For many adults without kids, “Disney” is a loaded term. When it comes to Disney Cruise Line, many people have a misconception that the ship will be filled with families at best, and overrun with packs of unsupervised children at worst. In this post, we thought we’d discuss the reality of cruising with Disney as adults without children, both the pros and the cons.
The idea for this post is not based upon some hypothetical scenario. We know this preconception of Disney Cruise Line exists in many minds because we’ve had the same conversation with friends and casual acquaintances time and time again. If you’re DCL fans who sail without children, perhaps you’ve experienced the same.
People ask about our travel plans, we reply that we’re going on a cruise to [insert destination], and they exclaim, “that’s exciting; which cruise line?!” The instant we respond that we’re going with Disney Cruise Line, you can see the enthusiasm deflated. In fact, deflated is probably the wrong term–if their face is a balloon, that sucker is popping, not slowly releasing air.
Before I get started in singing the praises of Disney Cruise Line, as this blog is wont to do, I do want to be clear that none of what follows is intended to say that DCL is the best option for all childless couples. I’m not even going to claim Disney Cruise Line is a good choice for all adults.
Moreover, as Disney fans, Sarah and I are most certainly biased. The little “Disney touches” bring us small moments of joy on the cruise. Things like the background music, framed concept art on the walls, restaurant themes, and so many of the other Imagineered elements of the ships appeals to us in a way other cruise lines cannot. I could probably ramble on about the innate appeal of Disney Cruise Line to Disney fans ad nauseam, but you’re reading a Disney blog and there’s a very good chance you’re also a Disney fan: you get the point.
I also don’t want to fixate on things I’ve already covered extensively, such as the superlative crew members and how they go way above and beyond to make the experience special. Ditto the excellent stage shows, great cuisine quality of the rotational dining, enjoyable entertainment lineup, or the fact that DCL doesn’t nickel and dime you. All of those things matter, but we’ve discussed each at length in other posts. Cumulatively, these are strong selling points for Disney Cruise Line that everyone should consider, but they are not specific to adults without children.
Admittedly, there are other aspects of the DCL experience that might be unique to us. We don’t really miss the things Disney Cruise Line does not offer, or doesn’t do well. The one and only time I went to Las Vegas, I didn’t spend a dollar gambling and was in bed watching the news by 10 p.m. We don’t oppose casinos from any moral perspective, but we have zero interest in gambling. A casino has about as much appeal to me as all-you-can-eat buffet with every dish made from quinoa and riced cauliflower.
Along those same lines, the nightclubs aren’t a huge area of interest for us aboard Disney Cruise Line. Our days of partaking in raucous clubbing are way behind us. We still enjoy bars, and lounges like Skyline and Cadillac are fun places to spend time in thanks to their cool design. However, the time we’re there is usually early-evening, and we don’t really care if there are (maybe) 3-4 other parties in the lounge.
Seeing a comedian, musician, magician (yes, really!) with a lively audience in an entertainment venue like Fathoms or Evolution is more our speed than a club that’s still hopping after midnight. We can barely stay up until 11 p.m. on a cruise, and the “late” adult entertainment act is often pushing our stamina.
In other words, we recognize that Disney Cruise Line is weak on what some people might consider essential forms of adult entertainment and nightlife, and that other cruise lines do all of this better. If I were writing this article 10 years ago, my perspective in this section would most certainly be different. Age has taken its toll on us, and I guess we’re now more laid back (or boring, depending upon your perspective).
As for the ships being overrun with children, we just flat out disagree. Now, you might write this opinion off as coming from long-time Walt Disney World fans who are “desensitized” to screaming children. Again, we disagree. We are cognizant of kids, we just don’t think their presence is especially noticeable on Disney Cruise Line, irrespective of the brand’s family-friendly reputation. In fact, the only time we really notice children is during themed nights and, to a lesser extent, meals.
This probably comes down to self-segregation and a division of spaces. There are many different venues aboard the ships dedicated exclusively to small children, tweens, and teens. Each of these areas has a full schedule of events everyday and (I’m assuming) many younger cruises are participating in these activities in places we’d never see them. So right off the bat, many kids are “absorbed” into these areas that we couldn’t go even if we wanted.
Then there are common areas and family spaces that are open to anyone. Kids can be noticeable at Cabanas, but if that bothers you, you’ll see proportionately fewer at the other restaurants (save for Animator’s Palate). Places like the main pool areas and restaurants like Cabanas, which can fill with families at times. Aside from first thing in the morning or late at night, we don’t really use the main pools, so that’s a non-issue for us.
Kids are very noticeable at the deck parties and themed nights, and I’ll be honest: we’re sort of “over” these nights. Also to be honest: this has nothing to do with the other attendees, and everything to do with the programming being underwhelming. On our last few cruises, the Pirates/Frozen festivities have felt very dumbed down–unlike the other entertainment aboard the ships, these feel like they’re aimed squarely and exclusively at small children.
For what it’s worth, we’re not even actively going out of our way to avoid children on these cruises. This post was inspired by someone asking us the question at the top of the post (for like the 180th time) and we didn’t even think of how little we notice kids on the cruises until we sat down to talk about the topic right before I started writing this. We asked ourselves “why is that?” and these are our theories. If for some reason you really wanted to avoid kids for some reason, you could probably do so.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are adults-only spaces, or areas of the ship that tend to skew more towards adults. We tend to spend a lot of time in these areas, and have discovered that there’s an interesting phenomenon that I’m assuming is a result of Disney Cruise Line’s family-centric demographics: these adult areas are often dead.
In our experience, these adult-only areas are often under-utilized, especially when contrasted with the family-friendly spaces aboard the ships. While we cannot support this with any sort of hard data, but I’d be willing to bet that the adult areas of Disney Cruise Line’s ships are comparatively less crowded than cruise lines that skew more towards adult/non-families. It seems like an intuitive matter of demographics.
These adults-only areas are not relegated to a small back corner of the ship where they keep the weirdos like us who choose to cruise Disney, for some odd reason, even though they don’t have kids. To the contrary, most Disney Cruise Line ships have multiple adults-only pools and hot tubs, arguably oversized nightlife areas with multiple bars, lounging areas, a coffee bar, a full-service spa, and one or two fine dining restaurants. Heck, Castaway Cay even has an adults-only beach!
If anything, the adult areas aboard Disney’s ships are disproportionately large for the number of adults who use them on many cruises. Knowing their audience, most of these adult areas lay off the blatant design choices that scream “Disney!” and instead go for subtler, classy styles. They are still beautifully Imagineered, inviting spaces–they just have themes that have nothing to do with Mickey Mouse or other characters. Generally speaking, we think Disney Cruise Line represents some of the best of Imagineering, and this level of polish is true in all areas of the ships.
With all of this said, we often cruise during off-seasons, which for Disney Cruise Line is when school is in session. To that end, our experiences are not totally representative of the DCL experience at large. However, if you’re traveling as adults without children, why wouldn’t you do the same? Deals are more abundant in the off-season, crowds in ports are usually lower (and sometimes aboard the ship if the cruise isn’t sold out), and the weather is often better.
This has been all rainbows and sunshine, almost like an advertisement for cruising with Disney as adults without kids, so let’s present a counterpoint: as childless travelers, you’re arguably paying Disney’s premium pricing for aspects of the experience or brand that you may not use. To a degree, we do think this is a fair point.
When comparing DCL’s prices to other cruise lines, there’s no doubt some price inflation for the Disney brand, and at least some of the pricing can be attributed to elements of the experience that are reassuring to, and aimed at, families. Sure, we won’t use some areas of the ship that we’re otherwise paying for, but we also don’t use the basketball court and spa, and certainly wouldn’t use the clubs or casinos aboard other cruise lines. As with almost any travel experience, you’re paying for some things you won’t use. Maybe if we saw a line-item breakdown of our cruise cost we’d feel differently, but we’re content paying that premium knowing that the Disney Difference is an across the board thing.
In the end, that’s really what it comes down to for us. Disney Cruise Line does cost more than other cruise lines, but there’s a service and quality premium in addition to the pricing premium. We really enjoy the spaces that are geared towards adults aboard the ships, and have never been agitated by the presence of families in broader common areas. Finally, we don’t feel we are missing out on any of the adult-centric things that are absent from DCL but found aboard other cruise lines. Much of that is personal in nature, but as adults without kids who are also fans, Disney Cruise Line works perfectly for us. We suspect Disney Cruise Line would also be a good option for childless adults who are not necessarily Disney fans, but your mileage might vary on that one.
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Have you sailed Disney Cruise Line without children? What did you think of the experience? Was it “adult” enough for you, or did you feel it was overrun with kids? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective on DCL without kids? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!