Shaken or stirred?
Aboard the Disney Magic, as we're sailing in the Mediterranean, veteran bartender Arul Swarmy discusses which martinis should be shaken (vodka) or stirred (gin). Of course, we have a mini-martini in front of us. Welcome to Mixology 101 — sold out, by the way.
Who says Disney Cruises are just for kids?
On a ship where kids make up more than 40 percent of the passenger list — some 1,050 on this 11-day cruise — the adults insist they are having as much fun as the kids and they're not just hanging around the Mickey Pool or playing Disney Tune Trivia.
"Disney takes care of the kids and we can have some time for ourselves, which we don't get to do at home," says Melissa Liller. She and three friends — all wives of Air Force pilots who live in Germany while their husbands are in Afghanistan — are cruising with 10 children, all six and under. "This really works as a getaway for moms."
Elsewhere on the ship, adults snooze in the sun at the adult Quiet Cove pool, work out in the fitness center, get pampered in the spa, check out a cooking demonstration (ever want to know how to make Spiced Island Jerk Chicken?) or attend a lecture on Rome, which we'll be visiting, given by a university classics professor.
There is also the chance for brunch, tea or dinner at Palo, the adult-only restaurant (the 18 and older rule is strictly enforced.) The restaurant only seats 120 people and costs extra, but the tab (less than $20 a person) is well worth it for the thin-crust pizzas, Sicilian Pesto marinated grilled shrimp salad, grilled Portobello mushrooms, risottos, Lobster ravioli, beef tenderloin and stupendous chocolate souffle. And this being Disney, they don't blink when we ask for a couple of extra souffles — accompanied by gelato, of course — to take to a couple of chocoholic teens two young to accompany us.
In just one day at sea, you could go from a sommelier selection tasting at 12:30 to a martini tasting at 2:30 and the mixology seminar at three. At four there's a tequila seminar and at 10:30 a cognac tasting, followed by adult versions of onboard entertainment — comedians, magicians, musicians.
The spa does a healthy business too — some 500 treatments per cruise, spa manager Erika McAvitt tells me when I show up for my combination facial and massage. (Did I mention the Tropical Rain Forest Room with steam, sauna, tropical showers and heated mosaic relaxation chairs?)
Disney spectacularly caters to all families with morning-till-night supervised youth and teen activities (even day care at a nominal extra charge for infants and toddlers), as well as every kind of family program. (Want to learn to make animals out of towels or go to a "High School Musical" dance party?)
Parents love "Dine N' Play," which allows children to be served quickly at the late-dinner seating so that their youth counselors can whisk them away, leaving parents to linger over their wine or dessert.
But it's interesting to see how many parents on board are traveling with grown kids — I met a family of five with two kids in their 20s and one boyfriend all sharing one cabin — or no kids at all. Michelle and David Berube, for example, left their teens at home in Connecticut to celebrate their 25th anniversary. "They have such a great setup so everyone gets what they want," says David Berube. He adds that seeing the young kids onboard makes him smile as he remembers his own children at their age, though, I suspect, he's glad those days are behind him.
Mary and Bernie McCay have four kids, but none are with them on this trip, which is their fifth Disney cruise. (More than half the passengers on this ship are repeat Disney Cruisers.) "I'm so busy having fun I don't even have time to take a nap!" jokes Mary McCay, a teacher from Virginia.
"We are leery of taking a chance on another cruise line," adds Bernie.
Even in our Adventures by Disney group (www.adventuresbydisney.com), 13 family members strong, activities are organized so that the same group of families eats and tour together the entire trip, enjoying special VIP perks. Three of the couples in our group are traveling without kids. "This cruise is for everybody," says Ginny Sagranek, the mother of three grown daughters. She's traveling with her husband and another couple from their Chicago suburb.
"I don't go near the kids' pool!" she laughs. She and her husband are such Disney fans that they are Disney Vacation Club (www.disneyvacationclub.com) members and used their points toward the cruise. "If you think this is just for kids, you are missing a lot," Ginny says.
Shore excursions are also tailored to different age groups with some geared specifically to young kids and others designed with a decidedly adult flavor. We climb up to the Mt. Vesuvius crater one day, for example, break for a wine tasting lunch at a small vineyard nearby and tour Pompeii afterward.
The new Disney Dream, set to debut in January, meanwhile promises as many bells and whistles for adults as for kids with The District, an adult-only entertainment area, a 16,000-square-foot spa, the chance to dine al fresco on Palo's private outdoor deck and a new adult-only premier French restaurant, Remy, developed by two award-winning chefs, which comes complete with a private chef's table dining room.
Cruise the Magic this winter in the Caribbean and when the ship anchors at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, opt for a massage at the adults-only Serenity Bay Beach in private cabanas overlooking the ocean. Or go salmon fishing when the Disney Wonder heads to Alaska next summer.
On our last day at sea, we headed to martini tasting and recognized some of the same faces from our Mixology class. We sampled a 007 (gin and vodka), as well as a creamy Wedding Cake martini (Baileys and vanilla vodka) and others.
Melissa Lillers is there with her friends and volunteers to help the bartender demonstrate martini making. "Today is totally for me," she declared. "And I'm having a blast."
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