Living The Disney Dream On The High Seas
Remember when cruising was perceived as a holiday for slightly older travelers? Well, mamas, things have changed and a vacation on the water is now one of the coolest and easiest ways to see the world with kids in tow. And it gets better. If you want to have a go at cruising AND combine the magic of Disney then why not do both and book a holiday onboard a Disney Cruise ship?! Yup, that’s a thing – a Disney holiday at sea in some truly spectacular destinations – whether you’re add to a trip to Disney World or looking to travel Europe, there are Disney Cruise departures from Florida, Barcelona, Rome, Copenhagen, Dover, Texas, New York, Quebec, San Diego, San Juan and Vancouver to cover everything from tropical hotspots to European history, pristine vistas to Caribbean adventures. And all with a huge sprinkling of what makes Disney so completely magical of course! We recently set sail to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral in Florida aboard the Disney Dream – a trip that made both the youngest and oldest cruisers very happy. And here’s why we loved it.
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I mean it’s not really a ship in the traditional sense – it’s like a gorgeous hotel that just happens to move! With art-deco interiors, huge chandeliers, plush carpets, marble staircases and masses of space, the Disney Dream was exactly that – a complete dream. Our ‘state rooms’ (cabins) were unbelievably spacious and comfy with a double bed area that could be separated by a wraparound curtain, a living room area with 2 more sleeping options for kids plus bathroom and a little verandah from which to enjoy the sea-air. Perfect. There are room types to suit every family whether you need to sleep 3 or 5 – and the clever design team have made sure that every room feels as special as the next – in fact the least expensive category (the inside staterooms) may not have a verandah or ocean view but they do have a Magical Porthole with animated views and even a little glimpse of Mickey and his pals every now and then. Super cosy, a big hit with the kids!
Ok so you’re on a ship but did you know you could do everything from swimming in a pool to whizzing around on a waterslide, chilling at the spa to getting shipshape in the exercise centers?! There’s zero chance of boredom – unless of course your idea of heaven is to do absolutely nothing at all but listen to the sound of the ocean, in which case there’ll be a lounger with your name on it on one of the many beautiful deck areas.
The fun starts at the ‘Sail Away’ celebration deck party just before the ship leaves the pier and you get a glimpse into what’s in store – music, dancing and all of your fave Disney characters in sailor uniforms included.
And being on a ship doesn’t mean you need to forgo the thrill of a Disney attraction. The ‘Aquaduck’ water coaster will take you on a ride through a funnel that goes down 4 decks and juts out over the ocean too (you can ride with your kids if they’re scared to go alone!) – or maybe the littles want to join play at one of the splash parks, float about watching movies in the family pool or have a go on a mini waterslide? It’s all possible.
Want to give the water a miss for a bit? How about yoga at the Fitness Center, golf or basketball at Goofy’s Sports Deck or some family time at D Lounge where you can sing, dance, play games and just hang out with your little gang.
There’s nothing more exciting than going to bed surrounded by nothing but ocean and waking up to a brand new view as the ship rolls into dock. With two destinations to discover as part of the Bahamas itinerary, our first port of call at Nassau allowed for time to explore the markets, taxi around the island stopping to taste local delicacies including conch salad and rock lobsters. And here’s a tip – this is also the perfect time to ride the Aquaduck with zero waiting time while your fellow passengers are exploring Nassau.
And our next stop? The beautiful Castaway Cay, Disney’s very own private paradise island which offers the perfect mix of rugged beauty and that ‘Robinson Crusoe’ feel with plenty to do. Sunbathing, waterslides, bike trails, open-air massages and more – the problem here is deciding exactly how you want to spend your day because it’s ALL amazing! If you’re traveling with little ones, grab a free buggy/wagon on your way off the ship and take a stroll onto the island – the first thing you’ll notice are the incredible colours – I’ve never seen water so turquoise and clear before and there are loads of ways to enjoy it! Head to a family beach for paddling, kayaking and snorkeling (keep an eye out for the hidden Mickey in the water!), swim out to ‘Pelican Plunge’, a floating deck with water slides and a huge bucket dump to keep you cool or simply wallow in the shallows – just heavenly. If you want to have some adult only time, Scuttles Cove kids club will allow you to leave the littles in a fully supervised sandy play spot and water play area while you head to the over-18’s only Serenity Bay (rent a bike and pedal your way round the island to get there). There’s literally nothing you could possibly want for that hasn’t been thought of on Castaway Cay so you can make the most of your day by lunching at an open-air barbecue, snoozing in the shade and having a seaside adventure. Absolutely heavenly.
Come on, we all love our little darlings but frankly a holiday for mama (and dad) means the chance to chill a bit without the kids around. And luckily enough, Disney Cruise offers plenty of ways for the kids to be looked after and amused – and without them feeling like they’re being abandoned (trust me, they’ll be begging to head off to have their own fun – details below…). Meanwhile, you can take a deep breath and soak up the peace and quiet that is the adults (over 18’s) only side of the ship. I’m talking a very sophisticated little coffee shop and bar, a dedicated sundeck, a seriously stunning spa (if you want a treatment book as soon as you board because they get full fast!) and the Quiet Cove Pool – where there’s no danger of being splashed or having to watch someone practice their dive for hours (you know what I mean, mama!). This is all about a little ‘you’ time.
And here’s why you won’t feel guilty about letting the kids go off and do their own thing, mama! Disney Cruise has THE most incredible areas for children, frankly we’re not sure how they’ll ever want to leave! Starting with the ‘It’s A Small World’ nursery for teenies (aged from 6 months to 3 years old), where expert Disney counselors will play, make, watch, care, feed, change and look after your little ones every need in a very cute space that includes a main play area filled with interactive delights and a quiet room for napping. This needs to be pre-booked and is charged at a small rate per hour. If your kids are aged 3-12 they can head to Disney’s Oceaneers Club and its multi-themed magical areas. From hanging with the Toy Story gang to testing their virtual reality skills, visiting the whimsical world of Tinker Bell or soaring through the Star Wars universe in the Millennium Falcon, there is SO much to do. And activities including dress-up, craft projects, story times, movie screenings plus book-making, puzzle playtime with Mickey and friends, and ‘super sloppy science’ guarantee something for everyone. Lucky, lucky kids! For ‘tweens’ there’s a suitably cool space called ‘Edge’, a haven for electronic fun while teenagers have their very own area, ‘Vibe’, which is part nightclub, part sundeck and just totally awesome (I don’t remember ever having anything that cool when I was young…). A daily schedule of activities for kids of all ages mean that they can dip in and out of new experiences and fun things to try whenever they want. I’m not joking when I say you might not see them for the entire holiday!!
If there’s one thing you won’t be short of on a Disney Cruise, it’s food. If you want to, you can eat 24 hours a day (seriously…it’s really tempting when what’s on offer is so good too). This is not a place to count calories (ok you could because there are healthy options galore but you’re on holiday after all so just enjoy!). Buffets filled to the brim with every possible cuisine you can imagine, pizzerias, cafes, juice bars – you name it, they got it! Oh and room service is available in your stateroom 24 hours a day and is included in your fare, just in case you get the midnight munchies (we’ve all been there…). The brilliant thing too is that a ‘rotational dining’ scheme means that you’ll get to experience all of the three themed dining venues while on board. You’ll get your restaurant schedule upon boarding and will rotate each evening – perfect! Oh and your servers will rotate with you so that they really get to know you and your preferences (and you’ll have that glass of something chilled ready before you even need to ask for it). There are two dinner seatings, one at 5.45pm and the other at 8.15pm. Families with young kids might like to choose the earlier time – but the later seating actually allows you to see the shows onboard first (more on that later – keep reading!) and then enjoy a quieter evening. You can even get a Disney Counselor to magically appear and whisk your children away to the kids clubs half way through dinner. Um, yes please!!!
And it’s not all nuggets and French fries, mamas – actually far from it. Other than the huge variety of menu items on offer in every dining area, there are two adult only speciality restaurants, Remy – a French-inspired restaurant crafted by a Michelin 3-star chef and serving up incredible seasonal fare and Palo, mamed after the signature long poles used by gondoliers in Venice and offering completely delicious Italian cuisine (make sure to leave space for the incredible chocolate soufflé). Specialty restaurants need to be booked separately and aren’t included in your meal plan.
How about a Broadway style show every night? That’s exactly what you’ll be getting on a Disney Cruise, mamas – they are honestly spectacular. Some of Disney’s most loved characters and stories will mesmerize you in perfectly choreographed live shows that capture the essence of Walt Disney’s vision. Get to the theatre (yes, it’s a proper theatre, of course) around half an hour before the start of the show to get yourself a great seat. And because this is Disney, anything goes! If you’re there to watch ‘Beauty & The Beast’ and you all feel like dressing up that’s fine, go for it! Each sailing will also include a mega party to encourage all passengers to get into character themselves. In our case we partied like pirates with a pirate themed dinner (where servers, dressed for the occasion greeted us with ‘Ahoy matey’ and ‘Arr!’) before taking to the deck for a ‘Pirates in the Caribbean’ show and party featuring the only live fireworks out at sea and plenty of opportunities to dance and have fun. The family bonding element is priceless. Need I say more? Pack your pirate gear or don the free pirate bandana given to everyone on board and you’ll soon be in the swing of things, me heartys!
Just because you’re living onboard a ship, doesn’t mean you can’t experience the magic of each destination. The Disney team will help you book excursions and activities designed to give you the chance to have the best time on land (or in the water!). In the Bahamas you’ll be able to choose from little extras like bike rental to major once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as stingray encounters and swimming with dolphins. All adventures can be booked in advance and once you board the ship and all are charged as extras – but don’t think you have to go nuts and book everything because there’s always plenty going on anyway!
What’s Disney without the chance to mingle with Mickey and co?! Yes you guessed it, the world’s favourite mouse also needs a holiday every now and then and will have packed his bags to join you onboard. Expect to see Minnie in her cute sundresses, Goofy in his bathers and Mickey looking extra cool in a Hawaiian shirt. And there are plenty of opportunities for photos with all of them. You’ll find everyone from Disney princesses to the Pirates of the Caribbean ready to meet, great and hug you and the kids throughout the day so make sure you have your autograph books at the ready. And if you’ve never been on a Disney holiday before, I can’t describe just how special the interactions with characters are and how big a grin they get from the kids every single time.
From the time you book your trip and download Disney Cruise Line’s free app (which gives you access to everything from the ship’s entertainment to event schedules, deckplans, kids’ club activities and dining menus too) to that magical moment that you hear the ship’s horn (which actually plays familiar Disney melodies – such a cute touch) and set sail, the wonderful world of Disney will guarantee nothing but fun for your whole family. The ideal blend of elegant, grown-up style with endless entertainment, fabulous food, creative kids clubs, gorgeous onboard facilities and the chance to tailormake your holiday according to whatever you and your kids love, a Disney Cruise is something to add to your holiday bucket list, and an experience you’ll all cherish forever.