Last weekend, I whisked my 13-year-old away for an incredible, whirlwind trip, from Austin to New York City to somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean, and back again. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since my eldest son became a teenager–to go on a grand adventure, just the two of us–so I jumped at the chance to take him on a pre-inaugural voyage aboard Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship in the Quantum class, Anthem of the Seas. What could be grander than a weekend at sea on a 1,141-foot floating entertainment complex?
In honor of my teenage travel buddy, and all the fun we had experiencing our very first cruise together, here are 13 things to do with a 13-year-old onboard Anthem of the Seas.
1. Anthem of the Seas Sail Away Party
Our weekend kicked off with an epic outdoor party, on the 15th deck of Anthem of the Seas, where passengers were invited to wave farewell to New York City, as we set out to sea. Music was pumping, free drinks were flowing, and passengers were all smiles as we sailed past the vibrant Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty herself.
2. North Star
For an even more amazing look at The Big Apple, the ship’s North Star, a glass observation capsule attached to a mechanical arm, elevated guests to enjoy panoramic views of the city lights from 300 feet above sea level.
3. Pools, Pools, and More Pools
Some guests didn’t even wait for the Anthem to leave the port before jumping in the water! The ship boasts two huge outdoor pools, two indoor pools, and four whirlpools. My son’s only lament after our trip was that he ran out of time to take a dip in every single one.
When the weather took a drizzly turn on Saturday, we headed indoors to SeaPlex, a two-story amusement center, which kept my son entertained for hours. With bumper cars, roller skating, foosball, ping pong, a video arcade, and more, there was no shortage of activities to try.
And… this is where I left him, in a room filled with gaming systems. The beauty of traveling with teens is that you can split up and make plans to meet again later.
5. RipCord by iFly
Look at this kid! Skydiving on the deck of a cruise ship, out in the middle of the ocean. Makes me tempted to say things like, “You know when I was young, we were thrilled when our motel had a trampoline.” But, that grin! He loved it. A 60-second flight in the wind tunnel simulates free fall from 18,000 feet. It’s quick but exhilarating, and iFly is a unique experience that kids as young as three can try.
When you take a break from pool-hopping, there’s also a 40-foot-long surf simulator onboard! Teens–and adults not concerned with embarrassing themselves–can give surfing a try without leaving the ship. It’s harder than it looks!
From oversized sculptures to unique three dimensional portraits made from painted screws, the artwork displayed throughout Anthem of the Seas is exceptional. An installation by artist Rafael Lozano Hemmer, Pulse Spiral, is a chandelier with 200 bulbs that flash in time to the heartbeats of those who have recently touched its sensors. Another interactive piece features a wall of wooden squares which imitate the movement of passers by. The colorful work pictured above displays different words when various squares are touched. My son insisted on taking the stairs wherever we went, because impressive artwork adorned each new level of the ship and he didn’t want to miss a thing!
Jumping on the worldwide craze of room escape challenges, Royal Caribbean has partnered with Puzzle Break to debut “Escape from the Future”, a timed experience where teams have one hour to find clues, solve puzzles, and try not to pull their hair out while working together to escape from a locked room. This was the coolest, and most stressful, thing we did on the cruise. The clock was counting down, the puzzles were complex, our team had to cooperate to decipher confusing clues, and my son loved every second. In fact, when we managed to unlock the key to escape the room with only 35 seconds left on the clock, he told me it was the best thing he had ever done.
We were delighted to discover a small library of shelves filled with brand new books that guests can borrow for free. Take a book, read it, return it at your leisure. There were books for all ages, as well as playing cards and board games. In The Living Room, a teen-only lounge, there were even more books to enjoy. We could have happily holed up on the ship all week, reading our way through all the great titles.
My son’s favorite food is any food he has not yet tried. So, this weekend he sampled it all, from eggplant to escargot. He put that teenage appetite to good use, learning how to eat lobster and falling in love with asparagus soup. Meanwhile, I was doing my level best to work my way through all the desserts. With 18 restaurant concepts, including five complimentary main dining restaurants, plus a lineup of specialty dining restaurants, we simply didn’t have enough time to try everything. But we made a valiant effort.
I took my teen to a bar, because the bartenders were robots and this we had to see. With laser precision, robotic arms deftly crafted cocktails (and mocktails) that we ordered on iPads. There was a nice selection of non-alcoholic beverages for minors, and watching robots shake and pour drinks was just too much fun to pass up.
It blew me away that we could just stroll into the Music Hall–with no tickets or reservations–and sit in the front row for a Broadway quality performance of the Queen tribute musical We Will Rock You. The production was phenomenal, and free! My teen is still singing “Bicycle Race” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” nearly a week later. Other shows onboard include a comedy show and an impressive high-tech cabaret, complete with circus acts, in the multi-dimensional venue Two70.
A 30-foot high rock climbing wall overlooking the ocean is just one more reason for teens to love this exceptional, nautical entertainment destination!
About Anthem of the Seas
Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas has made Cape Liberty Cruise Port, just outside of New York City, her permanent year-round home. She will sail to The Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, Grand Cayman, Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, Barbados, Martinique, and St. Maarten. Itineraries vary from seven- to twelve-night sailings. Anthem spans 18 decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,090 staterooms. More information is available at www.RoyalCaribbean.com/AnthemoftheSeas.
Heidi Gollub is the founder of the award-winning blog Free Fun in Austin. When not running around on adventures with her five children, she volunteers for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, helping tourists plan their dream vacations, and writes content for the local news. She frequently appears on television and was recently a speaker at Mom 2.0 and the Texas Conference for Women.