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5 ways Disney makes cruising Europe easy for families


Many people know Disney Cruise Line for its family-friendly cruises from North American home ports to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico and Alaska. But did you know that every summer, one Disney cruise ship makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean for a season in the Mediterranean?

Previously, Disney Magic was the lucky ship to cruise among the charming European ports, but in 2023, Disney Dream sailed to the Mediterranean for the first time. The ship will continue to take families to bucket-list-worthy destinations around Europe, including Italy, France, Greece and Norway, next summer, too.

If you’re thinking about taking a European cruise and wondering how to balance traveling with kids and venturing into historic cities, don’t panic. Here are five ways Disney is making the Europe cruise experience as simple and smooth as possible for families of all types.

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Children can stay in the kids clubs while parents explore the ports

Fairytale Hall is part of Disney’s Oceaneer Club, offering kids interactive experiences. AMY SMITH/ DISNEY CRUISE LINE

Long port days can be hard for parents who want to see the historic sites in Rome, visit wineries in Tuscany or enjoy a guided hike in Norway but fear their kids will get bored quickly or are too young to participate in some activities.

One of the biggest perks for families cruising with Disney Cruise Line is that kids can stay in the dedicated kids clubs on board the cruise ship while parents explore the various ports of call on their own. Parents can drop junior cruisers off at the clubs before getting off the ship and know that their children are being cared for by the counselors their kids have already met.

Even better, playtime in Disney Dream’s four youth activity spaces is included in the overall cost of the sailing. Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are dedicated spaces for kids ages 3 to 12, where they can play games, do crafts or hang out with a good book while under the supervision of the counselors.

Related: Best cruise lines for families

While you’re out enjoying the port, you can also be assured that Disney is taking care of your children’s rumbling tummies because the kids clubs provide meals inside the club during the day.

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Older kids have their own shipboard spaces. Edge is Disney’s tween club for those ages 11 to 14, where guided activities, like video game competitions and dance parties, take place daily. Edge is located inside the faux forward funnel on Disney Dream, so it feels exclusive.

Teens ages 14 to 17 can enjoy Vibe, where they’ll learn how to make movies or watch them on the 103-inch TV. Disney Dream also has a private sundeck for teens, which is only accessible with a Vibe-coded room keycard. (Be sure to check in at Vibe on embarkation day to ensure your teen’s room key will allow them into the deck area.) Both Edge and Vibe have a free come-and-go policy, so kids can enjoy the spaces as they want without parents having to check them in or out.

No matter which club your kids hang out in, they will have plenty of fun, and parents can rest assured that if anything happens, the counselors know what to do. They have access to every phone number for Disney-led port excursions, so if your child has an emergency and the ship can’t reach you directly, Disney can call the tour operator.

If you are touring ports on your own, inform the counselors of your plans and give them your best contact information on embarkation day.

Disney Cruise Line offers both family-friendly and adults-only shore excursions 

Disney shore excursion in Rome, Italy. CHLOE RICE/DISNEY CRUISE LINE

Disney’s shore excursions in Europe cater to all types of travelers and desired experiences with family-friendly and adults-only options.

Grown-ups who may be traveling without kids or have dropped their children off at the kids clubs can enjoy tours designated for cruisers ages 18 and older. The adults-only tours often move at a faster pace, so pack your walking shoes if you plan to do a heavy day of sightseeing, especially in cities like Rome or Athens.

Adults will find that excursions through Disney Cruise Line encompass a wide range of interests, from wine tastings and local food tours to venturing into historical sites. There are even some adventure sports like riding ATVs.

If traveling with young kids, book the tours labeled “for families” or “featuring exclusive youth activity” early since they fill up quickly.

Related: Shore excursions: What new cruisers need to know

Family tours are often less strenuous than the traditional or adults-only departures, allowing for little legs to keep up with the group. They feature longer breaks or time on your own, so kids can get a rest and perk up with a sweet treat, like gelato in Italy.

Tours labeled with the phrase “featuring exclusive youth activity” will include time for adults and kids to have separate activities. One of the options with this label is a tour of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, where kids learn how to make pizza at a local restaurant with the help of the Disney Cruise Line youth counselors while parents enjoy time on their own or on a guided tour. Everyone comes back together for lunch.

Booking shore excursions through Disney Cruise Line also guarantees that you won’t be left behind in a foreign city if your tour runs late getting back to the ship.

Casual dining options are plentiful after long days of sightseeing

Flo’s Cafe on Disney Dream. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

After a long day sightseeing in port, the last thing your kids want to do is sit through a long dinner in one of Disney’s three main dining rooms. This means finding dinner elsewhere on the ship, which is easy thanks to Disney’s quick-service options on the pool decks.

Families can grab a quick bite from three “Cars”-themed service windows at Flo’s Cafe every evening. The menus here are packed with kid-friendly favorites, such as chicken tenders, burgers, salads, wraps, pizza and more. Flo’s also has sandwich specials that change daily, including tasty options like spicy fried chicken and pulled pork.

You can be in and out in 15 to 20 minutes and then have time to see the nighttime shows or get to bed early before another day of exploration in a new port.

Alternatively, families can order room service, which is included in the cost of your Disney Dream cruise. Room service can take a while to arrive if you, like hundreds of your shipmates, are ordering during peak dinner hours. However, the joy of eating dinner in your pajamas in a space where kids can squirm freely may be just what your family needs after a long day off the ship.

Related: 12 dining mistakes you must fix on your next cruise

Pro-tip: If you’re a chicken wing connoisseur, Disney Cruise Line has some of the best wings at sea on its room service menu. They are crispy and juicy, served piping hot, and the buffalo sauce is spicy.

If your family wants to eat in the main dining room, and you’re on the early seating rotation, Disney offers some leniency on longer port days when tours tend to return to the ship late. A ship officer or dining team member will often be out on the pier announcing that the main dining rooms are still seating guests until a certain cut-off time. If your family can make it to your assigned dining room in time, you can enjoy a meal there.

Just know that if you miss a dinner show one night, there’s no second opportunity to see it again, even on longer sailings. So, if your family is set on seeing or participating in a certain dinner show, like “Animation Magic” – where you draw a figure on a special sheet of paper and it comes to life on screens around Animator’s Palate – you will want to ask your dining team which night that show is being performed.

The cruise ship is a familiar home base with plenty of Disney charm

MEGAN DUBOIS/THE POINTS GUY

Visiting new cities and towns can be as draining as it is exciting. Riding for hours in a bus and walking around all day in the warm European sun can wear out both adults and kids. Also, the stress of navigating different languages and unfamiliar cities can be unsettling if you’re not used to it. That’s why it’s nice to have a friendly home base for your travels on a Disney cruise ship.

One of the biggest perks to cruising, in general, is that you unpack once. You don’t need to deal with the hassle of packing up and swapping hotels mid-trip.

Upon returning to the ship each day, children can enter a familiar world where they have their stuff set up how they like in their cabin, they can interact with their favorite Disney characters, and they can join friends in the kids clubs to play games and swap stories about the day’s adventures. Parents can relax and not worry about where to eat dinner in a strange city.

Around the ship, families will find plenty of familiar Disney fun, so evenings are easy and carefree. Most nights, families can watch a live performance in the main Walt Disney Theater or catch a movie in the Buena Vista Theater, including newly released movies currently playing in theaters at home.

Related: 26 Disney cruise tips, tricks, secrets and extra magic to unlock when setting sail with Mickey

If your kids are into meeting characters, they are in for a treat. Mickey Mouse and all his pals will dress up in themed outfits for the various European ports of call and come to the ship’s public spaces for meet-and-greets.

The Disney princesses are also onboard to greet everyone and pose for photos. They also host tea parties, but parents be warned, the tea party is an added cost, and reservations fill up quickly.

Of course, no Disney cruise is complete without a deck party or two. On select Mediterranean sailings, fireworks will light up the sky over the Mediterranean Sea with Disney’s iconic Pirate Night deck party.

Travelers can bookend cruises with Adventures by Disney short escapes

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. POL ALBARRAN/GETTY IMAGES

Extending your stay in Europe is a great way to take advantage of flying halfway around the world to get on a Disney cruise. Take the hassle out of planning what to do before or after your cruise by booking an Adventures by Disney guided tour.

Families with kids ages 5 and older are allowed to book, though Adventures by Disney does suggest that kids are at least 6 years old. Children under 5 are not permitted on these tours.

The tours take place in Barcelona, London and Rome, all of which have associated ports that Disney Cruise Line sails from throughout its European season. The guided tours include meals, hotel accommodations, transportation to and from the ship and tours of the major sites in each city.

Escapes in Barcelona are four days long. Families can enjoy a privately guided tour of La Sagrada Família cathedral and Parque Güell, plus time at the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona and the medieval abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat.

If your cruise departs from Civitavecchia, Italy, the Rome escape may be a fun add-on to your trip. The four-day tour includes a VIP Colosseum tour, a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, and plenty of time to explore the city on your own.

Families departing on Disney Cruise Line from Southampton, England, can book the London escape, which is only three days. The trip starts with a high-speed boat ride on the River Thames and dinner at a local pub. Other activities on the tour include a private viewing of the Crown Jewels, afternoon tea and a private tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Bottom line 

Whether you’re a cruise pro or sailing around Europe for the first time, Disney Cruise Line makes sailing the historic coastlines of Europe easy and fun for families.

The ship makes for a familiar home base, with plenty of activities for kids and adults. The cruise line’s shore excursions satisfy the interests of families exploring together while providing options for adults who need a more grownup experience in port. Just be sure to pack your walking shoes and a positive attitude!

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