Beyond the Fun: Lessons from our Disney Cruise

Xperience Growthblogposts

The past week was spent onboard the Disney Cruise ship. It was family fun. Each of us – wife Kristen, 6 year old Ellee & 3 year old Grace loved it for different reasons.

You can also learn a bit more about yourself when you travel with your family & amongst other families and superior service like Disney is known for.

Parent guilt: “What’s wrong with us as parents?!”

Conditions are high for comparing yourself to others in a massive Disney dining room in which every table sat other families that look exactly like yours.

We saw kids at the other tables sitting & eating or looking like they were sitting. Our’s bounced from their seats under the table to moving around the table during our meal. They routinely didn’t sit for a meal like the other kids seemed to.

We can judge ourselves as parents. Do all the other parents have it together and don’t? Do we allow our kids too much freedom and not enough discipline?

Truth is, we don’t know any of that. We can choose to focus on the things we don’t get “right” by society’s standards. Or we choose to have faith that we’re getting more things “right” for our kids and in the long run they will thrive as people. Regardless of how we show-up as a family in the Disney ship dining room.

Choose faith that whatever you’re doing to the best of your abilities while stretching those abilities will work out for you.

Be in the moment: “Daddy, I had eye contact!!”

A big part of the Disney experience is meeting some of the movie princesses. They hire actresses to dress the part and play “Cinderella,” “Ariel,” etc. They’re actually really good!

Ellee was in awe. For her, it’s like meeting a celebrity or someone she looks up to. You could tell she was nervous to meet the first few.

She’s naturally outgoing. When she meets girls her age, she normally engages in conversation. I encouraged her to be in the moment with each princess. I suggested she ask each a question to be in the moment. She is used to doing that with peers.

All of a sudden, her disposition changed. She started engaging; she acted like herself in those conversations. She internalized my little advice to be in the moment by looking them in the eye. Her confidence grew. She was in the moment.

Once she embraced the moment, by looking them in the eye, she enjoyed herself even more and was proud

I think about what little actions I can take to turn myself around, build confidence in nervous situations. Is it looking people in the eye? Is it engaging with a question? Is it simply standing up straight?

Ellee found a confidence trigger – eye contact. We all need little confidence triggers when we’re in big moments.

Mickey Bars: “There’s my Mickey bar girls”

A hallmark of Disney is catering to children. This was on display in both the programming on the ship as well as the interaction with the crew.

At dinner each night, they had kid menus complete with washable crayons. (Washable crayons are key, as we weren’t worried about inevitable coloring on the table linens.)

On the menu each night for dessert were Mickey Bars. Vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate on a stick in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Our girls had one each night.

The maitre d’ each night was Rui. He had a gift. It was making every person feel important. Not just the parents, the kids, too. He came around each night and instead of asking Kristen and me about our meal or the day, he would smile and talk to our kids about their excitement for the upcoming Mickey Bar.

He then made it a point to come by while the girls had Mickey Bar all over their faces and laughed with them about how good it was and how they had it all over their faces.

He made them feel special.

Typically, restaurant staff looks past kids and engages with parents. That makes sense. Parents can order more quickly and communicate quicker in general. The unintended consequence is that the kids feel looked over.

Rui and the rest of the crew onboard were different. They spoke to our kids first. They engaged them in conversation. The crew asked them what THEY wanted. Rui doted on them. They loved seeing him come around.

It reminds me to over index on relationships, not expedience. Show people you care about them, not just in the service of them.

Disney does a wonderful job adding a touch of magic to all they do. They have figured out how to make long lines and the money worth it.

We can learn from their expertise, and have tons of family fun along the way.