by Jessica Giles | August 8, 2022

Six Tips For a Grown-Girls Getaway on a Disney Cruise (No Kids Allowed)

How sailing the seven seas with Florida’s famous mouse turned me from a doubter to a dreamer

The Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay, a 1,000-acre private island reserved solely to Disney cruise guests. Photography by David Roark.

I’m a self-proclaimed skeptic—not of ghosts or aliens or manifestation, but magic, in a way. As a lifelong Floridian, I’ve spent my fair share of days under the spires of Cinderella’s Castle and waiting in obscenely long lines for space mountain—a ride that doesn’t even last three minutes—but I can’t say I’ve ever truly bought into the magic of the mouse.

In the spirit of full transparency, no one in my family is a Disney diehard. I have vague memories of going to the parks as a kid with my parents and three sisters, but they’re mostly marked by copious amounts of sweating and expensive corndogs. Instead, my dad always opted for the cheaper getaways—bike rides to the springs that ended with a satisfying trip to TCBY.

So when I was invited on the Disney Dream cruise ship back in March, I feared I would be sussed out as a fraud as soon as we walked aboard. I didn’t have a shred of Disney apparel and certainly no Mickey ears to pack. But I was bringing along my two older sisters, Marissa and Kristina, who also lacked any Disney duds, so if we were going to be tied up and hoisted overboard by a gang of singing woodland animals, at least we’d go together.

I didn’t have a shred of Disney apparel and certainly no Mickey ears to pack.
— Jessica Giles

It would be one of the Dream’s final voyages from its Port Canaveral home before relocating to Miami in June 2022, spreading its pixie dust to South Florida. And while the nightclubs of Miami might seem like a more fitting destination for a grown-girls getaway, my sisters and I were determined to design the adult Disney cruise of our dreams.

For four days and three nights, we danced, dined and drank our way across the Atlantic Ocean to Nassau in the Bahamas and to Disney’s own nearby private island Castaway Cay. Something strange happened along the way: we nearly forgot we were on a ship teeming with elementary schoolers. Between the adults-only areas, upscale eateries and lively nightlife options, we were able to both relish serenity and satiate our inner child. This wasn’t the Disney of my childhood, and from the moment the three of us set foot on the ship’s upper deck, I felt something unfamiliar—a twinge of magic perhaps (or maybe it was the sail-away cocktail). Either way we had a blast, and here are six ways you too can enjoy the ultimate Disney Dream experience without little tikes in tow:

Seared sea scallops in a Prosecco and black truffle reduction from Palo’s dinner menu. Photography by Matt Stroshane.

1. Eat Dinner at Palo

This Northern Italian-inspired dinner at the ship’s adults-only Palo restaurant was easily the most memorable meal of the trip. Reclining in a plush booth overlooking the ocean, we grazed on the antipasto board piled high with prosciutto, coppa and pecorino toscano while our waiter rattled off a litany of wines. Once the chef sent out a taste of the soft potato gnocchi drizzled in basil pesto and prosecco wine sauce, I knew I needed a full bowl of it, while my sister’s opted for the osso buco and the seared jumbo scallops. Here, ordering dessert first isn’t frowned upon, in fact, if you want the chocolate souffle, it’s required. This decadent treat takes at least 30 minutes to whip up, and you can taste the time and talent in every bite.

2. Ride the AquaDuck (at least once)

I know, I know. This doesn’t exactly sound like an exclusive adults-only experience but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s just plain fun. This water coaster that snakes across deck 12 is the first of its kind on any cruise ship and is surprisingly thrilling for a kid-friendly coaster. Jets propel you through 765 feet of clear tubes giving you a panoramic view of the ocean—and all the passengers cheering you on from below. Try hitting this attraction during the first dinner seating if you have the later time or when most of the ship disembarks for an excursion to catch the line at its shortest.

3. Pop Bottles at Pink: Wine & Champagne Bar

Of all the nightclubs and lounges, my sisters and I spent the most time clinking our glasses in this whimsical wine and champagne bar tucked inside The District, the Dream’s adults-only entertainment area. Designed to resemble the inside of a champagne bottle, Pink is an effeminate escape painted in shades of blush. We settled into cozy scallop chairs for a pre-dinner cocktail that turned into three. Although I won’t judge if you opt for a safe glass of moscato, the signature champagne cocktails are what shine at Pink. The Elderbubble—a mix of Absolut Raspberri, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and champagne—became my go-to beverage on the boat.

Biking along Castaway Cay’s trails is a great way to tour the island and get to Serenity Beach, the adults-only area. Photography by Matt Stroshane.

4. Bike to Serenity Beach on Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay is Disney Cruise Line’s crown jewel and for good reason. Everything about this private island is well done, from the shuttle that eliminates the long trek from the boat to the beach to the fall-off-the-bone barbecue they serve for lunch. Although the shuttle might be tempting, I’d suggest renting a bike and making the short ride down to Serenity Beach, the island’s adults-only area. The trail is flat, paved and immerses you in a tropical oasis. Once you pull up to Serenity Beach, snag a lounge chair and an inner tube for an afternoon of absolutely nothing. My sisters and I spent hours floating in the crystalline water, pointing out starfish and stingray that passed by. I even dozed off beneath an umbrella for an hour or two—or so I heard. No need to rise from your reclined position, waiters make their way to all the lounge chairs, because what’s paradise without a pina colada?

5. Watch (or Join) a Late-Night Game Show

Take a power nap if you must because the fun begins in The District after the sun goes down. Evolution, a butterfly-themed nightclub, hosts karaoke, comedy, game shows and more every night. If you only catch one game show while you’re onboard, make it Match Your Mate. This is Disney’s version of the Newlywed Game, but don’t be fooled. Just because it’s Disney, doesn’t mean it’s PG. If you’re cruising with your boo and feeling brave, volunteer to be one of the participating couples. You’ll be quizzed on how well you know your sweetheart so unless you want to end up in the doghouse, you’d better bring your A-game. Insider’s tip: If you’re feeling a little sleepy before the show, order an espresso martini with Frangelico. Not only are they delicious but they’ll keep you awake for the action.

Quiet Cove Pool gives guests 18 years and older a tranquil environment to relax and enjoy a poolside beverage. Photography by Matt Stroshane.

6. Lounge by the Pool at Quiet Cove

No cruise is complete without a few hours spent poolside, and on the Disney Dream, this is the one you’ll want to track down. Tucked behind privacy partitions on deck 11 right next to the spa, Quiet Cove is the only pool reserved for guests 18 and older. That means no splashing, no screaming and a steady stream of adult beverages. As soon as we boarded, my sisters and I made a beeline for this secret oasis and scored lounge chairs right next to the plunge pool. Of all the amenities on the Dream, Quiet Cove was where we whiled away most of the hours. Bring a good book, take a dip in the hot tub and lose track of time. Trust me, there’s nowhere you need to be.