Babysitters on Board

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, which help us support the site.

I had a different post in mind for today but then Lilly found my battered copy of Babysitters Club Super Special #1: Babysitters on Board, when they take a cruise and go to Walt Disney World. She had some questions about the 80s, so I thought it would be really fun to reread it and see how it checks out with what I know of Walt Disney World today. I'm going to assume that if you're going to read this you're at least marginally familiar with The Babysitters Club series, and the name of the club is pretty self explanatory if you're not. In Super Special #1, Mr Pike, father of 8 kids and thus well known to every babysitter in town, wins a contest at work: an all expenses paid Bahamian cruise and trip to Walt Disney World for his whole family! AND they want 2 of the babysitters (Mary Anne and Stacey) to come along as mother's helpers! President of the club, Kristy, has a rich stepfather, and when he hears about this he decides to bring HIS whole blended family, plus the extra babysitters who would have been left behind, because Watson is cool like that. In the end, 21 people are going on what we travel agents call a Land & Sea vacation! The book opens when everyone is getting on the airplane. Let's all pause to laugh at the idea of a gigantic airplane with 9 seats across flying from Connecticut to Orlando. AND they are served lunch on a 3 hour flight! HAHAHAHA They don't cover the journey from airport to port, but do mention cruising out of Port Canaveral. Their cruise ship, the Ocean Princess, has pools, a beauty parlor, a barbershop, a cafe, a disco, stores, and restaurants, as well as a kids club and kids pools. Princess Cruise Line had an Ocean Princess in the early aughts, but that ship didn't exist in the mid-80s. Disney Cruise Line didn't launch until the mid-90s, but from 1985-1993 they partnered with Premier Cruise Line and their Big Red Boat for 7 Night Land & Sea vacations to the Bahamas and Disney World. And guess what the original name of the first Big Red Boat was? The Oceanic. Premier and Disney basically invented family cruising, so it's likely this vacation Mr Pike won was modeled on the Big Red Boat Land & Sea vacation. Dawn even says that the people boarding the boat are going on to WDW with them. Exploring the ship made me smile - there's a restaurant called the Pirate's Den and today the Disney Cruise Line has Pirate Night, where everyone dresses up and there is a pirate themed menu and deck party. The beauty salon/barbershop/spa are all one area on a Disney ship today. A casino! Heaven forbid. No casinos on Disney ships today, but the Big Red Boat did have a casino. Pools, kid clubs, ice cream parlor, movie theater all check out (and exist today on Disney Cruise Line ships). The middle of the book is a bunch of 80s lack of supervision and terrible parenting choices, and tweens who are making terrible judgement calls right and left. Dawn's "in luv" with a mediocre boy who hates his young stepbrothers, Mary Anne thinks she's found a "true friend" in a girl who she knows lied to her from their first meeting, Claudia thinks a stalker is mysterious and exciting, and Kristy doesn't think it's weird at all that a man in his 70s is hanging out with a 12 year old girl. Also, "I'm sure you're responsible," the father of a medically fragile child says before leaving his kid with a strange babysitter, because they had talked about her diabetes. I could continue on that rant for days but that's not why we're here! We're here for vintage facts! One of the first things Lilly asked about was the mini bar in the hotel room. When was the last time you saw a mini bar?? I think it had to be 90s for me. There's no mention of a name or any meaningful description of their hotel, only that they had to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom parking lot and then taking a monorail to the park, so my guess is a hotel on I-Drive. Descriptions of the Magic Kingdom are accurate (including California snob Dawn admitting that Space Mountain is completely different at Walt Disney World). Several rides and shops no longer exist but did then. (As an aside, I'm startled by casual use of the r-word. I guess I need to pre-read the "vintage" ones or limit her to the graphic novels, which are updated for modern audiences.) Everyone is really into Main Street, which is quaint. So many people blow right past the shops to get to the rides these days. The Empress Lilly, which is what drew my attention to this in the first place, is mentioned as a character breakfast spot. We looked it up this morning, and it turns out it is the "boat" that is now Paddlefish at Disney Springs. Back then, Disney Springs was Walt Disney World Village. Don't get me started on how almost everyone spent 3 days at Magic Kingdom and only 3 out of the group of 21 wanted to see Epcot. You cannot tell me barely any of those kids and tweens wanted to see Captain EO in 1988! Also, I am surprised that no one mentions the monorail going through the Contemporary. When I was 8, we rode the monorail just for fun and I thought going through the center of a hotel was the most amazing thing of all time. And let's be honest, even today, there's nothing else like it! Shameless plug time: If you always wanted to do a land and sea Disney vacation like the BSC, people still do this! There are 3 and 4 night Bahamian cruises sailing on the brand new Disney Wish starting this July, and adding a trip to Walt Disney World before or after your cruise is seamless. We've done it several times! Contact me for a quote.