GROWNUPS on a Disney Cruise? (YOU PROBABLY THINK i'M CRAZY...)
Unless you’ve been on a Disney Cruise.
Did you know that:
1. You don’t need to have kids with you to have a fabulous vacation on a Disney cruise. And, even though there are kids on the ship, having a good time as an adult is EASY!
2. You don’t need to be a Disney dork, addict, fanatic, or have Disney blood running in your veins to enjoy the cruise. My friend who accompanied me on a Disney cruise is definitely not a big Disney fan. She's told many people that she was pleasantly surprised how much she enjoyed the Disney Cruise.
BTW, I sailed on the Disney Wonder repositioning cruise from San Diego to Vancouver (May 17-22, 2017). Comments here specifically relate to that cruise and the Disney Wonder, but from the websites I researched prior to our cruise, Disney’s other 3 ships are similar enough that these comments apply.
More specific reasons why you (as a Grownup) should go on a Disney Cruise:
1. THE SHIP IS BEAUTIFUL AND FASCINATING, inside and out, from its exterior and interior appearance to the smallest details.
Disney’s Imagineers designed the Disney Cruise Line fleet to portray the “Golden Age of Cruising” of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the era that Walt Disney and his wife, Lillian, would have cruised. The Disney Wonder reflects that elegance in its Art Nouveau design inside the ship, using traditional ship architecture and colors outside.
The Imagineers designed and placed everything on the Disney Cruise ships for specific reasons. For example, all the ceilings on the fifth level -- home of the kids clubs -- are lower than the ceilings on other levels so that these smaller people (kids) will feel more comfortable. The Wonder’s 31 different carpet patterns continue the themes of the various parts of the ships and help you find your way around the ship. Lots of hidden Mickeys throughout the ship, of course.
Even the dinnerware follows the restaurant themes. Every dinner plate has a frog on it in Tiana’s Place (as in the Disney movie "Princess and the Frog"), one of the main restaurants. Ariel’s statue (the ship’s mascot) is in the Atrium lobby, and the restaurant next to the Atrium is Triton’s (Ariel’s king dad). Details in Triton's (restaurant) depict Ariel and her ocean friends. All of the main restaurants, the lounges, other public areas, and the cabins have this detailed theming.
2. ADULTS ONLY ACTIVITIES EVERY DAY…almost all day
The “Daily Navigator,” lists Adult activities as a separate category all day and evening long. Some of the activities for Adults during our cruise: a tour of the ship’s Disney-esque details; drawing classes (our sketches resembled Goofy and Stitch); trivia games; napkin folding lessons, lounge games like “Name that Disney Movie from the song;" wine tasting; how to mix drinks; and whiskey tasting. Several movies were scheduled late in the evenings for “grown-up” viewing.
3. ADULTS ONLY AREAS Adults have a separate “no kids allowed” pool and deck area, a Starbucks-type coffee shop, an English Pub, and a lounge. The under-18 set is prohibited from all of these places all day and night, but they are almost always in their kids’ clubs anyway. At least two of the family lounges become 18+ after 9 pm.
Another adults-only space is the Fitness Center, which has a variety of cardio and weight machines, as well as free weights and mats for floor exercise. Spinning and yoga classes are included in the cruise price, and a 30-minute boot camp is scheduled every day (extra fee).
Palo is the adults-only restaurant. Advance reservations are required. Palo costs an extra $30 per person because the servers don’t follow guests to that restaurant. The extra fee is worth it, because the food is excellent, the service is even more personalized than in the main restaurants, and the restaurant, its location and view are beautiful. We watched a man propose marriange to his loved one during our dinner there!
4. KIDS ARE RARELY SEEN OR HEARD. Disney assigns Kid passengers to one of 4 separate “clubs” based on their ages (from 3 weeks to under 18, and they definitely enjoy their fun educational -- and other entertaining -- activities that happen almost all day, and into the night. We heard children of various ages begging to go back to their “club," instead of hanging out with mom and dad. (And several adults we met mentioned how weird it was to be on vacation with their kids, but hardly see them.) In addition, we ate dinner during second seating (8:15 pm), so we hardly saw (or heard) kids at dinner. Most kids ate at 5:15 pm and were long gone by the time we enjoyed our dinner. Our servers seated us with adults only at other meals too (we asked when arranging our cruise).
5. THE FOOD…is delicious (you can even ask the dishes! -- Sorry, couldn't resist.). The cast members work hard to make sure you enjoy your meals (especially in the main restaurants), and the kitchen is very flexible and accommodating. The choices available on the menus make eating healthy on this cruise easier than most vacations I've taken, and definitely easier than with other cruise lines. (Related to food: if you take the stairs rather than the elevators between the different ship levels--decks--you can get in your stair-climbing workout. More room for food!)
Disney Cruise Line has a unique rotational dinner system. We ate at all three main restaurants during our cruise, and our table's server, assistant server, and head server served us at each of these restaurants during dinner (and sometimes lunch). The servers really get to know you and learn how you like your food and beverages. One example: at lunch during one of the first days of our cruise, we requested raw carrot and celery sticks. Even though raw carrots and celery sticks were not on the menu--and a server had to get some from another restaurant -- they brought us carrots and celery sticks. Every lunch after that (when we ate in one of the three main restaurants), the servers brought us a bowl of carrot and celery sticks. They were very gracious about it too.
You can order as many appetizers, entrees or desserts as you’d like. And even though you are a grown-up, you can order anything from the kids’ menus, from appetizers to side dishes and desserts. Sometimes the kids’ menus had healthier side dishes than the adult menus (like brown rice instead of white rice), and the kitchen is happy to serve those side dishes to you, instead of what is on the adult menu. The servers take great care to make sure the kitchen meets your dietary needs (allergies, lactose intolerance, wheat-free, etc.).
Each menu offers vegetarian, gluten free and lighter entrees, and sugar-free desserts.
Room Service is also included in your cruise price. It has a somewhat limited menu, but is really convenient prior to going ashore, or if you just don't feel like facing the stairs.
The buffet is huge and has almost anything you'd want for breakfast and lunch. Because the buffet dining room is so huge, it can get noisy. But since the buffet on the Disney Wonder is on Deck 9, you can take your lunch to one of the outside tables.
6. ALCOHOL The Disney Cruise Line allows each guest to bring on board up to two 750 ml bottles of wine or six beers (in your carry-on only). You can enjoy it in your stateroom, or your servers can serve it with your dinner or lunch. Be forewarned: DCL charges a $25 per bottle wine corkage fee in the dining rooms. Your Cabin Host can bring you an opener and glasses if you choose to drink it in your stateroom.
The restaurants and lounge wine menus have a wide variety of good wines, with prices ranging from $6 per glass to $499 or more per bottle. After we did the math, we realized that buying one or two reasonably-priced glasses of wine at the ship’s restaurants and lounges was cheaper than paying the corkage fee for our own wine.
The lounges and restaurants serve cocktails at prices comparable to nice restaurants. The Drink of the Day is usually a few dollars less expensive than comparable “fancy” cocktails on the ship’s menus.
7. NOT CREW MEMBERS: Just like Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, the employees working on a Disney ship are called Cast Members. The whole cruise ship is “the show” and you'll never see a grumpy cast member or the "backstage" areas.
The cast members work really hard to make sure you have a “magical” time on your voyage. We met several that were really excellent at doing their jobs above and beyond the basic duties.
Example: After we had challenges on the first day clarifying our special dietary needs with our restaurant staff, the Head Server visited us at our table during the next meal, to be certain he understood what we wanted. After our food was served, he made sure we were happy and that the order was correct. We saw him at almost every meal after that and he always asked if our meals were prepared correctly and if we were enjoying our food. (See The Food, above, for more.)
8. BEVERAGES (NON-ALCOHOLIC) ARE INCLUDED
A beverage station on Deck 9 provides 24/7 self-service water, coffee, tea, hot water, hot chocolate and the Coca Cola products sold in the Disney Parks, including Minute Maid lemonade and light pomegranate lemonade (FAVORITE!). All non-alcoholic beverages are also included with your meals at every restaurant, except for the specialty coffee drinks. The adults-only coffee bar—like a Starbucks—charges for fancy coffee drinks, but doesn't charge for the snacks served there.
9. THE CABINS (STATEROOMS)
The Imagineers obviously put a lot of thought into the stateroom design. Split bathrooms allow two people to get ready at one time. A sink with mirror and the toilet are in one bathroom; a sink (with mirror) and bathtub in the other. Another mirror is in the area near the sofa.
Love the Bathtub: great after a long day walking around the ship or in port.
Plenty of storage for clothing and other stuff: two dressers; a double-wide closet with lots of hangers.
Blow dryer(s): ignore the wimpy one in the bathroom; use the one in the desk drawer.
Mini-fridge: Keeps drinks and leftovers cold.
NOTE: Many cruise advice blogs and articles will tell you to bring magnets for hanging things because the walls are metal and to bring "over the door shoe holders." Don't bring these on a Disney Cruise. Only the doors are steel, and they are wood in the highest class staterooms. There's also a very convenient hook just inside the stateroom door for hanging your stateroom key/activity card/ship ID card lanyard. And DCL has a strict rule prohibiting passengers from hanging anything over the doors. Their info says DCL will charge you if you damage the doors. (Don't say I didn't warn you!)
10. THE SHOWS.... are comparable to Broadway shows, with lots of singing, dancing, great costumes and Disney special effects. (Same quality as “Frozen” at California Adventure, but a different show every night.) A different show played every night, and the shows play twice every night: once before dinner for the second seating (mostly grownups at this time); and again after dinner for the first dinner seating (the families with kids).
11. MOVIES You can view first-run movies with showtimes from 8:30 am to 11 pm -- some in 3D -- in the Buena Vista Theatre. This theater was designed to look like a theater where Walt Disney and his wife (Lillian) would have watched movies, during the Golden Age of Movies. One auditorium, a single big screen and no cup holders attached to the seats. We saw “Born in China” (I highly recommend it). Other movies playing on our cruise: Guardians of the Galaxy II (before it opened on land), Moana, Star Wars: Rogue One; Frozen; Up; and Beauty and the Beast; Tangled and more.
12. PIXIE DUST aplenty lives on the Disney Cruise Ships. We had beautiful weather at our port stop in San Francisco and when we disembarked in Vancouver, BC. In both cities, locals told us that the weather had been awful the day before and thanked us for bringing the blue skies and warm weather. We all agreed that we brought Pixie Dust with us from the cruise ship. We also heard stories about people getting really sick on the cruise and Disney helping them out. The presence of the Disney Princesses and other Disney characters was enough to make any child (or adult!) smile. And we ate dinner almost every night with a woman who works in Fantasyland at Disneyland! It was fun talking to her about things happening at Disneyland Resort,
NOTE: I did TONS of research before I committed to going on this cruise. Among the most helpful sites: PictureTheMagic.com and DisneyCruiseLineBlog.com; also MomentswithMandi.com, CruiseCritic.com, MiceChat.com, DisneyInsiderTips.com and several YouTube Videos (Search Disney Wonder 2017). I also set up a Pinterest Board to keep all this information easily available.
SUMMARY: I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed cruising with Disney. Any other cruise line will seem ordinary after a Disney Cruise. I booked my 2018 cruise while still on board the Wonder. In case you are still wondering, I highly recommend a Disney Cruise for grownups.