Updated: Aug 11, 2019
Given our recent family vacation aboard a Disney cruise for four nights--our first and only experience with the ocean liner--I am now, as anyone would agree, an expert on the matter. With that have come numerous questions about this type of vacation and therefore, I have made this easy for the potential traveler. See below for Frequently Asked Questions about Disney cruises.
How far in advance do you need to plan for a Disney cruise?
You'll have to book your cruise several months in advance, sometimes as many as six. This is to give you the maximum amount of time to wrestle with the anxiety of upcoming travel with kids.
How long are the cruises?
Disney offers a variety of travel lengths for your convenience. You can book a cruise for as little as two nights and as long as two weeks. If you were looking for even longer, you can apply to work for the cruise line and spend five entire months at sea. Excursions are not included, but dental is.
How many nights do you recommend?
Four seems to be just right for younger kids. Anything over five might feel a bit long, depending on how prone you are to sea sickness or how addicted you are to internet access.
Is the food good? Will I get enough to eat?
Yes. Quite good. To be clear, this isn't Michelin star level, but you aren't having to cook any of it, clean up after any of it, or deal with leftovers so you'll likely find it wonderful. And because the meals are included in the price that you had to pre-pay, you'll trick yourself into thinking meals are free and will therefore spend no energy forcing your kid(s) to, "just eat one more bite." Beyond that, the menus are varied, they take special care with allergies and dietary restrictions, and they offer kids more than just macaroni (like steak and shrimp). And as long as you aren't used to eating more than thirteen times a day, you should feel perfectly satiated.
Is the ship nice?
Yes. Disney appears to be profitable. Everything is either marble, gold, or velvet, which contrasts nicely with the flip-flops on your feet, and the swimsuit cover-up you will wear as dinner attire.
Speaking of that, what is the dress code?
Pack what you want, but once on board you'll discover this is a real anything goes type of situation.
How many pairs of shoes should I pack?
Lots. As many pairs as outfits. But you'll only wear that one pair of sandals you bought at Target four years ago.
Can you talk to me a little bit about the safety procedure orientation everyone has to do the first night on the ship?
Sure thing. This will, without a doubt, top the worst experience you've ever had on a vacation. The cruise staff will line you up in the blazing sun, on a steaming hot deck packed with thousands of other people and all their hungry, tired kids, to essentially show you how to clip a belt. It seems both unnecessary and cruel, but that's maritime law for you.
Travel can often upset my digestion. Did you find that to be the case on the cruise ship?
Absolutely. You will either be over-regular or under-regular when it comes to your digestion. There is no in between. And whatever your personal experience may be, your spouse will experience the opposite.
What excursions do you recommend?
All of them. Or none of them. It doesn't really matter. Every excursion is fun and everything on the ship is fun. You will not go a minute without entertainment of some kind. Nor will you be able to do all of it. This is a real win-win situation that is not typically afforded in life, so don't squander it by overthinking it.
When the boat docks at the various ports, will I get cruise envy from the other cruise liners also docked?
It's possible. There will inevitably be a super sleek European line parked beside your ship that is adult-only. You'll see that the pool on the top deck is kid-free and has a swim-up bar and you'll wonder if you made a bad call. Don't worry, this feeling will pass. Mostly because your kid(s) will be tugging on your arm, asking if they can get a souvenir or get their hair braided by the locals.
Will my child(ren) be confused about being on a boat that looks like a hotel and functions like a municipality?
Totally. Depending on the age and observational skills of your child(ren), you will experience multiple questions a day about if the ship is moving, if the ship is docked, and if your family is currently on the ship or if they are currently off the ship.
Will my child(ren) behave?
What I meant was, will they be more behaved than normal? Will they understand this is a special trip for which I would have worked so hard to plan and pay for, and will therefore be just a little less whiney and not as prone to meltdowns?
Maybe I'm not phrasing the question correctly....will I enjoy this trip or will I just be stressed the whole time trying to get my kids to behave?
Ah, I get what you're asking. You will absolutely enjoy this trip. And as far as your kids being whiney or ungrateful, there are two aspects of a Disney cruise that mitigate that. The first is that everyone else is traveling with their kids, too. You're not ruining anyone's dinner if your kid cries in the middle of it--all the tables have a crying kid! The second is the Oceaneers' Club, which is the drop-in kids' camp (and the single greatest part of a Disney cruise).
Can you tell me more about the Oceaneers' Club? Will I really feel okay leaving my kid(s) there?
You will. You absolutely will. This isn't some drop-in daycare you might have at your local gym. This is Disney. Your kids won't cry when you drop them off, they will cry when you pick them up. This tricked-out floor of the ship offers activities, movies, readings, crafts, cooking classes, science experiments, snacks, and character appearances. And the parents don't have to be part of any of it! You can drop in and pick up at anytime--no reservation needed. If you want to drop your kid(s) in for an hour to go take a nap or a shower, feel free! If you want to drop your kid(s) in for six hours because you want to drink rum and play Bingo, no judgment! This is the equivalent of a celebrity who has a nanny who travels with her, only instead of a nanny, it's a team of really jazzed childcare workers who have access to all the movies in the Disney vault.
How can I be sure they are safe while there?
They equip all children with a wristband that has a GPS chip, making your kid trackable at all times. Kids have to scan the wrist band to both enter and exit the Oceaneers' Club, and on top of that, the adult picking them up has to give a secret password. Honestly, it's the most secure, safe, entertained, and happy your kid(s) will ever be in their entire lives. Which, as you can imagine, makes for a helluva come down.
Do you have to be a Disney fanatic to take a Disney cruise?
Not at all. Sure, there will be some families there in matching Disney shirts carrying Mickey Mouse luggage. But even those of us who aren't obsessed with Disney and don't have one of the characters tattooed on our hindquarters (wait, Tweety Bird isn't Disney, right?) felt right at home. Somehow, the cruise manages to be over-the-top Disney in the most subtle way.
Everything is Disney themed. Everything. But tastefully done. For example, your room linens appear to be plain white at a glance, but up close, they are embossed with the classic Mickey Mouse ears. There are Mickey Mouse ears carved into the wood banisters, Mickey Mouse ears in the iron scroll work, Mickey Mouse ears in the carpet patterns. The dinner plates are ears, the light fixtures are ears, and the mints on your pillows are--you guessed it--all ears. But it's so exquisitely done you feel like you should wear elbow gloves, or at least a pair of those sequin Mickey ears they sell in the lobby, to dinner.
Wow, so they don't miss any chance to use Mickey Mouse in the decor, huh?
Not quite. The port holes in the rooms are just one large round window. It felt like adding two smaller round windows on either side of each port hole was some real low-hanging fruit.
Good point. Any other opportunities you felt Disney missed on the cruise?
Just one. Every staff member, from janitorial to the ship's captain, refer to all the little girls as "princess." And yet, no one calls the women on board "Queen." Otherwise, Disney doesn't miss a trick.
What about the accommodations? Are the rooms nice?
Extremely. Now, keep in mind, two people can't be walking around the room simultaneously, and you'll only be able to shower half of your body at a time. But the beds are insanely comfortable, the furnishings are high end, and the view can't be beat.
Given that there are portholes in (some of) the rooms, and all you can see out of them is ocean, do you think it's okay to change your clothes without drawing the curtains?
God I hope so.
And there's a TV in the room, right?
Sure. But ten guesses what the only available channel is.
So is it just the Disney shows and newer movies, or can I also watch the old classic animated movies?
Any and all of it. But I'll warn you, many of the animated classics you grew up with don't age well. No matter how much you loved The Little Mermaid as a kid, you may find that when rewatching it on the ship with your child(ren), it is difficult to explain why Ariel running away from home and getting married at 16 was such a happy ending. You might also struggle to explain the moral of the story. Is it that the only way to survive the angsty teenage years is to have a powerful and mystical father physically alter you into an entirely different species? Is it that bartering with a sea witch is never advisable? Is it that never speaking is the only way to trap a man? It's a brain teaser for sure, so prepare yourself.
So I'll be well taken care of while on board?
Darling, with the exception of your irregular bowels, you won't have a single need go unmet. The wait staff will cut your kid's meat and perform magic tricks at the table, the room staff will turn down your beds and shape your towels into fish, the camp counselors will entertain and educate your offspring, the tour guides will teach you about native cuisine and protecting coral reefs, the lounge singer will play your favorite show tunes, and the beer steins will be chilled to perfection.
What's the hardest part to adjust to when the cruise is over?
A few things. The hardest will be that no one in your everyday life will ever be as happy to see you or as eager to help you as any Disney employee always is. You'll also wish more things could be operated by Disney, like Delta airlines and our government. Finally, there aren't a lot of opportunities to play deck shuffle board on land.
How did you book your cruise?
You can certainly book it yourself online. But Disney also has a variety of people who will book the cruise for you, give you helpful tips, and answer any and all questions you might have (which at this point should be none). You do not pay these bookers, Disney does. Feel free to contact the fabulous one we used: Leanne Phelps firstname.lastname@example.org
So, ultimately you recommend a Disney cruise? It's worth it?
To the first question: Yes. I recommend one to the highest possible degree. And in answer to your second: Yes.
Worth every penny.
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