Everyone thought we were insane. They wished us luck. They gave us pity-filled half-smiles.
They- and we- totally had it all wrong. We had a really amazing time on a DISNEY CRUISE (aboard the Disney Dream, 5 nights leaving from Orlando.) Yup, I said it. And, for any readers that don't know me personally, let me set the stage: My husband and I are NOT "family vacation destination" people. We have really only done one major family trip with both kids- and that was to the Four Seasons Anguilla, which is not at all similar in any way, shape or form. When we do vacation, it is usually adults-only, complete with ZERO activities, a cushy lounge chair by a pool, a stack of books, and copious amounts of cocktails.
And since nobody thought it was possible to not only make it through 5 nights on a Disney-themed cruise ship without catching some sort of virus and/or seriously contemplating plunging overboard, let me share 5 key points that I think are quite relevant to making it a positive experience, in the event you ever want to consider this for your family.
1- We stayed on the Concierge Level. Yes- the Concierge Level is probably significantly more $$$ than other options. But lucky for us, my (very generous) mom took us on this trip to celebrate her recent birthday and she was taking no chances that it wouldn't be perfect. (Yes, she opted to celebrate her birthday by sharing a room with my 2 kids on a cruise ship also inhabited by Mickey Mouse and the Frozen princesses.) It is a GAME CHANGER. Not only are the rooms beautiful, but you have a team dedicated to helping you navigate the overwhelming array of activities and such on the itinerary. These specially designed rooms also happen to be located right near the pool deck, making it really easy to pop into your room and change between swims, etc. You have your own lounge and private deck area as well where you can enjoy snacks, drinks, and a comfortable distance from the crowds when you crave that kind of calm.
2- There are 2 screens you need to know about. One they call Funnel Vision- it plays movies on a giant screen overlooking the swimming pool 24/7. So Alexa watched Lion King while swimming and eating popcorn in the middle of the ocean. Seriously?! The second- which may only be in certain rooms- is a hidden tv screen inside the bathroom mirror. The girls got in the tub (with pillows and blankets- because heaven forbid they actually BATHE on vacation) and watched tons of Disney classics (they have every Disney movie and show for free on demand, which is actually kinda cool- we watched the original animated "Beauty & The Beast"- then a ton of "Liv & Maddie", natch).
3- You can eat healthy. I know this sounds like a lame point- but I mean, you know the kids are going to have a blast. However, you may be horrified by the thought of a cruise because it conjures up visions of greasy, gross food. Nope. I mean, yes, those options are plentiful- BUT- every dining venue has a plethora of clean eating choices as well. Veggies with a protein, salads, fresh fish- I had the easiest time sticking to my current health kick. (Well, until the second to last day when I started taking advantage of the free soft-serve, old school ice cream- but, hey- I could have been MUCH worse.) There is also a great gym on board, and I did the Boot Camp group class they offer every morning several times. Granted, out of like 3,000 people on board, the only people in that class were my cousin and myself, so...
4- The entertainment is entertaining! We went to 2 of the "Broadway Style" shows- which I rolled my eyes at initially- I mean, if you have to say you are "Broadway Style", doesn't that mean you are most certainly anything but? Apparently not. The shows were really well done- and the Walt Disney Theater has the feeling of a sweeping, vintage venue while still being cozy and well-appointed so even the smallest guests can see the stage.
5- The characters are always around, without being weirdly so. I had this idea in my head that we were gonna be bombarded with characters every time we turned a corner- but we weren't. They make appearances daily- but at specific times in specific places, so you can take your kids to see them if they want to, but if they are freaked out by them (which Goldie, we quickly discovered, definitely was), you can easily avoid it altogether. And pretend you are just on a regular cruise- which you think you would want to do because it seems "so not me" to be pumped about your cruise having the name Disney attached to it, but, newsflash- you will find yourself totally loving the Disney-esque elements.
So- there you have it. 5 random details that, to me, played a major role in making our experience incredible. Yes, there are things to be wary of- the one that stands out most to me is that there is aggressive up-selling (we almost lost it when some guy came over to our table one night at dinner, and started in on a sales pitch to the kids about a $13 plastic drink cup they just had to get), and when they promote "nominal fee" next to certain activities, they clearly have a different definition of "nominal" than most ($69 per kid for a mani/pedi party in the spa, as an example of one "nominal fee" option)- but I get the feeling that is common on most cruise ships (or "all-inclusive" vacations, for that matter).
We had a blast- so much so that I was actually depressed getting off the boat yesterday, eyes filled with jealousy watching the new guests arrive, picturing all the fun things they would get to experience with their kids, through their kids eyes. That is probably the most special part, come to think of it. Getting to revel in their excitement and innocence, while also reveling in strong cocktails and a few stolen relaxing moments as they entertained themselves on board.
For more details on the Disney Cruise options, click HERE.