Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has taken his kids on three Disney cruises, first when his kids were 1, 3 and 5 years old, again when they were 4, 6 and 8 and this past summer at 6, 8 and 10. We’ve asked Eric for his thoughts on who should think about a Disney Cruise for their next vacation … and who should consider another cruise option

So you’re thinking about a Disney cruise? If you have kids, it’s a great vacation option. Who wouldn’t want to sail with Mickey? Kids get the Disney experience without the lines of the theme parks, and adults get … happy kids. Plus you’re exploring a new city or island every day. We’ve returned a couple of times since our first Disney cruise five years ago, and we’re not the only ones – on our most recent sailing, from Copenhagen to Dover, the check-in line for returning families was far longer than the line for first-time cruisers. That’s a pretty good sign that people have been happy with the Disney Cruise experience.

Disney Cruise - The Disney Magic anchored in Santorini, Greece

The Disney Magic anchored in Santorini, Greece

Disney’s typically more expensive than other cruise lines, however, so that makes the choice of whether to book with them a little more complicated. If you’re thinking about a Disney cruise but haven’t made up your mind yet, here are a few things to think about before booking.

Disney Cruise - the Disney Magic

The Disney Magic

How old are your kids?

We’ve gone on European sailings with our kids at seven different ages, and their enjoyment of the cruise elements has varied from cruise to cruise, from kid to kid, and from year to year. My youngest daughter says that four years and above is a good age for the cruises, since the kid’s club especially fosters creativity and she’s not sure that kids under four enjoy it as much. My son, the middle child, agrees. Although he’s never been into the kid’s club activities, he says that he had the most fun on the second cruise, when he was six, and that three was a little young to be able to do much. My oldest daughter loved our first two cruises, but says that ten is the worst age for a cruise. This summer she was frustrated by the kid’s club that was oriented towards (and filled with) younger cruisers, and she wasn’t quite old enough to get into the more interesting clubs that start at 11. She’s convinced that 14 is the best age based on the things that 14-year-olds have access to and she wants to return at that age. While every kid sees greener pastures ahead, she makes a good point. She loved the independence that we’ve always given her and her siblings to run around the boat by themselves and make their own decisions, but she was limited socially by Disney’s age groupings.

Disney Cruise for families

Our kids love exploring the ships by themselves (except this one occasion when I trailed my daughter on a scavenger hunt)

Which ports is the ship going to?

Disney cruises are about both the on-board experience and the port stops. The on-board experience is very good – nicer than other ships that I’ve been on – but even then it starts to feel repetitive after a few nights. The adults on board notice this far more than the kids. So pick an itinerary that makes you (the adults) excited for each stop. That doesn’t mean that the stops won’t be kid-friendly – there are always family-oriented shore excursions. Our favorite Disney destinations have been the Greek islands, which have the perfect family-friendly mix of culture, food and beaches, Iceland, with its natural beauty, and Scotland, with its history and ruins.

Disney Cruise - Gullfoss

At Iceland’s Gullfoss waterfall, on a shore excursion

Are you into shopping or casinos?

With other cruise lines there is often a heavy emphasis on getting people to shop while on board, with ships resembling floating malls. Disney’s not like that. On our ship, the Disney Magic, there are really only two stores, one for clothes, toiletries and souvenirs and one for Disney merchandise. The two stores aren’t in the middle of the ship, and you’re not constantly funneled through them when heading to meals. Disney also has tables set up with information about future sailings and about the Disney Vacation Club, but I’ve never felt like it was a hard sell. Likewise there are no casinos on board, with bingo being the only gambling. If you envision spending money while on board, you may be happier on a non-Disney cruise.

Disney Cruise - Pool

The Disney ships are more about the onboard activities and pools than about shopping

Do you prefer flexible dining?

Disney has two set dinner times every night and will assign you to a table with other cruisers. You rotate among three dining rooms but keep your same servers and table mates. Other lines offer flexible dining where you can eat at different times, tables and restaurants every night. We’ve always been fine with the Disney dining experience, choosing the early dining schedule on all three cruises, but I know others who don’t like to be locked into a set schedule.

Disney Cruise - Post-dinner tricks at Lumiere's aboard the Disney Magic

Post-dinner tricks at Lumiere’s aboard the Disney Magic

Do you like Disney?

This may seem obvious, but a Disney cruise has a LOT of Disney elements, from character appearances to the constant soundtrack to the restaurant themes. Our family is mixed – my wife and son aren’t Disney fans, my daughters enjoy the Disney elements (although they haven’t wanted photos with any characters since the beginning of our second cruise), and I’m fine with anything that makes the kids happy. If you have a family that’s in the middle, like we are, you’ll likely still have a great cruise. Disney’s ships are nice, and they do most things right. If you’re not really Disney fans, you’ll be tired of the themes by the end. And if you have kids who like the Disney characters and movies, they’ll have a great time.

Disney Cruise - in Scotland

Waiving goodbye in Invergorden, Scotland

Eric Stoen is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads visit travelocitygnomads.com.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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