Yes, those words, “Be home by 11:00 pm.” actually crossed my lips during our most recent Disney cruise. I was somewhat shocked and then held firm when the boy asked for midnight. I knew I would be saying those words eventually, but so soon? He’s only 10! Here’s what happened. . .
As a 10 year old sailing on a Disney cruise ship, parents can give their child the option to checking themselves in and out of the kids club. The boy could have had this privilege during our cruise in 2011, when we was 8, but since it was the first time on the Disney Dream, we declined that option. But this trip, he was older, more responsible, and familiar with the ship. We decided to give him check in and out privileges for the duration of the cruise.
This meant that he could use is bracelet with the RFID that was given to him at the port upon registering for the kids club to check himself into the Oceaneer’s Club or Lab for various activities throughout the cruise, and then check himself out of the club. It also meant that he would need to carry his Key to The World Card that was also the room key, which he did in his pocket. We also packed magnet clothes pins that we put on the back of our stateroom door and he would clip his card to the door when it wasn’t in his pocket, which saved looking for it later.
The late nights started with our very first night on board. We had eaten dinner, attended the tree lighting ceremony, went to the show and then the boy wanted to go to the club. Sure. We all went to check him in for the first time and make sure he arrived safely. It was 9:30 ish by this time. 11:00 pm seemed like a reasonable return time. The boy was thrilled as he had his watch to keep track of the time.
The husband and I browsed the shops, met some characters, and enjoyed the ship. It wasn’t long before it was 11:00 pm, so we returned to our stateroom. The minutes began to pass slowly as the boy wasn’t “home” yet.
Know that the location of our stateroom 5022 is a straight shot to and from the kids’ clubs. Same deck, same side of the ship, just leave one and walk almost the length of the ship to get to the other with a few corner turns. Another reason we felt more comfortable with the check in and out privileges.
At 11:15, I left our stateroom and began to walk down the corridor. Soon the boy appeared headed in the direction of our stateroom. He said he “thought he needed to go upstairs” to get to our stateroom. A ploy. He was exploring and enjoying his freedom. No harm, no foul.
By the end of our cruise, the boy was leaving the club to go to movies, swim, ride the AquaDuck, and meet characters and get his picture taken—even giving the ship’s photographers his Key to The World Card so the photos would be included in our account. We discovered this when we viewed the photos! He had become very familiar with the ship.
We did spend lots of time together as a family, eating breakfast and dinner together daily and enjoying the evening entertainment. Later in the evening we would separate and the boy enjoyed the club during the day on our “at sea” day and the day we were docked in Nassau.
Now, Disney Cruise Line not only knows you are going to spend time apart while cruising, they have planned for it with the addition of Wave Phones. Each stateroom has two Wave Phones that can be used to call and send text messages while on the ship and at Castaway Cay. While many families did use the wave phones, we preferred a more antiquated form of communication. I packed a small wipe off marker board with magnets that we attached to our bathroom door inside our stateroom. We used it to write messages indicating where we would be. And, many times, we just bumped into each other or had designated meeting times and locations such as on the last night of the cruise, when I told the boy to meet me in the lobby at 10:00 pm. He did, and the husband followed shortly.
The boy enjoyed and handled his new found freedom very well. We were pleased and are envisioning what it might look like during our next cruise. He will be 11 ½, old enough for the tween club which starts at age 11, The Edge, and still eligible for the kids’ club as they top out at age 12. This means he could do activities with either group or both. I have a feeling it will be both especially with our next cruise being longer.
Thinking back, there were some things that we did to make the transition to more freedom easier.
- Watch, a waterproof watch actually. This way the boy knew what time it was and made it easier for him to be at certain places at certain times.
- Pockets—for the Key to The World Card, even swimsuit with pockets. Yes, the lanyard could have worked, but with some of the physical play the lanyard can get in the way (taken off and misplaced), so we found pockets to be the best bet.
- Familiarity with the ship. Playing Midship Detective Agency is a great way to become familiar with the ship.
- White board in the stateroom for communication purposes. Wave phones are another option. (I didn’t want to pay $250 if one got lost or misplaced.)
- Visible storage with the magnetic clothes pins for the boy’s Key to The Word Card when he wasn’t using it. On other trips, the husband carries the boy’s card in his lanyard.
I was telling a friend this story and they wondered if the boy had then asked for the same freedom and late nights upon returning home. Nope. And it will be a while before that happens. . . at least hopefully!