Thursday, May 23, 2024
CruisesExperiencesFamily FriendlyTravel Interest

5 Reasons I Always Recommend Disney Cruise Line to Queer Families

Family travel expert, Deanne Revel, explains why she sails with the Disney Cruise Line and why other LGBTQ+ families should, too.

Planning a kid-friendly family vacation is harder for LGBTQ+ families and queer parents. A lot more needs to be considered to ensure that our family will have a happy, stress-free vacation. Part of that process includes doing the necessary research to find out whether our desired destination recognizes and welcomes our community, which also means gauging if the place is safe. 

Because I’m queer and cover family-friendly travel for a living, parents asked the same question all the time, “What’s the best queer-friendly vacation for our kids?” They assume I’ll say Disney theme parks, but I usually recommend Disney Cruise Line. Walt Disney World and Disneyland are moving in the right direction to create a more inclusive environment, but, generally, I feel more relaxed and more respected aboard a Disney cruise ship. There’s a warm congeniality aboard Disney’s ships that have made my family come back again and again. Here’s why I recommend Disney Cruise Line to queer families. 

Disney Wish - Upper Deck (Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
Disney Wish – Upper Deck (Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Making LGBTQ+ Passengers Feel Welcome 

Disney Cruise Line sets an inclusive tone from the moment you step foot aboard the ship because every boarding party gets its own royal announcement and it’s whatever you want it to be. Two lines of staff form, creating a tunnel of fanfare and applause as you enter the ship’s atrium, and an announcement is made for the whole grand hall to hear. A crewmember will ask what you would like to be called before it’s your turn to walk through and they are 100 percent accommodating. 

Most families use their last name, but if your moms don’t have the same last name, they’ll say both. For example, when my wife and I board, they say “Please welcome aboard the Revel and Jones family!” If you have a child that is transitioning, you can use this time to celebrate their name and identity. It’s an incredibly beautiful thing to see a dozen cast members applauding your true name and true self – especially for kids struggling at school with acceptance or bullying. It’s a powerfully affirming way to jumpstart a vacation. 

(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Gender-Inclusive Activities  

Disney themes can be cisgender and heterosexual with princess activities for girls and pirate activities for boys. But Disney parks and cruise ships are slowly changing this, offering more gender-neutral activities such as Star Wars lightsabre training where kids are simply referred to as padawans or younglings instead of boys or girls and everyone wears the same costume. 

Every Disney cruise ship has Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on board, which is also one of the most queer-friendly activities at Disney Parks. This makeover salon can transform your child into all kinds of characters, including Marvel heroes and fairy-tale royalty. There are no gender rules. If your little boy wants a glittery top bun – it can happen. Likewise, if your little girl would rather dress up as a mechanical engineer from Star Wars instead of a fairy-tale princess, they can do that, too. 

Kids and teens clubs aboard Disney ships are designed with more gender-inclusive activities in mind, too. Rather than group kids by interest or room, Disney allows children attending the Oceaneer Club to roam between all themed spaces at any time. So, your child can visit a Star Wars cargo bay and visit the STEM-like Walt Disney Imagineering Lab where kids can learn how to design a roller coaster like a Disney Imagineer. Even the launch promotion of Belle’s Library in the Oceaneer Club aboard the brand-new Disney Wish features a more gender-diverse audience of kids for story time. I wish similar marketing was in place when I was growing up. 


Respectful Service 

Like Disney Parks, one of the hallmarks of Disney Cruise Line is attention to detail. And I’ve never experienced more stateroom service than aboard a Disney ship – and I’ve sailed with many, many brands. Like with most major ocean liners, you are assigned a specific housekeeping staff for the entire cruise. And that’s helpful to head off any conversations about sleeping arrangements. My wife and I had a nightmare experience aboard a Viking ship where our beds were separated, and housekeeping laughed at us when they came in to change the sleeping arrangements. It made us feel abnormal and second rate and it of course impacted the vibe for the entire trip. That has never happened with Disney. I’ve experienced nothing but total respect and my family – my non-binary wife and our extended family of queer relatives – has never had a problem. We’ve always been treated with simple kindness. And I’m sure not every housekeeper we’ve ever had has agreed with us or believed the same things we believe, but you’d never know it. And you know it when someone is faking it or simply doesn’t want to serve you. We’ve all experienced those microaggressions at some point in hotel stays or airport bookings etc. But Disney feels like a safe home base – a judgment-free zone. 

(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Consistent Waitstaff 

While most cruise lines have assigned housekeeping, Disney also has assigned waitstaff for dinner service which includes Disney’s exclusive rotational dining system. Your dining party will visit multiple, themed restaurants throughout your cruise but your waitstaff will remain the same and travel with you. Servers pay attention to detail and remember your wine orders and allergy restrictions, so you don’t have to keep repeating them every night. And it’s also helpful for LGBTQ+ families because you establish a relationship on the first day about how you’d like to be addressed, how your kid wants to be greeted and so there’s no pronoun correcting or misunderstanding about couples throughout the week. 

(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

Disney Family-Friendly Excursions 

I don’t like tour groups, but I love traveling with Mickey – especially Adventures by Disney-led trips, which is Disney’s own travel company. You can book these Disney excursions at any port of call on a Disney Cruise Line’s route. Adventures by Disney or National curates these special excursions that parents can book for their families. I don’t always book these because it is an extra expense, but they can be clutch for sightseeing in areas or countries that are notoriously unsafe for LGBTQ+ people such as small European towns and the Caribbean islands. There’s peace of mind knowing that my family will be part of a group and will be with a local guide. And what I really love about Disney Cruise Line is the option to book adult-only excursions as well as family-friendly excursions. And these excursions often come with open-ended free time in tandem with a guided tour so it’s a great option for families with grown kids or couples without kids to have a group and organized transportation but also to have some sightseeing freedom, too. 

(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)
(Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line)

When I think about a Disney Cruise Line vacation I just think about side-stitching, hiccup-inducing laughter with my wife, whether it’s a heated debate at music trivia or we just introduced our in-laws to try the water slide. There’s magic in letting Mickey take the wheel. Disney Cruise Line has created a safe, welcoming environment on board its ships. It allows me to let my guard down and have fun with my family and ease of travel should be something that all parents and families should experience no matter how they identify. 

Deanne Revel

Deanne Revel is a travel journalist and host covering the world of theme parks and family entertainment. She loves all things roller coasters, character breakfasts, and parades. Deanne is a packing pro (carry-on always!) and is passionate about LGBTQ+ travel. When not on assignment, you can find her exploring national parks or theme parks with her wife. Follow her adventures on Instagram @revelandroam.

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