Here’s what I have been telling anyone who will listen ever since I first set sail with Mickey Mouse and friends in 2007: A Disney Cruise is THE ideal vacation for families. Whether you have a baby, kid, or teen…everyone’s needs (and wants!) are met on a Disney Cruise. Plus, the children are so entertained and catered to, parents are free to do something so rare on a vacation with kids…relax! Here are just some of the reasons I am such a big fan of cruising Disney-style.
During my Disney Mediterranean Cruise, I was accompanied by my husband and then 2.5-year-old daughter. My son was stowing away in my belly too, as we discovered while on board the ship! Some of my favorite memories as a family of three took place during this vacation.
The service we received aboard Disney’s Magic was beyond belief. Our waitress cheerfully brought us extra dessert when we couldn’t decide on just one and even stopped by to cut up our daughter’s pizza while inquiring about our day. Our room steward made sure our cabins were kept in tip-top shape, always greeted us by name, and transformed regular bath towels into bunny rabbits and stingrays each night. Everyone went above and beyond to make sure we had an unforgettable experience.
Disney Cruise dining
During our 10-night cruise, most days we chose to eat room service breakfast on our stateroom’s balcony, taking in the view of various picturesque port towns as we nibbled on fresh fruit, yogurt and baked goodies. On our last day at sea, we attended a character breakfast with Lilo and Stitch doing Elvis impersonations and dancing the hula in one of the ship’s restaurants.
Our lunches, for the most part, were eaten onshore. During at sea days, we grabbed quick, easy meals from the ship’s eateries, like Pluto’s Dog House (which serves hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, and the like), Pinocchio’s Pizzeria, or Goofy’s Galley (with healthy options like wraps and fresh salads).
Each evening, we were seated with the same family (a wonderful foursome from Eden Prairie, Minnesota) and we kept the same wait staff for every dinner. However, we rotated through three restaurants: Lumiere’s (with a French ambiance), Animator’s Palate (with walls that start out black and white but which come alive with Disney characters in colorful lights), and Parrot Cay (with a Caribbean theme). The menus on our cruise were themed to the Mediterranean, serving Spanish, Italian, and French meals plus some standard American options and kid favorites. Even the meals onboard a Disney ship are magical – just as our little one would start to get too squirmy, Beauty and the Beast would come waltzing through the dining room!
Carrying the tradition over from Disney’s Caribbean cruises, one night’s theme was Pirate Night, during which diners sported free pirate bandanas or dressed up in more elaborate garb brought from home or purchased on the ship.
The crème de la crème was Palo, an adult-only fine-dining restaurant that requires reservations. We partook of the scrumptious brunch and a to-die-for dinner but didn’t have time enough to book a high tea this time around.
Awesome kids clubs
A Disney Cruise is paradise, especially for children! Instead of offering a casino like most cruise lines, Disney puts that space to use for its various clubs for kids of all ages. Parents can indulge in a spa treatment, relax by the adult-only pool, or dine at Palo sans kids without guilt, knowing their offspring are having the time of their lives at the onboard kids’ clubs.
Our tablemates even had a hard time convincing their six-year-old and nine-year-old sons to join us for dinner each night because they wanted to stay at Oceaneer kids’ clubs (for ages three to 12 years) and play, play, play! There is also a teen club on each Disney ship, where kids aged 13 to 17 enjoy dance parties, board and video games, and Karaoke.
Most cruise lines’ childcare programs do not accept children until age two or three, but babies as young as three months are welcomed in the Disney Cruise Line nurseries. We worried when we dropped off our daughter at Flounder’s Reef Nursery the first time and she began to wail. But then we stopped by five minutes later to take a peek at her though a giant one-way window and saw her happily playing with the counselors and a rainbow of toys. This put our minds at ease, allowing us to enjoy our date night free from worry.
On our last night my husband, Phil, told Karissa she was all done with Flounders, which set her off crying and carrying on once more…this time because she wanted one last chance to return to the nursery!
The live shows aboard a Disney Cruise are Broadway caliber and feature favorite characters from movies like Toy Story and Cinderella. Even our wiggly toddler stayed entertained through most of the performances.
There’s even a movie theatre aboard the ships in which new-release Disney movies are shown on-screen. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was in theatres on land and at sea during our sailing.
There are bars and nightclubs onboard the ship too but we were never up late enough to explore those much. Instead, Phil and I enjoyed a glass of wine or two on our stateroom’s balcony after our daughter was tucked in for the night. I have heard the party scene aboard a Disney ship is much more subdued than other lines though. So, if you’re looking to party-hardy – a Disney Cruise is probably not up your galley!
Not only are Disney’s staterooms larger than most cruise lines, but also they offer some special amenities that cater to families’ needs. First of all, they offer not one but TWO sinks to make getting ready for the day easier.
Disney is the only line I know of that offers a privacy curtain that can be pulled shut to separate the adult sleeping area (with a queen bed) from the kid sleeping area (which is usually outfitted with a single bed or bunk beds, depending upon which room type you book). This is absolutely fabulous for parents traveling with young children whose bedtimes are much earlier than their own. Rather than turning in before sunset, Phil and I were able to quietly watch television, read in bed, and snuggle up a bit!
Disney’s new ship, Dream, will offer virtual portholes for interior cabins that will display a live view of the scenery, plus animated Nemo characters swimming past every now and then!
Most cruise lines do not allow non-potty-trained children in their pools for sanitary reasons. However, Disney offers a fountain pool with a special filtration system that allows babies and toddlers to have a splashing good time aboard their ships! There are also family pools, an adult-only pool, and even a small staff-only pool!
The new Dream ship will offer a sweet looking waterslide called the AquaDuck that will send riders out over the ocean in a see-through tube slide! Plus, the Dream’s Nemo’s Reef splash area for kids looks like buckets of fun!
During our cruise through the Mediterranean we explored the ruins of Pompeii, perused museums and shops, ate long lunches of pasta and vino, and lazed on sandy beaches. Some days we chose Disney-organized shore excursions while on other days we opted to explore on our own. Even on days filled with lots of grown-up activities, our daughter was content, especially when she was greeted with a big hug from characters like Donald Duck or Minnie Mouse the minute we returned to the ship.
With Disney, kids aren’t just tolerated on shore excursions, they are catered to! This year, for example, the Highlights of Rome for Families excursion includes a 45-minute puppet show for kids supervised by Disney youth counselors at Villa Borghese while parents have a bit of time to themselves to shop or sightsee. Of course, there are excursions that cater to an older crowd too, like a Cooking Lesson in Tuscany for those aged 21+ in La Spezia, Italy or the Screamin’ Eagle jet boat ride just for teens on the Caribbean cruise to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Disney Does Europe
Disney Cruise Line is sailing through Europe for the second time this summer. The itinerary for the Mediterranean cruise has changed somewhat since we took that cruise, making me drool even more over this year’s schedule! For the first time there will also be cruises through Northern Europe and Scandinavia. (Drool again!)
Are you dreaming of a Disney Cruise too? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with other Travel Mamas and Travel Daddies in the comments below!
A Note from the Travel Mama: My family paid for this cruise and I did not receive any compensation or goodies from Disney related to this story. I will always let you know if I receive any money or products related to a blog post.