Erin Foster, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, talks to us about cruising with kids. Having traveled on several DCL cruises with her family, she knows!
As parents, we know that one of the most difficult parts of planning a vacation with kids is ensuring that they stay entertained throughout the trip. For us, this usually means making sure that every travel day has at least a couple of things specifically designed to appeal to our kids and their friends—things that we’d prefer didn’t involve shopping or sitting passively in front of a screen.
It can be exhausting to plan this way (and we’re professionals!). In fact, we think this is one of the main reasons why a trip to Disney World is so appealing to parents: Disney’s theme parks provide a nearly constant and wide-ranging set of entertainment options for kids and adults. A family that hasn’t planned a thing can show up and find something fun to do. Cruising works the same way: Family activities, including trivia contests, scavenger hunts, and shuffleboard, are scheduled throughout the day, on virtually every day of every sailing.
If you think your kids would benefit from spending some time with their peers, Disney provides organized activities throughout the day for children ages 3–17. Some activities for younger children get started as early as 7 a.m., while activities for older teens can run until 2 a.m. Off the ships, Castaway Cay offers dedicated beach and recreation spots for families, teens, and tweens, plus a splash area for little ones. There are shore excursions created just for families too. Some sailings also offer teen-only excursions and sightseeing events.
Disney is also keeping up with two recent trends in the cruise industry. The first is setting aside more space per ship for kids’ clubs. On the Dream and Fantasy, these clubs take up substantially more space than on the Magic and Wonder. Second, Disney frequently runs concurrent, age-appropriate activities within the same club. For example, the Oceaneer Club accepts children ages 3–12; however, Disney may group the younger kids together for a game with marshmallows in one area of the club while the older kids sing karaoke in another.
Our own children have found Disney’s kids’ activities more fun than hanging around with us on the ship. It may be a cliché, but it’s true: We saw the kids only during meals, at bedtime, or when we specifically scheduled things to do as a family. Thanks to the web, our kids are still in contact with the friends they’ve made on their cruises, even though some are an ocean away.
On the other hand, if your kids aren’t interested in the kids’ clubs, or if you’re determined to make your cruise a time for family togetherness, there are also many activities that you can do together. These include structured things like family game shows and trivia contests, and unstructured things like board games and scavenger hunts. Many styles of family travel can be accommodated on the ships.
Cruising together after a visit to the theme parks is, for sure, one of the most relaxing things to do for the entire family.