My teenage son just turned 15 last week. Fifteen!!! I’m still coming to grips with this. We are so close and I want to keep that closeness forever. Of course as a teenager he is starting to have his own agenda and his own plans with friends but he is still willing to make time for quality time with his mom. I get more and more nostalgic these days and I’m determined to preserve our special memories. One of his favorite memories was his very first cruise, a Disney Cruise. How do I know it’s one of his favorites? He asks me about every other month when we are going on another cruise. He went on the Carnival 7 day cruise that sailed from Puerto Rico last year to 5 destinations, but he specifically asks to do another Disney Cruise.
For his 13th birthday, I surprised him one evening with a clue scavenger hunt throughout the apartment that lead up to him taking a guess for what his surprise would be. He did actually guess that he was going on a cruise. However, he didn’t guess that it was a Disney Cruise ship. That news sent him over the moon!
So if a 15-year-old boy is begging to go on another Disney Cruise, this must be a pretty spectacular experience. After all, he’s not into the characters and the other obvious Disney draws that a younger child would be excited about. What is it that made our adventure on the Disney Dream in 2013 leave such a lasting impression? The answer is quite simply this: EVERYTHING.
Everything about a Disney Cruise experience is at the highest level — the service, the look and feel, the food, the entertainment — everything. I’ve cruised Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Celebration. I really don’t have a complaint about any of them, but they aren’t Disney.
Top 10 reasons to go on a Disney Cruise with teenagers:
1. Teen and Tween Clubs – J loved the teen group! There are several kid clubs, but 2 in particular are meant for teens and tweens . For tweens, there’s Edge (ages 11-14). For older teens, Vibe (ages 14-17). The teen hangout had activities planned from the very first day we embarked to the last night on the ship. They have dedicated counselors in each group and they were wonderful. They did all kinds of activities and he loved it. After dinner I hardly saw him. Edge had video games, computers, music, TV screens, games, and cooking nights. Vibe had video games, individual cubbies to plug up music, and even a teens only pool. Although he was signed up for Edge, there were times where both teen groups had activities together and he got to spend time in the Vibe area as well. The Vibe teens also had their own “club” for music and dancing.
2. The AquaDuck – This is the on board water coaster that goes around the top of the ship. I actually rode it too and this ride flies! He rode it over and over and over again. There was even one night-time ride where the teens had the AquaDuck all to themselves. He loved it.
3. Teen Area at Castaway Cay – At Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay,Bahamas, there is so much to do for the whole family. The teens have their very own haven. My son loved the basketball courts, pool tables, and mini-golf. They also had games and activities scheduled on the island just for them. He enjoyed the floating aqua park off the beach and he even did a bit of snorkeling, but the weather wasn’t in our favor that day so many of the activities we couldn’t really enjoy.
There are also teen only excursions that your can buy at various ports where the ship will dock.
4. Food – Teenage boys seem to have bottomless pit stomachs. His appetite is astounding. It’s no wonder that a cruise is perfect for a teen because there is food to infinity and beyond. Of course he loved the 24 hour pizza and ice cream. However he really enjoyed trying all the different foods every night at dinner. The first night in Animation dining, we were sitting with 2 other moms, each with their tween daughters. Their girls were the typical kids, ordering burgers and fries from the kids’ menu. However, my son was actually offended when they brought him a kids’ menu. He requested to order from the regular adult menu and they obliged. Our servers loved that he was so open and willing to try different foods. They literally brought him two entrees without him asking at every meal because he was so enthusiastic. He tried things like, escargot, lobster, creme brulee, stone crab claws, and even caviar. He didn’t care for the snails or the caviar, however his absolute favorite meal was the wild boar. He still talks about it! It’s also worth noting that soft drinks are included on Disney Cruises. It’s not an additional beverage package — Winning!
5. Pirate Night – The Pirates of the Caribbean come to life on the high seas for a spectacular show on the deck. Captain Jack Sparrow himself drops in to pay a visit. There’s also a fireworks show shot from the ship and illuminating the open seas with nothing to distract from the beautiful colored lights exploding in the sky. They provide you with a Mickey pirate bandana, but we came prepared with some of our own pirate gear because we knew it was coming. We went all out and wore our pirate gear for dinner. The festivities end with an amazing feast which he loved because, well, who doesn’t like having a ginormous turkey leg at midnight?
6. Freedom – Yes, freedom on a cruise ship is possible. 13 is that age where they strive for more independence, but as parents we are hanging on to them not ready to relinquish them as our babies. A fantastic feature offered on the Disney Dream was the in-room cordless phones. Our room was equipped with 2 phones. When he wanted to leave the room to attend one of the teen club activities he could simply take the phone with him and I could call him anywhere on the ship. The phones don’t dial outbound, but they act as walkie talkies on the ship. It was a great way for me to have peace of mind while still allowing him a reasonable amount of independence while aboard the ship. There is a fee for the loss of one of the phones, so if your teen isn’t dependable you may think twice about utilizing this feature.
7. Room Service – If you travel the way we travel, we rarely do room service. I’m a pack-my-own-snacks-clip-coupons-find-online-deals type of traveling mom, especially when I travel with my eternally hungry teen. When he discovered that room service was perfectly fine and included during the cruise, he was ecstatic. He made it a point to get his warm chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate every night.
8. Blue Lagoon – The Blue Lagoon area is actually an island excursion offered at the Nassau port of call. While it’s not exclusive to Disney, this was one of his favorite experiences. He swam with sea lions and even got a wet sea lion kiss. He also played in the floating water obstacle course. It was very entertaining to watch him fall off of various inflatables.
Most of the families that chose this excursion wanted to do the Dolphin Encounter. They had lines and lines of people and they didn’t get much one on one time with the animals. We opted for the sea lion encounter and it was significantly cheaper, if I recall almost $75-100 cheaper. The sea lions don’t get any love! You manage to save money but you are also guaranteed to have a much more personal experience. He shared the water with about 7 other people. They got to spend a very long time in the water interacting with the Maggie, the sweet sea lion below that just couldn’t get enough of giving J kisses. The staff was very laid back and they even allowed me to video the entire experience with my ipad from the viewing deck. The sea lions are hilarious and very well trained. They can do tricks in and out of the water which makes them just a little bit cooler than the dolphins in my opinion.
9. Games – The arcade was a favorite spot for many of the teens, but what other ship has a family game show on board? Family’s can compete in various games shows, have sing-a-longs, and enjoy being together. One night the Edge teens went head-to-head with the Vibe teens in a game show competition.
10. Movie Theater – Disney Dream has a beautiful movie theater on board the ship. When we had a day at sea or a bit of free time, he enjoyed grabbing a snack from the deck and bringing it to the movies. They show selected movies that are currently in the theaters free of charge. I watched Lincoln and we watched Wreck It Ralph together.
It’s worth noting that during our trip in February, a cold front came down and made the Bahamas unusually chilly and windy. We probably would have enjoyed Castaway Cay even more if not for the freak weather. However, even with the weather my son is still looking forward to doing this again. He said he felt cheated because the weather cramped our style.
I am so happy that I have these memorable moments with my son. I know sometimes it can seem like our teens may pull away, immerse themselves with their phones and tablets, get moody, and are seemingly controlled by raging hormones and never-ending appetites. Your fun-loving child is still in there (somewhere). You just have to find ways to appeal to that little sliver of sweetness they still have left. I’m hoping to plan another Disney Cruise with him in the next year or so. It would be great to do a different ship and itinerary. Fingers crossed!
If you are looking to plan a family trip and you are worried that your teens may think the Disney Cruise is too kiddie, fear not. While the little kids are guaranteed to have a great time, the teenagers will be asking to go back again and again. When your teen is off enjoying all of their fun activities there is plenty for the adult to do sans kids. I’ll have another post coming soon all about the adult Disney Cruise experience!
P.S. Excuse the craptastic iphone/ipad photos. This was pre-blog life. Yet another reason to go back –so that I can get better pics!
* *All opinions are my own. This review was not sponsored and I received no compensation from Disney Cruises.**