active family travel,  Travel

Youth Programs – The Cruising Experience for the Kids

Youth programs are an important consideration when planning a cruise if you have tweens and teens. Around this age, kids start to want a little more freedom, and a good tween and teen program can allow the kids to have a great time while experiencing a little freedom and independence in a safe, controlled way. My daughters are at an age where youth programs are a huge factor in our cruise planning, and I thought I’d share my top three picks for great programs for tweens and teens.

Youth Programs Give Kids AND Parents What They Want

The thing that makes these programs so great is that they allow the kids to have a bit of an adventure without feeling like their parents are constantly looming over their shoulders. At the same time, parents can feel good about these programs because the kids will be safe and sound while they enjoy that slice of freedom. And as an added bonus, it allows parents to have a little time to themselves, as well. It can be the best of both worlds for kids and parents while cruising.

Carnival Youth Programs

Carnival Cruise Line offers youth programs for all teens aged 17 and younger. Their programs are broken down into two age ranges, so kids can experience independence and hang out with their own age group. These are the ones we did most recently on Carnival Sensation. My older daughter who struggles with anxiety had no issues here at all. In fact the only issue for me was her staying up too late to hang out at the teen club.

Circle “C” (12 to 14)

Circle “C” focuses on high-tech spaces, fun-filled activities, and energetic directors. This program is designed to be the ultimate experience for teens ages 12 to 14 years old. All ships have dedicated Circle “C” lounges that feature a dance floor with cutting edge lighting and sound, as well as gaming pods with video games and consoles and large plasma television throughout for both gaming and movies.

Circle “C” features a variety of activities including:

  • Video Gaming
  • Dance Parties
  • Late Night Teen Hang Out Time
  • Late Night Movies
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Karaoke
  • Sports Activities – Dodge Ball, Basketball, Mini Golf
  • Music Activities – Music Trivia and Others
  • Arts and Crafts – Origami, Bread Making, and More
  • T-Shirt Designing
  • Carnival Twister Waterslide Races

Ainsley really loved this one. Note that youth club is not open on port days. But when you set sail again they are likely to open up right away.

Club 02 (15 to 17)

Club 02 is a program that focuses on an exciting experience for teens aged 15 to 17. Each ship features a dedicated Club 02 space that focuses on a safe space for teens to interact and have a generally awesome time. Dedicated directors help ensure that the kids have a fun time that is also SAFE.

Part of Club 02 is Music World. It features a dance floor with high energy music with the latest in lighting and sound as well as a DJ booth where teens can request that latest tracks in the industry. It’s open late for late night grooving.

If your teen loves gaming, he or she will be in Heaven. Club 02 features gaming pods that include X-Box 360, Wii, and huge plasma screens.

Another option for teens is just relaxing in the lounge. The laid back atmosphere designed for nothing but hanging out makes Club 02 one of the great youth programs. Being a teen is all about interacting with other teens, and the Club 02 lounge makes that possible AND SAFE.

The program offers teens the chance to take part in all of the activities available on the ship, except that they do them with their newly made friends at the club!

Norwegian Cruise line Youth Programs

Norwegian has a a couple of youth programs to give the kids the same amazing cruise experience that their parents will enjoy. These programs are designed to keep the kids engaged and having fun instead of staring at their devices and sighing. You know what I’m talking about.

Splash Academy

Designed for kids aged 6 months to 12 years, Splash Academy allows kids of all ages to interact with other kids in their age groups. Activities for the tweens include arts and crafts, video games, and even circus school. Ainsley enjoyed this one when we travelled with Norwegian.


This program is for teens ages 13 to 17. It features sports activities, pool parties, fashion workshops, and even themed events like vampire night. Teens can participate in as many or as few events as they want or just hang out with the other kids their own age. Payton had a good time in this club and made a few friends. That meant she connected with those kids on the boat, even when not doing structured youth program activities. As a parent, that’s always rewarding to see.


Royal Caribbean International Youth Programs

Royal Caribbean offers several youth programs for kids ranging in age from toddlers to teens. They even have a sitter service. But kid’s club and kid’s sitters are dramatically different than teen clubs and youth clubs that cater to the older kids who travel with their parents still. Since I have 2 teens, youth programs are my style these days.

Adventure Ocean

Adventure Ocean youth programs are broken down into three age ranges. Aquanauts offers fun experiments for budding scientists ages 3 to 5 years old. The Explorers program for kids aged 6 to 8 features exciting activities like crafts as well as themed parties. Voyagers for ages 9 to 11 years old includes a wide variety of activities from arts and crafts to learning activities that are fun as well as educational.

Teen Programs

Teen Programs on Royal Caribbean are many and varied. Unlike the Adventure Ocean youth programs, the teen programs are a little less structured, allowing teens a feeling of getting that real cruise experience where they do what they want when they want, just like the adults. The only difference is that they have a quiet, background supervision that keeps them safe. I have to say we honestly struggled with this one last year when we cruised. It took Payton a long time to warm up to the idea of the club. It was massive and there were a zillion teens on that ship. It was a bit intimidating.

A great cruise youth program should allow your teen or tween a bit of independence during their vacation. On port days and down times there should still be lots of flexibility and fun when reconnecting with family too.


And Ainsley was not yet 13 but she fit the Teen Program by her age. However, she needs more structure than what was offered there. We sailed on Harmony of the Seas and had a wonderful time, but the ship is massive. At that time it was the biggest on the ocean. So that naturally also meant the youth club had more kids. We found it to be too big actually and too unstructured.


Youth Programs – The Perfect Way for Kids and Adults to Enjoy Their Cruise

Youth programs offer so much to both the kids and their parents. These programs offer kids a feeling of independence that they want at that tween and teen age, while parents get to enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that their kids are supervised and safe while they’re enjoying the cruise life. A well chosen and well run youth program can mean a peaceful enjoyable cruise for all.

This is NOT a sponsored post. It is for your information if you plan to cruise. Check out my Instagram feed for more images from our January cruise. Read my Pinterest feed for more content and images from the many cruises we have taken over the years. 


Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.