There’s no disputing that Disney is a family-oriented cruise line. But should that kid-friendly focus preclude adults from sailing with Disney Cruise Line? Nope, not at all.
People are often surprised to hear that my husband and I would cruise Disney without our kids. We would do it in a heartbeat. Our kids would be highly upset, but I know we would have a great time!
We are not Disney fanatics. Yes, we’ve visited the parks and enjoyed the rides. My kids have been just 4 times despite the fact we live just 2 hours from Disneyland. We don’t collect anything Disney. We aren’t Disney Vacation Club owners. I fail miserably at Disney trivia.
So why in the world would we ever consider going on a Disney cruise without our kids? It’s simple. We are fans of cruising and we know Disney offers an incredible cruise product.
Too Many Kids
I get it. The number one reason I hear for not wanting to try Disney is that there are too many kids onboard. There are a lot of children onboard. As parents, we are used to being around the noise, activity, and general chaos that goes with constantly being with kids and their friends.
That doesn’t mean I like it, or even that I tolerate it well. I don’t want to deal with unruly kids any more than the average adult does, especially when I’m on vacation.
However, Disney doesn’t tailor its cruise product so that it appeals only to children. Great effort has been made to ensure adults will enjoy a Disney cruise as much as kids will. It’s so easy to escape to the ships’ adult-only zones; you might not even notice the kids onboard!
Outdoor Adult Areas
Looking to avoid splashing and cannonballs into the pool? Most cruise lines have a special section of the open deck reserved for adult use. If you’ve tried to visit one of these areas, you know they are popular spots. On lines like Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, you may even need to pay extra to secure a spot in an adult area.
You’ll find plenty of adult space on the decks of Disney’s ships, always free of charge. And because so many other adult passengers are with their children, the adult areas on Disney ships are often less crowded than the competition.
Quiet Cove Pool
All Disney cruise ships have this quiet, adult-only, shady oasis set apart from the rest of the ship’s pool deck. On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, the pool has plenty of in-water and edge-of-water seating, along with misters to cool the surrounding area.
Though not exactly a swim-up bar, the bar is situated at one end of the pool with 6 bar stools located in the wading zones. Two hot tubs hang over the port side of the ship and have glass bottoms for some exciting views of the ocean below. Seating consists of thickly padded loungers, sofas, and armchairs.
The Quiet Cove Pool also has its own adult lounge and cafe serving specialty coffees, teas, and kombucha. The Cove Café has plenty of comfortable indoor seating and serves small breakfast items in the morning and other snacks and desserts the remainder of the day.
Specifically on Dream and Fantasy, one deck up from the Quiet Cove is Satellite Falls. In true Disney fashion, what is just ship superstructure on any other cruise ship has been transformed into both a focal point and water feature.
The centerpiece of this huge outdoor adult-only deck is a large round housing, protecting the ship’s satellite equipment from the elements. Rather than let this crucial equipment become an eyesore, Disney designed a splash pool at its base and a cooling 360-degree curtain of rain creating a waterfall effect.
Abundant seating wraps around the sides and front of the deck with a glass enclosure to block the wind on sea days. Nearby Currents Bar is rarely crowded.
It’s quite easy to enjoy the outdoor decks and avoid all contact with children. If you want more to eat than what the Cove Café has to offer, you will need to make the short walk outside of the adult area and visit the buffet, grill, deli, or pizzeria, but Disney has food service down to a science.
Any lines you might encounter move quickly and then you can high tail it back to the adult spaces.
I don’t know why some cruise lines impose rules about checking out pool towels. Based on the number of used towels you see simply abandoned on lounge chairs in the afternoon, they are obviously not enforcing the threats of charging passengers for missing towels. I would prefer that they did away with the entire farce.
Thankfully, Disney doesn’t play the same pool towel games. Passengers can help themselves to open bins of towels on the pool decks. They will even have towels available for the taking waiting on the pier as you head out for excursions. It’s refreshing to be treated as responsible adults rather than potential towel thieves.
Below Deck Adult Areas
It’s not unusual to see kids in bars on a cruise ship. Many lounges hold family-friendly activities and events in them or you might see kids with their parents hanging out in a sports bar catching a game. While Disney does have family activities going on in the evenings, it’s kept separate from those for adults.
In the evening hours, Disney has a number of bars and lounges located in a district reserved exclusively for adult use. I imagine that it is enforced because I have never seen a child there. I’m not kidding. Never, not even once.
Onboard Disney Wonder and Disney Magic, the adult area is known as After Hours. On Disney Dream, it is The District, and on Disney Fantasy, it’s Europa. All the evening entertainment you are used to on other lines can be found here. Disney’s districts feature a pub-style bar showing live sporting events from around the world.
Other adult venues will have live music, while the lounges hold trivia, variety acts, and cruise ship classics such as Love and Marriage. Later in the evening, one of the lounges becomes a nightclub.
My favorite place onboard Dream and Fantasy is Skyline, but it can be easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.
A little bar tucked off in a little corner outside of the adult show lounge, Skyline features unique cocktails inspired by famous world cities. It’s an intimate space that mimics a bar with a world-class skyline view. The “windows” in Skyline magically change to a stunning new animated cityscape every 15 minutes. The effect is so realistic; it really is hard to believe you are on a ship at sea.
Disney Cruise Line boasts that its standard staterooms are superior and it’s true. These are my favorite cruise ship cabins.
Staterooms on Disney cruise ships are quite large by cruise standards. Inside cabins range from 169-214 sq ft and have ample storage. Insides on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy even have a Magical Porthole, a high definition feed of the ship’s exterior. Balcony rooms, which Disney refers to as Verandah staterooms, start at 246 sq ft and can be as large as 300 sq ft. That’s as large as mini-suites on some other lines. All cabins, regardless of category, also have a full-size sofa.
By far the best feature of Disney staterooms is the split bath. For Deluxe Inside rooms and higher, the cabin will feature two bathrooms. One has a sink and toilet, the other sink and shower. The split bath is incredibly handy to have when two people are getting ready on early morning port days or when preparing for dinner.
Cruise line food is incredibly subjective. I doubt there will ever be a consensus on which line has the “best” food. That being said, of the major lines, in my opinion, it’s Disney Cruise Line. I find Disney’s menus to be more interesting, with higher quality ingredients, and superb attention to detail in the presentation. Add in the fact that service is top-notch and it makes for an all-around superior dining experience. Even the buffet and quick service food stations are excellent. Except for the pizza. I have to admit that’s one area where Disney disappoints.
Disney is one of the few cruise lines with fixed dining times and no option for flexible seating, likely due to their unique rotational dining concept. Passengers visit 3 different main dining rooms throughout the cruise based on a schedule noted on their cruise card, known on Disney as the Keys to the World card. Although passengers dine in different dining rooms during the cruise, the wait staff rotates as well.
It would be difficult to completely escape children in the dining room when sailing Disney, however, the late seating has far fewer children than the early seating. The few children who do have late dining tend to be older and better behaved. Disney also offers Dine and Play for kids in late dining. Participating children are served quickly, picked up, and whisked away to enjoy the kids’ club.
Where other cruise lines have been instituting fees for room service, it’s still free and available 24 hours a day on Disney.
If you prefer in-room dining or just need a snack after a day in port, Disney’s room service menu has great options for adults such as grilled salmon salad and Buffalo wings. But don’t discount the Crispy Chicken Tenders as just kid fare. They are the same ones that they serve by the pool and are dangerously addictive!
The cake of the day is a popular dessert item, but between Disney cruise insiders, the most discussed room service treat isn’t even on the menu. It’s a something of a well-known secret that you can order Mickey Bars from room service.
I’ve heard tales of passengers dining in a cruise ship specialty restaurant only to have a misbehaving child dining nearby negatively impact the experience. That won’t happen on Disney. All specialty restaurants are adult-only.
Palo is the Italian-themed restaurant available on all Disney ships. Dinner is served nightly, while its very popular brunch offered on sea days.
Foodies will want to secure reservations at French-inspired, Remy, on both Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. In addition to dinner, Remy also hosts a Champagne Brunch, Dessert Tasting, and Petites Assiettes de Remy, a unique small plate and wine pairing experience.
Castaway Cay is Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. If you’ve been to other cruise line private islands you know that getting up early and off the ship is a requirement to secure chairs in prime locations. But adults traveling without the kids can afford to sleep in. Serenity Bay is a very quiet and beautiful white sand beach reserved exclusively for adults 18 and older.
Most other passengers are enjoying the Family Beach, leaving Serenity Bay relatively empty. It’s almost like a private beach escape! Though it is a long walk from the ship, adults can take a tram to Serenity Bay, whizzing right past all of the family areas. Serenity Bar also has its own bar and restaurant, so there’s no need to leave until all-aboard time.
If there’s one thing Disney truly excels at, it’s entertainment. Entertainment on the cruise ships is no exception.
Productions shows in the main theater are family-friendly productions but are worth attending no matter your age. Disney combines incredible storytelling, with elaborate sets, and innovative technology to create awe-inspiring shows.
The shows are presented twice each evening, one for passengers with early dining and another for late. Unlike other lines, passengers with late dining attend the show before dinner. Again because there are fewer kids with late dining, there are also fewer kids attending the early show.
Additional entertainment can be found during the evening in the adult areas of the ship. Whether it’s music, comedy, or variety acts, Disney manages to attract and hire only the best.
When a cruise line and movie studio all fall under the same parent company, it means the cruise line has access to both first-run movies and previous years’ blockbusters.
Animated and live action movies are shown throughout the cruise in a real movie-style theater, complete with popcorn at a concession stand. If Disney has a movie releasing during your cruise, chances are you’ll be able to see it for free while onboard.
Looking to spend a night in your stateroom relaxing? There’s no need for Netflix. In addition to movies shown in the ship’s theater, Disney’s huge library of films is available on-demand in your stateroom free of charge.
Those who enjoy being able to sit on the balcony with a drink will be happy to hear Disney has the most liberal alcohol policy of the major cruise lines. Adults over the age of 21 are allowed to carry onboard two 750 ml bottles of wine or six 12 oz bottles of beer each at embarkation and at each port of call. Taking advantage of the policy definitely helps keep the bar tab down.
Speaking of alcohol, there’s more for adults to do during the day besides lounging at the pool and watching movies. Disney offers a variety of tasting courses throughout the cruise for an additional fee.
- Champagne 38.00
- Martini 25.00
- Beer 23.00
- Mixology 25.00
- Mojito 23.00
- Tequila/Margarita 23.00
- Cognac 28.00
- Whiskey 28.00
- Wine 25.00 PP
- Chocolate & Liquor 37.00
- Bourbon 28.00
- Rum 23.00
Mixology allows participants to get behind the bar and mix drinks for the class. It’s fun and super intoxicating. It’s best not to attend on an empty stomach!
No need to purchase a separate soda card or package on Disney. Self-serve fountain sodas are available on the pool deck and at the buffet, or you may order one at any bar or in the restaurant free of charge.
High Standards for Maintenance and Cleanliness
Once you’ve sailed on a Disney cruise ship, you begin to notice that other lines’ do not always have the same high standards. The crew keeps the ship in pristine condition. If something breaks, it quickly gets fixed. You certainly won’t see a bathroom stall out of order for the entire week. There isn’t paint splatter where it shouldn’t be. Noticeable wear and tear on the ship is practically non-existent.
Cleanliness is also a top priority. Having been on a cruise with a major norovirus outbreak, I appreciate that Disney has hand-washing stations located right outside of the buffet. Crew members are stationed at the entrance politely requesting passengers to wash their hands. The availability of sanitizing wipes is pointed out as you enter the dining rooms. In my experience, this active encouragement results in many more passengers actually washing hands or sanitizing. More lines should follow this example.
Restrooms are constantly being serviced. Restrooms in public areas can sometimes be a disaster. On Disney, some of the high traffic restrooms will have attendants on duty; constantly tidying up and ensuring toilets have been flushed.
Good to Know
There is much to like about a Disney cruise as an adult, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. There are a few drawbacks you should be aware of so you aren’t disappointed.
If gambling is one of your favorite cruise activities, Disney is not for you. There are no casinos onboard Disney ships. The space that other ships might have devoted to a casino has instead been used for the kids’ clubs. The kids’ clubs are huge and quite impressive. Even if you aren’t sailing with kids, you really should go and check it out during one of the open house time periods. The technology Disney is using for it is truly amazing. It’s no wonder some of the kids spend the whole cruise there!
Late Night Parties
As Disney cruises are filled with lots of families, the ship does get quiet much earlier than on other lines. Even when the kids club is open until midnight, many families turn in for the night before 11. There is still a late night party crowd; it’s just much smaller than what you might see on other cruise lines.
Additional Tips for Avoiding Kids
You can never completely avoid cruising with children. Strategies used to avoid sailing with kids on other lines don’t work as well on Disney. Parents frequently pull children out of school to avoid higher fares during holidays and over the summer. No matter the time of year, Disney cruises between 3 and7 days long, will have plenty of kids onboard.
If looking to cut down on the number of kids you might be sailing with, look for repositioning cruises or those longer than 7 days. Parents are usually more hesitant to take their children out for school for longer than a week.
Areas to Avoid
The kids’ clubs for children ages 3-12 are on Deck 5. There is a constant stream of kids coming and going. Unfortunately, there are also cabins on Deck 5. The clubs are mid-ship, while staterooms are both forward and aft. It’s a highly trafficked deck so it’s a good idea to avoid selecting staterooms on Deck 5. I always look to see where kids or teen clubs are located before selecting a stateroom on any ship just to avoid any associated traffic and noise.
In addition, both Dream and Fantasy have an interactive game called the Midship Detective Agency. It’s very popular with kids and involves them traveling all over the ship in search of clues. Some of these clues are located near the elevators and stairs on decks where there are passenger cabins. The clues they find are both visual and audible so there is some noise. Though I find staterooms are well insulated for noise, it’s best to avoid selecting any that are located in these areas.
Disney cruises are for more than just families and Disney fans. I would rate Disney cruises above other mass-market lines in terms of quality and service. The family-friendly atmosphere shouldn’t scare away adults traveling without kids. Disney Cruise Line has done a fantastic job making sure that adults will have just as much fun as kids do.