Editor’s Note: Babble is a part of The Walt Disney Company. In addition, Disney provided this trip for free and all opinions represented in this post are the author’s.
Being a parent has its perks. We have these adorable kids who warm our hearts and teach us new things every day. Yet as awesome as parenting is, it’s also a whole lot of work. Heck, even family vacations can feel like a lot of work!
As the parent of a tween and teen, I know a few things about the work that goes into family vacations. We’ve traveled ourselves into a tizzy on more than one occasion, with little more to show for our efforts than a few forced family selfies and a couple of magnets on our fridge. Since then, however, I’ve learned there’s a better way to vacay — one that takes the stress out and puts the magic back in.
With my kids back in school, I recently embarked on a seven-night cruise to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder with my mother-of-triplets best friend. With five kids between us, our mom hearts couldn’t help but think about all of the incredible perks Disney Cruise Line offers for parents!
1. There are plenty of adult-only spaces for a little quiet time.
Did you know the Disney Wonder offers adult-only spaces and activities where grown-ups can play? We were all too ready to check out each of the following:
The Crown & Fin Pub: This authentic English tavern served us well as we played a ton of trivia while sipping our favorite pint.
Azure: This modern nightclub gave us the perfect excuse to get all dolled up and dance the night away to our favorite jams. (Yep, we still got it!)
Cadillac Lounge: We enjoyed the ship’s drink of the day while listening to live piano like a couple of sophisticated ladies in this glamorous lounge inspired by old Hollywood.
Senses Spa: As two harried mamas in need of serious self-care, we reached nirvana here in the form of a sauna, two steam rooms, and rainforest showers. Ahhhhhh.
Cove Café: We sipped on Mickey lattes and specialty coffees while chatting uninterrupted — just like we used to!
Palo: Fine dining doesn’t get better than the incredible brunch (Bellini, please!) and dinner we enjoyed, inspired by the flavors of northern Italy.
Disney Cruise Line also offers a variety of adult beverage tastings. From cognac to champagne (and so much in between), there really is something special for every taste.
The best part of all was how easy Disney Cruise Line made it to enjoy these adult-only offerings, thanks to incredible youth areas on board.
2. The youth areas are designed with your kids in mind.
While parents enjoy a little adult time, kids 17 and under are living their best lives in youth areas created just for them.
It’s a Small World Nursery is a care facility for children ages 6 months to 3 years old. Here, little ones enjoy crafts, character interactions, books, and games in a safe and secure environment — complete with diaper changes and meals. Psst! They’re open late.
Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab for ages 3 to 12 keeps kids entertained with immersive hands-on experiences that include crafts, science experiments, cooking demonstrations, an animation studio, and video games — all with Disney characters woven into the complete play experience.
For kids ages 11-14, Edge offers a place for tweens to come chill, craft, play video games and trivia, and get active with basketball, ping pong tables, and shuffleboard at the Wide World of Sports deck.
For teens ages 14-17, Vibe is where the cool kids hang. With their own private entrance (how totally exclusive!), this clubhouse offers movies, classic arcade games, dance parties, and interactive games.
3. The helpful crew members are a parent’s best friend.
Disney Cruise Line believes parents deserve a vacation, too, which is why they’re here to help us from the moment we embark. Hotel Director Lloyd Machado tells Babble there are about 700 crew members on his team. So parents, rest easy. You’re on vacation now!
Did you know that room service is available 24 hours a day, free of charge? IT IS! So if your kid just isn’t feeling dinner at your regularly scheduled dining time, simply order it back at your stateroom while enjoying Disney entertainment on TV.
Speaking of scheduled dining, your designated server will cut up your child’s food so you don’t have to! WHAT. When was the last time you enjoyed a hot meal?
But it gets even better! If you’re going to dinner and would like a little kid-free dessert, you can arrange for a youth counselor to pick up your child at the end of their meal to escort them back to the youth area for interactive play time. See, parents? You really can have it all!
4. The port adventures are so cool, your kids will gladly ditch their devices.
We quickly learned that Alaska offers amazing opportunities for family adventure. Cruise Director Natalie Bailey tells Babble, “One thing our guests are wanting more … is for their kids to step away from the iPads and computer games and to really take in these incredible experiences, so it becomes an enjoyment piece, a vacation piece, and educational piece, as well.” It takes a lot to get my kids off their devices, so I was willing to explore my wild side to see if port adventures could pass the “connected kid” test.
Icy Strait Point: We rode the world’s largest ziprider from the summit of Hoonah Mountain (gulp!). Throughout my thrilling 90-second descent into awesomeness, I couldn’t help but think just how much my adrenaline-junkie teen would love the experience. We then went whale watching and saw orcas and a pack of six humpback whales bubble feeding right in front of us!
Skagway: We ventured into Liarsville Gold Rush Camp where we panned for gold, hung out with Donald Duck and Chip ‘n Dale, and enjoyed a rustic salmon bake. Hotel Director Machado had an opportunity to take part in gold panning last year and shares, “All I was doing was watching the kids as they saw Alaska in a completely different light. They were like, ‘Wow! Alaska can be fun!’”
Juneau: We took a 5-Glacier Seaplane Discovery to the Enchanted Taku Glacier Lodge where we got up close and personal with the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield! Both of my sons would have loved this air adventure and gladly volunteered to co-pilot. Upon landing, we enjoyed a delicious meal that included ice from the West Twin Glacier in our drinks!
Ketchikan: Our final port adventure included an Alaskan Fish Camp and wilderness dinner. Here, we boarded a 20-foot skiff and fished like total pros. Our group made quite the catch, including a 15-pound rockfish! We then headed to a quaint campsite to enjoy a super yummy meal of our caught fish.
5. The little touches of “magic” make for lasting memories.
The real beauty of the Disney Cruise Line experience comes from the incredible memories made. From little extras, like towel characters on your bed each night to watching your hand-drawn cartoon come to life at Animator’s Palate, magic is everywhere.
So, no more forced family vacation selfies for us. Next time, real smiles will grace our happy faces as Mickey and pals bring genuine magic to our family vacations.