The Quest for the Perfect Family Vacation
Johannes, Julia, and I board the Disney Magic in Cape Canaveral, Florida. We also bring Lidra, the Wonder Nanny, along. Some (and by "some" I mean every friend who has ever taken a Disney cruise) assure us that the boat's childcare facilities and staff are top-notch, but I can't shake the following thought: "What the hell does Disney know about children?" Johannes suggests that it's possible I have some trust issues, given that I've had this exact same thought about our pediatrician, our nursery school, and the cast of Sesame Street. Well, excuse me for questioning Grover's people skills....
The ship is massive. Nine hundred and fifty crew members from more than 50 nations are sailing with us. Supposedly, that's one crew member for every three guests—but it becomes very clear very quickly that all 950 are actually here for the sole purpose of making Julia happy.
Our daughter cannot believe her good fortune. For nearly six years she has been forced to endure life among the peasants—no drawbridge, limited tiara use, and seldom do her royal decrees actually stick. Now, at long last, she is surrounded by people who see fit to address her by her proper title: Princess. She hobnobs with Belle and Cinderella. She attends a pajama party and bakes chocolate chip cookies at the Oceaneer Club. She watches movies on a giant outdoor screen while floating in the pool. She is photographed with Mickey & Minnie, Chip & Dale, Lilo & Stitch. Alice and the Mad Hatter invite her onstage for tea. Pillows are fluffed, towels are folded into origami animals, and, thanks to Sam and Richard—the two servers who've been assigned to wait on us at every meal as we rotate between restaurants—she seems to have almost round-the-clock access to chicken fingers.
Jules is not the only one receiving the royal treatment. Johannes has made his way to Quiet Cove, a surprisingly sophisticated "adults only" section of the ship that houses pool, café, lovely Italian restaurant (an abundance of lobster, an absence of kids), and the Vista Spa & Salon, where the two of us are massaged in an intimate "spa villa" suite connected to a secluded outdoor veranda complete with open-air shower and mint tea that we sip while soaking in our own private hot tub.
All choice has been removed from the equation; the only thing to decide is whether we feel like a picnic on the beach or a bike ride along the coast in St. Thomas, whether we'd rather snorkel or shop in St. Maarten, whether we'd prefer to lounge in a hammock or head for the barbecue at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. Lidra is tan, Johannes is rested, Julia is happy, I am pedicured, and life is sweet.