By Wendy Irvine
But that’s exactly what Judy and Randy Riddle had up their sleeves: taking the whole family on a Disney Caribbean cruise-eventually. Maybe when daughter Barb finished having babies. Or the grandchildren got a little older. But Barb never seemed to finish, and then grandfather Randy died before their lovely “eventually” caught up to their today.
“Randy was just a ‘baby’ when he died,” says Judy Riddle softly, talking about her husband of 34 years, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. “He was only 55 years old. Our family has learned that life is short.”
Fast-forward seven years to today. When Judy’s relationship with her new beau, Jack, clearly deepened, Jack suggested that they introduce the two families on a Disney cruise. Judy didn’t blink.
“We wanted to treat everybody,” says Judy. The couple arrived in Florida days before the children arrived. “I highly recommend that all grandparents steal a few days for themselves,” says Judy. “Jack and I had a great time on our own; but when the day arrived, I was so anxious for my children to show up.”
Getting seven adults (outnumbered by nine children) to fly in formation from Disney World (the first leg of the trip) to a ship would concern most people. “We didn’t even try to coordinate. We gave our adult children their passes and said, ‘See you onboard,'” says Judy. “My thoughts were, These are adults. Don’t treat them like kids. ” Judy adds with a laugh, “I’ll admit I acted confident, but I was nervous that someone wouldn’t make it.”
Judy also worried that the cruise would be crawling with children.
“My grandchildren are great; but too many children, I’m just not into,” says Judy. “On the cruise, I just didn’t see a lot of children. There’s so much to do, everyone is so busy, that the cruise ended up being pretty relaxing.”
Somewhere somebody in corporate is thinking, because the Disney cruise caters to adults and children alike. Disney provides everything you’d expect for children, with deluxe activities galore. Teens, too, aren’t forgotten: the entire top deck is teenager-nirvana where supervision reigns, but unobtrusively.
And for the adults? There are no-kid zones with a pool and hot tub, a spacious fitness room, spa, salon and coffee shop. An adults-only restaurant reigns on the top deck, and a bevy of adult after-hours activities ensue: Broadwaystyle shows, dancing, karaoke, sports- and cigar bars.
Judy clearly reveled in the time spent with her adult children. “The karaoke bar had a guy emceeing who was the funniest I’ve ever heard. I hadn’t laughed that hard in years.”
There were few complaints.
“The only negative was that Disney isn’t set up for huge families,” says Judy. “The restaurant tables only hold 12. The staterooms only allow for three children. My advice: Talk to the maitre d’ when you board and insist on several tables together. And my son, with his toddler, wishes he’d booked a room without a balcony. But,” she emphatically adds, “Grandparents should get an outside room with one!”
Choosing a highlight is tough, too: One family member loved the shows; another, the excursions.Judy reminisces about seeing the awe on her grandchildren’s faces each time they met a Disney character.
“The private island was also impressive. I snorkeled, played with the children and had a beer,” Judy laughs. “The trip was expensive but worth it. Jack and I say you can’t buy memories. There’s no way to put a price on this kind of experience.”
She repeats, “Life is just too short.”