Earlier this Spring, my family and I went on a Disney Cruise and ever since, I have had so many moms ask me the same question:
Is the Disney Cruise as great as all the hype suggests? Or is it enough Mickey Mouse to make you want to jump ship?
So, to answer their questions and yours, here are my top ten things you need to know about Disney Cruises:
1. A Trip or a Vacation?
Every parent knows that there is a huge difference between going on a trip and taking a vacation. A trip is when you and your children travel somewhere. A vacation is when you get a break from your job. It is ALMOST impossible to take a real “vacation” with children because there’s so much work that comes along with it. A Disney Cruise was the closest I’ve ever come to bridging this gap. Not only did we travel with our children, have a great time as a family, and create a slew of wonderful memories…but my husband and I actually got a chance to relax and enjoy!
In all honesty, a Disney Cruise is not a secluded beach or a quiet, charming boutique inn. It is a crowded boat, filled with screaming children and sun-burned passengers wearing Mickey Mouse lanyards. However, it is also a gorgeous and brilliantly designed ship staffed with some of the kindest and most attentive employees I’ve ever encountered. It’s full of delicious food, non-stop entertainment, tons of child-friendly activities, and plenty of adult-only escapes (A third of the ship is reserved just for grown-ups!) Would my husband and I chose this as a vacation without our children? No. But if we’re traveling with the whole family, this was a great way to do it!
2. Schedule? What Schedule?
We all know the benefits to keeping kids on track with their sleep and each parent knows how much action their children can handle before crashing. However, a Disney Cruise is a lot like entering a parallel universe of parenting where wonderful moms and dads have all unanimously decided it’s perfectly appropriate to send your 3-year old child off, ice-cream cone in hand, to a “Pluto Pajama Party” that begins at 10:30pm… just be sure to pick them up by midnight! Any later than that would be silly!
3. It’s Showtime!
The entertainment on a Disney Cruse is incredible! Whether it was the live Broadway style shows full of your favorite classic Disney songs (with amazing choreography), the various entertainers on board (musical acts, comedians, magicians), or a Disney movie shown in the theatre (we saw the new Captain America, Frozen in 3-D, and Saving Mr. Banks) all the productions were wonderful! Don’t miss anything!
4. You are not “cool”. You are a parent on a Disney Cruise.
If you are a great parent who loves watching your smiling children having the time of their lives, then call this a fair warning: at one point on this vacation you will undoubtedly find yourself cheering on a 3rd-grade-girl singing “Under the Sea” at “family super-star karaoke”, getting down on the dancefloor at mom/dad/preschooler dance party featuring cleaned up versions of techno hits and strobe lights, or screaming with excitement when your dinner server tells you that “CAPTAN SPARROW, CAPTAIN HOOK, and ALL THE PRINCESSES HAVE JUST ARRIVED IN THE LOBBY!”
Accept it. No, embrace it. And get going… Belle and Ariel are in the lobby right now!
5. You will LOVE your servers
Disney Cruises feature “rotational dining”. This means that you eat at a different restaurant every night, but the same waitstaff follows along with you. By the second night, not only had our incredible serving team learned our names, but they had figured out our family. They knew that we liked sparkling water, not flat, that my older son wanted a Shirley Temple and extra bread and my younger son wanted apple juice, always ordered Mac and Cheese, and loved ketchup.
6. Leave the baby home (or wait till he’s 3)
Disney Cruises all have wonderful nursery care so if you have to bring along a baby, they’ve got you covered. However, it’s just not quite the same as all that is offered for older children. Plus, you have to make reservations for the nursery, which of course means, you can’t be quite as flexible as you can with older children.
however, when it comes to children 3 and older…..
7. Feel zero guilt about leaving your children:
Most children (ages 3-11) will spend a ton of their time hanging out in the Oceaneer Club or the Oceaneer Lab. These places are not school, daycare, the gym nursery, or even the world’s nicest babysitter… these places are mini-Disneylands on the ocean!
On our ship, the Oceaneer Club was pirate themed and looked like an incredible indoor playground. They hosted a non-stop line-up of exciting, active programming (Jake and the Neverland Pirate School, Toy Story Army Man Boot-Camp, Mousketeer training and on and on). Likewise, the Oceaneer Lab looks like the most child-friendly science lab ever created. My kiddos spent their time their baking cookies at the Ratatouille cooking school and making Flubber. They loved both places and the hardest part was not leaving them but deciding which center would be more fun (This of course is not a real problem because if they do want to switch areas, a loving staff member will escort them to the other play area. Oh and did I mention the children all wear RFID-bracelets and they have a ton of security procedures to make sure no one but you can remove them!) For older children, there are also tween and teen clubs that looked like something straight out of High School Musical.
8. Sweat a little
With the all-you-can-eat-non-stop-food-parade, you are going to want to burn some calories. Luckily, the gym is great and exercise classes and personal trainers are available on board. Or, if you’re a runner, 3 laps around the track on deck 4= 1 mile…You haven’t jogged until you’ve jogged in the middle of the ocean! Also, the exercise area is located in the middle of a gorgeous spa, so as long as you’re there, you may as well stay for a massage or some time in the steam room.
9. Enjoy an Adults-only dinner
As fun as our nightly family dinners were (honestly! I promise, they were fun!) My husband and I scheduled one night away to dine in the adults only restaurant. It was a great date night for us, and although, there was an additional fee, it was nominal compared to delicious food and 5-star service we received (oh- and let’s not forget we didn’t even have to pay a babysitter!) The one thing to keep in mind is that reservations are required for the adults-only restaurant, so it’s usually better to make them before you set sail.
10. When You Wish Upon A Star Your Dreams Come True
Sure, on the surface, you’re surrounded by life-sized cartoon characters, tweens singing Frozen hits, and overweight parents in swimsuits and Tevas. But in the midst of the crowds and a non-stop (borderline religious) worship of Walt, Roy, Mickey and Minnie there’s a refreshing spirit of kindness, goodness, and optimism. If you’re determined to dismiss the Disney message with cynicism, that’s your choice. But, as is pointed out over and over and over again, Walt Disney was a real man who, with nothing more than a drive and a dream literally changed the world. I love that “what started as a mouse” became an international empire and I love that my children spent a week being encouraged to follow their dreams because dreams really can come true!