Hello perspective. Now I don't think you have to go on a Disney cruise or any cruise for that matter, but in whatever way you can swing it, taking time to be together as a family, having fun with your kids, and making memories is worth it. And not only worth it "just in case" but worth it because memories and togetherness and relationships are all that we really have in the end. Road trips, day trips, vacations, stay-cations, traveling abroad or staying close to home... I believe in family vacations. A week long family Disney cruise with some of our closest friends and their kids was not cheap, but it was definitely worth it.
I love a good top 5 list, so may I present to you :
Top 5 favorite Reasons I loved our Disney Cruise
1. Traveling with friends!
The biggest difference about this cruise was going with some of our best friends from our NYC days. Neither of us live in NYC anymore and we live far away from each other now, but we had such a great time getting together with all of our kiddos, eating every meal together, watching movies, seeing shows, hanging out. In general, doing a cruise is a great way to travel with friends. The accommodations, the food, the activities are for the most part already decided for you, yet there is still plenty of flexibility built in. We didn't spend every waking minute together, but a lot of it. And it was great.
2. A Disney Cruise is Disney Lite
Top Quality Everything? Check.
Something for the whole family? Check.
Crazy long lines? Walking forever and ever? Super crowded? Nope, nope and nope.
We've only done Disney World once, when we had 1 kid and I was pregnant with Lamp actually. I think we'll definitely go again sometime, but as a family who still have young children AND a power wheelchair (that would have to be charged mid-day with all the walking) a Disney cruise is a great option for us at this stage. It's Disney but without all the crazy lines and crowds. We get to see a lot of our favorite characters and the wait times are pretty minimal--think 20 minutes. The evening shows are Broadway quality and now that Disney has taken over Star Wars, there was even a Star Wars day at sea and lots of super legit Storm Troopers and other Star Wars characters everywhere. The Star Wars evening show featured the real-deal R2D2, C3PO, Chewy, Darth Vader and more. We're not a huge Star Wars family, but it was impressive and my kids keep saying it was their favorite day. Go figure.
I think their Jedi training had something to do with it.
3. Adult time
called the Oceaneers club and the Oceaneers Lab)--which is very large with a lot of activities and a lot of great counselor-type people who are there are entertain, assist, help, and engage your kids at every turn. We were even able to take an excursion scuba diving and leave the kids on board the ship (we did not know we could do this!) However, being a little nervous about being too far away, our friends stayed aboard during our excursion and we stayed aboard during theirs. It worked out great. We also had an adults only dinner our first night (there are 2 restaurants on board that are 18+ and they do cost extra) and it was definitely a highlight. Date night with our BFF's at a fabulous restaurant on the open sea? Yep. I'm in.
4. Great Accessible Family Vacay
Also, I'm considering a part 2 to this post that's just about traveling as a special needs family because being on a cruise ship full of kids who aren't familiar with my daughter has it's challenges. We had some tough moments on this cruise and it's something I want to talk about in a broader sense. Also, it's a good idea to call Disney's special serviecs department to see how and what they can do to accomodate your child. For example, I know that not every child with special needs can be accommodated at the Oceaneer's club.
The only other problem you might have is that not all ports are great for getting off with wheelchairs. We only got off on two ports with the kids and Disney's Island---Castaway Cay--is very accessible and we can manage that no problem. We did get off with all the kids in Cozumel and just walked our way around the square. We used a stroller instead of Lamp's chair and since we walked everything was fine. But if you get off at a port and want to go somewhere with your wheelchair, you've got to find accessible transportation. I'm sure it's possible, but it can be tricky to manage in the states, so we haven't done it yet on our cruises. Something to consider.
5. Great food + Great Service
(Notice the larger accesssible rooms. Usually there is barely any space between the bed and dresser.)
And the service, is well, Disney quality. We joked that we never heard the word no from any of the staff members on the cruise. Being Disney they don't simply tolerate your children they do every little thing to make these crazy, sugar-high nutters happy. My favorite example was that one night our friend's daughter was falling asleep at the dinner table. They decided to lay her down in an open spot behind our table next to a wall. Our server saw us attempting this feat and ran over with a stack of tablecloths and napkins and put together a make-shift bed for her to lay on. He was amazing! Every night our serving staff did magic tricks for our kids, or brought them something that wasn't on the menu, or helped us feed them quickly so we could get them off to the kids club and enjoy a peaceful rest-of-the-dinner. When it comes to service I have found the Disney cruise staff not just flexible, they are bend-over-backwards, tie-themselves-into-a-knot, contortionists of service. I probably shouldn't talk it up too much, because there was this one grumpy guy at breakfast one morning... but one guy? That's not too bad. (We had him fired.) (Just kidding.)
OK, time to wrap this giant post up... there were plenty more moments I could have talked about but the for the sake of (semi) brevity, I'm going to let the images below do the talking. If anyone is considering a Disney Cruise and has any questions ask away in the comments below and I'll be sure to answer.
One final note, I'm about to jump into one of those "When I was a kid..." moments, so bear with me.
When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money. My parents were divorced and subsequently remarried and well, neither side was very well off. Which is totally fine. The point is, I had one big vacation my entire childhood. In third grade we went with my dad's side of the family on a road trip from Utah to Disneyland. Along the way we also did Vegas (Circus Circus anyone?), Sea World, and the San Diego zoo. But still, the highlight for me was Disneyland. I don't remember much about that day (yes, I believe we spent one day there) but that was my one big trip as a kid.
My oldest daughter who is a year older than my third-grade-self just went on her third Disney cruise. My other two kids just went on their second one. Of course I'm so grateful that we can take our kids on nice vacations. And even when not on cruises we've gone to some pretty great places around these United States and I love it. I'm really grateful we have the opportunity and that we've made it a priority in our family.
Of course, the flip side we're trying to manage gratitude, expectations and entitlement. While on our cruise I thought of this quote from Richard Whatley frequently: “It is generally true that all that is required to make men unmindful of what they owe God for any blessing, is that they should receive that blessing often and regularly.” We had a few talks during the course of the cruise with our kids about this idea. We could see this sense of entitlement creeping in and tried our best to nip it in the bud. I'm not sure we were successful as it's hard to drill this idea into young minds when they've got ice cream on tap 24/7 and movies playing by the pool.
Like most parents I want to give my kids more than I had. But when I think of more I don't think of stuff and things. I want to give them more joy, a better work ethic, a stronger sense of self, and I want them to know that their ideas matter. But at the same time, they are also getting "more" than when I had in a material sense as well. I try to keep this sense of balance with responsibility--i.e. consistent chores, music lessons, and occasionally we have done small service projects as a family. The other thing I've been wanting to do is for everyone to start a gratitude journal. What do you do to help keep your kids sense of entitlement in check? Do you think or worry about this?