The following questions routinely come up when the idea of a family cruise is bandied about. Is a cruise is right for your family? Will you AND the kids enjoy it? And, will you get cabin fever and that claustrophobic feeling that I, for one, was very concerned about being afflicted with all of these.
But with the Disney Cruise Line the answers were… yes, yes, and no – in that order.
My husband, our five-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to sail away on the Disney Wonder, which is totally aptly named. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t board the ship all glassy eyed and eager. I was – to be honest – a bit terrified. But any doubts, fears or concerns were totally squashed as soon as we got on board.
One of the reasons I felt nervous? I hadn’t done my due diligence and researched exactly what would be happening on the cruise. Had I known these twenty things about the cruise I would have left without a care in the world.
- On a Disney Cruise everyone will know your name, yes just like Cheers. As you come and go from dinner, breakfast, the bar and just in the hallway, Disney employees will greet you by name. You will feel famous.
- Even though you are on a family vacation, odds are you won’t be seeing your kids very much. If they’re not frolicking in one of the pools or gallavanting around with their new-found friends, they’ll be at the kid’s club – a place they will not want to leave. My daughter had a cooking class, played pirates and even put on a stage show while at the kid’s club. She begged and pleaded to stay longer and really wanted nothing to do with us, which is a shock since usually she is stuck to us like glue. But the kid’s club offered more excitement and entertainment then we could offer. They have that whole entertaining the kids thing down.
- While the children are in the kid’s club, you don’t have to worry that you’ll be relegated with spending your offspring-free hours with other people’s kids. You can escape to several of the kid-free zones. There is an adults only bar, an adults only café, an adults only pool, and adults only spa. Yeah, there are plenty of places to either hide and relax or both.
- Speaking of adults only, while the dining has a strong Disney slant, you can have a kid – and Disneyana free – dining experience at the top notch fine dining establishment offered on the ships. We dined at Palo, featuring amazing Italian fare and a stunning wine list. It’s like date night at sea.
- You will see princesses, lots and lots of princesses. If it seems jarring to walk through the hallway and spot Snow White sashaying next to you, you’ll get used to it. And if you aren’t lucky enough to spot her walking around, there are a couple princess meet and greet opportunities where your little princess-loving girl can meet them.
- But it ain’t just princesses you’ll meet. There’s (at least on the cruise we went on) Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and Daisy, Stitch, Goofy, Pluto, Peter Pan, and Captain Hook available to rub shoulders with the kids, and they go crazy for that.
- Disney Cruises does this thing called rotation dining which is pretty awesome. It really makes you feel at home. You are assigned a dining time and each night you go to a different restaurant, rotating through them. But one of the nicest things about the rotation dining is that you have the same wait staff each night. Our team was Tita (from Hungary) and Balwan (from India), and were amazingly sweet, generous and kind. They felt like family by the end of the cruise, with sad farewells and lots of hugs. The dining staff will remember your favorite drink and what kind of foods you like. And when you sit down your child’s beverages will be right there and ready. Plus they do some stunning things with napkins (think Minnie bows and Peter Pan hats) and are artists with ketchup.
- The dinners are entertainment in themselves. Each night is a theme. On the Wonder there was a Pirates of the Caribbean night, a formal night and an amazing dinner at the Animator’s Palate where all the walls decorated with Disney sketches slowly transform from black and white to full color.
- If you missed your dinner time because you were too busy napping or playing in the pool, there are several dining options like a drop in buffet, a snack bar with sandwiches and salads and 24/7 room service – all included into the cost of the cruise.
- You will eat too much. Really. We tried not to but with the Vegas-worthy buffets, totally enticing menus and the really hard to resist desserts, we did over eat. But there are plenty of healthy options like a wide variety of salads, morning oatmeals and yogurts and fresh fruit. But it’s just one of those side effects of the cruisin’ life, you will eat your fair share.
- It is hard to get bored. After we read our books, perused our magazines, swam in the pool, we’d play games. We’re a sucker for bingo in a ironic sort of way which we played a couple times. Plus there are all sort of family games, trivia challenges and -of course- shuffleboard.
- Your room steward will do astonishing things with your towels. They are fine tuned in the art of towel origami where they’ll transform your cabin’s bath linens into the shapes of dogs, monkeys and dinosaurs.
- You will meet people from all over the world. Disney throws a wide net to cast their ships crew. There are employees from India, England, Norway and Germany just to name a few. Their employees are made up from people of sixty different nationalities. The accents, the stories and the interesting array of names will make you feel pretty damn cultured in the middle of the ocean.
- You will get to sit with your family at dinner. I watched my own fair share of Love Boat growing up and so I just kind of assumed we’d be at these big tables sitting with total strangers and forced to make chit-chat. But we were delighted to see that we had a table just for our family. Not that we’re anti-social but after a long day of playing in the sun and sea it’s nice to just relax.
- You will sleep really well. There is something about the rocking of the boat, the quiet of the open sea that just makes you sleep not unlike a baby.
- And if you’re in your room not sleeping (and there is so much to do, you won’t be spending much time in your room actually), there are several 24/7 Disney channels. One shows vintage classic Disney shorts, and a couple that show classic and newer Disney fare like Lilo & Stitch, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
- If you happen to be in the mood for a Disney movie but wanna see it on a movie theater-sized screen, well, you’re in luck. There is a theater that shows very new Disney films, even some in 3D.
- You won’t be spending ALL your time on the ship (well, you could opt to not set foot on land during your entire cruise). You can go to shore and partake in some of the amazing excursions that Disney arranges. On our trip we went on two beach resort trips and our daughter got to swim with dolphins. At each of their ports they have a wide array of options from lazy to adventure.
- On your cruise you will be surrounded by people wearing lanyards that say ‘Castaway Cay’ in silver or gold. What’s that? It means that they have been on a Disney cruise before. But what is really striking? How MANY of these you’ll see on your cruise. There are families who have gone twice, five times or who go each and every year. That is pretty good proof of the kind of job they do.
- And finally, your kids, and yes you, will have an amazing time.