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Is Disney Cruise Line for Teens and Tweens Too?

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My family set sail for the first time seven years ago on a multi-generational Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic and fell in love with cruising. As of this past fall we had sailed on a total of five cruises on four different lines in the Caribbean, Alaska, the Baltics and the Mediterranean, but we had not set foot on a Disney ship since that first voyage. While researching holiday cruises, I discovered that Disney now sails out of Galveston, Texas, but I was hesitant to book because I worried it couldn’t live up to our wonderful memories of our first sailing. I wondered, is Disney Cruise Line for teens and tweens too?

My tween and teen posing with Pluto aboard Disney Magic

My tween and teen posing with Pluto aboard Disney Magic

Character Interaction

On our first Disney cruise when my daughters were 9 and 2.5 years old; my youngest, Emma, was smitten with the characters, particularly the lovely princesses. Meeting Disney characters aboard the ship is one of the highlights of sailing with Disney because the interaction is so much more personal than at the theme parks and it’s more comfortable lining up in an air-conditioned lobby rather than the hot Florida or California sun.

My biggest worry prior to the recent trip was that the characters would not hold quite the same fascination for older kids (the girls are now 16 and 9). Much to my surprise and delight, Emma was still keen to line up, get an autograph and have a photo taken with all the characters. Even her big sister, Katie, was willingly photographed with characters on a couple of occasions—and I’m fairly certain that if she had been traveling with another teen, they would have had quite a few giggles posing with their childhood favorites.

Mickey’s Pool on Disney Magic

Mickey’s Pool on Disney Magic

Youth Facilities and Other Fun Stuff

The Disney youth facilities are quite impressive and much larger than those on other cruise lines. But whereas there may have been 100 kids on the other ships we sailed, there were probably 1,000 on Disney’s Magic, making the camp’s environment a bit chaotic. Emma spent about an hour in the Oceaneer Lab on the first sea day. With so many other activities like swimming in the ship’s pools and twirling down the waterslide, taking a family cooking class, watching films in the at sea  movie theatre, participating in a Pirates in the Caribbean party and more—she had no time to revisit the kids’ club.

Pirates in the Caribbean Night – 2006 and 2013

Pirates in the Caribbean Night – 2006 and 2013

We toured the teen hangout, Vibe, shortly after boarding the ship and I was very impressed with the facilities, which are located on the top deck far from younger children. I’m sure most teens would have had a blast hanging out there playing video and board games, listening to music, attending dance parties and making new friends. My 16 year old, who had just finished Christmas exams, went to Vibe once but spent most of her time hanging out by the pool, sleeping in late, and enjoying the cruise’s plentiful food (like meals in three themed restaurants and an endless supply of serve yourself soft-serve ice cream!).

My favorite restaurant, Animator’s Palate, ready for service

My favorite restaurant, Animator’s Palate, ready for service

Live Broadway-style Shows

Disney’s live Broadway-style shows appeal to guests of all ages with a great mix of song, dance, loveable characters and engaging story lines. My 16-year-old particularly liked the Villains Tonight show, which had plenty of pop culture references that would have gone over the heads of younger audience members but amused the teens and adults. Now that I have sailed other cruise lines, I would say that Disney Cruise Line has by far the best live entertainment for families at sea.

Disney Magic docked in Cozumel

Disney Magic docked in Cozumel

Emma is just about the same age that Katie was the first time we cruised on the Magic and enjoyed many of the same activities. At 16, Katie enjoyed the freedom to explore the ship on her own and relax—her ideal vacation. With plenty of on-board activities to keep guests of all ages as busy or laidback as they want to be, our family successfully sailed without any complaints of boredom and our week on the Disney Magic was as much fun as that first one several years ago. We relaxed and simply enjoyed the down time, which was a welcome change from the hectic travels we have undertaken lately. Both girls agreed they would love to sail Disney again. On the last night of our cruise, Emma cried because she didn’t want it to end. I can’t think of a better endorsement.

Would you consider cruising on the Disney line with a teens or tweens or do you think they would be too old to enjoy the experience? Let us know in the comments!

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

Comments
  1. I toured the Wonder a few months back and it was amazing. Our relatives take their teens on a Disney Cruise every year and they say they never get bored!

  2. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says

    Gigi, there is so much to do on the Disney ships that I think it is impossible for anyone to get bored! We weren’t able to fit in everything that we wanted to do because we couldn’t be in two places at once!

  3. I would think that it would still be awesome regardless of age! I think I was 14 when I first went to Disney World and loved it.

    My husband and I are really considering a European Disney cruise next year- the boys being 3,3 and 5. I find what’s stopping me is that the ONE cruise I went on- I loved- except for the fact that I contracted the dreaded norovirus. I feel with little kids I would have that much less control over their ability to catch it. How can I protect against that???

  4. Susan (Blind River) says

    We fell in love with cruising as a family too, in 2007 when I booked a four day on Disney’s Wonder…we never looked back…sailed again on the Disney’s Magic in 2009….problem is that all my boys want to do now is going on cruises.
    Last year thinking we needed to try something new, we sailed with Royal Caribbean for its reputation of best in class. We sailed with them for their own board amenities, and the diversity of islands. We did enjoy leaving from San Juan instead of Florida, and going to five different islands. Overall, the Royal’s shipped seemed very tired compared to Disney and the food and on board shows were lacking by comparison.

  5. Farrah, I think your family would have a wonderful time on a Disney cruise!

    With respect to the norovirus, I don’t think that there’s any way to guarantee that you won’t contract it but I just try to be extremely vigilant on board ships (and I know it’s more difficult with younger children who put their hands in their mouths a lot). I’m the queen of Purell at any time and we sanitize our hands even more often aboard the ship. There are stations outside each restaurant where staff hand out sanitizing wipes to guest entering to be sure that hands are cleaned prior to eating. Kids heading into the youth facilities have to sanitize as well. We have been on 6 cruises and haven’t contracted it so I think perhaps it’s a bit of luck of the draw and I just tell myself that we could get a bug at home just as easily so I’m not going to avoid cruising for fear of the virus.

  6. Lisa, the Spunky Travel Mama says

    Hi Susan – it’s so nice to hear from you! Both of my kids love cruising too – I think, particularly as they get older, they enjoy the extra bit of freedom that they can have on a cruise and the opportunity to meet other kids.

    It’s always interesting to hear how others compare the various ships. We have sailed on three other lines and I don’t think any of them can compare to Disney in terms of entertainment. Even as an adult, I preferred the Disney shows to anything we have seen on the other lines we have sailed.

  7. Amber's The Mile High Mama says

    Ahhh, vicarious living. We did a Disney Cruise out of LA a couple of years ago and it was one of our favorite vacations ever!!!

  8. Leslie Horning says

    I have never done a disney cruise, I always opted for Royal Carribean or Carnival. I’m thinking I may need to try out a disney cruise though, I always thought that they were geared towards infants and toddlers, but after reading this, I think I need to do more research!

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