If you thought it’s been a bit quiet around here, you’re not imagining things. It has been. And no, I’m not staging another hiatus.
Instead, my family and I took a much needed vacation.
Last week we spent five days and nights on a Disney cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, sailing out of Miami to Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico. Five days immersed in the magic of princesses and pirates and plush characters.
And it was awesome.
Let me first state, my husband and I are not “cruisers.” I detest using the word “cruise” in any way, shape or form that might sound like something out of a Jimmy Buffet song. “Take a cruise,” or “Go on a cruise” I can swallow. I did not want to “go cruising” or “be a cruiser,” all said while wearing a shirt from Tommy Bahama and flashing a Hang Ten sign.
My only experience on a cruise ship was one I took with my family over a decade ago on a Carnival ship for a week. Most of it is a blur of booze, binge eating and trying to avoid being roped in to a “find your partner blindfolded by the feel of their hairy chest” contests.
So as we approached the idea of taking a cruise vacation as a family, I had my hesitations.
I had been told by many parents that if you were going to go on a cruise with your kids, a Disney cruise was the way to go. And they were right.
From the moment we stepped on board the ship, Disney didn’t disappoint.
We were greeted by energetic crew members who asked for our family name. Then, in grand Disney fashion, they announced that our family was on board and the line of crew applauded our arrival, as if we were walking on the red carpet.
Next, we headed to our room to check out our digs for the next few days. We decided to splurge and get a room on the seventh deck with a verandah because the thought of being cooped up in a dark, black hole on the inside of the ship gave me the cold sweats.
The room was actually bigger than I expected, with two separate rooms for the toilet and the shower (both equipped with sinks), a large queen bed for the parents, a pull-out sofa and bunk bed for the kids, and a mid-room curtain so parents and kids could have their privacy.
The next stop was lunch in the buffet restaurant, because I can’t make it longer than two hours without needing a carbohydrate. And here’s where my fears of contracting some type of pandemic bug were alleviated.
If you know me well, you know my anxiety about vomit. Even hearing or reading about a Norovirus outbreak halfway across the country makes me reach for a face mask.
Yet, even before getting on the ship, I knew my fears were unfounded. First of all, Disney hasn’t had a reported outbreak in over a decade. And secondly? My kids have a better chance of contracting some debilitating stomach virus at school then they do on a ship.
But this discovery made me happy: Disney cleans the shit out of that ship.
Everywhere we turned, someone was disinfecting sinks or scrubbing walls or wiping stair rails. And there were greeters standing at every entrance to every restaurant handing out sanitizing wipes before we ate. Disney don’t mess around, y’all.
Then, our Disney cruise took off. We had two full days at sea, where our kids swam in the pools, dove down the slide, treaded water while watching their favorite Disney flicks, and ate all the ice cream their small stomachs could hold.
And did I mention that there were Disney character meeting opportunities at every turn? We saw just about every major character on the ship, and the lines to meet them and get their autograph were a snap compared to what it takes to meet a character at a Disney park. The one thing I was amazed by with the Disney characters is that they seemed to take their time with each kid. There wasn’t an urgent rush to do a fast turnover, and they made each child feel special. That cements more memories than any photo or signature ever could.
A friend asked me if the ship was all “It’s a Small World” all of the time on the Disney cruise, and surprisingly, it wasn’t. Sure, they piped Disney music in to the hallways and such, but it was at a modest level (and I have to admit, I was prone to singing along). There were adult clubs, bars and pools where we could escape children and feel like we were on a legitimate adult vacation.
The shows on board were pretty impressive, featuring Broadway-style choreography and music, but just short enough to keep a little one’s attention. My son loved heading up to the Wide World of Sports deck a couple of times a day to play hoops, jump in a soccer game, or swat at a ping-pong ball.
And the Oceaneer Lab was a big hit too.
I wasn’t sure how well the “kids club” was going to go over with our kids, since they protested their time at Club Med like it was a prison sentence. But after seeing how much awesomeness there was during the Oceaneer Lab’s open house, the kids were sold.
We took advantage of their excitement and participated in the Dine and Play option, since we ate so late for the second seating at 8:15pm. The servers would bring out our kids’ food first, and then at around 9, the activity counselors would come get them and bring them to the lab so that Jon and I could finish our dinner in peace and quiet. Like a date. Like grown-ups.
Our port adventures were pretty fun too. We spent our day in Grand Cayman on the beach. Did I mention how spectacularly gorgeous the water is in the Caribbean? It’s so much prettier than the mysteriously brown stuff I grew up wading in in the Gulf of Mexico. The kids loved strapping on their goggles and swimming to see colorful fish. And I didn’t mind sipping fruity cocktails on the shore.
But perhaps the best thing we did was swim with the dolphins in Cozumel.
When I first booked this excursion, I grappled with the dilemma. I hated the idea of these captive dolphins being cooped up for human enjoyment. But then countered it with the thought that I would probably never get this chance again. And that thought won out.
Because two seconds after being in the water with these beautiful mammals, all of those animal rights thoughts rode the current out to sea. What an amazing experience! And to see the wonder and excitement on my children’s faces as they took a ride in the sea with a dolphin was pretty priceless.
All in all, our family had a fantastic time on our Disney cruise. So much so that coming back to reality has been hard.
No one wanted to head back to work or school. We’re suffering from self-serve withdrawal. I miss having someone make my bed twice a day. We didn’t get our “land legs” for a couple of days and Jon and I feared that other families who spotted us at IHOP the next morning we returned suspected we were all drunk.
The kids are already asking when we can head back to a Disney cruise again. And my guess is, we’ll definitely do it again.
Who knows. Perhaps we’ll become “cruisers” after all.