Online reviews for Disney Cruises read like effusive testimonials from someone who has been healed by the Lord’s power. But after returning from the Disney Magic cruise with my wife, two-year-old son, and four-year-old daughter, I feel more sickened than healed. It’s been four days since we came back and the trauma is only now starting to wear off. Here’s why it sucked…
1. MIDDLE-CLASS PEOPLE ARE WEIRD
I’m covered in tattoos, so I get it if Middle Americans are weird around me, but outside of some slightly Chinky eyes, my wife looks like any other Madison mom. We dressed very square and approached the trip with a positive, pro-social attitude, but the other passengers treated us like circus freaks in Nazi uniforms.
Here’s a typical exchange: My wife was ordering a drink at the poolside bar and the woman next to her had just procured a margarita. “Oh, a marg!” my wife said cheerily. “That looks like a good idea. I’ll have the same.” The woman looked at my wife blankly, picked up her drink, and walked away. This happened regularly. People weren’t mean or grumpy, they just didn’t know what to say because they live in suburban seclusion and rarely interact with strangers. They didn’t merely not talk to us. They didn’t talk to anybody. Hey lady, how about, “It’s 5PM somewhere” or “The kids drove me to it” or a million other silly quips that my wife’s comment invited? How about simply a nod and a smile?
It wasn’t unusual to say, “Hey, how you doing?” when sitting down next to someone and getting zero response in return. Eventually, my wife and I got in the habit of saying, “All righty then” after every catatonic response.
2. THE BOOZE PRICES ARE RAPE
We boarded on Saturday afternoon and on Tuesday I checked our room’s balance sheet. I assumed the decimal place had scooched over to the right when they told me I owed the company store $972! “What?” my wife screamed, grabbing the bill and discovering half of it was our bar tab, “I didn’t even get a buzz.” Most of the drinks were around $8, but a nice glass of wine or an after-dinner liqueur was more likely to be around $20.
We booked early, so the price of the whole cruise for our four-person family was about $4,000, a quarter of what it was for people who waited until a month or less before sailing. This bill added another grand to our total in the first three days! It could have even paid for another person’s cruise.
I tried to email some friends about this, but the Internet costs a dollar a minute. I waited in line to complain and overheard the woman in front of me trying to understand why she was charged a $15 corking fee every time she brought the $50 bottle of wine she’d purchased from them back to dinner. “I’ve spent more than half the price of the bottle on fees,” she said. As she left I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “You’re right” and she angrily said, “I know I’m right.” This was one of the few pleasant exchanges I had with another passenger.
3. IT’S JAM-PACKED
The pools have to be small because a big pool would become a big wave when the boat rocks back and forth—which it does, a lot. The result is over 2,000 people clamoring around the one kiddie pool trying to grab one of the hundred deck chairs that surround it. By midday each pool is so packed they look like bags of Licorice Allsorts. The one hot tub on the boat is so jammed with people and steam, you expect to see a cannibal with a bone through his nose smacking his lips in anticipation.
If you don’t have a spot by 8:30 AM, your only hope is a deck chair up top, where the wind is strong enough to blow an apple out of your hand. We spent the first day there and it almost made me bald.
4. THE DISNEY CHARACTERS ARE CELEBRITIES
I had a pipe dream about making mini-movies where I take each character literally. I’d ask Cinderella for stain-removing tips because she’d done housework most of her life. I’d commiserate with Sleeping Beauty about those stupid bitches who blew her 16-year curse because they couldn’t keep their wands in their pants during the final hours. I’d complain that a man who has devoted his life to kidnapping children and robbing boats—Captain Hook—is on the payroll at all.
5. THE STAFF IS ANNOYING
Disney’s Human Resources Department seems to model the cruises’ staff around a theme of “It’s a small world after all.” The waiters are from Turkey, the maids from Thailand, the doormen from Serbia, and the porters from St. Vincent. This seems like a nice idea and it’s a good counter to Walt’s embarrassing quote that hiring blacks would “have spoiled the illusion at Disneyland,” but it’s also depressing.
They’re so obsequious and insincere you feel like a robber baron who has offered to pull some lady’s kids out of poverty if she convincingly pretends to adore you for a week.
I spoke to some off-duty staffers from Scotland (one of the only countries with a GDP over $100M whose citizens I saw employed on the boat) at the bar. They had nicknamed the cruise “Boat Jail” and said they were expected to work at least 70 hours a week. We were out at sea amid maritime lawlessness, which may have explained all the Third World staffers better than any small-world utopian vision. Walt always hated the unions.
6. THESE BOATS ARE GIANT LAMENESS MAGNETS
One of the reasons the people we met were so dull is the cruise attracts the lamest of the lame by its very nature. We only stopped three times and it seemed like half the passengers didn’t even get off. The few that disembarked barely made it past the Disney-owned jewelry shops at port.
Our first stop was St. Maarten, and we leapt off the boat the second it hit the dock. A taxi brought us to a fantastic kid-friendly beach called Le Galion and we spent the day windsurfing, drinking cheap beer, and devouring delicious hamburgers as the kids built sandcastles with gigantic smiles on their faces. Everyone there was sociable and funny despite having to master three languages and a half-dozen different cultures. Leaving them behind and going back to Mickey’s Boat felt like heading to the Jacob Javits Center for an Angry In-Laws Convention.
7. THE BOAT ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK
Anyone who thinks an 83,000-ton boat is too big to rock hasn’t seen King Neptune’s muscles. Walking around this overpriced Marriott of the Sea took a good two days getting used to, and it takes just as long to figure out the street isn’t moving when you get back on terra firma.
To sleep, I pretended I was a tycoon nestled in the cabin of my private jet and it was a particularly turbulent flight. I found out later my wife was convincing herself she was a baby being swung back and forth in a giant cradle.
8. IT’S NOT FOR KIDS
The boats provide no private babysitters and anyone under four simply doesn’t belong there. My wife and I only got one date where we could be alone together; otherwise, one of us would wander alone around empty, overpriced bars while the other quietly watched limited television back in the cabin as the kids slept.
I guess if your kids were 8 and 11, this might still work for you. You can give them a key to the room and they go to various workshops and clubhouses and even labs and then you meet them at dinner later to discuss your very separate days. This sounds great if you love sunbathing and hate your offspring, but who likes skin cancer that much, and are there still sixth-graders who give a shit about Mickey Mouse?
9. THE FOOD SUCKS
We tried hard to keep things cheery and never let the kids know this wasn’t our cup of tea, but when it came time to eat, we couldn’t help frowning.
You can’t be too snobby about food when kids are involved, and it’s hard for the chef to feel inspired when half the dishes he makes are “yucky” no matter what.
But watching the kids eat hot dogs every day and cheese pizza every night gets depressing. The food feels like a fancy night at Denny’s. The Third World waiters seem to be following strict orders to waste dumpsters full of food. They don’t act satisfied until every person at the table has plates piled to the ceiling.
When we told one waiter our kids could share one of Mickey’s gigantic breakfast trays, he acted as if we’d told him to walk the plank. When I ordered a simple bowl of corn flakes he almost grabbed a pirate sword and committed hara-kiri there at our table. Sorry, Souch-Pak-Ma, but I don’t get a decadent rush from throwing food in the garbage. Oh, and can you leave, please? I’m not interested in quirky banter for the entire duration of our meal and it’s none of your business what my hobbies are (actual question).
10. FUCK WALT DISNEY
Yeah, you heard me. Fuck him and the mustache he rode in on. Some bitter faux-aristocrat cartoonist with a Europe fetish gets obsessed with a bunch of depressing fables from hundreds of years ago and we have to buy his merch for the next few hundred years? All the women in his stories sound like something out of a George Eliot novel. If they’re not physically abused they’re locked in a castle somewhere because they’re too pretty or their fathers were rich and the odds are very high they’re going to die.
I’ll give the cruise this much: The shows were great. They managed to find comedians who could make both my daughter and me laugh, which I didn’t think was possible. The Peter Pan musical looks like everything Broadway’s Spider-Man is trying to achieve, and thePirate Party ends with everyone dancing on the top deck with July 4th-quality fireworks. Those were fun, but that’s twenty minutes a day. What do you do with the other 1,420?
If you’re an unadventurous, antisocial, sexless Christian…if you love sunbathing but hate swimming and don’t really care what you eat…if you’re a wealthy teetotaler with kids between eight and twelve…if you’re all these things combined, you might enjoy yourself.
Otherwise, to get the Disney experience, just aim a leaf-blower at your bank account while staring at pictures of fat people.
PS: Check out my fucking bill. The top red line is for two beers and a Maker’s rocks. The second one is for three Maker’s and the last one is from ONE glass of wine. There are no prices on the menu so you ask for a glass of wine and they bring you a Chateau de Trop Cher from 1436.