For first-time cruiser Richard Folz, the idea of taking a cruise with his son, Josh, 9, was more than a little daunting.
“I was nervous about going alone with Josh,” says Folz, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based widower who lost his wife a little over a year ago.
He shouldn’t have worried.
“From the moment we were seated for our first dinner, with two single moms with sons around Josh’s age, I knew we had made the right choice,” says Folz, who spent three nights and four days on Disney Cruise Lines' Disney Dream this past spring.
For single parents, cruising might be the best vacation option around, offering just enough freedom for kids and enough R&R for mom or dad, without the awkward feeling that often comes with traveling alone. And Disney stands out with its strong, structured program for single parents: The goal is to make single-parent families feel included, taking into consideration the fact that parents traveling solo want some “me” time — but not too much time, since it can be lonely to travel without another adult.
Many single parents are also interested in teaming up with other single-parent families. To that end, Disney has set up programs aimed at making singles as comfortable as possible. For example, single parents are invited to special lunches (available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy), at which they’re paired up. The result: Parents are more relaxed and happy to avoid the self-consciousness associated with sitting alone while other families gather for meals.
Through Singles Mingle, single parents meet casually at Diversions, a 120-seat pub lounge on Disney Wonder, while their kids take in a movie or hang out at the kids club. Other ongoing programs include Ice Breakers (always held on the first night of a cruise), mixers, arcade meetups, basketball games, and farewell events held the last night of every cruise. Another choice: Meals with the cruise staff, ensuring single parents have adults to dine with while at sea.
And the options for single parents extend to staterooms. For example, on Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, travelers can pick connecting cabins, ideal for single parents who want to be close to their kids but don’t want to forgo their privacy. In addition, if a parent wants to share a cabin with a child, many feature pull-down berths, which can be tucked away when not in use.
For Folz, the cruise was a winner.
“I saw Josh navigating the boat, and I knew I made the right choice,” he says. “While Josh was in the kids club, I could go with the single moms to the dance club or the adults-only pool.”
Best of all, Folz didn’t have to worry about keeping track of Josh. The moment they boarded the Dream, Folz was handed two Wave Phones that worked anywhere on the ship as well as at Castaway Cay (the line’s private island), and a wristband with a GPS tracker for Josh.
“With the tracker, the staff can locate a child at any moment,” Folz says. “Josh couldn’t leave the cabin or club without checking out and, when he did, my phone got a message that told me where he was at that exact moment. It made me feel very secure about his comings and goings, and gave Josh a great feeling of independence.”
Most importantly, because they were seated with two other single-parent families, Josh and his dad got to enjoy the feeling of being part of a big family — at least while they were out to sea.
“Josh gravitated to the moms when we went to the arcade as a group, because he lost his mom,” Folz says. “To spend time with other moms was truly wonderful for him.”