Someone told me Disney cruises are only for kids — here's why they were so wrong

By Madison Roberts
May 14, 2019 03:04 PM
David Roark/Disney Cruise Line

What Is It: A 3-Night Sailing to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream cruise ship

Who Tried It: Madison Roberts, Home + Travel Editorial Assistant

Level of Difficulty: 0 because there’s absolutely nothing hard about being on a cruise

When I first reserved a spot on a Disney Cruise, I was psyched. I’ve always been skeptical of cruising in general because growing up, my family was the type to stay in one place for a week rather than get on a boat and hop around to different destinations. My parents used to say that cruises were no fun — that you’d be cooped up in a cabin where you couldn’t turn around without bumping into a piece of furniture. I shied away from cruises until I was 24 years old, when I started working on the Travel team here at PEOPLE, and started writing about the delights of celebrity-hosted and themed cruises, adults-only luxury liners and yes, Disney cruises. As a lifelong Disney lover I was thrilled when they invited me to board my first-ever ship (and get away from the New York City weather at the end of February).

But as I began sharing my excitement with my friends and coworkers, I had a moment of panic when one of them asked me, “Isn’t that for kids?” I thought, ‘Oh crap, I’m pretty sure I just booked a cruise for families.’ It was far from the way I’d envisioned spending my precious vacation days, but I decided I was not going to let a bunch of mouse-ear-wearing munchkins ruin my trip, even if it meant hanging out on my state room balcony and ordering room service for the three nights.

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Madison Roberts

When I began planning my voyage in the My Disney Cruise Line Navigator app, however, I quickly came across tons of adults-only offerings, ranging from spa treatments to dining options and even separate pools on board. I based my itinerary on how to see as few kids as possible, and made dining reservations at both adults-only restaurants, including the Italian eatery, Palo, and the upcale French-inspired restaurant, Remy, which serves a tasting menu.

When I first arrived on board, I walked down a red carpet into the ship’s atrium, where they announced my arrival over a microphone, while crew members clapped and waved. And that’s where the “Disney difference” began.

Yes, I saw a ton of families during my arrival, but I also saw adults who were much older than me, who seemed to be alone, as well as a few young couples without children. When we did the safety drill at the beginning of the voyage, there were a lot of screaming babies. But those 15 minutes were the most time I spent with children during my entire 72-hour trip.

The chandelier at Pinks
Madison Roberts

Instead, I explored areas that were catered to adults, like Pinks, a highly Instagrammable bar dedicated to serving champagne and bubbly cocktails. I caught a stand-up comedy set, watched couples play a newlywed game, and enjoyed a silent disco (where partiers where headphones playing the music genre of their choice) at the adults-only nightclub, called Evolution.

I sampled cocktails at the Skyline, a lounge serving a range of adult beverages named after different cities around the world. While there, I ran into a woman who had been cruising with Disney for 15 years, and this year, she came for her birthday. I asked her who she came with and she told me she was there with her young daughter. “Where is she?” I asked. “Oh, I never see her on these cruises. She loves the kids clubs so much that she hangs out there. That’s why they’re perfect. They have something for everyone.” I saw that same woman three more times throughout the sailing, but I never once met her daughter.

The piano at Pinks
Madison Roberts

During the days, I hung out at the adults-only pool, and when we docked in Nassau, I didn’t even get off the ship because I was so relaxed on board. I visited the spa, where I lounged in heated chairs and enjoyed their temperature-controlled “rainforest” showers. And of course, because I didn’t want to be a complete grandma about the whole thing, I rode down the ship’s AquaDuck tubed waterslide.

Yes, there were characters wandering around the ship, and yes, there were tons of hidden Mickeys and other Disney gems, but I didn’t feel like I was on a cruise catered to kids. I felt like I was on a cruise catered to, well… me.

Cocktails at Skyline
Madison Roberts

When we docked at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, I started off exploring the family beach, where they had jet ski rides, restaurants, souvenir shops and snorkeling gear, as well as lounge chairs on the sand and rentable floats for the ocean. Quickly, though, I made my way over to Serenity Bay, the adults-only section on the other other side of the island, which is only accessible by tram.

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At Serenity Bay, I relaxed in a mat on the water, took a nap in a hammock, sipped cocktails in souvenir cups and ate barbecue at Serenity Bay BBQ. While on the island, I met a couple in their 70s who was there for their anniversary, sans kids or grandkids. They told me they’d been coming on Disney cruises for nearly 20 years, and when I asked what kept them coming back, they said it was the customer service. I asked if they were worried about it being super kid-focused, though by this point, I saw that that was a big misconception, and they simply told me no — that Disney cruises are for everyone.

While I enjoyed all of my excursions, the highlight was the dining, which surprised me more than anything. I had a private table at the Animators Palate (without requesting a private table, guests may dine communally with other cruisers), where I ate the best truffle gnocchi I’ve ever tasted. It was so good, in fact that I ordered two — and they were all included in the cruise fee. The other two nights, I ate at the adults-only restaurants, Palo and Remy, which were priced as additions to the cruise fee — but are well worth the splurge.

If you’re cruising for a special occasion and are willing to expand your palate a bit, Remy is the way to go (dinner begins at $125 per person). With a rotating tasting menu — and even a menu for water! — this upscale restaurant is easily the most luxurious meal I’ve ever had. I sampled dishes like Kobe beef, elk and lobster, along with chocolate desserts and delicious wines.

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For a more affordable ($45 per person) adults-only dining experience, opt for Palo, where you can indulge in Italian pasta specialties or incredible seafood, as well as wine from different regions. For dessert, don’t miss the homemade chocolate soufflé.

When it came time for me to get off the ship, I honestly wasn’t ready. I could have spent at least another week on board. I would’ve happily gone through another cranky-kid-filled safety drill to do so.

The Verdict: The idea that Disney cruises are only for families or children is a major misconception. That’s not to say there aren’t amazing kid-friendly spaces, but you can choose to spend as much or as little time in them as you want. Whether you’re a parent whose kids want to get out on their own or a solo adult cruiser, you could easily go a whole day without interacting with a single person under 18 on board. Yes, everything is Disney themed, but Disney magic is truly for everyone!

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