My wife Carol and I were anxious to sail with Disney Cruise Line. Time at sea and all those wonderful ports of call just sounded so appealing! We're avid Disney fans; we like virtually everything Disney and it just seemed like something we had to try!
There was just one thing holding us back. What about all those children? Won't there be kids everywhere?
Don't get me wrong, we like kids. We enjoy seeing children having fun wherever they are, particularly at Walt Disney World! But we are empty nesters and we have been for quite a few years. We have come to relish the quiet home life we lead. I like to think that we've earned the right to savour our preferred lifestyle. (Savouring my preferred lifestyle - it sounds so much nicer than admitting that I'm a grumpy old geezer!)
Every time we spoke about cruising with Disney I would start imagining . . . there I am relaxing in the hot tub, eyes closed and totally relaxed. Suddenly I'm cannon-balled by an unsupervised little munchkin! Sound far-fetched? It isn't. That has really happened to me at a Disney resort. I've had kids in the hot tub, fully equipped with flippers, masks and snorkels as they examined my toes at the bottom of the spa. This sort of thing disturbs me. That's not what hot tubs are for but how do you escape it with all those kids around?
When we vacation we try to have a nice, quiet sit-down meal at the end of the day. Disney parks and resorts offer some wonderful dining opportunities and we like to take advantage of them. So what about the dining rooms on the Disney ships? Will there be screaming children at our table or the table next to us? Will they follow us from dining room to dining room as we rotate through the ship's beautiful venues?
These were the sort of fears which held us back. Many of our friends told us we were being too cautious, the kids weren't that bad. Others said that they had hardly seen any children aboard and assured us that Disney cast members did such a good job with activities for the children that they were not a problem.
We waffled for several years before we finally took the plunge, so to speak, and booked our first Disney Cruise. We decided to "dip our toes in" with a quick four-day cruise. If we didn't enjoy it, well, it would just be a short ordeal.
So off we went in January 2007 on a Bahamas cruise. To quickly end your suspense - we just loved it! Our friends were right, there were simply no grounds for all those fears we had suffered. It was amazing how much fun we had, and how little we saw of the children. Oh, there were plenty of kids and they were having just as much fun as we were but we hardly saw them and we were able to fully savour that lifestyle we prefer.
As I write this article we have enjoyed six Disney cruises and we are booked on two more in the future. We really like it! So far all of our cruising has been on the Wonder and the Magic but we will sail on the new Disney Fantasy in just a few months.
How does Disney do it? How do they manage to create an environment where a crusty old coot like me can have a blast at the same time all those kids are having the time of their lives? It's pretty simple really, they just do two things, but they do them extremely well.
First they engage the children with an amazing array of activities and second they set aside lots of "adult only" space. That's it, plain and simple, but it works surprisingly well.
How do they engage the children? A special corps of well trained and highly motivated cast members greet kids in some wonderfully crafted "kid-friendly" places. These are amazing facilities for several specific age groups. Infants from three months to three years can go to a "day care" type facility called Flounder's Reef where they are expertly cared for. Kids from three to ten are welcomed at both the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab where a variety of toys, games and activities await them. Tweens have their own space called the Edge and teens go to Vibe. All these spaces have been designed by Disney Imagineers to capture the imagination of the targeted age group and all are chock full of things which appeal to the children and also captivate them. The kids are safe, secure and well supervised at all times.
Friends of ours who have cruised with children are astounded at how much their kids have enjoyed it. Disney ships were built to entertain guests of all ages and they do it very well. The most frequent complaint we hear from parents is that they so seldom see their children. Many of the kids do not want to leave their friends to join their parents for dinner. Now that's a sign that the cast members are able to relate to the kids!
Now, what is there for the adults? Plenty. There are some great "adult only" spaces too.
We occasionally like to watch the wee ones and their parents swim in the Mickey Pool or watch the older kids frolic in the Goofy Pool, but when we're ready for some peace and quiet we head to the Quiet Cove Pool, in the adult only area on deck 9. We spend lots of time here.
The pool is flanked by two hot tubs and there is no risk of cannon-balls or scuba divers in these spas. The sun deck is open to the elements with lots of loungers but it's also sheltered from the wind. Carol likes to bask in the sun while I stretch out in the shade with a book. This is the life!
Next to the pool is the Cove Café, another adult space where you can just sit and relax or enjoy a specialty coffee or cocktail. On the Disney Wonder above the Cove Café, on deck 10 and overlooking the pool is the Outlook Café. This is a great spot to meet for cocktails before dinner. If you sail on the Wonder you may see me here in the afternoon reading my book!
The Vista Spa on deck 9 beside the Quiet Cove Pool is also for those 18 or older. Carol has enjoyed the spa a few times but I have not made it there yet. They have a variety of ways to pamper guests and all of our friends who have been indulged there speak very highly of the place so I'm confident Carol will coax me into Vista soon!
Our favourite adult-only place is Palo, the upscale dining room on deck 10 aft. You pay a small premium to dine at Palo and reservations are taken up quickly but it is oh-so worth it! There is a dress code but it's not onerous. No shorts, no tees, jackets for dinner and you pay a fee of $20 per person for brunch or dinner and $15.00 for "High Tea". Dinner is served every day while brunch and tea are only served on "sea days". You simply must dine at Palo!
For the regular dining rotation we have always opted for the late seating. I think this gives us an older crowd. Most families with younger children select the early dining option and we have never had any issues with children in the dining room. The food and the service are always first class!
One of the less obvious advantages of the way children are engaged by Disney Cruise Line cast members is the fact that they are seldom seen in some areas of the ship which are not restricted to adults. Sure, you will always find them at the Mickey Pool, the Goofy Pool and the deck 9 soda machine but there are plenty of areas where you hardly ever see kids. An example is the sun deck on deck 4, the Promenade Deck. This is another great spot to stretch out in the sun on a lounge or in a deck chair and enjoy sunshine, tropical breezes and salt air. Keep an eye out and you might find me here with my book! There are always plenty of joggers and walkers circumnavigating the ship, but very few children.
The shows? They are great . . . not second-rate comedians and magicians. Disney has some amazing shows; Broadway style song and dance shows and of course some wonderful shows featuring Disney characters. Yes, there are children at the shows but you'll be having so much fun being a kid again that you may not notice!
What about night clubs? Yes, there are sports bars, piano bars and pool side bars. It's all there folks and you don't have to worry about being swarmed by children.
Of course I have to mention Castaway Cay, it's spectacular. Imagine a desert island where the Disney Imagineers were allowed to play . . . that's exactly what they did! This Disney-owned island in the Bahamas was re-done to perfection. It still looks deserted but it's covered in amazingly lush and beautiful tropical plants and flowers. Look around and you will find relics from older times; there are sunken ships, abandoned aircraft beside a run-down old air strip, a sunken statue of Mickey Mouse and many other unique sights along the wonderful white sand beaches. Of course there are activities for all ages but our favourite place is Serenity Bay, the adult only beach. It's blissful! We board a shuttle and pass the family beach and the teen beach on our way to pure Serenity! Aaaah! As I stretch out in a hammock under the shade of a palm tree and close my eyes my thoughts drift to Gilligan, the Skipper and . . . my heart-throb, Ginger. Castaway Cay reminds me a lot of that island paradise.
Conveniently located just behind my favourite hammock is the Castaway Air Bar where they serve a nice selection of adult beverages and immediately behind the bar is Serenity Bay BBQ where a wonderful buffet lunch is served. The hot barbecue fare and fresh fruit tastes so much better when you are sitting under shady palm trees! This is heaven!
Many ports of call have adult only excursions too. There are plenty of tour options, enough to suit all tastes and age groups and since they are all selected by Disney you can rest assured they will be high quality tours.
So if you're shying away from a Disney cruise, like we did, because they may be too "kid-friendly" forget about that fear. It just isn't so!
We tried it and we really like it! So jump in and give Disney cruising a try.
Come on in, the water's fine!
NOTE: All Disney Cruise Photos are from the Disney Wonder or Magic ships.
The previous post in this blog was Disney's Winter Summerland is great for golfing fun, birthdays .
The next post in this blog is Light-up toys at Walt Disney World light up young faces .