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Taking a cruise can be daunting, and that stress and worry grows when you add taking children with you. But with a toddler? Impossible, you say. Not so!
With enough forethought and planning, you can take your toddler on an amazing and memorable Disney Cruise with much less stress and have an amazing time! This summer, breaking our 10 year streak of vacation-less life, we took our 3 year old on an amazing Disney Cruise and came back to tell you the helpful things we learned that can help you too!
1 – Early Boarding Time
No toddler likes to stand around, waiting and waiting to board this incredible ship, anticipation growing, panic building….help them out by making sure you get the earliest boarding time possible and getting there early! Most often Disney Cruise Line will announce a very early boarding time selection day, and by early I mean that it tends to start at midnight. Pay attention to those emails that you get so you don’t miss it. Otherwise you could be stuck in line for hours, waiting to get on board with everyone else.
The early boarding time is WORTH IT! Not only will you skip most of the waiting, but then you can get right to the fun part, exploring the ship and pools. Most toddlers need time to acclimate to their new surroundings, so take that extra time and explore together. Drop your stuff off at your room and head to the pool, check out the restaurants, explore the Oceaneer’s Club or Kid’s Club if they are old enough.
2 – The Pool Rules!
If your toddler is still in diapers or pull-ups, be aware that they will not be allowed in any of the pools on board. It’s a shame, but we can’t blame them. There is, however, a fun splash pad, perfect for toddlers, where your little ones can run free and enjoy water-time! Worried about bringing your child’s floatation device with you? Don’t fret! Disney provides several sizes of floaties for kids, so leave your bulky wings at home.
3 – Sleeping Arrangements
Most rooms can be equipped with a couch that turns into a bed, and your porter will set up that couch-bed for you each night (so helpful!). If your toddler needs something more…containing, ask ahead of time for a Pack n’ Play. The porter will have it ready for you when you arrive, along with a diaper pail, just in case. Each morning they will pack it up, and each evening they will put it together. Talk about service! So don’t feel like you have to drag your entire nursery with you. Disney has your back!
4 – Folding Stroller
I’m sure you already have a giant stroller, most parents with toddlers do, but you do NOT want to bring that beast on board with you. The rooms are small and there is little space for anything besides the necessities. But if you want to get out on an excursion or explore a port you WILL need that stroller. We found an amazingly compact and easy to use stroller that fit perfectly in the bottom of our closet. Get yourself something compact, easy to fold and unfold, that will maneuver well and it will be worth every penny. We now use ours all the time.
5 – Kid’s Club and Nursery
Every parent feels bad leaving their kids with babysitters, and it feels strange to leave them with complete strangers. Admit it. Even when we desperately need time for ourselves there is still a part of us that feels guilty. Don’t! Who better to trust with your toddler than Disney employees?
We took a chance with Disney and we are so glad we did. The Kid’s Club and Oceaneer’s Club typically have an open-house during each port day, which means they are open for families to explore and the staff is there for questions. We brought our kiddo the day we got on board and let her play. The next day, when the club’s were “closed” for only kid play we left her there for an hour.
The kids get a wrist band to wear that they have to tag on a sensor before entering so they know who is in the club. It’s attached to your names, your room, and a secret password for your child’s safety. Only someone listed on the room and who knows the secret word can remove your toddler from the room. And if your kiddo needs to leave early because they got an owchie or are missing you, the staff will send you a text to your phone’s app or your room’s phone.
We let our little one stay there at least once a day for an hour or so and she had such a blast! She made crafts, made friends, played with characters, danced, and always was excited to go to Kid’s Club. Now, there is also a Nursery for even littler ones. Kid’s Club and Oceaneer’s club is for children 3 and over (as long as they are potty trained) and the Nursery is for kid’s 2 and under. It’s the same rules, and you provide the staff with diapers and milk/food/formula your little one may need.
Kid’s Club is free but Nursery is $9 an hour. But with so many adult quiet areas, trivia parties, and the amazing spa, you will want a little alone time. Take advantage!
6 – Stay On Board at Port
No one says you have to get off the ship at every port. If your toddler needs a break from the excitement this is the perfect chance to splash in the pool, play in the Kid’s Club, and do all kinds of fun things on board while the vast majority of passengers are gone.
We stayed on board for 3 of the 5 days at port and were glad we did. Our little one had a hard time adjusting to so much change. Pick and choose your days ahead of time. We had planned excursions every port day but some were cancelled, so we chose to stay aboard instead of explore on our own and boy, did we need it.
7 – Eat Early
Kids do best with a schedule, and it’s virtually impossible to keep a toddler to a schedule on ship, but try to make sure to get yourself an early dinner seating. The earliest dinner seating is 5:30pm. The other option is 7:30pm, which is typically too late for most toddlers.
While your restaurant will change each night your servers will remain the same, which is a really nice bennie. They can help you work around your toddler’s picky eating needs. If you miss your seating time, no worries. One restaurant on board is set up cafeteria style and you can just walk in any time they are serving and find a huge assortment of delicious food.
8 – Bring Costumes!
The Disney Cruise Line offers a couple of shops on board but, as you can imagine, their costumes are expensive! And your toddler WILL want to be in costume at least one night on board. Our ship had a Pirate Night, so we made sure we had a fabulous pirate costume. My daughter also decided that she loved princesses about 2 weeks before the trip after 3 years of being luke-warm about them, so we set her up with a Princess Tea and a Bibbity Bobbitty Boutique appointment as well. She loved both and we were SO glad we brought princess costumes with us. The ones offered were incredibly expensive, though lovely. Now, months later, her favorite memories are those when she got to wear her costumes.
9 – The Daily Navigator Is Your Friend
Each day your porter will leave you with some paperwork on your bed. Don’t throw it out! One of those pages will be your Daily Navigator and that is a precious page! The navigator tells you, to the minute, what activities are happening on the ship the next day. It lists character times and locations, autograph opportunities, what movies are playing where, what musicals are being shown at night, if there is a boat party, and more. We used that amazing document like our cruise bible. Trivia nights, bourbon tastings, when the Kid’s Club was an open-house versus closed, you name it and you could find it.
10 – Aft is Best
Many people who have issues with motion sickness will want to stick to staying in a cabin that is more mid-ship than not, but if you have no motion issues, I highly recommend staying to the Aft of the ship. Why? Aft is where there are more activities happening, elevator banks, and laundry facilities, and on one of the open floors on the Aft deck is the cafeteria restaurant and huge bank of soda/juice/water dispensers. Being on the Aft side was a godsend when I needed to refill drinks at midnight and didn’t want to walk all over the ship. The noise was negligible, but the location was PRIME.
11 – I Like BIG Cups, and I Cannot Lie
Food and drinks are all part of the cost of the ship (with a few exceptions) but the cups offered on board are small and paper. If your toddler is a big water drinker, or soda/juice, whatever, and don’t want to make dozens of trips to the soda fountain throughout the day, bring a BIG cup with you. I tool a 32-ounce insulated Thermoflask (link attached) and not only did it hold just enough drink, but it kept that drink frigid cold almost all day, despite the 85 degree days. Sure, you can buy the giant Sven cups, or what have you, but those things are EXPENSIVE, and are you really going to use it again…like bring it to work for your water? I don’t think so (but if you are that person, can we be friends?)
12 – Special Requests
Your servers are your best friends if your little toddler is going through a picky eating phase (like our daughter was at the time of the cruise). No, they can’t find you McDonald’s nuggets, but they can bring you food from almost any location on board. Your child prefers the pizza they have on deck by the pool? Ask and you shall receive! Eating in Restaurant A tonight but they really liked the chicken tenders from Restaurant C? Bibbity-bobbity Chicken Tenders! Don’t be afraid to ask. This isn’t their first rodeo with picky eating kids and they have your back.
So these are only my top 12 suggestions to keep in mind when planning a cruise with your toddler. There are many, many, many more little tips and tricks that anyone traveling on a Disney cruise should know, but you’ll have to stay tuned for more! If you have been on a Disney Cruise and have an even better tip for toddler travels please share!!
Want to save some money on your Disney Cruise? Check out this article! 6 Simple Ways to Save Money On Your Disney Cruise.
Disney Cruise Line Link: https://disneycruise.disney.go.com