Evolving cruise habits

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 10:40 PM | comments: 0

We took our 26th cruise for our 15th anniversary last weekend. Most importantly, we finally won some trivia, and cheap loot, and in a relentlessly dominating way. But after doing this for a decade, especially these shorter trips, things have definitely evolved.

It's hardly surprising that the biggest change is that we have a 14-year-old. Things actually started to change when he was 9, and we bought him a cheap $40 phone for the purpose of running the DCL app. With that, knowing that he could send us messages, we gave him some limited amount of autonomy. Mostly he could just check himself into the kids club, and later in the year, we let him check out as well. If he wanted to stop for ice cream or whatever, we let him do that, too. After the pandemic, he could go to the tween club, and ever since then he can pretty much do as he wants, provided he checks in, meets us for dinner and gets back to the room by midnight. This has actually been amazing, to see him be responsible. This last time, we even spotted him walking around Castaway Cay with new friends from Vibe (the teen club). It's a relief to see him find some of "his people."

This effectively means that, for much of the cruise, it's like we're vacationing without him. For a big "adventure" itinerary like Europe, this is more limited to at-sea days, but for these short "turn your brain off" Bahama runs, we're like empty nesters part of the time. I have mixed feelings about that, because we used to get all of the feels when he got hugs from Mickey or a princess, and those days have passed. On the other hand, Diana and I had a relatively short window between our first date and being parents (not quite three years), so getting more "us" time is good. We aren't really limited to specific date nights at home either, since we don't need babysitters anymore.

We've really only had one non-tropical itinerary in this new phase, last year's Northern Europe (various posts), but Simon's relative maturity is largely the reason that we could even do that. Eating for him while traveling is still very challenging, as we discovered last month in DC, so for the sake of all of our enjoyment, that's still a good way to see a lot over a relatively short period of time. We are considering maybe a single European city with him, where, worst case, we know we can find a McDonald's. We found one in Copenhagen, and it's the same shit you can get anywhere. I think longer cruises are still a safe bet.

Meanwhile, we enjoy finding a spot where we can avoid large crowds and reliably meet folks, both guests and bartenders. That's the dirty little secret about Disney cruises, is that so many families dine or see the shows late, then retire, so you can often get very exclusive feeling service. We meet so many people, and sometimes we even keep in touch with them. We've even hosted a server for a few days. Again, this is so much easier with a kid who doesn't need constant supervision.

The enjoyment comes in different ways though, and the ships make a difference. We haven't been on the Wonder or Magic since 2017, but the smaller scale and clustered adult areas I'm sure would be solid. The Dream and the Fantasy, all longer itineraries since the Wish debuted, have been a lot of fun for us, as we often hang out in Skyline, the martini bar. The adult experience on the Wish feels disjointed. The piano bar, Nightingale's, seems like our spot, but the skill of many of the bartenders and selections elsewhere has greatly improved. Also, with four laps on the Wish, half of them have been in concierge, and that is an exceptionally different and awesome experience because of the exclusive areas (including a bar) that you have access to. I'm not sure if most people would find the extra cost worth it, unless you really value exclusivity. And sometimes, we do.

I'm generally better about food and drink that I used to be, which is to say I don't stop and get pizza every time I go by it. I'm way more disciplined. That's extra hard on the Wish, because all of their daytime counter service options are the best in the fleet. The buffet stuff is great too (fantastic tikka masala!). I noticed on this last one that I don't slam drinks the way that I used to either, which I'm sure is some combination of age and having a home bar. On our last night, I left dinner with the same drink that I entered with. I'm sure my kidneys appreciate that.

The biggest change over the years though is that we're not trying to do all of the things while onboard. The point is to relax. We used to try to see every show and movies and deck parties and other stuff, but these days, it's just whatever feels right in the moment. Like 80's music trivia, which I understandably would have an unfair advantage in. That's why we had a perfect score and dominated the other 40 or so people in the room. We have the cheap swag to prove it.


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