While often viewed as the premiere ships for parents of young children, Disney Cruise Lines also caters to the desires of older kids. Tweens, in particular, benefit from the diverse array of areas and activities on the ship designed just for them. Being a transitional age group (10-12), the Disney ships offer the security of supervised areas alongside adult-free zones where kids can test their budding social skills. As my daughter enters the tween years, her recent experience on the Disney Dream was exciting and let her choose which activities had appeal.
A Note on Tweens and Social Independence
Whether your tweens gravitate to more elementary school type activities or want to explore their new found independence, there are areas of the ship and safeguards in place to allow them to enjoy being a kid. Two kids clubs, one for younger kids requiring a parent check in and one exclusive to tweens, offer a safe and secure supervised experience. Disney also provides a pair of ship board phones in each stateroom to keep in contact with your kids, and the Navigator app will allow texts between smart phones while at sea. This environment is perfect for letting your children explore their social skills and prove they can be responsible without parents having to worry. Making new friends outside of their normal social circles is quite exciting and free from the usual pressures.
Clubs for Tweens
Oceaneer Lab – The Oceaneer Lab provides a supervised space for kids to participate in activities alongside other kids and Disney counselors. The activities range from science experiments to Star Wars Jedi training to playing video games. The lab is also connected to the Oceaneer Club, so ages range from 3 to 12. Activities are grouped by age, so tweens aren’t stuck doing the same things as preschoolers, unless they want to. Parents must check kids in and out of the club and all kids wear a secured MagicBand to keep track of where they are at all times. It’s a large space with several rooms, so kids can wander about and find what theme or activities suite their tastes. Naturally, we headed straight to the Millennium Falcon mock up during open house.
The Edge – For more independent tweens, the Edge club is an adult-free lounge for ages 11-14. Disney counselors oversee activities ranging from karaoke and dancing, video games, to a pizza trivia game which ends with kids making their own pizzas. There are also plenty of comfy couches and bean bag chairs for kids to lounge around and watch the ocean through the floor to ceiling windows or socialize with other tweens. It’s the perfect place to hang out for kids who may feel intimidated by older teens.
Activities Around the Ship
Midship Detective Agency – My daughter’s favorite activity on the ship, this interactive detective game was a hit with several kids we saw throughout the ship. To begin, kids go to a special kiosk and choose one of the cases. Themes available on our cruise included Muppets, Mickey & Friends, and 101 Dalmatians. Users then scan a detective badge and an intro to the story plays on the screen.
Players then use their case map to locate interactive screens disguised as artwork on several decks of the cruise ship. Using their badge to activate the screen, a new part of the story plays. Players learn new clues to record on their case map or cross off suspects from the chart until the culprit is found. The game is randomized, so even if kids choose the same mission, the outcome may be different.
Goofy Sports Deck – Deck 13 Aft has a few low key activities tweens can enjoy. There is a 9 hole mini-golf course. It’s fun, but not up to my daughter’s expectations of Disney creativity. There is also a ping pong table and a pair of Foosball tables, which are great for hanging out. A basketball court is rounds out the area.
Located in the center of the deck is a sports simulator room. Participants can engage in simulated baseball, golf, soccer, and other sports. Reservations are required and fees range from about $13 to $28 per half hour depending on the game package. Guests 13 and under need an adult present to participate.
Pools – There are two small pools on the main open deck (11). Honestly, I can’t see tweens wanting to hang out in these areas with all the little kids and parents. My daughter took one look at the crowds and said ‘no way.’
AquaDuck – This amazing water slide shoots a two person raft in loops around and through the ship via a Plexiglas tube. Tweens in the Edge club get a glimpse of riders as the tube runs right past the windows. The slide runs 765 feet and drops a total of four decks by the end of the run. For added fun, ride after dark when the colored lights are aglow. Riders must be 42 inches or taller and single riders need to be at least 54 inches tall.
Character Meet and Greets – A variety of Disney characters meet throughout the ship and also on Castaway Cay. Check the daily Navigator issue for times and locations. Meets are not that long, so be sure to get there ahead of time. Also note that photo ops require reservations and the characters do not sign autographs at these sessions.
Stage and Screen Shows
Walt Disney Theater – Each ship features an exclusive play, our was running Beauty and the Beast, along with other Broadway style stage shows. Movies may be screened during the day too.
Buena Vista Theater – This 399 seat movie theater screens current major films from the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars franchises. Movies run throughout the day and include some in 3D. A snack bar serves up popcorn and other treats for an additional charge, so don’t forget to stop by the drink machine before heading to the theater.
Food Options for Tweens
Disney Cruises give parents and tweens the opportunity to split up and decide on their own food options. Consider letting your tweens break free from the formal, scheduled, sit down dinners and decide what to eat for themselves.
Flo’s V8 Cafe – Flo’s serves up your basic burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads. Perfect for the casual or picky eaters in your group. Most tweens will be happy with the fare here.
Frozone’s Treats – What’s better than a counter full of soft serve ice cream machines waiting for you to step up with a cone? Vanilla, Chocolate, swirl, and strawberry flavors are available all day. The infamous Dole Whip can also be found here, but at an added cost.
Cabana’s – For the more adventurous palates, Cabana’s offers an amazing selection of dishes. Seafood, steak, sushi, salad bar, and more topped off with some delicious desserts.
Vanellope’s Sweet Shop – This colorful candy shop offers bulk candy, over the top ice cream flavors, and beautiful treats. Items in this shop must be purchased separately.
While the island doesn’t offer the same level of independence as the ship, there are plenty of appealing activities to take part in on land and in the water. Kids can take part in beach sports, such as volleyball, or hang out in the shaded game areas to play ping pong. Dance parties and karaoke can also be found around the island. Cookies BBQ serves lunch most of the day and, of course, there are soft serve ice cream machines.
Families can take part in a variety of water sports. Swimming with rays, snorkeling, jet skis, and more. Check the Disney Cruise Lines website for specifics and prices.
As you can see, Disney Cruise Lines offer an amazing variety of entertainment options for tweens. The opportunity for them to practice their social skills and independence are also a big part of the enjoyment for tweens on a Disney cruise. To help you decide which Disney Cruise ship to choose, read Traveling Dad Tim’s post here.