Q, my mom and I recently took a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise with Disney Cruiselines. I had never cruised before, but my mom had been on a number of cruises over the years, but never with Disney.
As I shared last week, I had a number of misgivings about family cruising, but every single one of them was completely unfounded, and it turned out to be an absolutely perfect vacation for all three generations present.
It had the right amount of fun, excitement, adventure and even some learning, all rolled into one trip.
Honestly, after having cruised now, especially with Disney, I think that it will be one of the girst things I look to now when it comes to planning a family holiday. Of course, you know that I wouldn’t make such a bold statement without backing it up, right?
So, here are 6 reasons why cruising, especially on a Disney cruise, makes an ideal family holiday.
My son Q is a very exuberant, active and energetic dude. He lives hard and plays hard and loves people. He makes friends pretty easily, but can be easily distracted and is fully afraid of missing anything that might be going on. He is 8, and very independent, and although he was SO excited to check out the Kids Clubs, I wondered if he would be bored or if he would get lonely without anyone he knew nearby? Would they be able to find me if he needed or wanted me? How easy would it be to just take off from the club alone?
I needn’t have worried about any of that. When we checked him into the Oceaneers Club on the first day, the counsellors gave him a Magic Band and explained that this would be his key into and out of the club. Anytime he wanted to hang out there, he had to be scanned in at drop off. The band is waterproof and all that good stuff and just looks like a little wristwatch, so it doesn’t actually need to be taken off at anytime during the cruise. The band is linked to the child’s Key to the World card, so the counsellors had an actual picture of who was coming in and out of the club’s at any given time. You are charged $12.95 USD for the band when you get It, and then can either choose to keep it as a souvenir or return it at the end of the cruise for a refund.
Q LOVED his time at the Oceaneers Lab and Oceaneer Club. The cool thing is, you can sign into one club and go between them depending on which activities you want to participate in. Q spent quite a bit of time designing comics in Pixie Hollow and battling other buccaneers in a Pirate game. There were also dance parties, cooking classes, Character visits, crafts and play areas to explore. I’m not even exagerating in the slightest when I say that every time I went to pick him up for a show or, oh, say, dinner, he would be me to go without him and let him stay. One night, I went to pick him up at 10:30 as planned, and he was so involved and invested in his activity that he asked me to come back in a while, and then ended up staying till 11:30!
The counsellors who work in the Oceaneers Club and lab are amazing, and remembered Q from one day to the next, even greeting him (and totally wigging him out once or twice) in other places around the ship. I felt comfortable leaving him there while my mom and I hung out or went to a show.
The meals on the ship are basically kid heaven. From a breakfast buffet that had everything from fresh fruit and cereal to as much scrambled eggs, bacon and Mickey waffles as you could eat to chicken strips and pizza by the pool, to the fantastic menus at dinnertime, my picky eating kiddo never wanted for food.
Our servers got to know what Q liked and didn’t like, what his favourite drinks were, and planned out special desserts for him a few times. Each night when we sat down to eat, there was a cup of water for Q with a little greeting and Mickey ears drawn on top. I never felt like any of us, especially Q, were lacking or wanting for anything. Since you have the same serving team for your whole cruise, you can really get to know each other well, which can then lead to some really neat moment.
Plus, if you are part of the second (or late) dinner seating, you habe the option of having your kids picked up by the Club Counsellors approximately an hour into dinnertime, thus allowing you the opportunity to linger and enjoy all of your meal without impatient little getting annoyed (and annoying you!). Q took advantage of this EVERY single night.
That being said, the adult menu is spectacular. The only times I didn’t like anything were when I didn’t take the server’s recommendations, or tried something that was full of something I didn’t like. I tried SO many new foods on our cruise, and since all of the dishes come in fairly small-sized portions, you can try both of those entrees you’d been debating between, plus have the starter, soup or salad (or both if you’re hungry!) and dessert. Of course, I’m not making any promises that you won’t be absolutely stuffed, but it’ll be worth it.
And take it from me – trust your servers recommendations – they won’t steer you wrong.
It honestly took me at least two days to get used to walking into a restaurant, sitting down and eating my meal and then leaving when we were finished. I sat and waited for the bill at least two or three times during the first couple days. My mom laughed at me every time too.
Our cruise director Jimmy had a motto that he made us swear we’d live by on the very first night of our cruise and that was “If you see it EAT IT!” It also took me a bit of time to stop feeling weird about trying whatever looked appealing, whenever I felt like it, but I reminded myself that the food was a big part of what we paid for, so to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did. There was no bland, cafeteria style food. It was always fresh and delicious.
Our cruise ship was staffed with people from all over the world. Our storeroom hostess was from Trinidad and Tobago, our serving team from the Philippines, Indonesia and Jamaica. We made friends with people from Australia, Portugal and England. We learned that Dalmation dogs originally come from Croatia and a bit about their history. We learned to say thank you in Portuguese, practiced our Tagalog with native speakers and was taught to say how are you, good, and thank you in Indonesian. We took the opportunity to ask people we met to tell us a bit about their home country, or how to say something in their native tongue.
We soaked up every bit of cultural learning we could.
It was fantastic, and a lot of the cast members seemed to be really pleased to share a bit of their home cultures with us. I’ve never been in a place with such diverse group of people and I thought that in itself was pretty cool. Take the time to get to know your cruise staff. There are some really cool people, and you never know what you might learn.
Don’t forget to take the time to do some learning about the people in the countries where the cruise docks too. We got some really interesting cultural stories and history from our cab drivers and left both Tortola and St. Thomas with heads buzzing with stories of pirates, treasure and history.
From movies to live musical extravaganzas, there were shows to keep everyone busy. Since we were on a special Star wars themed cruise, the movie theatre played all of the Star Wars movies, including Star Wars Rogue One, which was pretty new at the time, along with movies like Moana and other Disney favourites. We had all of these grand plans to go and watch a movie every day, but in the end, I’ll bet you can guess how many we actually saw during our week on the ship. Yup, none. Ha. We did, however, catch some on the giant Funnel vision on the pool deck, and on demand in our room when we needed a break.
My mom and I went to the show each Night, and I have to say that I was really impressed. Mom and I always try to go and see the big musical productions when they cone to town, and, although they were shorter than a full Broadway show, they were, in my opinion, just as good. We dragged, we, convinced Q to see Aladdin with us, and he laughed so hard that he neaely fell out of his seat. Multiple times. It was just that good.
So when you go, take our word for it and don’t skip the shows.
We saw a magician, a ventriloquist, a comedian, and several amazing Broadway-style musicals. There was totally something for everyone, including some adults-only comedy and variety shows later in the evening. Although it may be tempting to skip them, don’t. You’ll have tons of fun.
Oh man. Where do I even start? Every night we would pour over the daily Navigator, which was the schedule for all things taking place the next day. We would carefully decide on a few things we wanted to do or try, I’d enter them into my phone app for a reminder. Then we’d head out for breakfast, and pretty much promptly forget whst we had planned to do. Ha. There were bingo games, trivia matches, mixology classes, crafts for the whole family, and the list goes on and on. Plus, there are movies that play on the giant Funnel-vision screen by the pools, movies in the theatre (as I noted above), scavenger hunts around the ship, pin trading, Character meet and greets, and karaoke. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to do and see all the things we wanted to.
My best advice is to figure out your can’t miss list and then just sort of go with the flow for everything else.
When you are confined to a place with 2997 other people, you are bound to start seeing some familiar faces around as the week goes on. We began to run into the same people in the elevators, in the Oceaneers Club, at dinner. Speaking of dinner, if you are seated with other families, that is a great opportunity to make new friends. We sat at our own table, but I have heard stories of lasting friendships being made across the dinner table. Q made a bunch of friends at the kids club, and they would often plan to meet at a certain activity later that day or the next. Since the kids clubs are grouped by age, kids, teens and tweens are able to hang out with their peers.
Another great place to meet new people is on port days. At our first port in Tortola, we happened to get into the same van as another family, who had a son slightly younger than Q. We were taken to the same beach resort, and spent the afternoon playing in the water and getting to know each other. After that, we ran into them all over the place, and hung out again at the Star Wars events and our third port, Castaway Cay. We had intended to exchange contact info, but the one time we didn’t see them was on the last day to do just that. Oops. If you are a social person, there are tons of opportunities to meet new people, especially as a kid. I know that in the cruise Facebook groups, there are lots of stories of families becoming friends on a cruise, staying in touch, and then cruising together again in the future. So really, that family sitting across the table could end up being lifelong pals, you just never know!
Honestly, there are so many other reasons I could give you for why I think that a Disney cruise makes an ideal family vacation, but if I did, this post would be about a dozen pages long. I am, however, happy to answer any questions you might have. Rarely do you find a place that has so many things to keep everyone in the family happy, but trust me when I say this will.
Have you cruised before? Did you love it?