By Valerie Marino. Photos: Courtesy Disney.
If you want to know what life is like for adults inside the cult of Disney, step aboard one of its cruise ships. Yes, Princess Elsa is onboard doing arts and crafts, and cartoons play on a poolside Jumbotron. But go a little farther into the ship and you’ll stumble upon a British pub with worn-in leather armchairs, fine dining reserved just for the grownups, and a blissfully quiet adult pool deck that will make it hard to believe you’re sharing a ship with hundreds of children.
It only took a four-day cruise through the Caribbean for Jerry and Sandy Posey to get hooked on Disney Cruise Line.
“I remember the way you were treated, the different ways you could relax or could be busy, and the different methods of entertainment,” says Jerry Posey, 68, from Champlin, Minnesota. “We were both really impressed, and said we were going to do it again.”
In the 16 years since, they have cruised with Disney eight more times, including two 12-night cruises in Northern Europe with stops in Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Russia, Finland, and Sweden. I met them on a seven-night cruise along the Danube River with Adventures by Disney, which offers sailings on the Rhine River and packages in conjunction with Disney Cruise Line. Both types of cruises allowed the Poseys to explore cities on foot. “A lot of the time when they hit port, we’re gone,” Posey says.
The Poseys have never truly considered another cruise line, even though most of their trips are sans children. “With Disney, you know what you’re going to get. You know it’s going to be done well,” Posey says. “Disney culture is pervasive through all their different forms of entertainment, especially the cruise ships.” Which means children and adults alike queue to meet Mickey and other favorite characters. Broadway-style evening shows tell the stories of Aladdin and Cinderella. The décor, however, tends to be more classic, with the Wonder and Fantasy ships embracing Art Nouveau while the Dream and Magic are done in Art Deco style. Staterooms are dressed in deep blues and reds with nautical art on the walls. It's not quite a floating theme-park resort—this is Disney done with style.
While the majority of Disney Cruise Line’s sailings are in the Caribbean and Bahamas—their two larger ships, the Dream and Fantasy, are stationed there year-round and stop at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island—sailings also visit Alaska and 15 European countries. Among Disney’s offerings for 2018 are a new seven-night British Isles cruise, including a first stop in Cork, Ireland, and a stop in Milan on the ten-night Mediterranean cruise, another first for Disney. Adventures by Disney will offer three adult-only river cruises in 2018, including an Oktoberfest sailing on the Danube (with themed parties both on and off the ship) and two Food and Wine cruises on the Rhine to coincide with Disney’s food and wine festival at Epcot. The cruise begins with a wine and cheese pairing in Switzerland, followed by vineyard and brewery tours in France, Germany, and Holland; and a tutorial on cheese production in Holland’s Volendam region—all in addition to the local wine and beer pairings with the ship’s nightly multi-course dinners.
Though much of the entertainment on Disney’s four cruise ships is geared toward families with children, there’s plenty designed with adults in mind. “My husband and I did the Mediterranean cruise on the Disney Magic for our honeymoon and had the time of our lives,” says Bryanna Embrey, a 27-year-old from Houston. “We love going to the adult-only areas for trivia and music and we take advantage of the spa and gym, which are also adult-only.” Embrey has done nine cruises with Disney and has two more booked for this summer. Her favorite has been the Northern Europe cruise, which departs from Copenhagen and includes stops in Stockholm; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Helsinki.
“We did some adult-only excursions and some with kids, although there weren’t many kids on board—one of the perks of cruising in Europe and Alaska,” she says. “We did a fjord cruise in Stavanger that was amazing, and tea at Balfour Castle in Scotland was another favorite.” The cruise was her husband’s first trip back to Scotland, where he was born.
Embrey and her husband prefer the late dinner seating, which tends to have fewer children and is less rushed, since there’s no one coming in after you. They also make a point to make a reservation at Palo, a restaurant on the upper deck of each of Disney’s ships reserved for adults that features a Northern Italian-inspired menu.
While Embrey and her husband like to set off for the adult clubs after dinner—they’ve even won the Match Your Mate couples trivia game—I found myself too exhausted to do much at night on the three-night cruise to Cozumel I took with my husband last fall. There’s no shame to be had in going back to your cabin, checking out the towel animal du jour, and enjoying the Ghirardelli chocolate your stateroom attendant left with the turn-down service before the ocean rocks you to sleep.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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