Disney takes on the world

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Photo by David Roark
Photo by David Roark

The Disney Magic makes its way into the sheltered harbor of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

From some pretty modest beginnings the Disney empire has grown to become one of the most easily recognized symbols in the world.  The little rodent with the big ears started life in what was almost a stick-figure cartoon, “Steamboat Willie.”

Today Willie, better known as Mickey Mouse, not only entertains children throughout the United States, but on several other continents as well.  And it continues to grow.

Moving from land onto the high seas, Disney utilized the services of several cruise lines to expand its brand.  It didn’t take long for the company to realize that it needed far more capacity that someone else’s ship could provide and Disney Cruise Line was born.

Today there are four Disney luxury liners ranging the seas from the Caribbean toAlaskatoEurope.

While the line’s main thrust is a “magical” experience for the younger set, adults are far from ignored.

On September 22 Disney Cruises kicks off a high seas Halloween celebration on the Disney Dream.  This brand new event will offer costume parties, lively entertainment and lots of spooky fun for all ages.

The entire Disney fleet will join the fun and activities with special decorations, unique menu items and themed deck parties during special Halloween voyages.

The fun continues with winter holiday cruise celebrations with the “Very Merrytime Cruises on the Fantasy and Wonder on November 9 and on the Dream and Magic the following day.  There will be stem-to-stern holidays events such as traditional Turkey Day fanfare, Christmas feasts, snow flurries (in the Caribbean?) and New Year’s Eve gala celebrations.

For those sailing south one of the best stops in warm water is Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (pronounce it correctly—“key”) that is in the running for both the best fun stop and the most relaxing little island in the world.

There are protected beaches where the little ones cam swim or just enjoy themselves without worried parents helicoptering overhead.  One section of beach has small sting rays that young and old can pet, feed or just watch as they swim around.

A tram runs between all of the beaches and back to the dock where your ships sits waiting your return.  But take your time because there is a huge covered area for dining and several options for food.  There are the inevitable souvenir stands, but where in the world can you go without that?

Try boating, parasailing, snorkeling and any variety of water sports while on the island or just do nothing at all.  The hundreds of lounge chairs and overhead frond umbrellas protect guests from becoming crispy critters in theCaribbeansun.  But even with that don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen…and use it.

While virtually every cruise line excels at the entertainment it provides, few, if any, have been at it as long as Disney has and had the opportunity to keep the attention of both children and adults.

In 2014 the Disney Magic will return to Croatia and one of the quaintest ancient cities in the world,Dubrovnik.  This beautiful World Heritage site, that was once a major world power, now sits peacefully on the Adriatic ensconced behind its crenellated walls.  The red tile roofs sparkle in the sun, but look for those brighter than the others.  They were replaced after the war with the Serbs when the city was mercilessly bombarded and nearly destroyed.

Walk the cobblestone streets and stop in to the produce market or one of the quaint boutiques that line the street.  Wander off the main street that sits under the watchful eye of the clock tower at its end and go into the side streets.  There you’ll find small taverns that date back hundreds and hundreds of years.  Relax there with a cool, modern beer or soft drink and then continue through the town.

The Magic will be a busy ship with an extended set of cruises that will also take it to the Italian city ofVenicein 2013 and again next year.  While it cruises Europe, Venice will be the ship’s home port.

You won’t find a casino on any of the line’s liners because they don’t want mom and dad to end up all day and night gambling to the exclusion of the children.  Disney is giving up a huge chunk of dollars by foregoing a casino but the company feels it is well worth it to ensure that passengers have quality family time.

There are lounges that serve alcohol and other adult beverages and you can order them at dinner in the various restaurants, so while children are a focus, adults are not forgotten.

The same holds true for entertainment.  There are no Andrew Dice Clay foul-mouthed entertainers spewing potty-quality jokes, but there are shows oriented to an older audience.  Even here there is nothing that would make a parent blush in front of a kid.

The Disney ships could easily be classified as Disney World on the High Seas.  Activities on some ships include a plexiglass water slide that takes the strong of heart out over the water and then back onto the ship.

If you want activity aboard a Disney ship or on land at one of its exotic ports, it is there.  If you want to chill, there won’t be a cruise director cajoling you to work out.  It’s your vacation and they understand that.