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Slowly Catching Up to the Idea of Family Cruising

Susan SchafferFor those travel professionals that were not in the industry at the time, in pre-1998 most cruise lines pooh-poohed the idea of families being a large segment of the cruise industry. And then this little start-up cruise line came along. They tested their theory first by putting their characters on The Big Red Boat. Once they were convinced that they had a viable business model, they struck out on their own. In 1998 the Disney Magic was launched, followed up the next year with the Disney Wonder. After that, you could say the rest was history. Disney Cruise Line continually fills their ships (now up to four ships total) on a variety of itineraries. Of course, not everyone on a Disney ship is traveling with minor children; some grown up “kids” that love all that is Disney cruise with DCL on a regular basis.

But the DCL ships were built with families in mind. Every single stateroom is at minimum a triple occupancy room. EVERY room. With all of the other cruise ships that have been built and put into service over the last fifteen plus years, the focus is still on double occupancy rooms. However, slowly but surely, the other cruise lines are coming around to seeing the need for family-friendly staterooms. They are coming out with connecting rooms for larger families, a variety of staterooms (from interior rooms and up) that can sleep five or six people in one room, etc. Yes, these are all moves in the right direction, but Disney is still unique in building ships that can sleep three people at minimum in every single stateroom.

Another industry first that was introduced by Disney is the split bathroom. If you’ve never been on (or inspected) a Disney ship, the split bathroom concept is simple: two bathrooms in a standard stateroom (the lower category interior rooms don’t have these, but all other rooms do have them). One bathroom has a tub/shower combo and a sink in it, and the other bathroom has a toilet and a sink in it. Another Disney exclusive is the fact that there is a tub/shower combo in every single stateroom; whereas other mass market cruise lines tend to stick with showers only until you get up into their suite categories. My husband would point out though; those tubs are not built for six foot tall adults to “lounge in.” But they are included with the families in mind; especially when it comes to bathing younger kids and infants.

I do applaud cruise line as they continue to make strides towards becoming more accommodating to families, but they are still playing catch up. It’s been 17 years since Disney hit the waves with their innovative ships, yet everyone else is still in catch-up mode. I do get an occasional chuckle when a cruise line announces the “next big thing” for families, and it’s really not new, because Disney has been doing it all along.


Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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