Some cruise ships are just better than others when it comes to keeping teens happy. These are the best cruise ships for teens in 2020.
1. Norwegian Encore
Is there a stellar mojito bar with entertaining bartenders and live latin music for dancing late into the night? Is there a serene adults-only club on the top deck of the Encore? Yup, sure is. But Norwegian’s newest masterpiece is actually tailor-made for teens. Kids ages 13 to 17 will relish escaping from their adults in the chill hangout suite that is the Encore’s Entourage Teen Lounge. This deck 5 teen-only space is stocked with HDTVs, all the latest video games and an air hockey table, and hosts dance parties and digital scavenger hunts nightly. Teenagers will also love scaring themselves silly by free falling into the Ocean Loop waterslide, a clear-tube portion of which dangles out over the sea!
But the fun for teens onboard Norwegian Encore is just getting started. Pull on a helmet and race real go-karts in the fresh sea air day and night on a thrilling course spanning two decks, then play laser tag outside in an epic setting on the back of deck 19. Finally, for when the sun is burning hot or the rain lashing down, teenagers can make their reality virtual in the Galaxy Pavilion. There’s awesome hang-gliding rides, 4×4 Jurassic explorations, race car driving, and the most subtly cool thing on the ship, the Finger Coaster! This VR trick lets teens quickly design roller coaster tracks with just the tip of their finger before virtually riding on their very own, logic-defying, M.C. Escher-esque piece of civil engineering. Like the Encore itself, it’s amazing!
2. Carnival Mardi Gras
Teen cruisers will have to bide their time until late summer 2020 when the Carnival Mardi Gras debuts, but the wait will be SO worth it! BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, will adorn the top deck as the centerpiece of what the Fun For All cruise line is calling their Ultimate Playground, a massive open-air recreation area spanning decks 18 to 20 on this, its latest and greatest 180,000-ton vessel. Teens will be clamoring to experience BOLT’s 312-feet of twists and turns, as well as the opportunity to get soaked dropping down the Orange Thunder waterslide. Bold young people will also jump at the chance to challenge themselves and their new-found friends from Camp Carnival’s Circle C and Club O2 on a 600-foot ropes course, the largest in Carnival’s impressive fleet.
3. Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas
Come spring 2020, Royal Caribbean’s massive and marvelous Symphony of the Seas will already be two years old. But this perfect cruise ship is still playing all the right notes for teens and adults alike. This vessel remains the biggest cruise ship in the world and continues to have something to dazzle every age group. Your teenager will want to zipline nine decks above the Symphony’s Boardwalk; play laser tag in an indoor arena; challenge their new BFFs from the teen club to a soccer match on the sport court; ice skate at sea (then watch the pros leap and spin during two different theatrical shows on ice), dance the night away at the RED all-ages after-hours party, and see Hairspray! The Musical on stage. Oh, and there’s a couple of rock climbing walls, three awesome waterslides, one epic dry slide through the mouth of a sea monster, huge half-moon-shaped hot tubs open late into the night, and FlowRider surfing and body boarding. Symphony of the Seas is nothing short of a teen dream.
4. Disney Magic
If you ask my teenagers what they’d like to do on a family vacation at sea, there will likely be talk of Marvel characters and at least once Disney princess (probably Belle, Rapunzel or Mulan). That’s why Disney Magic isn’t just the most magical place at sea for toddlers! Teens who swerve to the geekier side of the spectrum will love the comic con-stylings of the Disney Magic during its Marvel Day at Sea sailings and Star Wars at Sea cruises.
But even if Iron Man and Black Widow aren’t available as cruise companions, Disney Magic is still a rad ship for teens thanks to Vibe, a stellar, parent-free zone for teen dance parties, karaoke, fruit smoothies, video games, watching TV and making new friends. Out on the decks of the Magic are a thrilling drop-out waterslide, the AquaDunk, and basketball courts, Ping-Pong tables and soccer nets in the Wide World of Sports at the top of the ship. Teens who still have a soft spot for Disney princesses won’t want to miss the Tangled stage show or pass up the opportunity to “be our guest” and put the service to the test during dinner at Lumiere’s.
5. Regent Seven Seas Mariner
You may think that a Regent cruise is too luxurious and ‘grown-up’ for your young people, but you’d be incorrect! Thanks to the Club Mariner Youth Program, teens can participate in a range of rad activities on board the Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Everything from mini-golf tournaments to dance parties to movie nights will keep your teenagers busy and happy all day and night while you and your fellow adults soak up the lap of cruising luxury. For the first time ever, during the Mariner’s Alaskan cruises, the “Inside Alaska Program” lets kids up to age 17 participate in youth-only excursions in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka and Icy Strait Point. These trips, accompanied by Club Mariner counselors, include tribal dance performances, salmon hatchery tours, and an excursion to a raptor center.
6. Carnival Horizon
By the time Carnival’s Mardi Gras hits the high seas with its roller coaster and massive ropes course, the Carnival Horizon will be just the third newest ship in the Carnival fleet. But for teens, she’s still a glistening gem. Older kids will love to hear modern pop songs given a Great Gadsby-era shine on stage in Vintage Pop and the ghostly French Quarter treatment during Soulbound, two musical productions that’ll delight teens who dig Broadway musicals. Add in a fantastic Club O2 for teens 14 to 17, and Circle “C” club for kids 12 to 14—with video game playing, late-night dance parties, and a chance to make new friends IRL, as well as on IG and Snapchat—and it’s easy to see why Horizon is a popular choice for families with older children. There’s also SkyRide; a head-to head, pedal-powered race unlike anything at sea; a ropes course high above the top deck; IMAX theater with first-run movies and a 4-D Thrill Theater; thrilling waterslides; delicious 24-hour pizza and soft serve; a full-size basketball court; the raucous end-of-cruise Lip Sync Battle; and outdoor movie double features under the stars with free popcorn every night. Phew!
7. MSC Grandiosa
The new MSC Grandiosa features a cool teens-only hangout with movies, game room, and a disco party space. Teens will also love the pair of F1 Simulators for virtually racing cars in head-to-head battles with new friends. This classy ship also has a full-size bowling alley, teenage hair and beauty treatments in the Aurea Spa, and the chance to participate in flash mobs to entertain (and probably startle) fellow passengers throughout the ship.
This grand MSC vessel also hosts a prom night just for teens during each cruise! During the day, teenagers will want to spend hours in the Grandiosa’s Polar Aquapark because it has one of the most intricate water parks at sea, with three twisting slides, a ‘Himalayan Bridge’ and a range of pools. In the evening, kids and their parents will want to rendezvous in the custom-built Cirque du Soleil lounge for dinner and an acrobatic theater show. Another perk: MSC allows teens to carry around a prepaid debit card, giving older kids on the cusp of adulthood further autonomy during their family vacation at sea.
8. Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas
Hitting the warm waters from Fort Lauderdale in autumn 2020 will be Royal Caribbean’s second Quantum Ultra Class ship, the Odyssey of the Seas. Odyssey will feature teen-tastic activities like bumper cars, trapeze school, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, an amazing VR-integrated bungee jumping experience in the Sky Pad, FlowRider surfing, and an iFly skydiving simulator. It will also have the famous Royal Caribbean North Star; this popular shipboard feature is a unique pod extending high into the sky and out over the ship, offering teens and adults alike 360-degree views of their surroundings at sea and in port. The Odyssey of the Seas will also have an innovative entertainment space called Two70, integrating HD tech for breathtaking live stage shows each night of the cruise and a Music Hall for live band concerts. Teens are going to flip out for the chance to sail on Royal Caribbean’s latest and greatest ship in 2020.
9. MSC Virtuosa
Carrying a whopping 6,300 passengers, and featuring a fine art museum plus a pair of Cirque du Soleil shows performed twice nightly, MSC’s newest ship, Virtuosa, is going to be an upscale fantasyland for artistic teenagers once it sets sail in September 2020. This ship is going to dazzle on the ground and in the air, as its 365-foot promenade will have a digital LED sky overhead showing events and visits 24/7/365. Families will love the grouped cluster cabins giving space for older kids while keeping everyone close during vacations at sea. Teen clubs, divided by age (12 to 14 and 15 to 17), will offer movie screenings, the latest video games, disco parties and a chance to make new friends with whom they can enjoy the double-decker indoor amusement park, water park and pools, full-size bowling alley, F1 racing simulators, and Sportplex courts.
10. Carnival Panorama
While the cruise industry’s eyes are justifiably fixed on the Mardi Gras being delivered by Carnival late in ’20, don’t sleep on the sparkling new Panorama arriving in its home port of Long Beach at the end of 2019! Teens will love that it’s basically the Horizon out west, with one massive, awesome difference: no more IMAX movie theater… ? Wait, how is that a plus, you might ask? Kids like movies, yes, but they’ll adore what Panorama has put in its place: a Sky Zone Trampoline Park! Bouncing at sea is the latest trick Carnival Cruise Line has pulled out of its super-fun sleeve for kids of all ages, but especially for teens who will take the Fun For All, All For Fun motto to heart while vacationing at sea with their family.
Jeff Bogle lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his two teen daughters, two cats, one dog and six (yes, six) guinea pigs. He is an award-winning photographer and respected travel journalist with bylines on Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, PBS, Esquire and more. Jeff (probably) spends too much time in England watching football and far too many hours plotting his family’s future travel adventures. Find Jeff on his own site, Out With the Kids.