Never Bored On-Boardby Adrienne Krock, staff writer
Many families enjoy cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. This week, we asked our Parenting Panel: What are your favorite activities on board the Disney Cruise Line?
Mary Kraemer, is an avid Disney fan and travel consultant with CruisingCo/MouseEarVacations who loves to travel with her husband and children to Disney destinations as often as possible. Mary, writes:
From the moment that you arrive onboard a Disney ship, when your name is announced with applause by the crew members, you know you are in for a special vacation. For children, this announcement is nothing short of amazing because the people on the ship know their name already! And it sets the tone for all the fun that is to come in the next few days…
After finding your stateroom, and grabbing a bit to eat before the mandatory lifeboat drill, kids will discover that the food is free whenever they want, including pizza and soft-serve ice cream! My kids never, ever, ever pass the soft-serve ice cream without taking advantage of grabbing their own cone.
Did you bring a carry-on bag with your swimsuit? Even before the ship leaves port, you can start having fun in the pool, the AquaDuck (on the Disney Dream and Fantasy), or the AquaDunk (on the Disney Magic). Already, it's an amazing start to the vacation, and you can enjoy it for the entire time you're onboard the ship!
And when it's time to sail away, cover your ears when the ship's horn plays "When You Wish Upon A Star," a Disney-only cruise ship sound, and join in the best sail-away party that's designed for families to sing, dance, and celebrate the start of the cruise!
Wow. Is there more? You bet!
Let's go visit the kids' clubs, the specially designed places where grownups can't stay, and kids will have a blast with new friends. Good luck getting those kiddos out of the clubs because they're going to have so much fun!
Need some quiet time? How about a movie on deck on the Funnel Vision, or in the Buena Vista Theater? There's almost always a great Disney movie to be seen at one of these two places… for free! Even if you want to hang out in your stateroom, there's always something fun to watch on TV… and maybe order come chocolate chip cookies and milk from room service, which kids love to do, and it's free!
Every night, dinner is an adventure because you are entertained at one of three different restaurants onboard the ship… and kids love the amazing transformation at Animator's Palette (and the extra features found on there on the Disney Fantasy—and on the redesigned Disney Magic when their own artwork comes to life).
Can you imagine walking down the hallway and playing hide and seek with Peter Pan and Captain Hook? It happens on the wonderful, Disney-only Pirates In the Caribbean theme party night. There's a great show on deck, followed by a great dance party and then fireworks that explode over the ocean!
On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, there's enchanted artwork that moves and changes when you come near it, so even the pictures on the walls are especially fun! Taking it a step farther, sign up for the Mickey's Detective Agency, and go on a scavenger hunt all over these two ships to solve clues, and find even more enchantment in the artwork!
There's so much fun onboard a Disney ship that you'll hardly want to leave… until you see Castaway Cay, Disney's own island in the Bahamas, where you can spend a fantastic day playing on the powdery beaches and swimming in the ocean. Or enjoy any of the other terrific ports of call where the Disney ships visit… where even more adventures await you!
Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California withwith her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 2 and 4. Jen writes:
We recently took our first Disney cruise with our children, who were almost 2 and almost 4 at the time. Our family sailed on the Disney Fantasy, and, as we chose the Eastern Caribbean itinerary, we had three full at-sea days with which to explore this beautiful ship. Both kids quickly found favorite activities, and continued to discover more throughout the week. Here are a few of their highlights:
Water Play – Neither kid was tall enough for the most popular water attraction, the AquaDuck, but that didn't stop them from having a great time in several other water play areas on board. Our son, at almost 4 and potty-trained, was allowed to swim in the Mickey and Donald pools and play in the AquaLab, but his absolute favorite was the water slide next to the Mickey pool. While the sign next to the slide says it is recommended for kids ages 4 to 12, any kid who met the height limit was allowed to ride, and he happily went up and down the slide for hours. Our daughter, almost 2 and not yet potty-trained, was limited to Nemo's Reef, which she loved. She liked to play with the various fountains and waterfalls, and go down the little "Mr. Ray" slide. One note, the DCL cast members were very insistent that kids not wear water shoes while going down this slide. The problem is that the pad at the base of the slide was very slippery, and we saw many kids stand up on this pad after sliding and then slip and fall. We ended up keeping one adult at the base of the slide to keep an eye on the kids. Hopefully Disney will replace this pad with something a little less slippery if they keep the rule about water shoes.
Youth Clubs – Our son was old enough to stay in the Oceaneer's Club alone, but didn't want to stay without his sister. However, both kids loved the Open House activities, times of day when the club was open to all cruisers, including parents and kids who are not yet old enough for the club. During the Open Houses, the kids were free to explore the different themed rooms (Andy's Room from Toy Story was a big hit with my two.) There was also usually an activity going on at least some of the time. One favorite activity while we visited was Mickey's Puzzle Playtime, where Mickey and a couple of his friends each came out and did something with the kids, such as a beanbag toss with Goofy or puppet-making with Minnie.
Shows and Entertainment – One thing we love about Disney cruises is that all of the Disney-themed entertainment is included. And since we don't have to shell out additional money to see a live show or even a movie, it's a great environment to introduce our small kids to watching entertainment in theaters. If the kids get bored or restless, we can leave without worrying that we've wasted our money. Turns out we didn't need to worry much on the Disney cruise, as both kids were thoroughly entertained by several of the evening live shows including Believe and Aladdin. They also enjoyed some of the daytime kid-themed shows and parties, their favorites of which were based around Disney Junior music and characters.
So far we've only sailed on the Disney Fantasy with our kids, but definitely look forward to exploring the rest of the Disney Cruise Line ships over the coming years.
Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:
As much as I fell in love with vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resort, I can honestly say that I became equally addicted with cruising the first time I sailed with Disney. We knew it would be a different experience but we did not know it would be an experience of a lifetime.
My daughter's favorite shipboard activities included something she does not normally get at the parks. That would be gaining a sense of independence where she can do pretty much anything she wants with the teen group. We heard so many great stories about her new friends and simply having the run of the ship. From swimming, watching movies, enjoying smoothies and simply relaxing, she never seems to have a dull moment. The only rule that we have is that we eat dinner together to hear stories about her adventures. Well, that and she can't ignore her dear old dad if we cross paths sometime during the day. I know that may seem like it would take the "family" out of "family vacation" but we do set some time aside to hang out and relax with each other and have some quality time with each other.
For my son, being that he is younger, really likes the Oceaneer's Club. His favorite part is to hang out with kids his age and play different computer games that are not available anywhere else. At the same time, he is my best traveling companion and many afternoons, especially when the ship is at port, you will find us doing as many trips down the AquaDuck as possible! He and I also make it a point to seek out character meet and greets as well. However, I think if you were to ask him now, one of the best things he loves to do is to take an ice cream break after all these activities.
My wife and I tend to take it a bit easier when the kids are doing different things. During the last trip, we were introduced to the spa and its many different offerings. However, we found that what we liked the most was a day pass to the Rainforest Room, where you have unlimited use of different themed showers, steam rooms, and saunas. On top of it, you can relax on heated lounges that are so comfortable, the cares just melt away. We also love to take advantage of different tours of the inner workings of the ship. One time we did a galley tour and saw how a couple thousand people are fed all the great meals. Another time, since I am a gearhead at heart, I got to take time out to talk to some of the engineering crew on board to get an idea of the sheer mechanical power that ship possesses. It was something of a "Tim Allen" moment for me for sure.
As a family, we love to take time out to be a part of the different family friendly activities. Some of the Disney trivia games are our favorite! Let us not forget the deck parties, as well. There is nothing like dancing under the stars while at sea, listening to some great music, followed by fireworks set off from the side of the ship. It is a wonderful way to end a memory filled day.
To be honest, I know that some of the things we do on the ship may be different than what most people see as fun. The great part is that there is not nearly enough space in the column to tell you about all of our favorites. Be assured, there are so many different activities that fit a wide variety of interests, you will be wanting another trip just because you can't do them all.
Sheena, also known as Mermaid, teaches first grade in Arizona where she lives with her husband two children, Matthew (3) and Katie (2). She visits Disneyland as often as she can and has passed on her love of the parks to her little Mouseketeers. Sheena writes:
I cruised to Alaska last summer with my two toddlers and there was a lot to keep us all busy! Some of our favorites included:
Wake Up With Disney Junior – This was offered on Sea Days in the Promenade Lounge area and was great. It was basically a dance party geared for the youngest cruisers. The songs were all favorites from current and past Disney Junior shows, including Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny and, my daughter's favorite, Little Einsteins. There was a cast member who led the kids in different dances and kept the energy up. We did this twice and the energy of the kids does affect the experience. The first time, there were about 20 kids, most in the 3 to 5-year-old range. This was a high-energy group and the dance floor was full. My 17-month-old danced the full 30 minutes and this was a highlight of our trip. The second time, there were only about six kids and the kids weren't as into it, but my daughter still had a blast.
Character Meet and Greets – There are many opportunities to meet the characters throughout the day and before dinner. The times and locations are listed in the "Daily Navigator," which is left in your stateroom each night for the following day. The Fab 5 wore different costumes throughout the cruise, so it was worthwhile to see them more than once. Our favorite was Fisherman Mickey aka "Deadliest Catch Mickey." There are photographers at most of these meet-and-greets similar to Photopass in the parks. On the Wonder, the photos are on display in Shutters for you to view and purchase throughout the cruise. The highlight for my family was the princesses, but be prepared to wait... and wait… and wait. We got there about 30 minutes early and still waited an hour total to meet with Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, and Tiana. Each princess really took her time with each family. In the slow-moving line, this was aggravating and I was thinking "I have a boy and a baby, we are going to be done in two minutes." Not so at all. From twirling with Snow White to a long conversation about my son's light up shoes with Cinderella, each princess gave my kids so much attention and love that the hour was completely worth it.
Open House at Oceaneer's Club and Lab – During Open House times at the kids clubs, parents can visit the clubs with their children. These times are listed in the Navigator, but generally were offered 1-2 hours each day. My kids were both younger than 3, so too young for the club during most of the day and night, but we took advantage of Open House on a few occasions. My kids enjoyed Story Telling with Snow White, the dress up bins and the computer games.
The Little Things – There were a lot of little opportunities for my little ones to explore the ship. I fondly remember them running through an empty Route 66 (Wonder) one morning. There is so much to do and see, I know we have only scratched the surface and I am looking forward to discovering more of what the ship has to offer on future sailings!
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