All About Our Disney Cruise Vacation

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on December 4, 2012

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You know the things you said you would never do before having kids? And then you have kids and those things sound better and better?

That’s how cruises went for us. Before having kids we weren’t into them. After all, we love to travel to different places and explore on land but a cruise is mostly about relaxation with some exploration.

Fast forward to post kids. Our desire from exploration has decreased while our need to relax has gone up a few notches. When my husband came home very interested in cruising after his coworker went on and on about his family’s Disney Cruise experience, I was all over it.

So we ended up booking the cruise we just went on which sailed from Los Angeles, travelling to Mexico including Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

Finding Our Way
We boarded the Sunday after Thanksgiving. After checking in to our room, there was a party on board with all the Disney Characters while the ship took off. After taking a look around the ship, we got ready for our first dinner, which was always at 5:45pm (early seating) with the same servers and dinner companions. Each night when we came back to our room there was a newsletter listing the next day’s activities waiting for us.

The first day or two was about figuring it all out. They have two areas where the kids have supervised play along with planned activities (Pluto’s pajama party, dosey doe with Snow White etc). Each child gets a bracelet that identifies them and they can tell the supervisors when they want to be picked up. We each had an assigned cell phone to receive the messages or phone calls.

Once the kids got comfortable there, they loved it and asked to go, giving us time to relax on our own. In my opinion, this is what makes this cruise line so nice at this age – they go out of their way to please the parents and children so they can have fun together and apart.

Food, Food and More Food
For those of you who’ve been on a cruise you know there is no shortage of food. There were many options for eating from room service to buffets to sit down restaurants to grab and go items like pizza. There was a soda and soft-serve ice cream bar. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle all the food choices with the kids but I quickly figured it out (for more details see this WebMD blog post).

The truth is my kids like kid food just as much as the next kid, but I wasn’t comfortable having them eat it at every meal. At dinner each of the menus offered kid options including starters, chef options and your typical kid options (see example below). And of course you can order off the regular menu for kids, which we occasionally did.

So I focused on variety. If they ordered something last night for dinner, like macaroni and cheese for example, I steered them to the other options. They ended up being exposed to a pretty decent variety of food. Big A dug into the shrimp one day at lunch, wanted to order lobster with us and took to some of the soups, which was all new for her.

Here’s the lobster dinner…

And some black bean cakes that were delish…

And the Mickey breakfast special…

I even took this variety approach with dessert. There were a few options including Disney ice cream bar but we tried them all including chocolate pudding, cheesecake and assorted ice cream. Instead of hitting the buffets for snack time, we chomped on fruit leftover from some of the meals.

In general, there was something for everyone in terms of food – vegetarian options, light fare, traditional and ethnic. I would have loved to see a smoothie or salad bar too, but those items were available, just not given their own space.

What Disney Does Best
This crew aboard the ship had impeccable customer service, going out of their way to give us what we wanted. For example, Little D wanted grapes as part of his fruit bowl for dinner one night and they went to another floor of the ship to get it. And the next night when we went to dinner, they had grapes waiting for us at the table.

I like that attention to detail.

Other Stuff
There’s so much more to mention like the nightly shows after dinner, the three pools (one kids only, one mixed and one adult only), nightly dancing to music, the spa, the gym and the deck in which we tried to run almost every day. We only went on one excursion to Puerto Vallarta and it was a tour ending with a nice lunch with panoramic views. The kids came down with a stomach flu so we couldn’t take advantage of Cabo San Lucas, but looking back the day of rest did us some good.

We agreed that another cruise will be in order, especially since we learned a lot about what to do different next time. We figure these cruises are perfect for our kids’ ages, 6 and 3, allowing us some time to recharge and them some independent and fun play. When they are older and can appreciate other types of travel, we will likely outgrow it.

So if you have been thinking of a Disney Cruise, I highly recommend it. I would love to hear from anyone who has been on one of these cruises and what your experience was.

But no matter how nice it is to get away, there’s no place like home.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy December 4, 2012 at 6:16 am

As a caveat, we are not Disney people – we really aren’t “brand” people in general. (We go to Dutch Wonderland instead of Disneyland or Six Flags.)

We have taken our son (4) on Holland America & Carnival. When I see the Disney prices I keep thinking that is an awful lot of money just for the mouse…

Was it worth the cost? Since my son is 4, I looked into a Disney cruise, but that seems to be a pretty steep premium for the branded experience.

Were there a lot of kids? Did your kids go to any children’s “clubs?” What was the ratio of kids to staff? Was it a free for all in the club or did they have planned activities?

Assuming there were a lot of kids, was there any relaxing? (I’m picturing the local pool in the middle of summer – kids screaming, adults ignoring or screaming at their kids, etc.)

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD December 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Amy — Actually the cruise was pretty economical. My husband is quite conservative and we got the cheap room etc. to save money. My kids have been influenced by my mother-in-law who is big time into Disney. SO it just made sense to go the Disney route. They really enjoyed the nighly shows and could sing along. But I’m sure other cruises are good too!

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Mandi S. December 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

We took that exact Disney cruise one year ago (LA to Mexico) with our then 4.5 and 2.5 year old. We felt the 2.5 year old was a little young, but then we received a Kids Sail Free promotion and decided we couldn’t pass it up. We had an amazing time! Our experience was very similar to yours. Even though the boat was full, it never felt crowded. And we even met several sets of adult only cruisers who have tried other lines and cruise Disney because of the service. We are very much looking forward to another Disney cruise. (I think my husband and I are looking forward to it more than the kids!) However, we just had our third child so we will be waiting until she turns 3 to go again. At that point we will also have an 8.5 and 6.5 year old. Oh, and our favorite adult only experience was eating at Palo. It was amazing! Did you get a chance to go?

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD December 4, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Mandi — Unfortunately the kids got sick so we had to cancel Palo — our one regret. We will definitely do it next time. yeah, under 3 is a bit young. My son, who is 3.5 did pretty well but it wouldn’t have worked when he was two.

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