Thursday, January 20, 2011
Disney Cruise Line Kids' Clubs
I was browsing the boards at Passporter.com the other day and a question popped up about when the kids go to the kids’ clubs on the Disney Cruise Line. Good question!
Our family has enjoyed 3 Disney cruises and we are happily preparing for our 4th Disney cruise. The first was March 2007—the boy was 4. The second was July 2008—the boy was 5. The third was December 2009—the boy was 7, and he will be 8 for our next cruise. So, we have had lots of experience with the kids’ clubs on board.
The kids’ clubs on board have historically been divided into age categories. The nursery is for children 12 weeks to 3 years, the Club for kids 4-7, the Lab for kids 8-12, and then a teen location for 13-17. Recently, there have been changes to the system to allow for more flexibility.
One change happened just after our last cruise with the blending of activities for the 4-10 year old crowd. Disney began to offer strands or themed activities so families could pick and choose the activities the kids would like, rather than be assigned to an age specific activity.
We ran into that dilemma during our first cruise. The boy really wanted to learn “How to be a pirate,” but that activity was for the 5-8 year olds. With some pursasion, he was able to join the activity with the older kids. By the time we experienced our 3rd cruise, there was definitely more mixing of the ages for the activities. He spent more time in the Lab than in the Club, even though he was 7.
The blending of ages and activities is certainly helpful for families, as siblings can participate in activities together or separately, if they desire.
With the addition of the new ship, additional space has been dedicated to the 10-12 year olds in one of the funnels of the ship. The 13-17 year olds now the entire bow of the ship on Deck 5 and I hear it is one of the coolest spaces ever with both indoor and outdoor space.
As far as when kids go to the clubs, the answer is almost anytime. Typically, the kids areas are open for registration on the first afternoon and early evening on board, then after that, they are open morning ‘til night. And for the older kids, I understand activities are happening until the wee hours of the morning.
The boy enjoys going to the club when he has finished eating. Since dining on a cruise is part of the experience, and meals can last 90 minutes or more, when we sit down for dinner, we order his entire meal and ask for it to be served at the same time. So he eats his dinner, including dessert in about the same amount of time it takes for us to eat our appetizer. Then, he is off to the club and we leisurely enjoy the rest of our meal. (The only time we don’t do this is when it is “show night” at Animator’s Palate—which entertains everyone!) When we are finished eating, we might take stroll around the ship or browse the shops before the evening show. If it is a show the boy would like, we stop by and pick him up in the club. If not, he stays while we see the show and then we pick him up.
Since port days can be very busy with shore excursions or port adventures, he doesn’t spend much time in the club on those days, other than after dinner. On sea days, he can choose to hang out with us or go to the club. His choice—the club. On our last cruise, the last sea day, he and his dad saw The Princess and the Frog movie in the theater after breakfast while I hung out by the pool on Deck 10. After the movie the boy decided he wanted to go to the club rather than swim. OK. We checked in on him around lunch time. He wanted to stay and have lunch. OK. Toy Story boot camp followed and he didn’t rejoin us until almost time for dinner.
If the kids are in the clubs during meals, they make their way to a designated restaurant to eat. This even happens on Castaway Cay if the kids are at the kids’ club on the island.
There are no fees for the clubs for the 4 and up crowd. The nursery has an hourly fee and reservations are needed. Parents can make those reservations on-line prior to their cruise. For the 10 and up group, drinks—smoothies, are sometimes made and served, so I’m guessing there would be a charge for those drinks while in the teen and pre-teen clubs. If someone knows that for sure, please add a comment.
The families with kids registered for the kids clubs on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder are given pagers. This way, the parents can be sent a message if their child needs something while in the club. On the Disney Dream, guests will receive 2 wave phones in their staterooms. If a child in a club needs something, the Cast Members will call or text the phones.
We have heard stories of families where their child doesn’t want to go the club or is hesitant. If that is the case, the parents are welcome to attend the club with their child. This may help the child feel more comfortable. Also, going to the club on the very first day—during open house and registration—can be helpful as this as when acquaintances form and there may be a familiar face in the group the next time the child returns. On our last cruise, our table mates had a daughter the same age as the boy. She was hesitant to go to the club, but when she knew the boy was going, she was more eager. Often, the two of them would go together. The other family was grateful that she felt more comfortable going to the club—it was their 3rd Disney cruise, too.
Disney cruising to me is family cruising and their goal is make sure that every member of the family has an incredible vacation experience. That goal extends to the kids clubs on board. We have always been pleased and the boy can’t wait to try out the new facilities on the Dream!