5 Cruise Lines That Know How to Keep Teens (and Their Families) Happy

Set Sail on a Disney Wish
(Photo: Mark Ashman)

If you’re planning a family cruise and you have teenagers to keep busy at sea, you already know how important it is to figure out which lines offer the most entertaining cruise ships for teens. The megaships offer the most bells and whistles—rock climbing walls, racetracks, and surf simulators—but don’t count out some of the ships with fewer attractions, especially if your teen is content hanging out with other kids the same age, playing foosball or video games, and joining in activities like sports tournaments and dance parties.

As an avid cruiser who’s sailed on ships of all sizes, I’ve toured many teen clubs and personally checked out the virtual reality games, high-tech simulators, and other activities while on board. These five standout cruise ships for teens are some of my top picks from different cruise lines. They offer just the sort of action-packed fun that will keep everyone in the family happy, including often-hard-to-please teenagers.

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1. Icon of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

View of Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas ship
Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas will be the largest vessel in the world, and one that’s packed with teen-friendly fun (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas (debuting January 2024) is the largest vessel in the world, six percent bigger and 10 feet longer than the previous record holder, Wonder of the Seas. Billed by the line as the “ultimate family vacation,” the megaship will accommodate as many as 7,600 passengers and feature eight distinct neighborhoods with activities and dining options for families and kids of all ages. The Surfside neighborhood, a space dedicated to families (which also has staterooms located close to the family-friendly activities) features a supervised teen club, Social020.

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Thrill-seekers will want to check out Category Six, the largest water park at sea. The impressive new area at the top of the ship boasts lots of firsts—the tallest waterside, the first open waterslide, and the first family raft slide on the high seas. The vessel will also have Royal Caribbean favorites, such as a rock-climbing wall; the surf simulator, FlowRider; a Sports Court offering basketball, dodgeball, volleyball and pickleball; and a mini golf course, Lost Dunes. In addition, the ship has an impressive seven pools.

Icon of the Seas will be based in Miami and sail to destinations in the Eastern and Western Caribbean. All the itineraries will include a stop at the line’s fun-filled private island, Perfect Day at Coco Cay, where teens will find more warm-weather activities waiting ashore. 

2. MSC World Europa (MSC Cruises)

MSC Cruises
MSC World Europa is a floating world of fun for teens and kids (Photo: MSC Cruises)

MSC’s ships offer plenty of activities and entertainment for teen cruisers, especially on MSC World Europa—the sixth largest cruise ship currently afloat and the largest vessel in MSC’s fleet. The 8,245 square-foot kids space features the line’s new Teens Lab, an immersive venue with dozens of VR stations, video games, and a relay race game for drones, Drone Academy 2.0. Teens ages 12 to 17 have access to this high-tech area as well as to the Young Club and Teen Club.

Other activities young adults will enjoy are Z Active, a new sports program offering basketball, zorb ball, football, and for the first time on their ships—hoverboards and pickleball—and MSC Dance Crew. If that’s not enough onboard entertainment, teens can check out the 11-deck high Venom Drop@The Spiral, the longest dry slide at sea; water slides with VR technology; a Formula 1 race car simulator; bumper cars; and the Hall of Games arcade. In addition, younger diners will appreciate the new restaurant option on the ship, Luna Park’s Pizza & Burger.

MSC World Europa is currently based in Europe and sails itineraries in the Mediterranean that include ports of call in Italy, France, Spain, and Malta. 

3. Norwegian Bliss (Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Bliss sailing Endicott Arm in Alaska
Norwegian Bliss has a teen club with movies, music, art, and sports, plus plenty of organized activities (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Bliss, one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Plus class ships, and one of their largest vessels (second to Norwegian Encore), is packed with entertaining activities for teens and kids of all ages. Entourage, the teen club, is an exclusive space for 13- to 17-year-olds where they can chill out, play games, and meet other kids their own age. The lounge offers movies, music, art, and sports, and there are planned age-appropriate activities to join in throughout the sailing. You’ll find some of these events listed in the daily program.

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There’s also no shortage of action around the ship with two watersides—Aqua Racer and Ocean Loops; a two-level racetrack, Bliss Speedway; an open-air laser tag course; a video arcade with VR games, skeeball, and more; a two-lane duck pin bowling alley at The Local Bar and Grill; and mini-golf.

For quieter pursuits, young adults can play board games like Monopoly, backgammon, checkers, and chess in The Library and Card Room. And there’s a jogging track so they can stay in shape while at sea. Norwegian Bliss sails from Seattle to Alaska in the warmer months and out of Los Angeles to destination in Mexico and Columbia in the cooler months.

4. Disney Wish (Disney Cruise Line)

Disney Wish – Disney Uncharted Adventure
Older teens, ages 14 to 17, can play games, watch movies, and meet new friends at Vibe (Photo: Disney)

There are three dedicated adult-free zones on Disney Cruise Line’s cruise ship Disney Wish. Edge, for ages 11 to 14, is inspired by a New York City loft and decorated in bold, bright colors, creating the perfect cozy spot for kids to hang out, play games, and watch movies. Other cool features are the “photo walls” (graphic arts display) for capturing shareable vacation images; an indoor solarium with a skylight and décor with the theme of a city park; and a soda bar.

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Older teens, ages 14 to 17, can play games, watch movies, and meet new friends at Vibe. This teen-only area, inspired by a Paris artists’ loft—and with a funky retro twist—features pop art murals, French columns, bold graffiti, and Disney-inspired travel posters. Additional highlights of the club are the floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the views and planned activities geared toward teens such as scavenger hunts, trivia games, drawing classes, card tournaments, karaoke, and more.

The Hideaway is new to Disney Wish. The third designated space for tweens and teens is also retro in design with vibrant colors and disco ball lights. Here, young adults can listen to music, kick back and relax, or join in the fun during a friendly competition on the dance floor. Teens can also look for additional onboard programming throughout the ship in the Hero Zone, Luna and other venues. And they won’t want to miss taking a ride on Aqua Mouse, Disney’s first attraction at sea.

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Disney Wish is based in Port Canaveral, Florida, and sails three- and four-night itineraries to the Bahamas. The voyages include a stop at Castaway Cay, the line’s private island, where younger cruisers can head ashore for land-based fun. Activities available on the island include banana boat rides, fishing adventures, adventure jeep rides, and an Atlantis Aquaventure. 

5. Carnival Jubilee (Carnival Cruises)

Carnival Jubilee finishes a conveyance of the river Ems
Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Jubilee, will have a colorful space dedicated to teens (Photo: Carnival)

Carnival Jubilee is the third and final vessel in Carnival Cruise Line’s XL class. Circle “C” is the designated area where tweens ages 12 to 14 can hang out together for dance parties, outdoor movies, games, and other activities. The colorful space features comfy seating areas where kids can chill and chat while supervised by the ship’s friendly counselors. Young adults, 15 to 17 years old, can socialize with same age teens at Club o2. This venue features current music, movies, sports and video games, and karaoke. The space is also host to theme parties like Carnival’s version of a high school prom.

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There’s no shortage of action-packed fun around the ship with BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea; thrilling water slides at WaterWorks, the ship’s water park; a challenging ropes course; and Sports Square, which features mini-golf, basketball, foosball, ping pong, and other sports activities. The ship’s ZSPA has an indulgent spa service menu for teens with pedicures, haircuts, facials, and fitness classes. Carnival Jubilee sails round-trip from Galveston, Texas, and include ports of call in Mexico and Roatán, Honduras.

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Gwen Pratesi
Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Foundation Award Finalist in Journalism and an award-winning food and travel writer. She contributes to U.S. News & World Report and freelances for many publications, including FamilyVacationist, USA Today, Cruise Critic, Reader's Digest, and SmarterTravel. Her work has also been featured on MSN, Yahoo!, and Business Insider. When she's not on a plane or ship, you can find her at the beach with her husband and Tibetan Terrier, Rhythm.