This week, our DDL cruise expert, NDM Jackie P, shares with us why her family has fallen head over heels in love with Disney and the Disney Cruise Line. Sometimes, Disney magic is just what you need to heal. What makes you an NDP? Have a story to share? Have your own Disney Fan Site or Podcast you want to share with the community? Send it to ndm130 AT thedisneydrivenlife DOT com. We just might feature your story here on Sharing Saturdays.
I’ll never forget the first time I took my son to Walt Disney World, he was eight months old. Watching his reaction upon seeing seeing Disney characters was priceless, even though he probably doesn’t remember those moments now. Those trips primed him for future trips and when I mean primed, I am referring to having laid the foundations for familiarity, consistency and stimulation, which became crucial after his diagnosis of severe autism in 2003. Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts became our haven because it was there that we witnessed developmental gains like no other place, not even home. It was there that we began to heal as a family because the magic of Disney filtered our tensions away and allowed us to create priceless memories. We felt normal, we felt typical for a change. Gone were the daily struggles of transitioning, of trying to bring our son into our world, of heart break, of set backs, of insecurity and fear. All of these terrors would vanish the moment we set foot on Disney property.
Then, along came our first cruise with Disney Cruise Line in 2005. A paired land and sea vacation with the most magical day at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private Bahamian island solely for guests. It was there that my son, having struggled with tactile sensory issues walked on sand, it was there that he first swam in salt water and floated on an inner tube and there that we caught one of his biggest moments of interaction. He looked at me, and for that moment we connected and I felt his joy and saw flickers of his love for us.
Mid-way through the cruise I re-booked another one, and with a lump in my throat, unable to hold back the tears, I dreaded leaving the ship because I wondered what other progress I would miss out on. From that day forward, as much as our budget would allow, I began to book cruise after cruise, only with Disney Cruise Line. We have sailed on all four vessels in the fleet, throughout the Bahamas, the Caribbean and most recently throughout the Mediterranean. All with our son Andrew. He joined us on every port adventure at every port and he thrived. Andrew can navigate his way around all four ships, remembering to stop for french fries and soft serve ice-cream along the way.
Photos below of Andrew riding the thrilling AquaDuck on the Disney Dream with his father and celebrating his birthday in the themed dining room of Animator’s Palate aboard the Disney Fantasy.
The developmental gains skyrocketed on this last trip sailing the re-imagined Disney Magic through the Mediterranean, when on each port adventure, each guide would offer Andrew the Mickey Mouse shaped tour group sign so that he could lead the group. Never in my life had I seen my son so happy in all of his fifteen years. Andrew was made to feel important, valued and was given a purpose. His confidence soared right before our very eyes. A precious vacation that will stay with us forever.
Andrew below, leading the Disney Cruise Line port adventures group in the sweltering heat to the Athens Acropolis.
A family photo at the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey.
Enjoying dinner at Lumiere’s aboard the Disney Magic just this past summer.
Precious memories, healing and watching our son thrive, all thanks to Disney Cruise Line!