Our family just got back from our very first Disney Cruise and had an amazing time! By the end of the trip Maxwell said that the ship was actually our boat, that we were going to live there from now on, and cried when he realized that someone would be sleeping in his room when it was over.
We live in Orlando which is just an hour from Port Canaveral, so we had a quick trip over to where we boarded the Disney Dream. Our boarding reservation was at 11:15am, so we packed our baby essentials with us in a few small bags and enjoyed lunch before some time at the pool. Our cruise was 5 days / 4 nights, with two stops at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, and one stop in Nassau.
Each night we ate dinner during main dining between 5:45-6:15 on the ship, and usually enjoyed some post dinner dancing to the live band in the atrium or spent time our on the top deck watching movies in the evening.
We disembarked early both days at Castaway Cay. Folks who have cruised with Disney before get first pick of the prized cabanas that can be rented on the island, so they were all sold out by the time our booking window rolled around.
It still worked out great and we got several chairs with umbrellas to keep us out of the sun. Food and drink, kids club activities and splash pads were all easily accessible and a pretty tasty BBQ lunch is included, so we didn’t spend much money at all those days aside from a few cocktails. There are lots of water sports available, watersides, snorkeling, biking, an adults only beach, and even an early morning 5K to keep folks plenty busy. Honestly, I would have been OK spending all of our days on Castaway Cay.
During our time in Nassau, we booked an excursion to Blue Lagoon Island. While the water was stunning and there were some great photo ops, the beaches were pretty crowded and we didn’t get a lot of time actually on the beach after the time it took to boating to the island, so it was a little disappointing for the price. We vacationed in the Bahamas last summer, so if I had it to do over, I would have stayed on the ship for Max to enjoy the pool and kids activities a bit more instead of disembarking that day.
I woke up early each day to watch the sun rise during my run on the track around the 4th floor deck of the Disney Dream 2.5 laps is a mile). I love being close to the water, and it’s one of my favorite areas of the boat. There is a gym on ship for those who prefer to workout indoors.
There is a Pirate Night on Disney Cruises, and folks can dress up for dinner and lots of night time activities. Our whole family dressed up for the event, and Miss Mila was a hit as a little pirate wench. Max had a blast at the big show on the main deck and peeked at a few of the fireworks from the portal in our room.
I did some research before our trip and found some good blogs and videos that described what to expect on a Disney Cruise, but not much that was focused on traveling with babies and toddlers, so I wanted to share my Top Ten Tips for Disney Cruises with Toddlers and Babies:
1. Babies have to be at least six months old to go on a Disney Cruise. Be prepared with a birth certificate and/or passport depending on your ports of call.
2. Baby Gear. You can request a crib (pack and play) and diaper genie in your room, and there’s some limited availability for stroller rental too.
High chairs are available in the restaurants, but I brought this chair for the beach, restaurants and our stateroom. It folded up in a bag to carry easily under the stroller, and was perfect for the picnic tables at Castaway Cay. (Link for baby seat, CLICK HERE.)
3. Request Main Dining if your kiddos turn in the early. Main Dining is from 5:45-6:15, and late dining starts at 8pm. Main Dining was full when we booked, but we were waitlisted and had it changed. You can also request a change at Guest Services on the ship.
4. Disney has a kids club on board for kiddos older than three, and all sorts of activities and clubs for teenagers. For a nominal fee (I think currently $9 an hour), the ship has childcare in a nursery available for babies six months until three years. I work so much these days that we wanted to spend extra time with the kids, so didn’t end up using either, but kinda feel bad that Max didn’t get to have fun there. (Always next time!)
5. Make a list and check it twice. A week or two before the trip I started laying things out for the kids. Tylenol, teething crackers, puffs, diapers, baby food purée, baby sunscreen, swim diapers… you get the picture. Felt pretty cocky by the time we had boarded, until I realized that I forgot all of Mila’s PJs as well as any formula aside from what I’d packed for the first day in my diaper bag. The ship has lots of stuff that you may need, but started running low on formula by the 3rd day so we had to stop at a grocery store on Nassau to stock up. Make sure you pack what you need!
6. No swim diapers in pools. While babies and toddlers in swim diapers are allowed in the water at Castaway Cay, no swim diapers are allowed on board the ship in the pools. You will be able to use the splash pad on the boat, but that’s about it. For the beach we brought this float for Mila that allows her to float on her back, belly, or sit in the water. As soon as she starts her ISR classes this fall we won’t be using floats with her, but it was a great way to enjoy the beach together as a family all day for this trip. There are life jackets by the ship pool and at the beach for the bigger kids. (Link to float below CLICK HERE.)
7. Portal Rooms. I’ve cruised before without kids with a balcony, and love to sit out and listen to the water and enjoy the fresh air. My three year old is a renegade super hero ninja that will jump and climb on everything, and the though of a balcony on our room made me nervous this trip, so we got a room with a large portal. Max was obsessed with looking out the window all the time, and mommy was obsessed with the photo ops! Lots of families decorate their doors on the boat, a memo I clearly missed this time around, but will try to remember next trip.
8. Bring a small fold up stroller. While suitcases will fit under your bed, there is limited space in the staterooms, so you should leave your bulky jogging strollers at home. Lightweight folding strollers also make getting on and off boats, busses and teams much easier, as well fitting next to your table at dinner. I brought my WildBird sling for those times where carrying Mila was easier too. (CLICK HERE for a link to my favorite umbrella stroller.)
9. Snacks. Yes, the boat has tons of food and room service in a moment’s notice, but it’s still a great idea to bring along snacks for toddlers for the lines getting on and off the boat, when hanging out on the beach, or during excursions. I packed some apple sauce packets, snack crackers, and granola bars and picked up fresh fruit each day at breakfast.
10. Favorite places on the ship. Our whole boat was a wonderland, but a few of my favorite places included dance parties and character greetings in the atrium, ice cream and outdoor movies on the pool deck, and walking with the kids around the fourth floor deck.