on the ship without us. This year may be the year that they test this however. We set the rules and have a discussion before the trip on what we expect. We have been very lucky and the kids seem to really enjoy themselves and we all have a good time. A few ground rules we follow:
1: We make sure that they eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Being able to monitor their meals and assist in food selection can make a difference in attitude. Sometimes kids are on the go and do not stop to eat a healthy meal. I know that lack of healthy food makes both my kids irritable and irrational. This way we avoid this. If they want to eat snacks, ice cream etc.. that is up to them but the meals are priority.
2: We make sure that the kids are with us in the evenings or with the Teen Crew. This may be the first year that this rule is challenged since they now are 16 and 13. There will be some ground rules if this is to change. No one in our cabin, they do not go into anyone else's cabin, they do not accept drinks from anyone, they stay together, they return to the cabin at a time we say (no later than 11:00 pm). They tell us where they will be and stay there. If it changes than they need to ask us. Our children will always know where we will be.
During the day, in the event that we are going to be doing something on-board without the kids, we will establish a time frame and a check-in time and location if it is not our cabin (home base).
My son has always made friends at the Kids/Teen crew. We do encourage both to participate but do leave it up to them. Our rule has been to participate in the program or be with us. We do not allow our kids to sit in a group on the stairs or travel in a pack running around a ship. Nothing good can come of this situation in my opinion. Spending time with other kids at the pool, slide, rock climbing wall, basketball court, or other activity is fine.
3. We decide shore excursions as a family. No one stays behind on the ship.
4. We pick dinners in speciality restaurants together so we can all enjoy our meals.
5. The kids do not go ashore without a parent. No exceptions.
6. We will let them sleep in the morning within reason (not later than 9:00 in port, 10:00 at sea). We are lucky in that we are traveling in a suite that has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and butler service. We will have their breakfast ready for them if they sleep in a bit.
7. Cellphones will be locked in the safe or they will stay home. This is a family rule. Vacation is a time to unplug a bit. Ipods and other electronics are acceptable however. The kids seem to use this in the evenings as a way to unwind.
8. We communicate with notes in the cabin if we are apart on-board. That is our home base. We do not use phones (expensive), walkie talkies (noisy and intrusive to others in my opinion), or other electronics to communicate. Walking to the cabin is good exercise too given all the good food we are eating on a cruise. We have not really needed to do this too much because to date they have been with us for the most part.
We may be more strict than others. I can assure you that it is not military camp or juvenile detention. We are blessed with 2 wonderful children. They are bright, do well in school, music and sports. I do believe that clear rules and guidelines help them make choices. They also know that the rules/guidelines are discussions and can be negotiated if the intention is honest, healthy, and safe.
If others have rules and guidelines that work for them with teenagers I am always interested in hearing them.
NCL Gem NYC to Bermuda 8-7-11
NCL X8, RCCL X4, CCL X2, Cunard X1