College Cruisers: Disney Cruise Line for the College-Age Crowd
by Mike Dion
AllEars® Guest Writer
This article appeared in the March 16, 2010 Issue #547 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
For most people looking to take a vacation with their college-age children, Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is not usually an obvious choice. As someone who frequently sails DCL, I am often asked if 18-to 22-year-olds will have fun, or if they will just spend the entire cruise bored. Will Mickey Mouse be everywhere or will the ship be overrun with kids? I hope to answer your questions and show that DCL really does cater to every age group.
Once you turn 18, DCL considers you an adult and allows access to every area on the ship. Of course, you must still be 21 to purchase alcohol. Several areas onboard are reserved for adults only, and this is strictly enforced, so you don't have to worry about little brothers or sisters bugging you the entire time. Beat Street on the Disney Magic and Route 66 on the Disney Wonder are the home of nighttime entertainment for adults. Diversions is the sports pub, showing all of your favorite teams throughout the cruise. Cadillac Lounge on the Wonder and Sessions on the Magic are the upscale piano bars and feature live music most nights of your cruise. At the heart of the action are the dance clubs, Rockin' Bar D on the Magic and Wavebands on the Wonder. These nightclubs feature themed dance parties ('70s night, Living Large, One Hit Wonders, etc.), adult game shows, adult-only cabaret shows (magicians, comedians, etc.) a live show band and much more. One game, Magic/Wonder Quest, is a ton of fun and not to be missed. Most nights, the dance clubs are open until 2 a.m., with the DJ taking over around 12:30. Don't worry about the music being lame; the ship keeps the music updated with the top 40 and the DJs will take requests. In addition to the nightclubs, DCL reserves the Quiet Cove Pool, the Cove Cafe (a coffee bar by the Quiet Cove Pool), and the spa and fitness center for adults. I recently went on a cruise with some college friends, and hung out in the adult-only areas for most of the cruise. One of my friends commented that they kept forgetting they were on a Disney cruise. The adult facilities are virtually Disney-free (in theming, not in experience), so you can choose to immerse yourself in everything Disney, mostly avoid it, or fall somewhere in between.
In addition to the other adult-exclusive activities that 18-to 22-year-olds are welcome to, DCL holds "College Club" activities throughout the cruise starting at either 10 or 10:30 p.m. on the first night of your cruise. The College Club is a casual get-together to help everyone meet and find people their age to hang out with. Times for the College Club can be found in your Personal Navigator which is distributed daily. I have found that attending the College Club social on the first night of the cruise is a great way to enhance the cruise experience and keep from being bored. On my past several cruises, we have all become really close, and many of us still keep in touch. The College Club Social is held in Diversions on the Magic and the Outlook Cafe on the Wonder. Throughout the cruise, there are a mix of other College Club activities, such as lunches in Parrot Cay on sea days, gatherings in Diversions, and meets at the Cove Cafe for smoothies and coffee. On the Magic, College Club Socials are timed so that everyone can meet up in Diversions, and then head over to the night's events in Rockin' Bar D together.
There is a world of options for every passenger on DCL. There is a sports court on deck 10 open 24 hours for play, food and snacks everywhere you turn, including late-night buffets and 24-hour room service, pool games, interesting ports to explore, trivia contests, and first-run movies. And of course, you can always lay by the pool and catch some rays. Throughout your cruise there will always be something to do, and people to hang out with.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
Jessica: I thought that there would be Disney stuff everywhere and I would be running into crazy kids everywhere I went. But actually I never saw kids except when walking past the kids' pool or at dinner.
- The adult pool — it was super relaxing.
- Free Food everywhere — all the food I ate at each of the dinners was really good and so was the room service and all the other food they had just sitting around the boat.
- Castaway Cay — the adult beach was nice because of the "no kids" thing. but the family beach was also really fun.
- Cabin Steward — she was so nice. She even folded my clothes.
- I know this is really something that can't be helped, but I didn't like leaving super-early on debarkation day. Like all college students, I hate waking up early .
- There weren't that many people our age and many of the adult activities were geared to older adults.
- While the clubs did stay open late, very few people were in them late so there was no one to have fun parties with.
Kyle: As a college student, I was hesitant about going on a Disney cruise at my age. However, the experience was amazing! It was the perfect trip to relax after a rough semester.
- The ship was beautiful; it was incredibly built and immaculately maintained.
- The "Disney" thing wasn't shoved down my throat.
- All the food I could ever eat!
- Castaway Cay is the greatest island ever.
- I should have prepared more for seasickness.
- Not enough things to do after midnight.
Victoria: I admit I was a bit skeptical about taking a Disney cruise at first, because I didn't think I'd be as "amazed" by the "magic" of Disney now that I'm in college. Man, I was wrong. Taking a Disney Cruise amazed me. I can't speak for the parks or resorts, because it's been a while for me, but the cruise line is awesome. The design of the ship is so subtle, that if you never went to the Mickey pool, you might not even know he was on the ship. Not having Disney show up on everything affected my experience a LOT. Disney films where I was able to see Princess & The Frog for free!
- Castaway Cay — so much fun .
- Food was incredible — absolutely all of it .
- The spa was mind-blowing .
- The adult pool was so relaxing .
- Our cabin steward was awesome — she folded our clothes and made sure we had everything we needed immediately .
- Almost everything being included: food, soda, towels, gym, first-run movies .
- Nassau — I thought it would be a bit more interesting than a bunch of markets with t-shirts and crappy knock-offs.
- There is not that much to do after midnight .
WHY I CHOOSE DCL
I am a Disney fan, so the magic of a Disney cruise is a draw for me, but there is so much more that keeps me coming back. The service is truly outstanding. The crew goes out of their way to make sure everyone has a great vacation. Some crew members don't see me for several months, and still call me by name. The food is excellent, a great improvement over college town cuisine (AKA pizza). I have never been bored for a moment onboard; usually I can't find enough time to do everything. You get to experience incredible ports, and see several sights without ever packing or unpacking. How many vacations let you do that? Throughout my time cruising, I have met many incredible people, and shared great experiences with people that I still talk to and hang out with till this day. DCL provides the vacation of a lifetime no matter your age.
TIPS & TRICKS
If you have more than one young adult, try getting them their own room. The extra freedom and the extra bathroom will make the vacation more enjoyable for everyone.
Encourage your child to attend the College Club Social; it will make their cruise a lot more fun.
Let your college student help with the planning process if they want, or keep them informed if they don't have time to help. I always help my parents plan the trips, and it helps me have more fun and get excited about the trip.
Since you sit with the same tablemates throughout the cruise, have a request put on your reservation to be seated with people close in age to your children. It won't always work, but if it does, dinnertime will be a great way to meet people and it will be more fun.
Take your child to a meal at Palo. If you want to have a romantic dinner alone, then have him or her join you for Palo Brunch or High Tea instead of dinner — it is an experience not to be missed. By the way, if they can't join you for dinner, the servers will often send a famous chocolate souffle or two back to the room with you.
TIPS & TRICKS
Go to the College Club Social on the first night of your cruise. It will make a huge difference in your cruise experience. And don't worry, I promise it won't be lame.
Help your parents plan the trip. You will have a lot more fun by helping add some things you want to do.
Spend some time talking to the crew members, especially the entertainment (cruise) staff. Most of them are in their 20s, and have some great stories to share. They can also offer a lot of advice about the ports. Everyone is really friendly, and will love being able to talk to you.
Ordering room service at 3:00 in the morning never hurt anyone.
From 11 p.m. to midnight snacks are served by the nightclubs. Also, pizza is served by the pool until midnight.
GO TO THE COLLEGE CLUB SOCIAL! I know I am repeating myself, but it really is that important. Go, meet awesome people, and I promise you will have the time of your life.
Mike Dion has written other guest blogs about Disney Cruise Line for AllEars.Net:
The Suite Life:
Castaway Cay Enhancements:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Dion is a sophomore at the University of Florida (UF) pursuing a bachelor's degree in International Business. Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he fell in love with Walt Disney World on his family's many trips to Orlando. In 2002, he and his family moved to Orlando and have been WDW annual passholders ever since. Mike took his first cruise on the Disney Wonder in 2006 and has since taken 11 cruises, seven on Disney Cruise Line. During the school year Mike performs improv comedy at UF.