Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Disney Cruising - Not just for Childless 30-Somethings

I love immersing myself in a travel destination; living life right alongside the locals: eating the same food, breathing the same air, sleeping in the same beds...

Well, maybe not the last one.

Until I met my husband this was the only way I travelled. I turned up my nose at cruising because I felt like I didn't get the WHOLE experience. Since then, having had the opportunity to take several family cruises, I have come to appreciate the ease of this other way of travel. Especially when covering a lot of geography, cruising can make travel so much simpler! You don't have to constantly unpack/repack, your cruise ship is your transportation (versus puddle jumpers or rental cars), and the occasional forced relaxation at sea keeps the vacation truly vacationy. I now really appreciate having a floating base camp to take the headache out of covering so much ground.

Disney Wonder
Over the past nine years I have tried out a variety of lines including Carnival, Norwegian and Princess (we actually got married on the Sapphire Princess). Each time, the experience it allowed on land was the highlight and the cruise experience itself was secondary.

Then I went on a Disney Cruise. I'm trying to even recall the destination, I think it was somewhere warm?

My extremely generous in-laws booked this trip for the whole family (19 people). As much as I love traveling with my family, I wasn't looking forward to missing my workaholic husband who couldn't get away. And honestly? I was childless at the time, and wasn't eager to spend a "vacation" on a ship full of thousands of shrieking children. But I packed all my non-revealing clothes and a Costco-sized bottle of Excedrin, and hoped for the best.

I think I may go again. Even if no one else wants to. Yes, I enjoyed a Disney Cruise with no significant other and no kids. No, not just enjoyed. Adored.

Me and my hot date, Walt
We were aboard the Disney Wonder, which is one of their two older ships even though I wouldn't have guessed it. The entertainment, food, decor and childish excitement were unparalleled. The big shows are all Disney themed, but the nostalgia is nice and the special effects, impressive. It even snowed and bubbled over the audience. The restaurants and meals are pretty spectacular as well. The black and white walls of the Animator's Palate are slowly "painted" with color while you eat.

You expect Disney to be amazing for kids, but there was a surprising amount of thought put into the adult experience. There were adults-only pools, nightlife areas, and entertainment around the ship. I found an amazing little two-story coffee shop that they were literally hiding from the kiddos. I was looking for it and passed it three times because it was so inconspicuous!

From the best-tasting ice cream bars (they were intended for the kids - ha!) to the nonstop children's activities, Disney does it right. They don't just have all-day babysitting, they've created spaces to which the kids couldn't WAIT to escape. Each night the little ones in our group (sitting at their own table, treated like royalty) would scarf down their food so they'd be ready when the staff came through to whisk them away to Kids Club. The adults had several hours to finish dinner and do their own thing before their offspring turned into pumpkins at midnight.
They were so well-behaved, I decided to adopt all these children.
This seems like a little thing, but I appreciated that each member of the staff was extremely clean cut. There were no visible tattoos or crazy piercings (or even noticeable nail polish). I'm all about individuality, but I think special rules apply when working with kids. Besides, Ariel just wouldn't look right with tribal tats and gauged ears.

As expected, characters roamed the ship or posed for pictures throughout the day, although they may be hard to spot with all the 3 ft princesses underfoot. My most charming memory was an impromptu chase we witnessed between Captain Hook and Peter Pan. Peter got all the kids to rooster caw and misdirect Captain Hook. So stinking cute.

The most surprising part was that I don't recall ANY unhappy kids. Maybe they lock them up belowdecks. Fine by me.

Go, enjoy yourself. Remember to pack your Jack Sparrow Gear for pirate night - no, you're not too mature to get in costume. If they're good? Consider bringing your kids with you.
Well, I left MOST of my revealing clothes at home

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