Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line serves families with kids like only this company can. The prices are high, but for lovers of Mickey Mouse, these cruises are worth the splurge. In addition to all of the characters and brand partnerships you would expect on the at-sea version of this venerable brand — from princess meet and greets with Elsa and Anna to "Star Wars"-themed parties on deck — you’ll find polished, well-executed service at unprecedented levels for a family-focused cruise line.
What We Love
Seamless Dinner Service: Disney rotates families through its dining rooms and sends the waiters along with you. Drinks are waiting at your table when you arrive, and you can sit in Animator’s Palate (where cartoon characters in large wall units interact with kids) one night and in a palace-themed dining room the next, without any interruption in service. Watch as children marvel when they find chocolate milk in cups labeled with their names waiting for them on arrival. Their jaws will drop again when the waiters and waitresses start doing magic tricks in between courses.
Amazing Children's Programs: The kids clubs here are full of innovative activities — from ship-wide scavenger hunts to Jedi Knight Training. The line also offers walkie talkies, so you can check with the staff and make sure your child is happy in the nursery ("Yes, she just finished a movie and she is coloring now"), as well as a special service that allows kids to dine with their parents and then get picked up halfway through the meal so that parents can have couple time without sacrificing family dinner.
Great Adults-Only Spaces: Disney caters to parents who want a little "time out" with an adults-only pool with a swim-up bar, an adults-only beach, and adults-only specialty restaurants.
Best Known For
Family-Friendly Cabins: These ships have an inventive split-bathroom design with a sink and shower in one space and a sink and toilet in the other. The result? Getting ready for bed is faster than ever. The line also innovates with loaner Diaper Genies and a service that delivers diapers, wipes, and formula to your cabin so you don't have to schlep them from home.
Private Island: Castaway Cay is the line's family-focused private island in the Bahamas that offers everything from bike and cabana rentals to a supervised play area, a teen space, a splash park, bars, and a barbecue-inspired restaurant. There's even an adults-only beach with separate cabanas and — most decadent of all — quiet.
Remy: Disney's adults-only, "Ratatouille"-themed modern French restaurant is surprisingly elegant, with upscale presentations that could hold their own on any luxury line.
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Who It's Best For
Families with Young Children: If your little ones will light up at the idea of Donald Duck hosting a sail-away party on the pool deck, then this is the right line for you. Our advice? Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a beloved character call your home and personally tell your littlest cruisers how excited he or she is to welcome them on board. How popular is this service with the under-five set? We've seen kids introduce themselves to one another on board and immediately brag, "Mickey called me!"
Families with Kids of Different Ages: Disney does well with everyone from children under three years of age, who get a proper nursery, to older kids, tweens, and teens, all of whom get their own specially designed spaces. Best of all, all-ages activities — such as the AquaDuck water coaster, family karaoke, and the shareable ice cream sundaes at Vanellope's Sweets and Treats Shop — will bring your whole gang together.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Fares Are High: Disney’s rates compare more to some luxury lines than to their family-focused “competitors.”
There Are No Casinos: Disney doesn’t view them as part of its brand. But for those who don't gamble, it's a pleasure to traverse the ship without the noise and smoke of a casino in the middle.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.