It's no secret that traveling with littles is a challenge. Sometimes the thought of successfully navigating a vacation with small children can be so daunting that we forego the plans altogether. Even then, when we move forward with plans to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we are oftentimes more stressed out by the planning than we are excited about the vacation. But for those of us that value our sanity, vacation is inevitable.
As a mom with a teenager and two small children, I have struggled to try to ensure that everyone in the family has the kind of vacation that creates lifelong memories. In order to do that, I have to find a vacation spot where the littles will enjoy themselves, our teenager will have a blast, and the adults will actually get to relax.
Our most recent family vacation was no different. So, for a backstory, our middle child is hyper-fixated on Minnie. Our trips to Disneyland and Disney World had not resulted in her getting to meet her yet. So, my partner suggested that we go on the Disney Cruise and there would be no way that we would miss meeting Minnie. It sounded good, but I am not a person that has ever wanted to go on a cruise… Like ever. I had sworn that you would never get me on a cruise for a number of reasons. But it was going to be her Christmas gift to the family, and we needed a nice getaway.
I had always imagined that cruises were unsanitary and unsafe. The possibility for illness to spread or for something to go wrong had to be amplified on a cruise because you’re stuck in the middle of the ocean. But I decided to look into it for the sake of the kids. I found out that although we did not have passports, we could still go on an international cruise with our birth certificates and state IDs. So we went with it. For eight days and seven nights, my little family of five was going to be on the water.
The thing is, the internet is full of horror stories on cruising, but I couldn’t find any for Disney. Now if you’ve been to the parks, you know how much effort is put into guest satisfaction. You know how clean it is and how it is designed to lift you out of the stress of your everyday life and pull you into ‘The Happiest Place on Earth.’ So all the things I learned about the Disney Cruise made me go back on my vow never to set foot on a cruise ship.
The effort put into Disney Cruises has to be at least ten times more than the effort put into your park experience. From the very beginning of booking the cruise, it was easy. We got our luggage tags in the mail and uploaded all of our documentation. We were ready for the vacation of a lifetime. To be honest, I was a little worried that my teenager might not have as much fun as the littles, but I was hopeful.
When we arrived in Orlando, we made the mistake of booking through another transport service to take us from the airport to the port. Not a good idea. Although car seats had been requested, they did not arrive with car seats. We were in a panic, afraid that we would miss our port arrival time. But not to worry, we found a Disney representative at the airport that offered to give us an onsite reservation for the next bus. So we rode the bus and played trivia on board. Everything was great. They even took our luggage directly to our suite for us so that we weren’t lugging around more than we could manage.
So I could tell you about every little detail that made this trip fun. I mean, it was truly the best vacation of my life, and I’ve been to some fabulous places. But really, it was the entire experience from beginning to end. The waitstaff remembered our names and drink orders at dinner every night. The fact that every time we left the room, our room was cleaned. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Do you know what that’s like? You rush out of the room to make a show or meet Minnie, and when you come back, the room is tidied, the bed is made, and the kids' shoes and toys are organized. It was like magic. POOF! All the mess was gone. And the food… I mean, the food deserves its own paragraph.
This was fine dining at its best. Do you know why? Because I don’t get to do fine dining with two under two anymore. They are messy and picky and loud and sometimes cranky. But I am a foodie. I have missed fine dining. Disney made that a reality for me again. No one cared if my littles were a bit noisy; there was no shame in enjoying a meal of the highest quality while my youngest made a mess. They spared no expense, making sure that we were served the best food. I won't lie; a good chunk of my vacation pictures are of the food. Still, if you wanted simple food items, you could find those as well. Everyone's food needs were beyond met. I have to say that Disney knows how to feed you.
Besides the food and the cleanliness, I actually had fun. I mean, we go on vacations all the time, but a lot of the time on the vacation, I have heightened mommy stress to navigate. Did I pack enough stuff for the kids to get through this vacation? I mean, I have a checklist I use to pack, and I still feel stressed on vacation. Then, when we’re out there, a lot of the stuff that we do is just for the littles. I love giving them these experiences of a lifetime, but so much of my time is spent catering to their enjoyment that it was strange to be on a Disney Cruise – which is supposed to be for the kids – and to have the chance to enjoy myself without them. Our oldest was gone, like ALL THE TIME. They had teen-only events, and she participated in EVERYTHING. She’s an introvert, so I really didn’t expect her to leave our side or make friends on the cruise. But she was gone, making the most of her vacation.
Then there’s the daycare. We said we weren’t going to use it because I’d feel guilty leaving them with strangers while we were on vacation. But we gave in and used it. I mean, it's not like your typical daycare. When we went to tour the daycare, the girls wanted to stay. So how could we deny them that experience? They got to play and do arts and crafts and we got to explore the adult-only activities. It was wonderful! We went over the New Year holiday, and of course, Disney made it a magical experience by bringing in the New Year on the ocean.
I had initially feared that being on a cruise for eight days would be too much, but when it ended, it felt like we hadn’t had enough time! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Disney successfully catered to the very different vacation needs of each member of my family. We were ready to book our next cruise as soon as we came home.
When you look at the Disney Cruise and you ask yourself if it is worth the money, the answer is yes. ABSOLUTELY YES. You certainly get what you pay for. Of all the vacations I’ve been on as a traveling mommy, this was the easiest. This was the one that we wished could last forever. This was the vacation where we got to see parts of the world we had never seen before but did so in a way that felt safe for the whole family. This was the vacation where my mommy stress was put to rest, and I could enjoy myself. It's hard to imagine cruising with any other company because Disney set the bar so high.