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Kid-Friendly Character Cruises

Disney Cruise Line

WHO: Princesses, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Nemo, Woody…plus Mickey

SHIPS: Disney Dream, Magic, Wonder, Fantasy

GROWN-UPS LOVE: Stretched out on a cushy chaise, I sip a frosty mudslide and watch a pair of dolphins cavort in the distance. The faint sound of steel drums is interrupted as a barista pops over to offer a plate of brie, raspberries, and warm cinnamon cookies. Being a single mom means time to myself just doesn't happen, yet here I am, wavering on whether to turn the page of my book or not. Suddenly, a steel hook reaches over my shoulder to flip it for me. I call out a thank-you to the passing mustachioed nemesis of Peter Pan, marveling at yet another Disney cast member who can, apparently, read minds.

The ships go practically everywhere, from Alaska to the Mediterranean. Kris Griffin of Homewood, AL, took the Port Canaveral, FL, route to Nassau, Bahamas, with her kids, yet came back recharged. “My husband and I hit the adult-only areas,” she recalls. That included napping on the heated, ceramic-tiled loungers in the spa and having drinks in the Skyline bar, with its transforming virtual views of cosmopolitan cities. “We had a real grown-up vacation.” My favorite no-kids-allowed treat: the gourmet tasting menu at Remy, complete with wine pairings.

KIDS LOVE: My 8-year-old, Nakoa, literally ran to the Ratatouille cooking lesson at the kids' club, a place I couldn't keep him out of if I'd wanted to. At lunchtime, servers cut kids' food for them and pour their ketchup into the shape of Mickey. Tweens can chill during smoothie hour on their own private sundeck or tech out at a disco with an interactive dance floor.

The littlest sailors escape to Andy's Room to play with Slinky Dog and Buzz or enjoy storytime with Belle. They'll be tagged with a GPS bracelet, and you'll be issued a pager, so their time in the club (open until 12 a.m.—yes, midnight) is worry-free. Counselors even pop by dinner tables to escort antsy kids to the club while their parents finish eating.

DON'T MISS: The enchanted paintings hidden all over the ship. They look like regular artwork, but they “sense” when someone is nearby and change from a still image to an animated one, complete with music and voices.

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