Top Tips For Cruising With Tweens

8 August 2017
Read Time: 4.7 mins

How do you keep those in-betweens happy while also enjoying your own well-deserved holiday? Travelling by ship is the perfect way for the young ones to enjoy freedom in a safe and friendly environment. Happy tweens, happy family!

Wonderful Travelling Companions

Father and daughter having fun at seaside Cruises offer the flexibility for tweens to enjoy time with their parents. Image: Getty

No longer kids but not quite teenagers, tweens are the perfect cruising companions. They’re old enough to enjoy some independence yet still young enough to enjoy hanging out with Mum and Dad.

Our 12-year-old son likes to meet friends for dinner at the buffet followed by karaoke before wrapping up the night with us at an evening show. For the past year he has been allowed to sign himself into and out of the kids’ club, which has helped him develop a new level of responsibility within the safe and controlled onboard environment. “Will you two be okay to have dinner on your own?” he asked on our last cruise, doing a remarkable impression of the sophisticated man about town, provided you ignored the Pokémon T-shirt. It was a reminder that he won’t be a tween for much longer.

Learning While Having Fun

Kids at cooking class From cooking classes to craft workshops, there’s plenty to do on board for tweens. Image: Getty

You will never hear the dreaded words “I’m bored” on a cruise ship. Along with activities like roller-skating and talent shows, cruising offers tweens the opportunity to meet fellow kids from across the world and master new skills. Tweens can learn how to create films using stop-motion animation with P&O Cruises or join a National Park Service Junior Ranger Program on Holland America Line’s Alaskan sailings. Princess Cruises has childrens’ cooking classes for budding young chefs, and Celebrity Cruises’ scavenger hunts encourage tweens to overcome shyness by fulfilling challenges such as “Find a crew member from a country that is different to yours and say hello”.

Making Time For Family

Father and son having fun in pool There are loads of cruise activities that both tweens and parents will enjoy. Image: Getty

Tweens love hanging out with newfound friends, but family time is important too. Instead of nagging your tween to spend time with you, why not set a family challenge? Each person chooses an onboard activity that everyone in the family has to try, even if they aren’t keen. My attempt at scaling the climbing wall on P&O’s Pacific Eden is probably best forgotten, but our son’s choice of activity – zip-lining – was everybody’s holiday highlight.

Dining is another way to spend quality time together. As much as my husband and I enjoyed our date nights at sea, we insisted our son join us for lunch each day. We got to enjoy some time together and, as most cruise ship kids’ clubs close from midday to 2pm, he didn’t miss any scheduled activities. Port days offer a great way to connect with your tween. Making your own arrangements for tours and activities generally works better than joining a ship’s shore excursion, as these tend to be aimed at older adults, although that’s changing. Cruise lines are beginning to offer tours that help parents and their kids uncover the rich history of cruise-ship ports. Some lines, such as Celebrity Cruises, even have a shore-excursion program designed especially for families, featuring activities such as a Flamenco dance-off in Spain and a da Vinci treasure hunt in Rome.

Setting The Ground Rules

It’s a good idea to set ground rules before your cruise. Do you expect your tween to join you for dinner? Can they get treats at the buffet between meals? Are they allowed to charge items like soft drinks to their cruise-ship card? Discussing these things beforehand can help prevent misunderstandings that might spoil the holiday mood.

More Tweens Equals More Fun

Girls playing dominoes It won’t be long before your tween makes friends on the cruise. Image: Getty

While some parents prefer to avoid busy school-holiday sailings, these can be ideal for tweens who revel in the opportunity to socialise. Some tweens will insist they are “too old for the kids’ club”. However, even if your tween says they aren’t sure if they will join the program, encourage them to attend on the first day, as this is when friendships are formed in the group. If your child skips this session but decides to join in later, it can be harder for them to make friends.

Signing In And Signing Out

three kids taking underwater selfie Tweens will appreciate being granted a little independence. Image: Getty

Most cruise ship kids’ clubs allow children aged nine and over to sign themselves into and out of the kids’ club program with parental permission. Consider starting with a limited amount of freedom at first, such as allowing them to sign out at an agreed time and meet you in the cabin, to help them gain confidence and earn your trust. Walkie-talkies are a handy way to keep in touch onboard and can provide extra peace of mind. If you foresee this potentially causing arguments, or simply think they’re not ready, Holland America Line could be a good choice. Unlike most other cruise lines, children have to be 13 to sign themselves into and out of their kids’ club, Club HAL. 

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Tiana Templeman

Tiana Templeman is a Brisbane-based freelance food and travel journalist who is often out-of-town but always on-line. She writes travel blogs, presents a weekly travel segment on Radio 4BC and contributes to numerous Australian and international media outlets. Find Tiana on Google+, Twitter (@TianaTempleman), Facebook, and Instagram (tianatempleman).