It’s easy to see why children love Disney Cruises, but I was surprised to see how happy the grown-ups were on my last sailing. There even were plenty of older couples traveling alone on my cruise out of Florida, which seemed like an act of bravery on a ship designed primarily for families.
So what’s the appeal for adults, who want much more than a hug from a costumed character?
For adults traveling with kids, the best thing about these ships is that children are so well entertained.
First of all, the line has done an excellent job of carving out adults-only spaces, both onboard and on their private island. On the ship, there is an adults-only pool with a swim-up bar; multiple adults-only restaurants (including a formal French standout, Remy, which serves tasting dinners as well as an elegant sea-day brunch); and a variety of lounges (including the 687 sports bar, which shows football games during the season and has an appetizer bar piled high with snacks and a champagne bar called Pink).
On the private island, the adults-only beach offers yoga classes and open-air massages — and it’s wonderfully separate from the more boisterous family areas.
In addition, the service and food are executed at a very high level. If you’re picturing grilled cheese and chicken fingers, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Sure, the main dining room has waiters who perform magic tricks between courses to entertain small children, and another dining room has animation projected on the walls, but the dishes themselves are as well prepared and high quality as on ships that cater more directly to adults.
Take, for example, your meal at Animator’s Palace, a restaurant with screens on which animated characters call out questions to the kids. You’ll be served perfectly seared salmon, tortellini with truffle sauce and a trio of veal. In the main dining room, the menu includes pomegranate-glazed duck, escargot and a wild boar tenderloin. There’s also a Grand Marnier soufflé dessert (they also have ice cream pops shaped like mouse ears and a strawberry shortcake sundae with a chocolate mouse ear tuille). Sure, there are french fries, pizza and (excellent) chicken fingers on the pool deck, but there’s also fresh fruit, wraps and salads.
The attention to detail is impressive: The movie theater has a concession stand and stadium seating. The spa has a rainforest room with a Turkish bath. And they offer special services for teens in a separate area called the Chill Spa.
But for adults traveling with kids, the best thing about these ships is that children are so well entertained. The kids’ clubs are separated by age groups, and the littlest ones have an impressive nursery. Parents are given a cellphone so they can be reached, allowing them to relax and enjoy a night out. The kids’ club even sends attendants to the dining room to pick children up when they’re done eating, so their parents can finish their meal, have dessert and linger over an after-dinner drink or two.
And for parents with kids of various ages, it’s a pleasure to take the young ones to the splash park or a character meet-and-greet while the older ones enjoy the water ride (an actual roller coaster), the teen club, the movie theater or miniature golf — and then all meet up to share stories at dinnertime.
Disney is currently offering cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, departing from Miami or Port Canaveral, FL. In May, the company offers additional itineraries throughout Europe, California and Alaska.