On the sun-soaked decks of the Disney Dream, Fantasy, Wonder and Magic, you’ll find something unique — something that no other cruise line can match up to. From playing in the larger-than-life Andy’s Room with Mr. Potato Head, to becoming a member of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or even just unwinding by the adults-only pool, there’s truly a little magic for everyone on board a Disney Cruise.
I was lucky enough to get my first taste of a Disney Cruise recently (sailing on the Disney Wonder), and I’m here to share why I think you should take to the waters with Captain Mickey for your next holiday.
Disney Cruise Line - for the kids
The words ‘Disney’ and ‘kids’ go together like peas in a cruise-sized pod and, true to form, Disney have pioneered the ultimate kids’ club experience that completely debunks the myth that cruising is ‘for older people’.
Immersive kids’ clubs can be found on all four ships, ranging from 6-months old to 17-years young, and are run by the highly trained Disney crew. Disney have crafted the ideal environment for kids of all ages, making sure their dreams can come true and making it impossible for them not to want to join in. I know I wasn’t the only adult longing to become a MARVEL superhero or visit Tinkerbell in Pixie Hollow!
‘it’s a small world’
This little nursery will look after anyone between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, so you can still get the downtime you deserve on holiday. (Extra charges apply)
Disney’s Oceaneers Club
Any pint-sized person between 3 and 12 years old can have fun with their favourite Disney characters as they explore magical lands. Like I said, even as an adult… you’ll find yourself wanting to play in Andy’s Room or the Millennium Falcon on board the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Your little princes and princesses can also take a trip to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique as well, for the ultimate magical makeover.
11 to 14 year olds (the ‘Tweens’) can watch movies, play games and take part in arts and crafts with other cruisers of their ages at this activity centre.
A teen-only space — Vibe is for 14 to 17 year olds. A perfect spot to chill out, listen to music, watch TV and play groups games together.
Top Tip — Disney have previously provided ‘Wave Phones’ in cabins so families can stay in touch when having their own adventures. Their new Navigator App gives you the ability to stay up-to-date on important information onboard, as well as chat to your family all at once.
Disney Cruise Line – for the adults
One of the biggest misconceptions about a Disney Cruise is that it’s ‘full of kids’. I can tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m the biggest kid at heart (and I don’t have kids of my own), but to my surprise there were a huge array of activities to enjoy exclusively for adults too. There’s an adult-only pool, a nightclub, café, bar/pub, restaurant and fitness centre to name a few.
There are also a number of Port Adventures — excursions ashore that have been picked out by Disney Cruise Line to make sure you get the most out of a destination (and the kids can join in too, if you can tear them away from the ship). Depending on where you’re going, try ‘flightseeing’ over a huge canyon, enjoy a wildlife expedition, or even just kick back and enjoy the azure waters and sandy beaches in a perfect spot on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. More about this later…
I was even surprised to meet quite a few couples who enjoyed, and even preferred, a Disney Cruise over other companies they’ve sailed with before.
Fun for everyone
While you may want some time to relax and the kids may want to roam free for a while, there’s plenty to partake in together. In addition to the adults-only pool, you can all chill out by the family pool. There’s also basketball and other sports, trivia quizzes (you better brush up on everything from Mickey to Moana) and — naturally — settle down to watch the latest Disney movies together. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the spectacular Disney musicals that are shown in the Walt Disney Theatre. Full-on West End-style productions that’ll make your jaw drop and your heart melt.
When I was sailing, the shows I got to see where The Golden Mickeys, Disney Dreams and Frozen, A Musical Spectacular. Frozen was, by far, my favourite of the trio, with the theatre coming to life around you as it freezes over and begins to snow! I loved it!
Top Tip — Beauty and the Beast is coming to the Disney Dream in November 2017, and if you find yourself sailing on the Disney Magic, you can also enjoy Tangled the Musical.
For something a little more involved, you’ll also be able to enjoy the ‘theme days’ while you’re at sea. Depending on when you’re sailing, you may be able to team up together for Star Wars or MARVEL days. If that doesn’t float your proverbial, there’s also the Frozen themed ‘Freezing the Night Away’ deck party on the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic on select summer sailings; and there’s even a Pirate Night with a themed dinner party on sailings to the Bahamas and the Caribbean! I was overly excited to find a complimentary pirate bandana on my bed when I returned to my cabin one evening to get ready for the party ahead. The night ends with fireworks launching straight from the ships’ funnel, and a screening of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ on their huge Tunnel Vision screen. Disney is the first cruise line to have fireworks shows at sea (weather permitting), and it’s a spectacle you don’t want to miss.
Top Tip — Stand on the starboard (right) side of the ship to get the best view of the fireworks!
Cabins, Cuisine and Disney Castaway Cay
Disney have pulled out all the stops (ports) for their cruisers. For one, you’re in for a very comfortable stay — their staterooms (that’s fancy talk for cabin) are 25% bigger than the standard. Disney had families in mind when designing their accommodation, from the interior cabins to the richly appointed suites. They’re the perfect escape for unwinding at the end of the day, with split bathrooms and Magical Portholes to enjoy among other things. I stayed in an interior cabin for my cruise, and I loved the space I had. The housekeepers are second-to-none too. I had a lovely man called Patu, who went above and beyond his duty to make sure everyone had everything they needed – nothing was too much trouble.
Dining on board a Disney Cruise is a delicious culinary experience. You’ll automatically rotate between the 3 main restaurants throughout your voyage, and you’ll keep the same servers throughout too. They’ll get to know you, your likes and your dislikes. It was a really nice touch that after my very first meal aboard, my server (Salomie) had remembered my name and what I like to drink with my dinner. You’ll also sit with the same guests every night too, which is a wonderful way of meeting and getting to know new people.
Restaurants will vary from ship to ship, but the one that’ll be on all of them is the Animator’s Palate. This innovative dinner show celebrates the art of storytelling, with Disney characters coming to life before your eyes. It was the highlight of my dining experience.
Top Tip — If you want to try a selection of foods such as chicken tenders, slices of pizza, sandwiches, salads etc. then you can ask for a half or small portion. And if you fancy a cocktail to wash it all down with, consider going for the ‘drink of the day’. They’re always delicious, and you’ll get something different every day for just $6.50 (subject to change). Rotational dining and snacks are all included in the price of your cruise, along with unlimited ice cream (we can hear you cheering), soft drinks, tea and coffee on deck 24/7. Room service is complimentary too. Alcohol and gratuities are the only thing you may need to cover from a food perspective.
And then there’s Disney’s private island — Castaway Cay — reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests going to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. On this island paradise, you’ve got the Castaway Family Beach, Serenity Bay (a dedicated adults-only beach), Snorkelling Lagoon, the 2400 sq. ft. floating Pelican Plunge play zone, Scuttles Cove childcare, a delicious beach BBQ and plenty of shopping.
Waking up to see the white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters was incredible. It’s well and truly alive with ‘Disney sparkle’ and tropical charm. After disembarking around 8.30am I went straight to Serenity Bay, where I stayed until lunch. I then decided to grab the island tram back to the family beach, which surprisingly I found more exciting than Serenity Bay due to the buzz of the water slide and float rentals. You can stay and enjoy the island until around 4.30pm, depending on the sailing schedule. You can however re-join the ship at any point and have full use of the facilities as normal.
If you fancy a challenge, when you get on board, you can register for the Castaway Cay 5k run. You’ll set off nice and early as you pull into dock, so you’ll still have the best part of the day to enjoy the island. It’s a great way to explore and see the island, and you’ll get an exclusive medal for completing the course!
Top Tip — Take advantage of your cruise activity planning centre on the Disney Cruise website. You can pre-book all of your port activities (or spa treatments) up to 120 days before you set sail. Don’t leave anything to chance.
It’s impossible to list every detail you’ll find on a Disney Cruise. These were just a few of my favourites, and I’d encourage you to experience the magic for yourself. I couldn’t have wished for a better cruise, and it was the ultimate Disney holiday when combined with my stay at Walt Disney World too!
A Disney Cruise has something that anyone can relate to and enjoy, and it was better than I could have imagined. It really does have that extra bit of pixie dust that puts it above the rest.
Erin is a member of the Virgin Holidays Team, recently returned from her own Disney Cruise. Find out more about Disney Cruise Line and book your own world-class Disney holiday!