I admit that I had never been on a cruise before I went on my honeymoon. I had always imagined that cruises were just full of drunks hanging all over each other. When it became clear I would be going on a Disney cruise, I figured it would just be a bunch of kids hanging off the rafters and running the ship.
I was a little closer on point with the latter, but both assumptions were very, very wrong. It was on the first full sea day, I believe, when the cruise director Darren – who took himself way too seriously, especially for a Disney Cruise – announced that there were over 2,500 passengers on the cruise, and more than 1,300 of them were children. The funny part was that Estelle and I didn’t know where all those kids were hiding because we sure didn’t see them that much.
That was really the most wonderful part of the cruise – we could very easily have a grown-up (big-kid) cruise without worrying about stepping over children every few feet. There were numerous options for the big kids, which I’ll discuss in a bit, but the best one by far was the quiet pool. When some little kids (who probably didn’t know better) jumped in there the first day, Stelle almost shot death rays from her eyes. Those kids never returned, nor did any others. In fact, it was so chilly on the sail from Florida to the Caribbean (our honeymoon being in March) that I often felt like I was the only person swimming in the pool.
Sure, if you wandered too far from the quiet pool, towards the Goofy pool or (gulp) the Mickey head pool, you would be inundated with screaming, raving children. At the shows every night you certainly saw your fair share of tykes. We did see some kids at dinner but were assigned to a table with folks our age or older so we didn’t have to eat with or near anyone too young to remember seeing The Lion King in theaters. All in all, aside from the numerous appearances by Mickey and his pals (and the hidden Mickeys everywhere and the ship’s horn that blared ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’) you may not have known it was a Disney cruise.
But was it the perfect honeymoon spot? For most couples, probably not. We may have been the only honeymooners on the ship. There were no romantic nights or couples-only events. The closest we came to a romantic evening, aside from the beautiful sunsets, was drinks in the lounge with a piano player on our formal night. Sure, the excursions were nice, but I’m not sure two tropical islands are enough to counteract four days at sea with Mickey Mouse, at least for most newlyweds.
Luckily, Estelle and I are most certainly not most newlyweds. We are both very big fans of The Mouse, so a ship full of Mickey everything went down as easily as the numerous glasses of draft Yuengling I had. We were thrilled to feel like every time we turned a corner we might run into a character going somewhere or doing something. One day we were waiting for a movie (yes, there is a full movie theater on board playing first-run and classic Disney films) when Lilo and Stitch just happened to wander by. Stitch, being the jokester he is, put on a little show for us by pulling the tablecloth off a table full of 3D glasses and playing with the courtesy telephone on the wall. It was clearly unscripted and very fluid, and just felt like something you might never experience in the crowded parks.
What happens if you don’t really like characters? There are quite a few adults-only activities held on the ship each day; for example, on our trip there were a few presentations by a senior animator from Pixar, who taught us how to draw Woody from Toy Story and discussed what it was like to work for Pixar. Another day, there was a “behind the scenes” tour of the ship (again, for adults only) which explained certain design choices and hidden secrets of the ship. It was something only adults would be interested in – “did you know that the ship uses carpets as theming and location devices to tell you what part of the ship you’re in?” – which enhanced its appeal as a kid-free activity. There were plenty of other activities, like beer tastings, movies, magicians, piano acts, live music by the pool, trivia games, etc.
Of course, there are also all the watering holes and adults-only areas. Some of them were a little hokey, like Rockin’ Bar D, which was supposed to resemble some twisted blend of comedy club and Hollywood lounge, or the Cove Cafe, which as a coffee shop sounds like a nice idea until you realize that the two things people go to coffee shops for — coffee and Wi-Fi — are not free on the ship. As chilly as it may have been on the cruise in March, sitting by the pool with a frosty Yuengling was much more attractive than sitting in a dark coffee shop with no internet access for my iPhone.
However, the sports bar, Diversions, and the crushed-velvet piano lounge, Sessions, both made up for any of the shortcomings of the other areas. Diversions just felt like a familiar English pub with a little touch of class and featured a great beer selection. Sessions was dark, cozy, and seductive, and made you forget you were on a ship overrun with children. They also made a pretty awesome coffee martini. Lastly, we got quite a bit of mileage out of Signals, the lovely wood-and-brass poolside bar with the aforementioned Yuengling on tap. There was never a line, the beer was always delicious and refreshing, and Stelle got a kick out of trying the fruity “drink of the day.”
Of course, you can’t discuss any cruise without mentioning the excursions, and the Disney Cruise Line is no different. Our ports of call included St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Our first stop, the split-personality island of St. Maarten and St. Martin, included a bus tour of both nationalities and showcased the diversity inherent in one little island governed by two big nations. The Dutch side, St. Maarten, appeared rundown, disheveled and poor, yet remained uniquely tropical and Caribbean. On the French St. Martin side, we stopped in at a little local bar and had Dominican beer and homemade bruschetta. It was a much more enjoyable experience than the Dutch side. We followed that up by taking a nice dip in the crystal clear water with a view of our ship in the bay, and then having lunch in a tourist-trap restaurant where my wife had a very, very strong drink.
At St. Thomas the next day, we took an excursion on a pirate ship which included snorkeling with turtles, exploring a reef, and enjoying delicious Caribbean barbecue (and ice-cold beers) on a private beach. On the ride back from the beach to the cruise terminal, the pirate captain got pretty much everyone drunk on something they called a “painkiller,” which had rum in it. Lots and lots of rum. Needless to say, that was a memorable boat ride (and yes, I can actually remember it. Some of it. The captain stuck a temporary pirate tattoo on my forehead.)
For as enticing and fun as the excursions were, back on the ship the live entertainment was probably the area that would be least appealing to most ordinary newlyweds. As much as I love Disney, I felt like their live shows (either before or after dinner, depending on your seating time) were just too cheesy and geared toward children. The wonderful thing about almost all of Disney’s movies is that they are hardly ever cheesy, almost always deal with mature subject matter, and have plenty of adult references and jokes. The live shows on the Magic just felt like kiddie fodder, for the most part, and were corny enough to make you snort out loud.
Despite the potential for cheese in the production numbers, the Disney Cruise Line is perfectly relaxing, infinitely enjoyable, and wonderfully Disney. For some, that may be a sticking point, but if you’re reading this blog it’s more like a selling point. Being such huge Disney fans, Estelle and I couldn’t have asked for a better honeymoon than a week in the parks and a week on the cruise. With a large array of adults-only entertainment and a health dose of Mickey and his pals, the Disney Magic was just that for this happy honeymooner.