Luxury travel means different things to different people. For honeymooners, it may mean an idyllic, secluded getaway to a far-off place. For parents, it’s going somewhere that makes their kids happy, while simultaneously allowing them to get some relaxation, too — and maybe even a cocktail or two.
With regards to the latter, we may have found the happiest place on earth — but it just so happens to be on the high seas. For more than two decades, Mickey and Minnie have honed the art of family cruise travel. Disney Cruise Line has made a splash in the luxury liner space with four vessels (Disney Magic, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder and Disney Fantasy), but plans to produce even more smiles with new ships taking off in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Disney cruises are an amazingly efficient way to take your family to multiple faraway destinations like Quebec or Cozumel while retaining the luxury of only having to unpack once. See the grandeur and majestic nature of Alaska and still savor Mickey-shaped bites with your brood. Trek your troop across Europe with preplanned itineraries. Spend the afternoon on Disney’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay, and be back on the ship before the curtain is drawn for a performance of Beauty and the Beast.
While all four ships have their own productions and idiosyncrasies, as you’ll read below, Goofy and Co. are serious about delivering a fulfilling family friendly experience across the fleet.
Once Upon a Dream
Inspired by the golden age of cruising, Disney ships feature extravagant décor like grand staircases and Chihuly sculptures. But the whimsical design is just the beginning. Staterooms offer nearly every amenity that a luxury hotel does.
Designed with groups in mind, all units are equipped with plush Euro-top mattresses, Frette 300-thread-count linens, cozy robes and Wi-Fi (for a fee). Even the cabin layout is mindful, allowing for functional separate spaces where parents can draw the curtains and put little ones to bed while still having access to restrooms and the TV.
Most staterooms even have a split bathroom, so two family members can get ready at once. If you’re looking for an upgrade, consider booking a room with a veranda for a sanctuary to take in the water. Rest easy — there are child-proof locks.
For the ultimate splurge, Concierge Suites come with upgraded amenities like a dedicated concierge (pre-arrival planning included), down duvets and access to exclusive extras, including a private lounge with a sundeck (on newer ships like Dream and Fantasy) and complimentary evening cocktails, an extensive media library of Disney DVDs and board games, and even the “pillow talk” program, where you can choose the right pillow to help you do your best Sleeping Beauty impression.
Be Our Guest
The service aboard each ship is a highlight. Getting to know the warm staff makes the whole experience extra special. Stateroom hosts (basically butlers) ensure everything is in its place every day. No matter how you leave your room each morning, when you return, it will be as though Mary Poppins herself stopped by.
For dining, the ships operate on a rotational schedule. You change restaurants each evening, but your waitstaff travels with you, allowing the team to become familiar with allergies and family favorites — you might even find your beverage (ahem, cocktail) of choice waiting each evening, if you ask. Servers are more than pleased to bring you as many dishes as you’d like sans judgment.
And if you’re worried about communal dining, don’t. On Disney cruises, you eat with your own party, so you can skip awkward conversations with strangers — unless you would like to dine with other Mickey enthusiasts, of course.
Kids will be entertained every night by special live music performances or even magic tricks courtesy of your server. You can sign up for Dine and Play, where the dining room expedites your little one’s meal so an Oceaneer Club counselor can come whisk him away for fun while you savor dinner in peace.
It’s an All-Inclusive World After All
Once you’ve booked your cruise, almost every part of your experience onboard is included in that price. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, soft drinks, snacks and ice cream are all gratis throughout the ship. In addition, complimentary room service is available 24/7, which means you can get a famous Mickey-shaped ice cream bar delivered to your stateroom day or night.
But the all-inclusive offerings aren’t limited to treats. Character meet-and-greets and entertainment like Broadway-caliber musicals (Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson worked here before she skyrocketed to fame) are included as well. Plus, Disney often shows first-run films (like Toy Story 4 and Aladdin) for free, and fireworks shows during sailings are a staple.
It’s no surprise that parents have no worries when it comes to childcare on the boat for kids of all ages. Upon check-in, each explorer gets a wristband that not allows access to age-appropriate facilities and but also reveals the youngster’s health and allergy information.
For children under the age of three, there is the It’s a Small World nursery (for an extra fee), where caregivers play, feed and even put young ones to sleep for naps in onsite cribs, so you can enjoy the day. At the end of the trip, you’ll receive a special delivery filled with your child’s artwork and photos.
Three- to 12-year-old cruisers can dive into Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab, where their favorite stories come to life. Whether it’s exploring Andy’s Room from Toy Story, soaring into the Star Wars universe aboard the Millennium Falcon or reading a story with one of the Disney princesses, tiny travelers will be enchanted. While tots are being well cared for, teens can hang out in their own space and connect with peers from around the world. Edge (for 11- to 14-year-olds) and Vibe (for the 14-to-17 crowd) have age-appropriate activities and amenities like high-tech entertainment, improv classes, karaoke and even silent disco parties.
When Will My Life Begin
Disney caters to everyone, including those adults in need of some well-deserved time off. By day, you can lounge by the serene adults-only pool, squeeze in a workout at the gym or luxuriate at Senses Spa & Salon. For a romantic retreat, indulge in a couple’s massage in a spa suite, which consists of a Roman bed with canopy, private hot tub, veranda and open-air shower.
Should you fancy a drink, order a Mickey-topped latte in an adults-only coffee shop. Need something stronger after a long day with the family? We adore Pink, a popular watering hole dedicated to serving bubbly on Dream. La Piazza, a bar modeled on a colorful vintage carousel on Fantasy, is another winner. And Cadillac Lounge is a sophisticated, 1950s-inspired cocktail club on Wonder.
The adults-only dining aboard each ship will impress even the most seasoned foodie. Though there’s an additional fee for these dining experiences, they take service to the next level while a bit of Disney magic ensures that every detail adds to the evening. Inspired by Disney’s Paris-based culinary tale Ratatouille, Remy (Dream, Fantasy) is a prime example of French fine dining, providing multi-course menus, exclusive tableware specially designed for the restaurant, a cheese trolley and an extensive wine list. A meal in this art nouveau dining room is worth the splurge.
The equally enchanting Palo (on all four ships) invites you to indulge in incredible Italian food while you drink in views of the water and the open kitchen. Dinner here is amazing, but don’t miss brunch, which includes an impressive raw seafood bar and a complimentary glass of bubbly to start your day off right. There’s a strong roster of after-dinner entertainment options for the grown-up crowd, too. Live acoustic sets, piano lounges and nightclubs liven all the vessels after hours. Parents can sign up for wine, whiskey or champagne tastings (book these early), or classic cruise activities like bingo and trivia, which may sound tired but usually end up being loads of fun.
How Far I’ll Go
No matter your port of call, you’ll find plenty of premium excursions for the whole family. Take off in a private seaplane to tour Alaska’s rugged wilderness, scale canyons in Cabo San Lucas or go on a glacier safari in Iceland. No matter how active your group wants to be, Disney has the pursuit for you.
Back on board, there is seemingly endless fun for your crew, including incredible swimming pools with giant water slides and even the unique “water coaster” Aquaduck aboard Disney Dream and Fantasy. If you can’t get a great picture by the water, capture the memories during one of the regular character meet-and-greets. Professional photographers are always on hand to ensure great shots. These meetings are plentiful and, unlike in the theme parks, the lines are short.