Late last year we took our 3- and 5-year old daughters on a Disney cruise, and the only magic we experienced was that Disney made all of our money disappear and we all somehow avoided inadvertently taking a selfie stick up the ass by one of the GoPro-obsessed parents.
In the months leading up to our cruise we were looking for a way to illustrate for the girls all of the wonders and magic they would experience on the boat. So I searched YouTube and discovered that there are thousands of people who have unabashedly wielded a selfie stick, unknowingly knocking countless people off the side of the boat, in the name of capturing the perfect family video. Our kids became obsessed with one family video in particular: the Miller's.
Those lying assholes. Before we went on our Disney Cruise I felt like we knew them so well we should send them a Christmas card. Now that we're back and we know the truth, I feel like they owe me an apology. Because their 25-minute video gives you the impression of sunshine, wondrously happy children, glorious relaxation, and general awesomeness that only the House of Mouse can manufacture. But the reality is much different. I'm convinced that we got the only happy 25 minutes of their trip, and the other two days, 23 hours and 35 minutes were a raging dumpster fire.
If you're actively considering going on a Disney cruise with small children, do the following:
1) Take all of your money out of the bank, pile it up in your back yard and light it on fire. For the full Disney effect sing When Will My Life Begin and start the fire using a candelabra that looks like Lumiere;
2) Stick your leg in the fire until your pants burst into flames. Have someone dressed like Mickey Mouse pee on your leg to put it out, and then have that person punch you in the face;
3) Listen to an audio loop of your children screaming for 12 hours;
4) Have someone punch you in the face again;
5) Get into a fight with a customer service person;
6) Have someone hit you in the face with a selfie stick;
7) Negotiate with a terrorist;
8) Buy an expensive ice cream cone and throw it on the ground; and finally
9) Have someone serve you with divorce papers, and then have that person punch you in the face.
That's the Disney cruise experience, folks. If that's your thing, then be my guest.
The last part is critical, because a Disney cruise is like an endurance test for your marriage. One of these days an executive at Disney is going and wake up and realize the gold mine they are sitting on. In that, right after you get through customs and before you get back to the shuttles, they'll have a string of booths where angry couples getting off the boat can sign up to go through Disney marriage counseling. The therapists can even dress up like Disney characters. Could you imagine a marriage counselor dressed like Goofy? At the end of listening to you and your spouse complain for half an hour he pivots his fat head over to you and says, "Garsh, Travis. It sounds like you're fucked. If you need a lawyer I'd recommend Sylvester Shyster."
And it's not just couples who are having problems going into the cruise. It's everyone who's there with a small child. Because as large as Disney cruise ships are, they can become a really small world when tempers flare and there's nowhere to run. Our nightmare started immediately after we got on the boat.
Our luggage was waiting for us next to the door when we arrived at the cabin. However, when I grabbed my bag to bring it into the room all of my stuff fell onto the ground. Upon closer inspection I noticed that AN ENTIRE SIDE had been ripped off of my bag. At the time I wasn't worried and I was confident Disney would replace it with something comparable. We'd experienced the awesomeness that Disney customer service can be at Disney World the year before, and I can testify that those people are conditioned to do anything to make you happy, only stopping just short of crude sex acts. So the customer service person said they'd look at my bag and drop another one off in our room if they didn't feel like they could fix it. No big deal.
After taking the kids to the pool we came back to the room to find a little, disappointing-sized luggage bag sitting on the bed. It was at least one-fourth the size of the travel bag I'd brought, which was large enough to hold all of my clothes and also all of the clothes for one of our daughters. So I called customer service.
"I'm gonna need a bigger bag."
"It's the best we can do, sir. You'll have to give us what you can't fit in the bag and we'll ship it to your house."
At that point the mercury in my bullshitometer exploded, and it was everything I could do to not yell: "You're fucking Disney! You booked nearly $40 billion in revenue in 2014! You own the fucking Avengers! If you don't have a bag of equal size somewhere on this boat, which I don't fucking believe, you need to call up Iron Man and have him fly one out here! Rapunzel's handy! Maybe you should shave Beast and have her weave one from the hair! Figure it out!"
But, as my wife will tell you, I'm a pussy, and I didn't say any of that. I pushed back to the best of my ability, which came out as: "Well, I understand. Thanks for trying. I appreciate the effort." After I hung up my wife stared disappointingly at me for a minute and then had me give her the phone.
She called customer service and said things to those people that I can't re-type on this blog for fear that Google will shut my website down. Even George Carlin may have blushed. I couldn't get the kids out of the room fast enough. But wouldn't you know it, an hour later a very scared, small Indonesian man showed up at our cabin door with the largest piece of luggage I have ever seen in my life and toys for the kids in tow. It was so big that it barely fit on the baggage claim belt, and from the time I picked it up to the time we loaded it in my mother-in-law's car, I could feel people just staring at me. Well played, Disney. You somehow managed to both redeem yourself and make me look like an idiot.
Shortly after getting the luggage situation ironed out we got ready and went to our first formal dinner, where our goal, and the goal of all people with small children in that situation, is to survive and advance. I knew we were screwed when I saw a candle in the middle of our table. Who in their right mind puts a candle in the middle of tightly clustered tables in a room filled with tired, screaming and pissed off toddlers out in the middle of an ocean? Thanks for the death trap, Disney. If I'd have wanted to test my survival skills, we'd have gone on Carnival.
Over the duration of the four courses our kids spilled their drinks, refused to eat the meals they chose, cried because they were hungry, dropped what felt like every piece of silverware they had in the kitchen, shit themselves, complained about the selection of Crayon colors, and knocked over the candle, coming the width of one of Simba's ass hairs away from burning the boat down. The only part they were almost good during was the end where they got ice cream, and even then the ice cream wound up on the ground.
After crying ourselves to sleep that first night, we woke up the next day ready for Round 2. We had breakfast and dropped the girls off at their respective playtime locations: the oldest was in a massive play room for toddlers, and the youngest was in a nursery because she wasn't potty trained. Just dropping them off and letting them run wild in a supervised environment while you go and do whatever you want to do was supposed to be the biggest perk of the entire cruise for us. However, when we went to check on the 3-year-old after a few hours her pants were soaked and her pull-up was so swollen with urine that it had tripled in size. She was essentially sitting in a puddle of her own piss. If we were at home and someone saw that, they would have called the department of children and family services on us. So that was the end of the nursery, and we couldn't leave our older daughter at her play place without her younger sister throwing a raging fit, so that perk died after two hours. We spent the majority of the day in a pool and enjoyed a minimal number of tantrums. However, the 3-year-old was absolutely terrified of the Nemo's Reef splash pad, and there was a half hour stretch where I thought she was never going to stop yelling, "But I don't like Nemo!" I couldn't blame her. At that point, I hated Nemo, too.
That night my wife thought it would be nice if we took the girls to the stage show, which would have been a great idea if the theme of the show weren't villains. I would loved to have been a fly on the wall when some jackass had that idea.
"We've got a boat full of small children, Jerry. We own the rights to the most-beloved princesses, heroes and children's characters of all time. We need some fresh ideas for stage shows. What do you think?"
"How about a show that features the villains?"
"Brilliant, Jerry. Absolutely brilliant. The kids will love that."
Fuck me, right? To make things worse, we got there early to get awesome seats, so we were a few rows back from the front and right on the aisle. Everything was awesome, until our 5-year-old looks me square in the eyes out of the blue and very seriously says, "Daddy, I hope Ursula's not in this show. If Ursula shows up then we're gonna have to get out of here. We're gonna have to go." I explained that there was a small chance that Ursula would show up, but I promised that she wouldn't hurt us and that we would be just fine. And so the show went on.
To the credit of our children, we were the perfect family for all of 10 minutes. We sat. We held hands. We laughed. We clapped. No one was emitting any weird smells. It was downright pleasant, and almost worth the cost of the cruise alone. And then out of nowhere the entire front half of the stage dropped out and smoke came billowing in from all angles. Giant 30-foot-long tentacles started protruding from out of the depths of the front half of the stage, and suddenly the biggest, scariest, meanest looking Ursula that not even a toddler would dream up in their nightmares started creeping up. All I could think was, "Oh shit."
And while we were physically on the boat for the rest of the cruise, that was the moment we mentally checked out. My oldest daughter locked such a fierce Tongan Death Grip on my throat that I thought she was going to rip my Adam's apple out. She grabbed the aisle-side arm of my chair with her free hand and started pulling herself toward the aisle with all of the energy her tiny body could muster. Sounding like a possessed person, she kept screaming: "Daddy, it's Ursula! We've gotta get out of here! Daddy, we've gotta run!" It was like wrestling a rabid honey badger. And while I'm trying to pin her down and yelling under my breath at her that it's all okay and that she just needs to hang on for a few more minutes, the only thing running through my head on a loop is "Fuck!" And I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to un-fuck that situation.
After I realize there is no way she is coming down from the cliff unless we get out of there, I acquiesce and let her drag me up three levels of stairs to the top, where we sat at what she felt was a safe distance with all of the other parents with scared and pissed off kids. If there is any universal saving grace on a Disney cruise, it's that not one person on that boat will judge you for your children's behavior. They may think you're an asshole for a variety of other reasons, but you won't find one person staring at you like you need to get your kid under control or like you're the worst parent on the planet if you get frustrated, because they either know that could be them the next night or they were already that person the night before. That was refreshing. I just wish I'd been able to make that observation and contemplate it in a situation other than one where I was dragged ruthlessly up three levels of steps by a scared-shitless, screaming toddler, surrounded by people I didn't know in the middle of the ocean. But such is life.
By our final day we felt maxed out on the Disney cruise experience, and opted to lay low by the safety of the pool and eat at the cafeteria on the lido deck rather than risking trying any more new things. And while we ultimately survived and made it back, we have indefinitely sworn off any more big family vacations until the kids are older. If my wife tries to bring the subject of another big family trip up, I'm going to tell her I'd rather take a selfie stick to the eye.
And fuck the Miller's.