Wholesome and casino-free, Disney Cruise Line has been the gold standard for cruising with kids since it launched its first ship in 1998. Disney is best known for wowing families with excellent entertainment, amazing kids’ clubs and spacious staterooms.
It may come as a happy surprise that Disney ships are not floating theme parks. Harkening back to the sophisticated style of 1920s ocean liners, these vessels are full of grown-up appeal, from graceful Art Nouveau and Art Deco design flourishes to the wide array of adult-centric areas, including the spa, fitness area, adults-only pool, café, gourmet restaurant and nightlife venues.
The pioneer ship in Disney’s fleet, Disney Magic, was the first to show off Mickey Mouse’s signature colors—midnight-blue hull, twin red funnels and yellow accents—and, perhaps more importantly, the first to prove that elegance really can go hand in hand with kid-friendliness.
Sailing out of Miami, the Magic has recently emerged from a major renovation refreshed with brand-new spaces. A new dining venue called Rapunzel’s Royal Table evokes the grand ballroom from Disney’s Tangled and features live entertainment. Dinner here makes a great prequel to Tangled: The Musical, the original musical production that’s performed on each sailing.
The children’s spaces on the Magic are immersive and engaging, from Tinkerbell’s dress-up closet to Andy’s room from Toy Story to a Marvel’s Avengers Academy where kids can interact virtually with Iron Man.
Got teens? Vibe, the space reserved for ages 14-17, is now a trendy urban loft with a coffee and smoothie bar, video and virtual reality games, and activities like a DJ spin-off and movie making.
All day long, Disney films are screened in the ship's Art Deco-style Buena Vista Theatre and outside on the giant screen on the pool deck. Grabbing a photo op with a favorite character is much easier than at Disney World, and every evening, families can take in a different Broadway-style musical in the Walt Disney Theatre.
Since there are a gazillion activities, download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator mobile app, which includes deck plans, activity schedules and even dinner menus. The app will remind you when your favorite happenings are about to begin, and there’s a handy chat function that lets you keep in touch with family members on board.
One guaranteed highlight of the cruise is the day in port at Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island. Your fare includes access to the beaches and youth areas, a barbecue lunch buffet, non-alcoholic beverages and self-serve ice cream. You can use your stateroom key card to charge any incidentals such as alcoholic beverages or rentals for bicycles, snorkel gear or watercraft.
Looking for some grown-up downtime? Try the yoga classes and wine tastings. You can indulge in a massage, facial or seaweed body wrap at the Senses Spa & Salon. Palo, the ship’s fine dining restaurant offering Italian-inspired cuisine, is good for a romantic dinner. The experience is well worth the nominal surcharge.
Finally, no cruise on the Disney Magic is complete without trying the AquaDunk, a three-story body slide that delivers a jolt of pure adrenaline to those brave enough to try it. This drop-hatch body slide shoots you through a transparent tunnel over the edge of the ship in a swoosh before depositing you in a landing pool—all in less than eight seconds.
Itinerary options on the Disney Magic include a four-night Bahamian cruise with stops at Key West and Castaway Cay; five-night Bahamian cruise with stops at Key West, Nassau and Castaway Cay; and five-night Western Caribbean cruise with stops at Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay.
Certain cruises include themed activities, such as five-night sailings featuring a Marvel Day at Sea, where families can take part in numerous Marvel-themed activities. In November and December, Very Merrytime Cruises are packed with special holiday festivities.