My family and I went on a Disney Cruise in the fall of 2016. My kids were 3½ and 13 months old. This was my first cruise, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. An acquaintance said that he and his wife didn’t enjoy their cruise. Would I enjoy it? Will I get seasick? Would the food be good? Would the kids enjoy themselves? How would cruising with children be different? These were all questions that I had.

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Well, I am happy to say that I did enjoy myself, as did the children. No seasickness, although I did not enjoy tendering from the ship to the port (luckily, we only had to do that for one of the four ports). The food was phenomenal.

Of course, it was Disney (I am a huge Disney fan), so that may have had something to do with it. We are going on a Royal Caribbean cruise soon, so it will be interesting to compare the two.


Initial impressions

Obviously, cruise ships are large. But I was absolutely blown away once on board. We embarked the ship into the grand atrium. Large sweeping staircases, huge chandeliers, ornate balconies, luxurious carpeting… it was something.

The shopping area of the ship (Disney Fantasy) is basically a mall. Lots of shops, two (I think) theatres.

This was a Halloween-themed sailing, so there were lots of Disney-themed Halloween decorations. No surprise there: Disney World also decks out the parks for holidays.

It was clean. Since we just got there, that was no surprise. However, even as the week went on, I never had an issue with cleanliness. There were always employees about, squeegeeing the pool decks and cleaning up.

Activities

There was an app which showed a schedule of events for the different days. I didn’t even do everything the ship had to offer. Bars, nightclubs, play groups for the kids, movies, live shows (these were amazing), trick-or-treating on Halloween night, character meet & greets. Not to mention the water slides, pools, mini golf, sports, etc. There was no shortage. I even saw Doctor Strange in theatre, as it premiered while we were sailing.

The Royal Caribbean cruise we are going on soon has even more activities. Ice skating, a casino, rock-climbing wall, zipline, Flowrider. Even if you never leave the ship, you’ll have so much to do!

My oldest was old enough for the kids’ club, but he refused to stay. We did explore it a bit. I hope the kids want to stay for a bit this time!

Food

There were buffets and plenty of counter service, but what really stood out were the table service restaurants at dinner. There were three such restaurants on the ship (not including the premium ones that you had to pay extra for — we didn’t) and they were stunning. The decor, atmosphere, service, food.

We were assigned a restaurant and time slot each day, and we sat with the same people every day, and also had the same waitstaff. This was great — we got to know our tablemates and waitstaff, and vice-versa.

I tried some things during the cruise that I had never had before: oxtail soup and escargot. I enjoyed them both.

Seasickness

You could feel the ship moving ever so slightly, but it was nowhere near as bad as I expected. Something I did find strange was “sea legs” — it felt weird to walk on land after having been on a ship for so long!

One thing I hear about cruises is that illness can spread like wildfire. Thankfully, none of us got ill. They were handing out sanitizing wipes all the time to wipe our hands with. When getting a drink from the soda fountain, we were encouraged to use a sani-wipe before, and to use a new disposable cup each time. This seems wasteful, but I suppose it keeps the germs at bay.

Port excursions

The one thing I regret about this cruise was that we went on a hefty excursion at all but one port. They were fun, but it made for a long, tiring day, and the expense certainly added up. And with little ones, it may make it more difficult. In some cases, the bus rides can be long, with lots of walking once you arrive.

On our next cruise, each adult is going to go on an excursion by themselves while the kids stay with the other parent. While dad is off scuba diving, I plan on walking around a bit, and then spending some time on the ship when it’s less busy!

Stateroom

Rooms on cruise ships are small. Like, really small. If you have kids and need to bring a stroller, it really should be an umbrella one. There’s just not not a lot of room to store it. We also had a playpen taking up a good chunk of floor space.

We also splurged a bit and got a room with a balcony. I thought that we would spend more time in the stateroom than we did, while the baby napped, but he ended up napping during excursions on most days. It was nice to sit out and read on the balcony, but I probably would have been just as happy with an inside room. Plus, if you are cruising with children, you may want to avoid the potential hazard that comes with balconies.

Cruising with children: overall

I’m a fan of cruises now. It can be as relaxing or as go-go-go a you want, or anything in between. The environmental impact weighs on my conscience a bit. Overall, I recommend cruising with children. There is something for everyone!