I published this article on our old website and recently had requests to publish it again. I hope it continues to help parents make good decisions for their kids!
Yesterday a horrible thing happened, as a man was arrested when the Disney Dream docked. He was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 13 year old child aboard the ship, and he was a cast member.
Last week, a wonderful things happened, as Disney Cruise Line made the choice to immediately believe the child who made the report, fire the alleged pedophile, turn him in and issue a statement. Karl Holz, I knew I liked you, I knew I admired you. Now you're one of my heroes.
And whenever this happens, when Disney and Pedophiles become words used in the same sentence, my phone starts ringing and messages start coming in. This happens because of who we are and what we do. Also, everyone rethinks their plans to keep their kids safe. Everyone questions their past, present and future choices. Today I'm going to talk about how to make the very best choices for a Disney Cruise Line Vacation so you can travel without fear.
First of all, and It's obvious, but it needs to be said. The #1 way to keep your children safe is to keep them with you. Can you do that and still have a good time on a Disney Cruise? Absolutely! With family events, a family beach, family parties, family trivia, family craft projects, fun dinners and shows created for whole families to enjoy - it's not even hard!
But what if they're dying to do the kids clubs? Our oldest child didn't do a kids club until he was old enough to do the teen club. We never even found the time. Our middle child and youngest visited a club with one of us a few times to participate in special events, like making Flubber. But we didn't leave them alone there. Last year, we allowed the two of them (age 10 and 13) to visit the tween club by themselves, but they didn't walk there by themselves and they had specific rules. More on that in a bit.
Obviously, we're at an extreme end of the spectrum. We love kids and have been youth leaders, dance, acting and gymnastics teachers, camp counselors and parents. We know that the chances are slim that anyone would assault our kids while they're in Disney cast member care. But there is always a chance. And we aren't willing to take it for our family. We've experienced the consequences and it's not worth it. If you agree that your child is too precious to risk, follow our guidelines to keep them as safe as you can.
- Unless they have your permission, they are to keep within your sight at all times. Turning a corner or dashing across the deck isn't allowed. This means you can relax and know they're with you unless you have given them specific instructions on a departing and return time and place, even if it's as simple as "go straight to the ice cream station and back."
- If they do leave your sight, with a sibling or a friend, then both of them must know The Rules When We're Apart and follow them or they lose the privilege of being away from you. Immediately, and for either many days or the rest of the cruise.
- When they leave you, tell them the following Rules When We're Apart: Kid pairs/groups of kids can't (1) walk the hallways where there are doors to staterooms, (2) go in elevators or (3) in any "hidden" areas. They can only be out in the open, in public areas and together. Staying where there are people and cameras keeps them safe. Think like a predator to keep your kids safe. They are cowards and are opportunistic. All you have to do is eliminate opportunity, and you CAN keep your kids safe! Finally, (4) Pairs go IN the bathroom together and wait until they are both done before they come out. If they're not the same sex, they will have to call you on the wave phone to meet them to either visit a bathroom or go to the stateroom for a potty break.
- For teens who have grown big enough to be considered "adult size" - it's possible you'll feel comfortable to allow them to be alone to go from place to place, but they still must follow the rules of not going down hallways with doors to staterooms, in elevators or hidden areas. It gives them freedom without the fear that they'll be caught in a bad situation they have to claw their way out of. Small teen girls still have to follow the pairs for privilege rule, simply because they're such a target. Unsure? step back and look at your child when they're in the midst of adults. Do they blend? Do they look like they could fight back and get away from a strong adult male? If not, then they need a buddy before they leave you.
- A Final Rule When We're Apart - While in kids areas or with kids club events, they are instructed to stay together when they are in the club (same room) and if the counselors split the kids to go off somewhere, they must go together. They also continue to visit bathrooms as a pair. We personally do make the counselors aware that they are expected to stay together and they have always honored this request and helped make it possible, rather than perhaps pushing a child (innocently) to split off from a sibling or friend.
Why so strict? Because you're eliminating opportunity. The only thing standing between your child and a predator is you. Even though we have these rules, or perhaps because of them, our kids love cruising. They love being aboard the ship. They do feel safe! They are given privileges they wouldn't normally have. Our neighborhood mall has exits to the outdoors and a car to whisk them away, so even public areas aren't as free for them. But aboard the ship, they can roam, as long as they follow the rules! Rules and boundaries keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Our kids know that, and yours will too.