Disney for Teens

| May 4, 2006
CruiseMates Teen Editor

Disney for teens? Yes! Most teens probably cringe at the thought of anything Disney. "That's for kids" is probably what any teen would tell you. They envision being stuck out in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of Disney characters, little kids and tea parties. So they might be surprised to learn what Disney Cruise Lines has to offer the teenage crowd.

Disney Cruise Lines debuted in 1998 with one thing in mind: Making a cruise experience enjoyable for kids, teens and adults. One could even say Disney raised the bar in teen activities programs. Disney has figured out how to give teens an enjoyable experience away from all the Mickey and Goofy character hoopla. Disney offers plenty for hard-to-please teens, from a dedicated teen club to even their own "teen beach" on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.

Teen Activities A big concern for most teens is that they will constantly be bombarded by Disney characters once they board the ship. But the "cast" is only around during certain posted times. Both Disney ships feature a teen-only facility located in the second (fake) smokestack. The teen clubs are named The Stack, a high energy teen nightclub on the Disney Magic; and Aloft on the Disney Wonder. Aloft is designed to look like a loft apartment where a cool chill-out by day turns into a high-energy teen nightclub at night. The clubs are designed for persons age 13-17 only. The Stack and Aloft feature walls of plasma screen TVs, Internet access, large comfy sofas, music, and a dance floor that's open until the early hours of the morning.

What else is there to do?! The Disney teen staff plans many activities ranging from ice-breakers on the first night to hip-hop dance lessons on another night. With this variety of activities, any teen will have no problem meeting other teens onboard. The favorite activity would probably be the Digi Hunt, in which teens explore the ship in small groups with a digital camera and a list of Disney trivia clues. Those who snatch pictures of the most clues win! Another favorite is the H2O Splashdown -- a teen-only pool party complete with Survivor-like games and music. The best part is that teens can come and go at their leisure at all Disney activities. (Face it, most teens don't always find structured activities the most thrilling.) If a scheduled activity doesn't interest you, you may just want to chill out and mingle with your new friends -- or you can play some Playstation 2. Basically a teen can do whatever they want when they want to - no strings attached!

Castaway Cay Disney, like Carnival, is one of the few cruise lines that offer teen-only shore excursions -- a chance to explore an island with newfound friends. Currently, teen-only excursions are offered at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. Castaway Cay can be compared to an island paradise theme park for Disney cruises only. There are water sports such as boat rentals, banana boat rides, and catamarans; or you can enjoy the island's white sandy beaches, clear waters for snorkeling, or its private teen-only escape, Teen Beach. Here, teens can snorkel, play volleyball, soccer, basketball, go kayaking, or just soak up the Bahamas sun.

Teen Beach also offers other activities for teens: You can participate in the "Whatever Floats Your Boat" competition, where your team competes against others to build a raft using just bamboo and a rope (the winner is the team whose raft stays afloat). However, if you are anything like me, an active teen, you won't want to miss the "Wild Side" teen-only excursion. Disney offers this more structured teen excursion of Castaway Cay -- a four-hour tour that costs $35. Wild Side gives teens the chance to experience Castaway Cay through snorkeling, kayaking and biking. This private island escape has become such a popular destination that Disney has select sailings that visit Castaway Cay on two separate days during one seven-night sailing (Disney Magic only).

Nightlife Cruises give teens the chance to stay out late and meet friends, so nightlife is a huge part of a teen's cruising experience. On Disney ships, night-time events for teens range from theme dance nights to karaoke, game shows and movies on the 24- by 14-foot screen around the pool (Disney Magic only). If teens want to feel like they are really in a club, Disney definitely features this for them. They should be sure not miss the "Glow Jam" night in the teen club, where they can party it up in style, complete with glow sticks and bracelets- all while tearing up the dance floor. Are oldies more your style? Then "Flashback to the �70s, 80s and 90s" is going to be your night, an evening that lets you get your groove on with other teens and music from the past!

Itineraries Where can you go on a Disney cruise? The ships sail weekly out of Port Canaveral on short getaways or relaxing weeklong cruises. Disney Wonder would be your choice for a short Bahamas getaway. Departing every Thursday and Sunday, it stops in Nassau, Bahamas and Castaway Cay. Nassau gives a teen and his family the opportunity to shop at a local straw market or perhaps go via water taxi to visit the Atlantis Hotel. If you can get away for a week, Disney Magic sails every Saturday to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Ports include St. Maarten and St. Thomas in the Eastern Caribbean, and Key West, Costa Maya and Grand Cayman in the Western Caribbean. Every cruise also visits Castaway Cay for a day. I personally suggest longer cruises for older teens because it takes a little longer for teens to get acquainted with a new group.

In summer of 2007, Disney Cruise Lines will begin to explore Europe. Disney will be offering 10- and 11-night Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona, Spain, visiting ports in Italy and France with the Disney Magic.

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