Disney Cruise Line Without Kids?
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!
Totally agree with your perspective. We have had to usually leave the stage shows on other cruise lines due to the raunchy nature. Also, we agree that Disney does everything to a higher standard and we think that’s great! The adult only areas on the ships are excellent and if you don’t want to eat with all the kids, there is always a sit-down restaurant or room service available at no extra charge. Disney just does it best! One other perk is getting to see some first-run Disney movies too.
I’m glad you mentioned your experiences but also that you clarified they’re mostly when school is in session. We are a child-free adult only couple (with some other couples who travel with us), but to answer your question, I (and many of my friends) work in education as teachers or counselors, so we have to go during school breaks despite not having children. (Carnival has been a nightmare in this regard, although we were pleasantly surprised by Royal Caribbean in late June.)
Went on one of the older Disney ships years ago and have told many people I saw more kids on the Royal Caribbean’s trip to Bermuda than I saw on Disney. Loved the adult beach, peaceful and beautiful and for the person who spoke about having a disability there is transportation to take you there. Went to the later dinners. The room and bathroom was soo much better than the other cruise ship. Did not think the food was better than Royal. I think it is great for a couple.
My wife and I did our first “Large” cruise two years ago, and we chose Disney even though we weren’t taking our kids. It was the Mediterranean cruise (Left from Barcelona, then hit Pompeii, Rome, Florence and Nice/Monte Carlo)—the prices between the best cruise lines were almost identical and we immediately gravitated towards Disney since our experiences in the park hotels have been so great. We (of course) wrestled with the whole “well we’re not taking our kids–is that weird?” question for a while but after reading a few blogs (including this one) we went for it. The trip was amazing and you touch on all the major reasons why. We stuck to the ‘adult’ areas mostly, and saw a lot of the same people the whole time. The adult themed entertainment was great! The bars closed down early, which was fine for us since we had something major going on nearly every day we were at port, and liked to get up early to catch the sunrise anyway. The biggest issue for us now is that I can’t picture us going on any other cruise line. Great article!
I look forward to your comments and opinions about any/every thing Disney. We click on most points. However I need some added perspective from you or other readers. What about the strollers everywhere? Cruising off-school season sounds wonderful. That’s what my wife and I did on our last Disney Cruise. It was our 35th wedding anniversary and we enjoyed our 25th anniversary cruise so much.
Such a disappointment. The pool-parties were 4 decks above our beautiful stateroom on the Magic and it was so loud we couldn’t get to sleep until very late, especially since the sugared up kids kept running through the halls for an hour after the parties.
It appeared that every cabin on our deck had at least one stroller with it and every time we came or went to our stateroom it looked like a stroller parking area ar the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. It was very difficult just navigating the narrow halls.
The “adults only beach” at Castaway Cay was gorgeous first thing in the morning. By lunch time multigenerational families got curious about the adult beach and invaded with toddlers, sand buckets and accompanying distractions.
The rotational restaurants had good food, but they were all so loud we had a hard time hearing our our conversation. Again, the ubiquitous strollers made it even more difficult to just get to your table.
We understand that our first Disney Cruise was only the 13th sailing of the Magic. DC! was still a cruising unknown and not as popular as it is today. We felt we had the ship to ourselves. That first cruise set the bar of our expectations, so the 2nd cruise 10 years later was a disappointment. Even the “adult pool” had grandparents bringing the 2-5 year old grans with their strollers into the area.
Have the stage shows gotten better? Other than the one extravaganza with Wendy meeting all the characters we had pretty mediocre performers. You guessed it, magicians and standup comics.
Based on you blog and the comments above I am thinking we might be ready to try DCL again but the mental Ektachrome slides are still pretty sharp. We don’t need to be disappointed for our 45th or 50th anniversaries.
I totally agree with everything you said . We have never cruised DCL with kids (10 cruises) it really is fun to see kids delighting in the experience and fun to walk away when you’re done watching. One thing more . After cruising with other cruise lines, I can’t even express how much SAFER we feel on DCL. From the quality of their drills to how they handel troublemakers. They are trapdoored! There is an eye in the sky even though there are no casinos.
not to mention that adults are usually annoying while kids are typically lively and delightful,.. unless their parents have managed to already ruin them with endless bribery and threats. It’s not the children that annoy but the relationship with their controlling parents that can grate. People who find children an imposition on their sophisticated revelries might simply need to loosen up,..
My wife and I are DVC members and cruised DCL last year. It is truly a great cruise for adults only. You really don’t have to go out of your way to “avoid” kids. There is plenty of room for everyone. The adult pools and hot tubs are exceptional. Castaway Cay adult only beach is magnificent. We were paired with 2 other couples for dinner and they shared the same sentiment. Some other adult only couples we met won’t cruise anything but DCL. We are booking the members only cruise soon. Without kids or grandkids.
Yeah our first cruise on Disney was without kids, and while we noticed them (certain times of day especially–breakfast at Cabana’s felt the noisiest) they didn’t bother us at all, and if we ever needed a break the adult lounges were terrific. The best “adults only” part that we took advantage of were the excursions, though. Not having a lot of kids on those bus rides was pretty great…the ride to Rome from port was particularly long, and while I loved just watching the countryside my wife was able to sleep…not sure if that would have been possible with kids.
Tom, fantastic article as always! Having cruised on both non-DCL & DCL… I can say I prefer DCL. Yes, we paid about $5K more than we would have for the same cruise on another cruise line… however as you pointed out the service was impressive as well as the overall atmosphere. While there were plenty of drinks going around, I never once saw anyone get belligerent or even appear slightly inebriated. I’m sure there were many, many people who were feeling no pain – the nice thing is they kept it together Since my husband and I are avid Disney enthusiasts, we definitely preferred DCL. Not just for the Disney of it all, either.
Tom, although I have sailed DCL many times with my daughter I feel that I can relate to your article. You see, she and her husband are both 40 and we sailed without grandkids. I agree completely with your post. I have loved sailing with Disney and never found the ship to be overrun by children. As adults we also do not care for casinos or nightclubs on board (all right, we’re in our sixties … what’s YOUR excuse?) and we love the Disney experience that we find, in the decor, entertainment, and service. And, as big Disney fans ourselves, we enjoy being with others (even if they are strangers) who share that same interest.
We are hooked – as in Captain Hook – and may never cruise in the future except on DCL.
My husband and I (childfree couple) finally convinced my parents to join us on our 10th Disney cruise. My father admires the Company more for their business successes than for Mickey Mouse, but even he had a great time on the cruise and said he would sail again! Yes, he stuck to Keys for most evenings, but he was absolutely blown away by the show in Animator’s (which on the Magic is the better show that ends with Sorcerer Mickey). My father’s face LIT UP when he saw Mickey appear in the dining room, and he was grinning like a little kid and clapping along way more enthusiastically than I thought he ever would. He thought Pirate night was a lot of fun too – again, not usually his type of thing, but he was swept up in the magic. So yeah, if adults do their research and think they might have fun, it has been our experience that they *will* have fun.
We have cruised on DCL twice without our child and enjoyed it very much. We did cruise as a couple on another cruise line due to the much lower cost and came off that vacation disappointed. Their adult only areas were not adhered to (and the pool area was smaller than DCL’s) and it was overrun by kids. None of the staff asked these kids who obviously weren’t 18 to leave. In fact the cruise director invited one of the kids to join him for some aquatic competitions up front on stage. And outside of these competitions the music is loud and pumped up (party atmosphere) and it was hard to find s spot to relax. Perhaps I too am done with all that and prefer to relax on my vacations. I am always amused watching other adults upon hearing a familiar Disney tune sing along in the elevator or in the hallways or tap their toes. Perhaps it is getting in touch again with our inner child who knows. But after a full day I too find it hard to be up past 11pm. To each their own. I am glad there are ships for those that like to party. And I am thankful (even if it costs more without a casino onboard) that Disney caters to a different clientele.
I love an adults only Disney Cruise! Choose the late seating for dinner and there will be fewer children. I also highly recommend the rainforest spa (not expensive at all) and the wine or other alcohol tastings. It’s such a fun and relaxing time! We have 2 more booked for next year.
I loved hearing this perspective! My husband and I have always wanted to do a Disney Cruise, but have been too cheap to pull the trigger. I have been on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, and from your reviews and others, the food sounds WAY better on Disney, especially on shorter cruises. The dining rooms are also extremely boring in terms of atmosphere on the other cruises I have been on. I think another thing that justifies the cost is Castaway Cay. which offers so much more than the other private islands (although Royal is doing a major overhaul of theirs). It’s great to know that it’s worthwhile for couples without kids, so hopefully we will splurge on a Disney Cruise one day!
I’ve been on over 20 cruises (RCCL, Princess, NCL, and DCL). I’ve now been on 2 DCL Caribbean cruises, and they are, hands down, the best cruises we’ve ever been on from a ship perspective (I’m sure that Oceania or Seabourne cruises would best DCL). The price differential between DCL and RCCL/NCL is significant. But I don’t regret anything about my DCL cruises whereas on my most recent NCL cruise, I was constantly saying, “Well this problem wouldn’t be an issue on DCL.” But, dang, it’s hard to look at comparable DCL and RCCL cruises on paper and think that it would be worth it to spend that much more $$$ for DCL.
We are not interested in party boats or floating nursing homes or floating casinos so DCL is a perfect choice for the two of us. We have done 2 cruises so far, with a 3rd cruise coming up in September. We did not venture into most of the adult areas and looking forward to checking them out on our upcoming cruise.
In Sept I will take my 4th Disney Cruise and never once have I cruised with children. My first and third cruises were sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and while I believe there were only 20 or so kids on board- I saw melt downs and snappiness from adults on those cruises, not kids! LOL I loved every single solitary second and I was in a fabulous mood the entire time- so I just shook my head!
The pool deck got a little loud a time or two, so my cruise buddies and I just get our ice cream and move over to adult land to eat and relax in peace. But other than that, I can’t think of a time I noticed kids. I was waaay to bust having fun!
I like kids, just didn’t go that route in life. I will say, I think in the Your Milage May Vary category those WITHOUT kids might have even MORE fun. We are not at the mercy of an over stimulated toddler, nap times, kids unexpected illness, whining, or brother-sister fights! You aren’t interested in lounging and reading on deck 4 with a cool drink? Cool- catch ya later! Adults can be together or apart as much as they like for Me or Us time. Go watch Iron Man- I’m going to the Spa! Or bingo. Or doing absolutely nothing in peace where no one says my name for two hours straight while I have an adult beverage and read a pulpy novel! Adults get the best end of the Disney Cruise Stick! If someone acts up at dinner- you can ask for a separate table next sitting!!! 🙂
I would like to know more about this statement ‘but there’s a service and quality premium’.
I have been on over 25 different cruises on all types of cruise lines. What are you getting on Disney that you do not get on other lines? This is once you remove the Disney theme from the cruise. I hear that a lot when I am on a Disney cruise that service and food is better then other cruise ships. But what are other people seeing that I do not see.
I Like DCL a lot. other cruise lines premium lines offer a 7 day cruise for the price of a 3 or 4 day Disney cruise.
I hope I am not coming off of complaining. but if its not a themed cruise sometimes I find it hard to pay the extra for a shorter cruise.
We just did an Alaska cruise this summer on Princess. We looked into Disney (as we do have kids) and the cost difference was substantial for an itinerary that frankly wasn’t as good (Disney does not go into Glacier Bay). I thought the service on Princess was outstanding (it was the first cruise I had ever taken) – so if Disney is better it must be over the top. I’m just not sure the premium cost is worth it.
For what it’s worth, we’ve never been on Princess, but I’ve only heard wonderful things about it–especially their Alaska itineraries.
Disney’s closest competitor is definitely Royal Caribbean, and even then, Disney is considerably more expensive.
I understand what you are saying Robert. I think there tends to be a view that because it’s Disney, it must be better, and I’m not positive that is always the case.
I’ve cruised with 5 lines, one being DCL, and admittedly I thought Disney cruise was amazing. The pluses well exceeded the minuses and I can see how both adults with kids and those without kids would love cruising with Disney.
However, for the price I paid, I also expected some aspects to be better. The food (besides Palo) was the most under-seasoned of any cruise line I’ve been on, the one Disney organised port excursion I did was really disappointing, and I am one of those cruisers who would of liked some better adult entertainment. Not necessarily night clubs and adult night shows, but perhaps a few more trivia sessions that didn’t involve Disney theme songs or a few adult enrichment classes.
Plus, purely because Disney have less ships than many other lines, their itineraries are very limited and generally not as unique or exotic as what is being offered elsewhere.
Will I cruise Disney again? If the price is right – absolutely. But at the same time, I wouldn’t instantly dismiss other lines under the (sometimes misguided) assumption that they won’t offer me a high quality product. Especially given that those lines might mean I can afford to cruise longer/afford a high category cabin/eat in more specialty restaurants/pay for better shore excursions/buy more souvenirs/drink more cocktails etc etc etc.
I have cruised on Disney Cruise Line with and without kids and I couldn’t agree more with Tom. I assumed part of the reason it doesn’t seem like a ship full of kids running wild was the limited capacity of the ships. There are only so many people you can fit on one. That plus the fact we sailed off season probably helped. Our last cruise left port New Year’s Eve so I’m not sure if that’s off season.
My husband is not the Disney Fan that my kids or I am (but we’ve been slowly converting him) That being said I suggested a non-Disney cruise to save money and he flat out said no. He said his expectations for crew and ship were set too high by Disney and he’d feel ripped off if they weren’t met on a cheaper cruise. Having cruised on another line before I think he’s absolutely right. Like Tom, I didn’t miss the casino or other adult night life offered on other lines. If we wanted adult time, kids went to the kids club (which they loved) and we wandered the adult only sections, got massages, saw a movie, etc.
I’m sure there are tons who would never take a Disney Cruise with or without kids but we love them and I hope to set sail again soon!
I’m living with MS and my Mother is 80. Disney world is something we can do despite infirmities. But I really wish bloggers would occasional provide comments in their reviews that would address accessibility and comfort issues for the disabled. Children can be disabled too
I would imagine unless you are in that situation, you really aren’t even able to know what to look for. And because disabilities cover both the physical and mental, it would make it even harder. Best of luck finding your info.
In May my husband and I went on our first Disney Cruise..both of us 60+ and we LOVED it…can’t wait to go back. And until I read this I had not even thought about the lack of kids presence but we really weren’t overrun with them. We went to the Beauty and the Beast show and a couple in front of us had small children and when one started to act up they just got up and left…and at Castaway Cay we went to the adults beach and really enjoyed that. We have nothing against kids..we go to WDW at least once a week when not in blackout so we are used to dealing with kids but on this cruise we hardly noticed them. We have been on other cruise lines and will never go back ..DCL is totally worth every penny