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For a 4-year-old, Disney cruises are all about dance lessons from Snow White, tea and cookies with Ariel, and Mickey ice cream bars for dessert after every meal. For me, the mom of two young children, the highlights of my Alaskan cruise was the opportunity to share the views of crystalline-blue glaciers with my kids and also the freedom to dine at Palo’s brunch buffet sans children. Most travels with young children are full of adventure, but a Disney cruise to Alaska is one of those rare adventures that is also a vacation.
Alaska Day Excursions
There are many splurge-worthy, once-in-a-lifetime port adventures available on an Alaskan Disney Cruise. Most of these adventures take to the air to give families a birds-eye view of Alaskan landscape that can only be seen from the sky because roads simply don’t go to these remote locations. Families can take a helicopter ride over the ever-changing Juneau ice field stopping on the glacier itself to learn about dog-sledding; children might even get to try to mush their own dog sled team. Or, experience some of the most spectacular scenery in Alaska flying over Misty Fjords National Monument with guides pointing out waterfalls and lakes that few people ever have the opportunity to see.
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Onboard Kid-Friendly Fun
A Disney cruise is among the best places to dance with Donald and chat with Cinderella because characters seem to pop up unexpectedly around the ship; even the organized meet-and–greets in the lobby have relatively short wait times. My son, a huge Monster’s Inc. fan at the time of our cruise, will never forget high-fiving Mike Wazowski at the Pixar dance party. My little girl will always remember learning proper manners at her tea time with Ariel and Tiana.
The kids were even able to play with many of their favorite characters at Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab, the ship’s on-board child care program for ages 3-12. Programming, often hosted by the familiar Disney characters, is scheduled throughout the day in both the Club and the Lab. There is also science and cooking activities geared towards older children available in the Lab. All programs are voluntary and kids can choose to play with the dress-up clothes or computer games available instead of participate in the group activities. Scheduled meals are also served as part of the program so parents can even enjoy a date at Palo, the upscale adults-only restaurant, while the children play and are fed kid-friendly options.
Periodically, the Club or Lab will hold an open house, meaning that parental supervision is required in that portion of the childcare facility. Open house times are great for families with younger kids who might not be ready for the loud, busy environment of the normal programming.
Of course, the Disney fun does not end with children’s programming in the Club or with character encounters around the ship. My kids enthusiastically took a dip in the Mickey-shaped pool on our first sea day; despite cool temperatures, the pools on the ship are open when traveling in Alaska. And nearly every afternoon, the kids recharged while watching classic Disney movies from the top bunk of their bed on our cabin’s television.
Before boarding the ship, I was quite nervous about dinner time. My picky-eaters could barely sit still for ten minutes at home before leaving for the cruise, how was the family going to enjoy a leisurely three-course dinner? The servers on a Disney cruise ship can work wonders; they used every magic trick that they had up their sleeve to make our dining a pleasant experience. Bringing out the kids dinner first thing so that their deserts arrived at the same time as the adults’ entrees was ultimately the key to making our dinner a success; while the kids were distracted with their Mickey Bars, I had a chance to actually savor my dinner in relative peace. Having two servers who were experienced with entertaining over-tired children was another key to making our Alaskan cruise a true vacation.
Enjoy the Disney Magic