Best Cruise for Adult and Kid Fun?
March 24, 2008 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Me and wife would like to take a boat cruise with our three year old in tow. Would Disney cruise be the best choice for maximum entertainment? If so, what's best site for good deals on these? If you've gone on one - what was your experience like? We are not big Disney fans but would like to have the best of both worlds (kid and adult fun). Any tips or tricks? Looking to go in October for 4 or 7 days if that matters. Thanks!
posted by bleucube to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think Disney cruises have casinos. Depending on your desire to gamble, this may affect your choice.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:47 PM on March 24, 2008

No Disney cruise ships have casinos. Speaking as someone who has been on four Disney cruises and is related to someone who works on the cruise ship.
posted by arnicae at 6:00 PM on March 24, 2008

Just about every major cruise line will have entertainment for kids. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, etc. will all have great kids programs and great kids groups. I'm in my late 20s, love Disney World, and my parents took us on about 10 cruises throughout my childhood. The Disney cruise was probably my least favorite (it was also my first when I was in 3rd grade -- although their cruises are probably a bit different now).

You'd probably be better off looking for the ports of call you want and finding a ship that has a fun gimmick like an ice rink or mini golf course for additional entertainment.
posted by awegz at 6:21 PM on March 24, 2008

Best answer: Disney currently has two boats, the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic (two more, much larger, are currently being built). The Wonder and Magic cruise out of Port Canaveral on 3, 4, and 7 day cruises to the Bahamas and the Carribean. I'm in my 20s and have been on the boats four times. I don't have kids. Three times I traveled as a guest of the crew, the fourth time I booked a stateroom and went on the Magic's 7 day cruise with my Grandfather and aunt.

The Wonder does the 4 day cruise- you'd get to visit Castaway Cay and Nassau. Nassau is a total snore (I usually literally sleep through that port) and it is well worth spending the extra $ to take one of the 7 day cruises, which the Magic sails. The eastern Carribean cruise goes to St. Tomas, St. Maarten, and Castaway Cay. I haven't been on the western Carribean cruise. My family member says the Western Carribean cruise is the best one.

If your child (or you) like Toy Story, you should cruise on the Wonder: they're premiering a musical version of Toy Story this spring and the show is opening on the Wonder only this Thursday! There are 8 foot tall dinosaurs and Mr. Potato Heads involved, and I've heard it looks awesome.

The summer, the Magic is sailing to the west coast, via the Panama canal. I'm going to go on the return trip- how often do you get to sail through the Panama canal? It will be a 14 day cruise, but if you're on the west coast and feel like sailing the Mexican Riviera out of Long Beach, the Magic will be cruising out of there. They're returning to the Carribean in early August.

We really had a wonderful time, as adults without kids. The thing that is different about cruising with Disney (I've heard- I've only been on one other cruise ship) is the level of service. The Wonder and Magic all have a 1:3 crew to passengers ratio (I'm pretty sure, I'll check with family member and report back if my ratio is wrong) and you get treated very, very well while you're on the ship. There are fun things to do for kids and adults alike day and night, and despite cynically expecting to be utterly bored out of my mind the first cruise I totally got into it.

Of course, DCL is particularly wonderful for those with ranges of childen: unlike the other cruise lines, they have whole decks set aside for "Family Programs" and have a number of programs that are catered to every age range. There is this awesome playroom that takes up the forward half of the ship on deck 5 (I think, it could be 4 or 6) that has all sorts of cool stuff to do: they have a number of video game thingers with screens that are as big as a "home theatre" screen- 8 or 10 feet wide with big couches, there is a digital program that allows you to learn how to steer the boat, which is programmable for various ages and complexities, there are science projects and enough exciting stuff to keep kids occupied all day.

For 3 y/o's, three is the lower limit for the Oceaneer's Club (one of the Family Programs). There's a nursery for even littler kids, but no activities. They outfit the parents with pagers, and if your child needs you you will be contacted immediately. Pretty cool.

All of his/her favorite characters will be on board. There are daily Princess Parties and the like so that your kiddo can meet, be photographed with, and get autographs from their favorite character. They really work it while they're on board.

There are live shows (like the Toy Story show) in a beautiful theatre reminiscent of the grand old age of theatre. Peter Pan, Wendy, Cinderella, Jasmine, Prince Ali, Simba, and others are all on hand- and it is an appealing show for kids and adults alike.

The other super cool thing is that room service is free. It is really important to tip your server, but that means you can order milk and cookies at 8 p.m. - or 3 a.m. They also will bring you coffee and fruit in the morning. There are ice cream bars shaped like Mickey mouse on the room service menu, too.

One final very cool thing most people don't think about: Disney Cruise Lines has NEVER had a stomach flu outbreak onboard. They are the ONLY ship to have never had such an outbreak.

Three negative points about DCL.

#1: DCL makes a lot of its money through alcohol sales. The drinks are pretty expensive, and since you can just charge them to your Key to the World card (an ID card that lets you on and off the boat, your room, etc) its hard to keep track of your purchases. I think most drinks start at $4. You can buy a package ahead of time that includes some booze, I don't know if you can do anything but wine.

#2: DCL is more expensive than most of the other cruise lines. I think it is totally worth it, because that means they treat you really well, and they pay their staff living wages, and have new boats that have 5 way stabilizing thrusters (no sea sickness, yea!) and all of the stuff that you use/experience/eat on board is top notch, but it *is* more expensive than other cruise lines. You're also paying for the "boutique" experience: there are only a few thousand passengers on board, unlike some of the floating cities that other cruise lines run.

#3: The much vaunted and very fun shore excursions cost extra money, and they're kinda expensive. Worth it, yeah, and the money doesn't go to Disney but rather to the operator, but I think the cheapest shore excursion (Aquarium visit in Nassau) is $15 pp, and the bigger shore excursions, like jet ski tours, deep-water fishing or paragliding cost a lot more than $15 pp.

All in all, DCL is worth the extra expense, and it is really an experience worth remembering.
posted by arnicae at 6:25 PM on March 24, 2008 [6 favorites]

Also? You can do land/sea combinations- such as 3 days at Disney World and 4 day cruise on the Wonder. I know you get a little more bang for your buck with those combinations.
posted by arnicae at 6:26 PM on March 24, 2008

Response by poster: Gambling isn't important. Having fun as a family is #1 and perhaps having a babysitter for a couple hours for me and missus to go our and shaky our booties.

Appreciate all the info arnicae!!!

Can you bring your own alcohol on the boat if you keep it hidden?
posted by bleucube at 7:36 PM on March 24, 2008

Can you bring your own alcohol on the boat if you keep it hidden?

Yes. As far as bringing it to dinner, I think there is a moderate corkage fee. So if you bring your own bottle opener and drink it in the room or on deck, you're golden, but if you want to bring wine with you to dinner, expect to pay $10-15. I'm not sure it would be appropriate to BYOB to Palo, DCL's premier eating establishment. (As someone who considers myself a bit of a gourmand, eating at Palo was one of the top ten dining experiences of my life, and it only costs an extra $10-15 pp to eat there! Make reservations PRIOR to coming on board!)

If you're flying in, you check all your stuff at Orlando when you get on the bus. Just put a case or two of beer in a duffle and check it- but if anyone asks about it, tell them the truth, that you are bringing alcohol. With Disney, being honest makes you much more likely to get what you're asking for than trying to conceal it. As with the rest of your bags, it will be delivered to your room, you don't have to carry it!

As a point of interest, I'll mention that the crew cannot. Drug smuggling is an issue with all cruise lines and DCL is very very very careful about that. The x ray all of the crew's mail and luggage. Crew is allowed to buy alcohol in the ports, but must immediately surrender it, closed, to be stored in the ship's hold until they disembark the ship at the end of their contract. There is an officer's bar, but there is zero tolerance for drinking on duty- if there is even a question of it, you're confined to quarters and booted off the ship in the next port (even if that is, say, St. Tomas) with a one-way ticket home and your pay in cash.

OTOH, giving a positive review on that last day can be a ticket to a promotion for many employees, especially the "little people" who usually don't get recognized. It may actually be more important than the tip, particularly if you remember their names. They get personally congratulated by their leader and a note goes on their record, which usually results in a promotion/raise after just a couple of those reviews.
posted by arnicae at 8:56 PM on March 24, 2008

I took a Carnival cruise with my young child about 18 months ago. Some thoughts:

1. The kids' menu was full of junk food. However, I asked if it was okay to order off the regular menu instead. No problem. So my little guy dined on amazing steak, baked salmon and so on. My only complaint there was that I couldn't opt to have smaller servings. (I just felt bad about waste. So I had my child split his with another child in our party some times.)

2. There were lots of great "drop off" babysitting and day camp programs. However, there was no opportunity to warm up your kid. We weren't allowed to stay with our child while he adjusted to the setting or the caregivers. We weren't allowed to stay there to check out the program staff. If we wanted to use the facility (the only place to play with toys on the entire ship), we had to dump our child there and leave. As a result, we didn't use the facility. If you normally leave your child with random caregivers or your child is really familiar with being dropped off somewhere, this might not be a problem. However, I didn't see any kids using the program when I was there, perhaps for this reason.

3. The only children's area on the ship was only available if your child was in a program. None of the materials or information we received ahead of time said this.

4. The kids' pool was closed when we were on the ship.

5. The kids' daycamp programs serve unhealthy food, too. And no option to ask for something different there.

Other than that, we had a great time. I would definitely do a cruise again, although with different expectations than perhaps before!

posted by acoutu at 8:56 PM on March 24, 2008

bleucube: you are not allowed to bring your own alcohol aboard any cruise, and if they find it they take it away. So, I'm not going to tell you that a plastic water bottle is a great way to hide, say, vodka or gin in your luggage. Because that would be wrong.

Incidentally, on some cruise ships (I know Carnival for sure, but I am not sure about others) you can bring your own sodas and pack them in your luggage, and if you like soda, that will save you a lot, since it costs almost as much as the alcoholic drinks.
posted by misha at 8:57 PM on March 24, 2008


Also, you mentioned a babysitter. You can request an individual babysitter to care for your child in the stateroom, but the programs are really superb. Take advantage of them, your child will really enjoy them, even at the little end of it! The people who are in family programs are kind, knowledgeable, and really good at playing at your kid's ability level.

One final piece of advice- you can get interior stateroom, porthole, massive porthole, tiny balcony, large balcony, outrageously large balcony, or Disney suite. If you're going to splash out on a room with a balcony, make certain it is one with a clear balcony, not one of the metal balconies. It's lovely to sit out on the balcony enjoying the breeze, but if you can't see anything, it isn't quite as much fun!
posted by arnicae at 9:00 PM on March 24, 2008

misha said: you are not allowed to bring your own alcohol aboard any cruise

Not true. I just double-checked with the family member who says you can absolutely bring alcohol on board Disney Cruise Lines. He says you can't bring a cooler, but you can bring almost any quantity of beer or alcohol. Only proviso: $15 corkage fee and you can't bring any open containers onto the ship (I suppose that's kind of obvious, but it is one of their rules).

You can bring alcohol on Disney Cruise Lines.
posted by arnicae at 10:13 PM on March 24, 2008

Also, if you disguise alcohol in an opened container as misha suggests, and they discover it, you'll be in trouble.

Family member adds: And we have a duty free alcohol shop on board the ship and you can buy alcohol in any of the ports and bring it back on board with you. For example, you can buy a $1200 bottle of cognac in the Duty Free shop on board, should you so choose.
posted by arnicae at 10:16 PM on March 24, 2008

There's a lot of great information here already. I concur that Disney is a great family cruise, and high-quality for adults too (as long as you don't mind Disney characters and no casino). That said, my nieces and nephew had a great time on Carnival, and although it may be a little less upscale it is substantially less expensive and has much better nightlife.

In terms of suggestions for getting a good price, I don't know for sure with Disney but for Carnival the price will always be the same regardless of where you go (unless you're booking as a big group). They're really strict with travel agencies about that (they are trying to create a level playing field for their in-house booking agents). Personally, I'd suggest you contact the cruise lines directly because their agents generally know a lot more about the nuances of each ship than travel agents. (I've been disappointed with the majority of agents I've worked with.)

A travel agent might theoretically be able to help across different cruise lines, but I think they tend to be sloppy and suggest whichever they think you'll agree to first. IMHO you're better off getting the info yourself and drawing your own conclusions.

I'm new to Metafilter and not sure if it's too tacky to talk about my own project, but there's some good information about buying a cruise on our site. (We do have some ads, but we don't sell cruises. Mostly we're just a bunch of obsessive people who like to talk and write about cruises.)

In terms of soda and alcohol prices, I personally didn't find them that expensive, although it depends on the cruise line. For soda, Carnival charges $1.75 a can or you can get an all-you-want card for $4/day for kids or $5.50/day for adults.

If you want, you can check out different cruise line bar menus and wine lists. You can also search cruise ship pictures generally by cruise line and topic (cabins, public rooms, menus, etc.).

I hope that helps and I hope you have a great trip!
posted by CruiseSavvy at 10:44 PM on March 24, 2008

I double-checked and found that there are conflicting Disney policies on alcohol depending on which site you visit, including Disney's own cruise site. I would go with arnicae's info, which seems to be the most current, but here's what I found for the record: Disney had signs on embarkation indicating no alcohol or coolers are permitted, but one of my cruise outlets says that the official line from Disney (which is NOT, interestingly, found anywhere on their own cruise portal) is that alcohol is not prohibited and that passengers can bring alcohol aboard as long as it is in a carry-on. Whatever the official policy, they seem very relaxed about enforcing it, so you could probably get away with bringing alcohol on board.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have become increasingly strict about searching for alcohol. Carnival prohibits it as well, and actually prohibited soda and water once but recanted. For Carnival, the diligence of the search depends on whether you are leaving from Port Canaveral, Tampa or Miami.

Disney is really expensive compared to other cruise lines like Carnival and even Holland and Princess, which have very personalized service, but seems to be more kid-friendly. This really depends on your kids, though: I have been on 8 cruises now, and taken my kids on 3 (four next month, yay!), and my kids have never wanted to join in the kids' program on Carnival or Holland, but found lots to do because of either the itinerary (Holland) or the pool areas (water slides, etc.) on Carnival.

Do not, if you can possibly avoid it, sail out of Miami! If you go with Disney, you won't even have to worry about this, as they are out of Canaveral.
posted by misha at 11:16 PM on March 24, 2008

I went on a Disney cruise as a child and it was my best memory for a very long time.
posted by jrichards at 6:35 AM on March 25, 2008

Response by poster: Fantastic information! Thanks everyone. Will have the wife gander at the posting and see if there are addtional questions to the topic.
posted by bleucube at 7:38 AM on March 25, 2008

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