Is there anything more synonymous with the happiest place on Earth than Disney World or Disneyland? Before you say, “Heresy!” hear me out. While Mickey’s Magic Kingdom is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, I have to let you in on a little (not-so secret) secret: Disney cruises are great for military families!
I spent many years trying to get my husband to go on a cruise. “Why on Earth would I go on a cruise when I spend half my life on big-a$$ boats as it is?” he’d ask. No amount of effort could convince him that a real cruise (you know, the type I came on too and we enjoyed ourselves together) was obviously very, very different from that kind of cruise.
But then a family cruise out of Venice changed his mind, and voila! I had a bonafide cruise aficionado! So, when our son turned 5, we rationalized that we’d not been on a cruise since I’d been pregnant with him, and it was time. Enter the old, “Hey, buddy, how about a cruise for your birthday?” and my sweet, unsuspecting son happily gave up his birthday for this opportunity we were making out to be the best thing ever.
To humor him (I mean, we’re not that selfish), we chose Disney Cruise Lines. Guaranteed to be the hap-hap-happiest vacation you’ll ever take, and they were not lying! A good friend of mine is a Disney Travel Concierge and planned it out for us (for free — if you don’t use one to book your stuff for you, you are losing out on free money).
Admittedly, we had no idea what we were in for, and, in hindsight, feel like we should have actually paid attention to all the groups, suggestions, and advice my friend gave to make it even more magical. That said, when we got off that boat at the end of the cruise, my husband said one sentence that made me realize we’d hit vacation gold. “Next cruise, we are stepping up our Pirate Night game.”
No Work (No, Really)
Disney Cruises are great for military families because there is no work — none. You’re out in the middle of the ocean, for Jiminy Cricket’s sake! I think one of my husband’s favorite things was that his cell phone just did…not…work. No calls, no concerns — he was literally out of touch for a few blissful days and forced to relax and enjoy it — tough life, but somebody’s gotta live it.
Kids? What Kids?
We often hear (from non-cruisers), “Being stuck on a big boatful of kids in the middle of the ocean sounds like torture!” You know what? You honestly don’t even notice. Better? The Kids’ Clubs are so freaking awesome that you don’t even know your kids are there either! Seriously — it’s like they’re piping kid-crack or something through the air in that Kids’ Club because kids cannot get enough of it! They are open from 9 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. daily, and they happily welcome your child for the entire time if you want. Best? There is no guilt about
dumping leaving your child at Kids’ Club because I guarantee your kiddo is bouncing off the walls every single day to get back there. You may even feel a little unloved because your child wants to spend their time there instead of with you. Never fear, though because…
Adulting is Really Nice
Do you have any idea how many grown adults take Disney Cruises without kids? I know, that might start off sounding creepy, but the reality is that Disney goes out of its way to ensure that adults have just as much fun and enjoyment on their big boat as the kids do. The adults-only areas are incredible (and plentiful), and Disney takes great measures to ensure they stay kid-free. Whether you’re looking for top-of-the-line spa services, poolside relaxation with the drink of the day, or you’re ready to club it up in their many awesome lounges and clubs, there is something for everyone. Many adults simply choose Disney over other cruise lines for its world-class service and food (my husband included), and Disney never disappoints.
You Won’t Need a Vacation from Your Vacation
Let’s be real, there’s nothing like seeing the wonder in your little one’s eyes as they see Cinderella or Mickey for the first time. But honest to goodness, every time we’ve gone to a Disney park, we were ex…haust…ed at the end of each day. I love Disney World as much as any other Mousketeer Clubber, but dude, doing the parks is just a lot of work. You feel like you are ready to sleep for days when it’s all said and done — but not so on a Disney Cruise! You can yuck it up in the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and catch your girl Ariel or Tatiana just about anywhere you go…no extra effort involved! Disney Cruises have character appearances in abundance, and every day your navigator tells you of the many things you can do all over the ship. The best part, though, is that you don’t have to do a single, solitary one of them and you are still going to have a great vacation! Poolside while the kiddos watch the movie of the day or naptime when they’re hanging in the Kids’ Club? Real relaxation and rest? Yes, please, like yesterday!
Military Timelines Need Apply
While it is true there is little military discounting for Disney Cruises — they do have military discounts on certain cruises. The downside for many is that the military rates are often not released until 60 days out from the sail date (they typically wait until final payment dates for cruises to see what rooms they can offer). But that’s why Disney Cruises are great for military families! So many of us have very fluid dates we can work with, and often, we have no idea when our service member will be home, save within a 60 day (or less) range. The military discounts can often take as much as $2,000 or more off the room pricing, and especially on Halloween on the High Seas or MerryTime Cruises. Those are some sweet deals!
Disney Cruises Can Show You the World
I know you’re singing the Aladdin song in your head right now, aren’t you (…only me…)? While it’s true our military kiddos often see way more of the world than a lot of their peers, it’s cool to take vacations that show kids the world and serve Mickey waffles for breakfast. Disney cruises take you on tons of really interesting destinations, and the nearest military base is nary a thought! One of the best parts of Disney Cruises is Disney’s own private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. Days at Castaway Cay are easily some of the best! A gorgeous private Bahamian beach, a fun run or walk where you can get a coveted Disney medal, and total relaxation in a glorious setting — it doesn’t get sweeter than that!
Disney was Born to Cruise
One of the biggest reasons we love Disney Cruises is because they don’t nickel and dime us. As military families, we budget for travel and expenses, and while there are a few incidentals on the boat, there is no worrying about soda packages or late-night babysitting. There are no casinos to steal our money (but man, BINGO, whew) and there are limited extra-fee dining or entertainment options. This is because Disney is first and foremost an entertainment company that branched to cruises. Cruising is certainly not Disney’s only income source, and so they can focus on what they do best — entertaining families with world-class service and fun.
So, if you’ve been tossing it around and wondered, parks or cruise, let me just tell you that after one cruise, and you’ll be hooked. That said, if you really feel like you need to throw in a few days of walking all over the place and trying to convince your kid to try Goofy’s Barnstormer since you are there for Pete’s sake, you can also do land and sea packages.
Just be prepared to drop parks altogether as you sail toward Platinum Cruiser status!
Photo Credits: Lori Ennis