I cautiously walked onto the at Port Canaveral, panicked that I was about to go three days without seeing land and worried that the charms of the excited, err, screaming children would wear off before my breakfast prosecco did. But, when the crew—dressed in their nautical garb—clapped in unison as I walked passed the gilded staircase, announcing my name as if I were Cinderella arriving at the Prince's ball, I immediately felt at home on the impressive cruise liner.
Despite the fact that I have no children (unless you count my husband) and eight out of 10 families that go on a Disney cruise do bring their tots, I firmly believe that you're never too old to feel the magic of Disney. So, when Disney invited me along, I packed up my partner and two friends to set out for a weeklong Caribbean vacation with Captain Mickey and 2,700 tourists.
At the mid-ship welcome party, Minnie invited us all to dance as chirpy tunes blared over the speakers and dads hoisted their little ones on their shoulders. Without my sea legs, this all felt a little, um, overwhelming and I wondered if I finally found the only thing I actually was too old for (besides Fireball shots). But then, out in the distance a sign that read "18 " called to me from a completely empty deck, like a beacon of hope.
In that moment, I discovered the greatest hack for cruisers: If you don't want strangers' children distracting you from your sun-kissed bliss, go on a ship that's super kid-friendly because then you'll have the adults-only areas to yourself.
And thus began the most relaxing trip I've ever been on. There was no need to wake up early to claim chairs, the restaurants were never crowded because most tykes were off playing in Andy's room (a.k.a. the kids' club) while we were still recovering from our state room wine (you can bring two bottles each!). The only thing we had to stress about? Choosing which movie to fall asleep to every night. (My pick, Little Mermaid, got vetoed after the third screening.)
On days we had enough sun, we napped on warm stone loungers overlooking the ocean at the spa. We played cards at our favorite bar, Europa, where twinkling city "views" of Paris and London rotated on the prettiest projections.
We also took full advantage of the adults-only section of Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, where Olaf greeted us with open ... twigs.
And there was even time for a little romance. We befriended a couple who met at Disney Tokyo. I was incredulous when she mentioned they'd honeymooned on a Disney ship, but after eating at , one of the fine-dining restaurants, I kind of got it.
Lest you think we're total Ursulas, we did still participate in the family-friendly fun. I made sure to get a picture with every royal on board (Elsa, Anna, Ariel, Tiana, and Cinderella are my new BFFs) and took about 14 with Goofy. Some little girls even asked our friends for their autographs. Not surprisingly, I was never mistaken for a princess.
The best part? Getting dressed up with the entire ship on Pirate Night when everyone goes all the heck out. Pro tip: You can buy accessories onboard but don't forget to bring your own personal touches, like the giant parrot hats we're sporting below. Nothing unites a crowd quite like a shared enthusiasm for eye patches and plastic hooks, right?
On the balcony, flanked by three men and a hunky Captain Jack Sparrow, I soaked up the joy emanating from the families below. Toddlers with beards drawn from mom's mascara watched the sword fighting, while my own mini unit took in the fireworks, looking calmer than I ever imagined possible before we set sail.
Maybe it was the Dramamine, the billowing polyester pirate vests, or the fact that we couldn't afford cell data, but everyone managed to find peace on that ship. And if I ever have a little prince of my own, I might even consider leaving him home next time.