My friend Amy recently had misgivings about going on a family reunion cruise (not Disney). She had wanted an educational and adventurous experience in Costa Rica but other family members thought a cruise would be easier. The Bahamas won out but it brings up the question of how do you evaluate if a cruise or more specifically, a Disney family cruise, is right for you?
I’ve been on three Disney Cruise Line cruises, all to the Bahamas and on three different ships; the Wonder, the Dream, and the Fantasy. My family had amazing experiences on each occasion. We enjoyed our family time together, but also appreciated the plentiful opportunities for adult-only time and our kids loved the activities in the youth clubs.
The Experience Versus the Destination
Cruising is about the on-board ship experience: the service, the food, the entertainment and the activities. Someone else plans it all for you. That’s why people love cruises – they are stress free and easy. No navigating, no getting lost. It’s a vacation for everyone.
What will you miss on a cruise? The maps, the hours of trip planning and possibly the road mistakenly taken that leads to the little restaurant that becomes a highlight of your trip. There isn’t enough time to explore off-the-beaten path.
This was one of Nancy’s revelations when she cruised on the Disney Dream. With sometimes just hours in port, your experience is a super condensed version of the destination. When we stopped in Nassau, many guests never left the ship and were never sorry about it as the endless activities offered on-board means there is always something to do.
Disney Cruise Special Service
When I tell my friends that the waiters on our Disney cruise cut up my kids’ food for them at the dinner table, they’re sold. Where do you ever receive this type of service? And if your kids have food allergies, Disney sets the bar high to ensure that your child can enjoy the cruise safely.
The staff makes you feel pampered and surprises meet you at every turn: ketchup in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears, animal art towels on our beds at turndown that make bedtime more fun, an unsolicited private cooking class with the chef when my daughter missed a kids’ cooking class, the list goes on and on and every family has a story to tell.
Disney Cruise Kids’ Clubs
The Disney Cruise Line kids’ clubs are legendary. They are so engaging that your kids may want to spend more time there than with you. They are contained, organized, very clean and safe. Kids have electronic wrist bands for check-in and with the complimentary wave phones provided to guests, they can text you if they want to contact you.
Even the tweens and teens love them. On the Disney Fantasy the teens have their own pool and lounge area.
The youth clubs all accessible practically around the clock as they are open all day from early morning until after midnight. Your kids can drop in anytime. If your kids would never use a youth club, this is something to consider as they are such a big part of the experience.
Disney Cruise Entertainment and Activities Aimed at Families
I went on a girls getaway cruise on the Disney Dream and had loads of fun in the adult areas of the ship and Castaway Cay. They really do allow you to escape the kids and completely relax. However, the main musicals and activities are family-oriented and there are no casinos on Disney ships. While these factors may not affect a single family, it’s something to consider on a multi-generational trip where there may be adults with no children.
Disney Cruise Line Prices
Alas, the Disney cruises may be more expensive than other cruise lines, so it’s important to prioritize what you want to get out of the vacation. I wanted to go on a family reunion Disney cruise to Alaska but price was the primary reason we chose not to do it. The price difference for the same category stateroom was enough that some family members wanted to try another cruise line while we wanted to stay with Disney based on the service and quality of our previous experiences. The compromise was no cruise at all and we chose a different vacation.
There are a lot of extras on the Disney cruise ships to consider when factoring in price. For better or worse, soda is complimentary. The kids clubs are open all day, shows are Broadway quality and the split bathrooms in the staterooms are a huge plus. And it’s Disney. They are masterful storytellers and entertainers and they design activities for all ages from babies through grandparents. And for parents, the excellent youth clubs mean you’ll get coveted adult time – priceless in my book.
And what happened with my friend Amy?
She said a cruise still wouldn’t be her first option for a family vacation, but that she liked it more than she thought she would because it was so easy with a big group. Her kids and their cousins loved the kids’ clubs so much that they wanted to spend time there instead of with their parents. She was fine with this, but did note that the clubs had limited hours and were not always open when the kids wanted to go.
Editorial Note: Kristi received complimentary airfare and cruise accommodations from the Disney Cruise Line. They did not ask her to express any particular point of view.