This could be the ultimate stress-free family holiday

The teenagers want a base with full amenities, you want a bit of culture. The answer? Take the resort to the sights on a cruise, says Suzanne Cadisch

A 12-night cruise out of Harwich suited bed-loving teens right from the start. They didn't have to be fresh for a long journey and they didn't even have to be that organised. It was a case of falling into the car with as much luggage as they liked, snoozing for a couple of hours en route to the port, and then falling into their cabin for a shower. Sorted.

Beginning a fabulous holiday like this was bliss for us, too. No nagging, no baggage weight restrictions (well, 200lb, so as good as), no hanging around airports, no transfers. Plus there was the prospect of being waited on hand and foot while our "hotel room" was transported around the Baltic to five glorious European capitals.

But first things first. With four full days at sea during the trip and every night on board, did our floating resort pass muster with the girls (one almost 16 and the other going on 18)? Absolutely. You just can't fail to be wowed by a ship like Royal Caribbean's 90,000-ton Jewel of the Seas and, for a teenager, what's not to like?

There are indoor and outdoor pools, sundecks, hot tubs, a gym, sports court, rock-climbing wall 200ft above the waves, arcade games, shops, West End-quality shows in a spectacular theatre. And you can order a burger or three (room service is free) while you overdose on Cartoon Network or watch movies in your cabin – which a smiling steward then cleans up for you.

On top of all that, there is a truly impressive free Adventure Ocean programme for under-18s, with activities for seven age groups, from babes in arms to 15-17-year-olds, giving parents and offspring of all ages real freedom to enjoy a holiday their way and making family cruising fantastic value.

A word of warning, though: while cruising and teenagers most definitely go together, pick your destination carefully. Admittedly, we were extremely unlucky with the weather when we travelled last August, but, even at its best, the Baltic probably wasn't the cleverest choice for teenage girls whose first summer commandment is "Thou shalt get a tan".

At least we never had to prise them away from the pool to come ashore with us. In Stockholm we gaped at the world's oldest warship, the Vasa, salvaged from the sea after 333 years and looking as if it had come straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. In Copenhagen we posed with the Little Mermaid and strolled around the Tivoli Gardens. In Oslo, where we woke to a castle outside our window, we marvelled at how the Kon Tiki raft could have made that famous Pacific crossing in 1947. We sipped warm Monk's Bride pastis on the cobbled streets of Estonia's medieval capital Tallinn, and we tasted reindeer while basking in the sunshine of Helsinki.

But the undoubted highlight of the trip was St Petersburg. Unless you have obtained your own Russian visa in advance of travel, the only way you can go ashore during the 35-hour stopover here is on official Royal Caribbean tours, which cost extra but proved excellent value. We booked as many excursions as we could cram into the two days.

Equipped with radio earphones, we received a stream of fascinating information from our passionate guides as we toured the Hermitage and its world-famous art treasures, rode Stalin's subway, shopped in local markets and, on day two, visited the breathtaking palaces at Pushkin and Peterhof.

Back on board, a recent Royal Caribbean innovation that suited us was open dining, where you can opt out of the rigid dinner seating system and make a daily booking for whatever time you like. And the food, of course, was fabulous.

Cruising has to be the ultimate in a stress-free family holiday. A ship like the Jewel of the Seas – 962ft long with a crew of 850 serving up to 2,500 passengers – can be all things to all people: join in or chill out, get fit or get fat, go see the sights or watch the world go by from your favourite on-board bar.

Just be prepared to fork out for a spray tan if you take teenage girls to the Baltic.

Compact facts

How to get there

Royal Caribbean International (0844 493 2061; royalcaribbean .co.uk) offers a 12-night cruise on board Jewel of the Seas to Scandinavia and Russia in July 2009 from £1,629 per person, based on two sharing a balcony cabin, and from £1,031 per person, based on two sharing an inside cabin. Booking a suite can be cost-effective for a family. Alcohol and branded soft drinks are extra. Shore excursions in St Petersburg cost from about £28. A day tour of Pushkin and Peterhof including lunch costs about £125 per person (£75 for under-12s).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor