Too much forced togetherness can strain the relationship between a teen and parent. That’s just one reason why cruising is a great family vacation option for those of us who travel with teens.
Onboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, which hosted my 17-year-old daughter, Tess, and I for a week-long cruise to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maartin, is just the right size for traveling with teens. The ship is big enough to offer plenty for a family to do together and plenty for teens to do independently.
Spending Time without the Parents
Although cruise ships are growing in size, they still offer a limited space. So it’s easy to give tweens and teens the independence they crave without worrying too much about them. And the high staff-to-guest ratio means there’s pretty much always someone “official” nearby to provide a chilling effect on teens who are tempted to go a little wild.
When you want to spend time together, there’s the nine-hole mini-golf course, also on Deck 13, ping pong and golf simulators. My daughter and I spent time around the pools, sun decks and hot tubs, reading and chatting with fellow passengers. For the athletes, there’s the 13th deck, home to a rock climbing wall, basketball court and Royal Caribbean’s signature Flow Rider surf experience.
Feeding Hungry Teens on a Cruise
And, of course, cruise ships are famous for their endless supplies of food included for one price–tailor-made for ravenous teens.
The buffet in the Windjammer located on the pool deck of the Freedom of the Seas offered four different buffet lines (similar but not the same offerings) and two hot bars that offered different foods at each mealtime (dishes such as meatloaf, spaghetti, fish, and/or chicken).
Evening meals were served in the stately Leonardo’s by our attentive waiter, Robson and his able assistant, Leo. When families arrived for dinner with kids, he was quick to bring out fruit or an appetizer for each child, knowing that they were likely to be ravenous and anxious to eat after a day onboard. Making hungry little ones wait is never a recipe for success.
Going Gourmet Onboard Freedom of the Seas
Each night, Robson offered his recommendation for the best appetizer, main course and dessert. I listened and was never disappointed–except on the night I chose my own meal and got a pasta dish that reminded me of the Chef BoyArDe canned pasta I had once as a kid.
Had I let Robson know, he would have headed back to the kitchen and brought me out another main course–which he sometimes chose to do on his own. If he heard us struggling to choose between two different meals, he simply brought both. Sadly, we often ate both too.
Tess, who has turned into something of a picky eater in her teen years, did not find as much to her liking on the menus at Leonardo’s, but she found plenty in the buffets. Unfortunately, the quality of the buffet food was more OK than gourmet.
There is gourmet food onboard, but it is not included in the basic all-you-eat cruise price. For gourmet, you have to pay a little more and book a table at one of the specialty restaurants that are increasingly a part of cruise ships.