I have spent years telling anyone who will listen that sailing on Disney Cruise Line without kids is one of the better kept secrets in gay travel. They look at me warily, disbelieving, even pityingly, as if I can’t possibly be correct on this. I understand. I was that guy, too. I couldn’t believe that being trapped on a ship full of children and their makers would be anything less than torture. I was wrong. I mean, the ships are indeed crawling with children, but if you want to avoid the little darlings, there are multiple adults-only areas—a pool, a spa, a gym, a café, an upscale restaurant, three bars, and an immaculate beach on Disney’s gorgeous private island, Castaway Cay—for escape.
Plus, lots of kids want to avoid us older folks, too. They have their own deck of pretty fantastic kids’ clubs, where they can dress up like Ironman or Tinkerbell or both. Meanwhile, the ships themselves are stunners. They are not just beautiful, the decor is imaginative and whimsical and clever, much like in the theme parks. And like in the parks, the overall Disney experience is unique. Only on Disney ships, for example, will you find cabins with split bathrooms so that two people can primp at once. Only Disney has fireworks at sea. And only Disney dispenses with a massive dining room in favor of three more intimate restaurants through which guests rotate, taking their servers with them each night so that the waiters know you and your preferences.
But what Disney is most known for is entertainment and that was the excuse for my most recent visit to the Disney Magic: the premieres of their newest stage show, Tangled, The Musical. Each of the Disney ships has three major production shows which they bill as “Broadway style” and they are mostly pretty spectacular, but Tangled might be the first of them that could actually comfortably play on Broadway.
Adapted from the 2010 Disney animated film based on the Rapunzel fairytale, Tangled works first and foremost because Glenn Slater’s adaptation is so solid. Unlike several other Disney efforts (both on Broadway and in the parks) whose stage incarnations warp the charms of the source material, the Tangled book is close to perfect in both tone and pace. Composer Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid) has written three new songs expressly for this show to augment his film’s already strong score. And then there are the production values which really raise the bar. It's all truly Broadway-caliber: costumes, scenery, choreography, lighting, projections, as well as 90-feet of the heroine’s hair and a puppet horse that seems to borrow from both The Lion King and War Horse to pull of an amazingly graceful and expressive thoroughbred. The cast, too, under Gordon Greenberg’s direction, is flawless (although the original company is set to depart the ship before year’s end). Nothing about Tangled feels like cruise ship entertainment or, for that matter, family fare. It’s simply a really good show by any measure.
Still skeptical? Well, the Disney Magic sails into some pretty gay friendly ports this year, including Miami and Key West this winter and then Norway, the Baltic, and Mediterranean this summer. And Disney’s recent acquisitions mean that along with Mickey and Cinderella, you can meet a few Marvel hunks (Captain America, Thor, and Spiderman) on board, with the Star Wars characters and experiences coming in January.
Disney ships have no casinos on board, but there is nightclub with '70s night and '80s nights and a swank martini and piano bar for musical theater types. Most significant to the Disney experience, however, is the unparalleled level of service for which they are famous. I find that level of dedication to guest satisfaction waning in the parks, but it’s still paramount on board the ships.
So while it’s true that there’s no white party on a Disney cruise (although there is a pirate night and before you roll your eyes, know that my pirate costume got me a date last year) there are plenty of fairies, evil queens, and handsome princes to be had. There’s that Disney magic on the Disney Magic. And now, with Tangled, there’s a whole lot of hair.
Disney Magic sails itineraries from Miami until spring, and then from various ports in Europe. Itineraries and rates for all four Disney ships are available at DisneyCruise.com
Eddie Shapiro is the producer of Gay Days at Disneyland and the co-author of Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks.