At what age would you/did you let kids have free range of the ship?

MAmama78

First time cruiser in 2020
Joined
May 4, 2019
My kids will be 10 (almost 11) and 13 when we take our second DCL cruise. When we took our first last year, they were 8 (almost 9) and 11 and we had a tight reign on them. However, it seemed like some 11/12 year-olds were on their own. I know it all depends on the kid, but I am curious about your experience.

As a side note, I wish the tween club started at 10. I am going to have a hard time convincing my younger daughter to go to kids club with the little kiddos.
 

otten

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 4, 2015
On our last cruise which was the WBPC in March we started to let out 8.5 year old have more freedom in the second half of our 14 day sailing. Since we had so many days at see (even more than scheduled) by the second half she knew the ship well and she has made a cruise BFF with one of our table mates. I wouldn’t say they had free reign but definitely more freedoms from the start of the cruise.
 

Karin1984

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 5, 2012
It will differ per child, but also per parent. Sometimes the child is ready but the parent isnt. Have clear agreements on what is allowed, be clear that freedom is something that can be taken away and indeed make sure they know their way around the ship.

What do you allow at home? Can they go to friends by themselves, can you send them to the store to pick up something?

Keep in mind that a ship is a safer place than your average neighbourhood. Less people and no traffic.

This thread might help.
 

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  • Marc D

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2016
    Our son has a great knowledge of the ships’ layouts (became Platinum at 8) and is extremely responsible. He knows how to handle himself in unexpected situations and he is aware that strangers might not be trusted.

    When he was 8, we let him get from point A (either the room, the dining room or Cabanas) to the clubs, and back to the room. He couldn’t walk around. He never strayed once and knew the privilege could be revoked if he did. You get a message in the app when they check out of the kids clubs, but not when they leave Vibe/Edge.

    At 9, he was able to walk around a bit - go grab a drink on top deck, meet us at a lounge at a designated time - and also did great. We gave him an old iPhone and he could text us if needed via iMessage. He even went to the dining room alone one evening when we went to Palo. The servers were advised in advance, but he ordered on his own. He wasn’t thrilled at first but loved it in the end.

    He will be 11 or 12 once we get back to cruising. Unless his character changes, he will have a lot more leeway in picking his activities then. We find a cruise is a good environnement for testing a kid’s responsibility.
     

    ladyofthetramp

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 3, 2014
    I think as a parent I am a bit cautious. Our kids might have been 10-12 or so. The other requirement was if they were changing location for awhile to text and let us know. No visits to cabins of friends. And a definite time to be "home" at night. I remember one evening my husband and I were having dineer in Palo seated next to the windows-I believe we were on the Magic. Along come the kids strolling by waving to us. The servers were laughing so hard. It was hilarious!
     

    ladyofthetramp

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 3, 2014
    I think as a parent I am a bit cautious. Our kids might have been 10-12 or so. I wouldn't say they had free reign, but they had a bit of freedom to come and go. The requirement was if they were changing location for awhile to text and let us know. No visits to cabins of friends. And a definite time to be "home" at night. I remember one evening my husband and I were having dinner in Palo seated next to the windows-I believe we were on the Magic. Along come the kids strolling by waving to us. The servers were laughing so hard. It was hilarious!
     

    DisBNewB

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 17, 2019
    Our first cruise (Disney or otherwise) was about a year ago; kiddo was 9. We let them have check in/out privileges in the club, and mostly do their own thing, but asked them to check in with us pretty regularly. They did have a "phone" (old iPhone, no cell service) that they could use to contact us using iMessage or the DCL App (though they were spotty in terms whether the messages came through right away or were delayed. also in terms of whether said child actually remembered to check their messages/message us 😆 ).
     

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  • gotomu212

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 2, 2010
    My kids will be 10 (almost 11) and 13 when we take our second DCL cruise. When we took our first last year, they were 8 (almost 9) and 11 and we had a tight reign on them. However, it seemed like some 11/12 year-olds were on their own. I know it all depends on the kid, but I am curious about your experience.

    As a side note, I wish the tween club started at 10. I am going to have a hard time convincing my younger daughter to go to kids club with the little kiddos.
    By the time they get to Edge (age 11, but it may be possible for your 10 year old to attend. You ask once you board, and if there’s room in that age you sign a paper and they are set. Not sure if CoVid restrictions or capacity may change that though) they don’t have secure programming and several of their activities are out and about on the ship so by then it was pretty free rein with some rules and check ins with us. At 8 we started the go directly from A to B and increased it each year to a little more freedom.
     

    MomOTwins

    The Mommy Fairy
    Joined
    Mar 5, 2018
    Curious if the parents actually check in on their free range kids now and then to spot check good behavior. Things I’ve seen unsupervised kids/tweens do on the ship:
    —run into a woman with crutches and a cast, knocking her over and then running off without helping
    —press all the buttons on the elevator so it slows it down for everyone
    —run into an elevator carrying a full plate of food from cabanas that promptly got upended, splattering ketchup on the occupants and the elevator floor
    —taking magnets off of cabin doors and sticking them on a door further down the hall
    —picking up food at the buffet at cabanas with bare hands and then putting it back when they change their mind

    And covid adds another layer. At WDW saw a lot of kids and teens not observing mask rules at the resort pools and common arras with no adult in sight.

    And I assure you, as a mom of three kids age 5-8 I am NOT one of those people who dislikes kids or expects perfect behavior. But I don’t think an exciting cruise where kids are trying to fit in with a new group of friends is a recipe for best behavior, and it baffles me why people think that is a good environment to test whether kids can be responsible.
     

    DisBNewB

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 17, 2019
    Curious if the parents actually check in on their free range kids now and then to spot check good behavior. Things I’ve seen unsupervised kids/tweens do on the ship:
    —run into a woman with crutches and a cast, knocking her over and then running off without helping
    —press all the buttons on the elevator so it slows it down for everyone
    —run into an elevator carrying a full plate of food from cabanas that promptly got upended, splattering ketchup on the occupants and the elevator floor
    —taking magnets off of cabin doors and sticking them on a door further down the hall
    —picking up food at the buffet at cabanas with bare hands and then putting it back when they change their mind

    And covid adds another layer. At WDW saw a lot of kids and teens not observing mask rules at the resort pools and common arras with no adult in sight.

    And I assure you, as a mom of three kids age 5-8 I am NOT one of those people who dislikes kids or expects perfect behavior. But I don’t think an exciting cruise where kids are trying to fit in with a new group of friends is a recipe for best behavior, and it baffles me why people think that is a good environment to test whether kids can be responsible.
    We definitely spot checked, and did at home. We wouldn't have given our kiddo that freedom/responsibility if they hadn't already shown it at home as well (we live in a large apartment building and they regularly fetch packages/mail/interact with the office/etc). There are other factors (ADHD, anxiety, people-pleasing personality type etc) and it's definitely not for everybody, and I 100% agree with you that it's not the place to test out whether a kid is responsible & considerate enough to be granted those freedoms.
     

    Karin1984

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 5, 2012
    Curious if the parents actually check in on their free range kids now and then to spot check good behavior. Things I’ve seen unsupervised kids/tweens do on the ship:
    —run into a woman with crutches and a cast, knocking her over and then running off without helping
    —press all the buttons on the elevator so it slows it down for everyone
    —run into an elevator carrying a full plate of food from cabanas that promptly got upended, splattering ketchup on the occupants and the elevator floor
    —taking magnets off of cabin doors and sticking them on a door further down the hall
    —picking up food at the buffet at cabanas with bare hands and then putting it back when they change their mind

    And covid adds another layer. At WDW saw a lot of kids and teens not observing mask rules at the resort pools and common arras with no adult in sight.

    And I assure you, as a mom of three kids age 5-8 I am NOT one of those people who dislikes kids or expects perfect behavior. But I don’t think an exciting cruise where kids are trying to fit in with a new group of friends is a recipe for best behavior, and it baffles me why people think that is a good environment to test whether kids can be responsible.
    I think that the percentage of children who misbehave is much smaller than the group that does behave. Most of what you say can happen with a parent/caretaker present, it's very easy for point four and five for a kid to do, it only takes one moment where the eyes of the parents are not on the child.
    Only the first and third point the parent will help the other adult and make the kid apologize, but that's no guarantee it will not happen again.

    To me, it's the perfect environment to let your kids get used to responsibility and trust. There is no traffic, about a third (?) of the people on board are employees who are trained and probably screened for good behaviour and to help. It's easy to teach your children to go to a CM if something happens. If they would get lost within minutes all CMs would be notified to be on the look out.

    The other people on the ship are on holiday as well, while no guarantee, I do think it reduces the chances of predators or those with bad intentions (They cannot run off either). It is easy to navigate on a ship and to make agreements on what can and cannot be done. If you want to start giving your child responsibility and show that you trust your children: a cruise ship is a perfect 'controlled' environment.

    Some will mistakes, but I do like to believe in the good of children and that the majority will be too keen on keeping their privileges.
     
  • MomOTwins

    The Mommy Fairy
    Joined
    Mar 5, 2018
    We definitely spot checked, and did at home. We wouldn't have given our kiddo that freedom/responsibility if they hadn't already shown it at home as well (we live in a large apartment building and they regularly fetch packages/mail/interact with the office/etc). There are other factors (ADHD, anxiety, people-pleasing personality type etc) and it's definitely not for everybody, and I 100% agree with you that it's not the place to test out whether a kid is responsible & considerate enough to be granted those freedoms.
    I think that is the key—mirror on the ship the level of freedom/responsibility they already have at home. It’s like anything else—the first time you let your kids swim without floaties should be in the pool with you or another trusted adult there to supervise—not at a pool party with no adults supervising! Same as you get older—with teens, you wouldn’t let them learn drive with some new friends but no adults in the car.

    I think that the percentage of children who misbehave is much smaller than the group that does behave. Most of what you say can happen with a parent/caretaker present, it's very easy for point four and five for a kid to do, it only takes one moment where the eyes of the parents are not on the child.
    Only the first and third point the parent will help the other adult and make the kid apologize, but that's no guarantee it will not happen again.

    To me, it's the perfect environment to let your kids get used to responsibility and trust. There is no traffic, about a third (?) of the people on board are employees who are trained and probably screened for good behaviour and to help. It's easy to teach your children to go to a CM if something happens. If they would get lost within minutes all CMs would be notified to be on the look out.

    The other people on the ship are on holiday as well, while no guarantee, I do think it reduces the chances of predators or those with bad intentions (They cannot run off either). It is easy to navigate on a ship and to make agreements on what can and cannot be done. If you want to start giving your child responsibility and show that you trust your children: a cruise ship is a perfect 'controlled' environment.

    Some will mistakes, but I do like to believe in the good of children and that the majority will be too keen on keeping their privileges.
    Agree with you that misbehavior can happen with parents present, but I do think makes a huge difference having a parent there to correct the behavior and direct the kid to apologize/clean up the mess/help a person who is hurt.

    Absolutely disagree on ships being a low risk/predator free zone—DCL has had publicized incidents on that front and also there have been disturbing accounts on this board as well. Sadly, predators go where the kids are.
     

    tinkerone

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 3, 2007
    Unpopular opinion so I don't need anyone to 'boo, hiss' me.
    You are on a floating city with 6000 strangers. You may talk to them in a group forum before you sail but do you 'know' them? It might not be common but there have been cases of sexual misconduct with children aboard, even by crew members. You also have to think about if your child is in a group of other children, what might they come up with in a game of dare? Pushing elevator buttons would be the least of my worries.
    For sure you, the parent, know your child best but you don't know others so keep that in mind. I did not 'helicopter parent' my children at all times but I did not let them have control while on vacation. Nothing bad happens until it does.
    Again, JMO, not popular, so no need to bash this. Just putting something out there to think about.
     

    Spiffy MacSpiff

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 16, 2017
    We gave the Young MacSpiffs the freedom of the ship + charging privileges when they turned 12, with limits: they had to notify us when they changed locations, no swimming without one of us nearby, no buying anything for friends, no gift shop purchases unless we talked about it first, and dinner with us in the MDR was a firm requirement. And, if we caught them breaking the rules or behaving like idiots, then there would be fire and brimstone raining from the sky, and shouting, and perhaps pubic floggings, and then they'd have to stay where we could see them for the rest of the cruise. :)

    They were very responsible with their newfound freedom, and it was good for all of us, I think. When we caught sight of them around the ship they were always behaving themselves. By that age, they were used to biking around our little town with their friends, and running errands to local shops for us, so I don't think it was so much the freedom they liked, but having freedom in a different environment.
     

    TestingH2O

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 10, 2014
    On our last cruise which was the WBPC in March we started to let out 8.5 year old have more freedom in the second half of our 14 day sailing. Since we had so many days at see (even more than scheduled) by the second half she knew the ship well and she has made a cruise BFF with one of our table mates. I wouldn’t say they had free reign but definitely more freedoms from the start of the cruise.
    My daughter was almost 8 on that trip, and I also allowed her some extra freedom in the second half. She obviously couldn't check herself in and out of the clubs, but we would let her go get ice cream or a soda while we were all on the pool deck. One time we let her go change into her swimsuit when we went to watch Funnel Vision and it ended up being a nice night to swim. Before that though, we had made her navigate to and from the room, lead us around the ship, etc.
     

    daedelus

    This will be my greatest performance!
    Joined
    Dec 23, 2017
    All good advice - I'll only add that you know your kids better than anyone else - are YOU comfortable with them having run of the ship? Are you confident that they'll behave properly, even among "club friends?"

    I've seen both extremes - they extremely badly behaved and the impressively well behaved on all of our cruises. On our last cruise, at least one set of parents got a rude surprise when DCL security delivered their magnet pilfering youth to their room. They do watch - cameras everywhere.

    Our kids have been under similar rules to what's been mentioned - text us with where / what / 'til when and no going into anyone else's rooms - period. Our only other hard and fast rule is that we always eat dinner together as a family - no exceptions. We do Palo brunch because dinners together are important to us.

    So think about your kiddos, give them to proper warnings and then check up on them - but as John Charles said in his song, "here's a tip, you're on a ship, they can't go far!"
     

    tvguy

    Question anything the facts don't support.
    Joined
    Dec 15, 2003
    Our kids were 12 and 16 when we cruised DCL. Our second cruise as a family. It was a family vacation so with one exception we were together 24/7 for the 7 days. Our 12 year old did go on her own from the stateroom to the Kids Club for a Beatles Trivia contest. That was the only time we were part. So I guess my answer would be 12.
     

    Sun_soakin

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 7, 2016
    Once they graduated from kids club. My oldest was 15 on our last trip and found a great group in Vibe and stayed there until closing unless we texted him. My second was 12 and didn’t enjoy edge, so she wanted freedom to come and go (mostly eat junk food and hang in pool deck). The younger two spent most of their time in the club (by choice) but I gave our 10 y/o check out privileges so she could go w/ her sister. We still keep tabs by text
     
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