So as you know, I’m a huge Disney fan. I adore Minnie Mouse, regularly weep over my ancient Beauty and the Beast DVD and could walk you around Walt Disney World blindfolded telling you all about my favourite rides. I love the films, the characters, the parks, the food (Disney dining is second to none, but cupcakes are my speciality – ask me anything). The boys have grown up with Hercules, Toy Story, Stitch and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Disney has been a part of all our lives for as long as we can all remember.
This summer we were ridiculously excited to be invited for an amazing trip aboard the Disney Magic as it cruised around the Mediterranean for one of the last times before heading to dry dock for a spectacular new makeover and with an 18 year old and a 15 year old in tow, I was interested to see how we’d get on.
Let’s be clear: there are as many different types of teens as there are holidays. You’ve got your adventurous ones, your quiet ones, your sociable ones, your ‘not talk to anyone at all’ ones… So what’s the best way to choose a holiday that will suit your teenagers AND the rest of you?
1. Involve them in the choice of holiday
As I write about travel, we tend to go on holiday a lot. My teenagers have been on all sorts of trips but the ones that are the best received are always the ones where they’ve had some choice in the matter. Make it a treat: head out for a burger (this is our standard meeting place as it guarantees at least a few minutes of silence where I can get my point across) and flump a big pile of brochures on the table (obviously you can tip the odds in your favour by adding in your favourites). Arguing will no doubt ensue, but you’ll also be able to gather who wants what from a holiday.
2. Teenagers need freedom
Cruises are perfect for families. Think about it: there’s buckets of fun for the little ones, plus the teenagers can’t really wander off and there are a gazillion activities for them to do. You can stay by the pool, head to the beach or sightsee on shore days, watch the latest Disney films (either on the amazing ‘Tunnel Vision’, an outdoor screen, or in a proper cinema), catch a show (the shows are INCREDIBLE – I always cry), play a game of basketball or table tennis… a Disney cruise is like 10 holidays in one and their kids’ clubs are amazing.
3. Which brings me to a word about kids’ clubs
Teen Clubs are really hard to get right. It helps if the age groups are well thought out (young teens and old teens is the best split: no 17 year old wants their style cramped by a 13 year old) and the leadership needs to be friendly and non-patronising. ‘Teen disco’ tends to strike fear into the heart of any teenager, but generally by day four or five they’ll be there, hanging about looking like they don’t really want to be there, but actually enjoying themselves. By day seven, they’ll be cruising around in a huge pack, annoying everyone. Teen clubs also allow them more access to the facilities: Charlie wanted to go into the gym, but it’s over 18s only. Turns out the teen club organise group visits to the gym. Result: happy Charlie.
4. Think outside the box
Our Disney Magic cruise took us to Spain, Italy and France, but maybe you fancy going further afield, or you’ve ‘done’ Rome already? No problem. Disney Cruises go to the most amazing places: cruise the Caribbean, or swoosh along the California coastline. Next on my list? Alaska!
5. Compromise compromise and compromise a bit more
Want to schlep around Pompeii on your shore day but have kids who want to lie by the pool plugged in to their iPhones? It’s all about the compromise. There are some absolutely amazing shore excursions – you don’t have to spend hours in a coach or traipsing round cathedrals. Let them choose what they want to do – I wanted to see Monaco, so we chose a trip with a visit to the Top Car Museum in Monte Carlo, which suited all of us. Also, maybe consider splitting up. We find this works well: I might head off on a trip with one, leaving Dad slobbing on the deck with the other.
6. City breaks can be really cool
We weren’t looking forward to our last day in Barcelona. We were disembarking at 9am and had all day to kill before our evening flight. We were lucky to team up with friends we’d made who knew it inside out and showed us around some really cool places. It turned out to be one of our favourite days.
7. Disney is part of everyone’s past
Some of our favourite moments were really unexpected. We bumped into Stitch – a huge favourite from their childhood, and one evening we sat and watched Hercules up on the deck, singing along to our favourite songs from the film and reminiscing about when it was their favourite film (‘nice catch, jerkules!’). Lovely moments to share.
8. Consider doubling up
Know another family with kids a similar age? Think about holidaying together. Not only is it fun to have a Disney adventure with friends, but it’s a lot easier walking into that kids’ club on the first day if they’re doing it with someone they know. It also means that you have more adults to mingle with too!
9. Everybody loves the pirate party
Trust me: nobody is ever too old for pirate night. Everyone on the ship dresses up as pirates (whole families bring their costumes with them), there are pirate themed dinners and then a massive party on the deck afterwards, with the best firework display ever and then a DJ until the early hours. There is nothing better than dancing to amazing tunes out on the deck at ridiculous o’clock in the morning under the biggest sky full of stars you ever saw.
10. Disney’s for everyone
Think Disney’s just for young ones? Think again. One of my happiest moments after we came back from the cruise was overhearing Sam talking to a friend describing the cruise: ‘I’m going every year if I can, mate, you can’t beat Disney’. Nothing makes me happier than to know I’ve passed my love of everything Disney onto my children.
7-night Disney Magic Mediterranean Cruise from £949 per adult and £699 per child. Virgin Holidays Cruises offers seven nights onboard Disney Magic from Barcelona, calling at Villefranche (for Nice, France), Pisa, Rome and Naples, including flights from London Gatwick and transfers. Prices are per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing an inside cabin on a full-board basis. Based on a departure on 30 August 2014. Offer is subject to availability and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change.
To book: Visit www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk, call 0844 573 4398 or visit one of our stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.