COMPANY OVERVIEW: The Disney Cruise Line has the best cabins for families and devotes the most space --almost an entire deck--to areas for kids. The Disney characters on-board charm the children and the ship is a sleek, art deco inspired beauty.
Disney's perfectly scrubbed clean, private island is functional but bland. For many people, Castaway Cay is perfect. There are several coves of sand, bike trails, snorkeling areas, an island lunch . But for others, the island doesn't feel at all Bahamian.
When the cruise line launched in July 1998, there were glitches. Most problems, including slow turn-around on cabins, bland food, and not much for adults to do during the day, have been remedied. Recent reports from cruisers are good.
DESTINATIONS: Disney packages the 3 and 4 day Bahamas cruise, incuding time at Disney's private island, with the rest of the week at Walt Disney World.
SHIPS: Disney Wonder, Disney Magic
KIDS/FAMILY PROGRAMS OFFERED: Disney Cruise Line offers creative, year-round program for ages 3-5, 6-8, 9-10, 11-12 and a teen program for ages 13-17.
The ships have the largest children's rooms afloat with 15,000 square feet of space. There are separate playrooms for ages 3-8 and ages 9-12 plus a teen room.The Captain Hook themed Oceaneer's Club, designed for ages 3-8, has big rubbery fish to play on, barrels to climb through, and a two-story slide. In the Oceaneer's Lab, designed for ages 9-12, Buzz Lightyear looms over the computer bank and a wall-size video game invites pairs of kids to play.
The nightly shows are a pastiche of Disney tunes and characters plus an original pirate adventure. "Studio Sea's" alternating quiz show and disco gives families additional fun choices. During the day and at night disney movies are shown. Plus, the improvisational group in Off Beat, a comedy club for adults only, is clever.
TEENS: Teens 13-17 can enjoy an area created just for them. Resembling a trendy coffee bar, "Common Grounds" offers a place for teens to hang out, dance, and meet other kids their age from around the world. Wisely, Common Grounds is placed far away from the kids' centers and next to the activity pool. On the private island teen activities scheduled are creative such as building a raft from poles and one outing is a teen dance day cruise. The biggest problem when we were on-board were the lackadaisical counselors who seemed not to want to be with the teens.
NUMBER OF YOUTH COUNSELORS ONBOARD: For 3-8 year olds, there is a ratio of one counselor to every 15 children. For 9-12 year olds, the ratio is one counselor to every 25 children.
HOURS OF OPERATION ONBOARD: From 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
IN-PORT KIDS PROGRAMS: The kids' programs on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, don't include swimming so many kids prefer to be with their parents in the water.