Babies on the Seas

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer
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Besides the Disney theme parks and resorts world wide, Disney offers floating resorts on the seas: The Disney Cruise Line (DCL). Full of Disney magic we expect on land, they provide fun attractions, such as pools and the AquaDuck and AquaDunk, amazing restaurants, fabulous shows, and more! This week, we asked our Parenting Panel: Babies on the Disney Cruise Line: Would you take them? How young do you start?

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

Soon after my family got hooked on Disney vacations, we looked into a Disney Cruise. We knew it would be something very new to us, and we were a bit nervous. The main reason for our nerves was that soon after we booked the trip, we found out that we were expecting our second child. Not only were we going to be parents again, but our son was going to be about three months old at the time of our trip. We seriously considered cancelling our trip but decided that we would make it work.

The reason we decided that having an infant on a cruise would be OK was the fact that a cruise could be as exciting or as relaxing as you want it to be. The crowds are limited to the capacity of the ship, so that was not really an issue. Our son was still small enough where he slept a lot, but as we got closer to vacation time, we also saw that he had the potential of being a great traveler, as well. We were going to make it work and not worry about hitting every excursion, character meet and greet, or extra activity. After all, the DCL part was the second half of our land and sea trip and we were going to want to relax a bit after being at the parks for four days.

Recently, I was looking at vacation footage that included that first trip. I know my son won’t remember the times that Captain Mickey said hi to him, or the festive activates during diner, or the time around the pool. But it surely introduced us to the wonderful service that DCL provides both the adults and children alike. I would say three additional cruises later, and as the kids get older, the cruises only get better. As the saying goes – there is no better time than the present.

Sheena, also known as Mermaid, teaches first grade in Arizona where she lives with her husband two children, Matthew (3) and Katie (22 months). She visits Disneyland as often as she can and has passed on her love of the parks to her little Mouseketeers. Sheena writes:

I would absolutely cruise with a baby… And I did. My family cruised to Alaska this past July. My kids were 17 months and 2 1/2 years at the time. In a lot of ways, it was easier than a theme park vacation. If your child needs a nap or a break, it takes less than five minutes to be back in your stateroom. Pack-n-Plays are provided by Disney Cruise Line for little ones still in a crib, and they also have bed rails for older toddlers sleeping on the couch bed. Once our kids were asleep, one of us was able to go out and enjoy the offerings on the ship while the other rested with the nappers. Although, most days, we all needed a rest!

Another big reason we chose to cruise with DCL was the childcare. The nursery staff was amazing and my children begged to go to the “playroom” every time we walked by. There is a charge for children younger than 3 but I found it pretty reasonable. At the time we sailed, it was $11/hr for my 2 kids ($6/hr for one child, $5 for the sibling). [Editor's note: At the end of January, Disney announced a price increase for nursery care: Pricing for the first child is now $9 per hour. Pricing for the second child in a family (must be staying in the same stateroom) is now $8 per hour.] They played games, watched movies, did crafts, and even ate dinner one night. They have a quiet room for napping, but my kids were having too much fun to ever use it. At the end of the cruise, we were given a folder filled with crafts they had done and pictures of their time in the nursery. We discovered Goofy, Pluto and Stitch had all visited while they were there!

This gave my husband and I time to ourselves, to unwind and take in more adult parts of the ship. They also offered a fair amount of activities that we did with the kids, like Wake Up With Disney Junior, many character meets and our children’s first movie in a theater.

A third pro to cruising with toddlers was the easy availability of a variety of food. There was quick service, buffets, room service, and sit-down dining. We took advantage of all of these and it was nice to have so many options with young eaters. The wait staff was also really good at keeping the kids entertained during dinner. The only thing I may have done differently is I think a warmer cruise may be better suited to the little ones.

While my kids loved “The Mickey Boat,” I think they would have been in heaven splashing and playing in the pools and on the splash pads. [Editor's nNote: Children who are not potty trained can't go in the main pools, but there are special splash areas for them on all four ships.] So, if you are on the fence about cruising with a toddler- I would recommend you dive right in and have a great time!!

Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California withwith her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 2 and 4. Jen writes:

Would I take a Disney cruise with a baby? It depends on what age you mean by "baby." I have cruised with an infant by Disney's designation, which is a child under the age of 3, and I would absolutely do it again. But although I have friends who have successfully done so, I would be a lot more hesitant to cruise with a baby who is much under 1 year old.

My reluctance to cruise with a small infant would have nothing to do with Disney Cruise Line itself. We recently cruised with our two kids, who were almost 2 and almost 4 at the time, and we were very impressed with how Disney welcomed the little ones, from early-morning activities to character greetings to the dining room staff. They were prepared with bed rails, a Pack-n-Play or highchair if we needed it, and a diaper genie in the room. I have no doubt they would have been just as great with a baby.

The biggest hesitation I would have is a personal one. I chose to breastfeed and/or pump milk for my kids until they were each 1 year old. Since a cruise is a vacation for the whole family, including me, I did not want to be tied to nursing the baby for every single feeding, or else to have to deal with the logistics of pumping and storing milk onboard. I'm a firm believer that every mother should do what is best for her and her kids when it comes to feeding babies, but, in my case this choice strongly biased me toward waiting to cruise until my daughter was well past her first birthday.

Although feeding was the biggest reason, I can think of a few more reasons I'm glad we waited to take a Disney cruise. While Disney Cruise Line cabins are large compared to many other cruise lines, unless you book a suite, you still have your entire family in a relatively small area for sleeping. I'd imagine it would be tough on everyone to sleep in a cabin with a baby who wasn't sleeping through most of the night, especially if you have an older child who isn't used to being woken up at odd hours.

Disney cabins do have a nice little bathtub which is great for the toddler and preschooler age, but might be a little more challenging with a baby who isn't yet sitting up. And though Disney ships do have a water play area for non-potty-trained kids, at most times of the day it seemed a little too hectic for small babies.

In the end, we were happy that we waited until our youngest was almost 2 to take our first Disney cruise with kids. Now we're looking forward to the next cruise!

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!

Comments

  1. By DisneyGator

    Looking for questions about a family of 5. With three kids we've not been able to locate any discounts that would help with the cost of the cruise. With 5 of us, we have to get a huge suite. Any tips would be helpful as we would love to do this in the very near future.

  2. By Mermaid

    Are your kids youngish? On the Magic and the Wonder they have a category called Deluxe family oceanview, which has a fold down Murphy bed, so it sleeps 5 and has a little extra space. These are not quite as pricey as the suites. In retrospect, this would have been great for my two younger kids too since I had a pack and play which took up all of the floor space in my Verandah room.

    If your kids are older, it might be cheaper to get two room than a suite. You can get connecting rooms or if they are old enough- you can also get a oceanview or verandah room for Mom and Dad and an inside (cheaper) room for the kids across the hall. You have to put one adult on each room for booking purposes, but Disney doesn't care where you actually sleep. I would feel comfortable with connecting rooms with school age kids and the across the hall scenario with 12ish and up, but YMMV!

  3. By Mermaid

    Also- cruise prices are at their lowest on Opening Day and go up from there. You can save thousands of dollars by booking on or as close as possible to opening day. My upcoming two day cruise has doubled in price since I booked it a year ago. They have released through April (?) 2015 right now. It was around this time last year they released the rest of the year- so the rest of 2015 should be released soon. Watch the cruise boards and there should be a post when it is announced. There can be last minute deals, but I am not sure there ever are on rooms made for 5 and if you snag a last minute deal on 2 rooms, you are not guaranteed specific rooms- so you could be far apart- so that wouldn't really work.

  4. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by Mermaid View Post
    Also- cruise prices are at their lowest on Opening Day and go up from there. You can save thousands of dollars by booking on or as close as possible to opening day. My upcoming two day cruise has doubled in price since I booked it a year ago. They have released through April (?) 2015 right now. It was around this time last year they released the rest of the year- so the rest of 2015 should be released soon. Watch the cruise boards and there should be a post when it is announced. There can be last minute deals, but I am not sure there ever are on rooms made for 5 and if you snag a last minute deal on 2 rooms, you are not guaranteed specific rooms- so you could be far apart- so that wouldn't really work.

    The other thing I've heard is that if you book early on, then as they get closer to selling out, they offer incentives to upgrade your original booking so that they're discounting the less expensive rooms last minute, not the more expensive rooms? Did I hear that right? (And this is why I love my travel agent because when I do go to book a cruise, I'm going to ask HER to do all this thinking for me!)

  5. By davidgra

    Would we have taken our triplets when they were infants? Absolutely not. While our kids are all healthy, I would never want to be isolated from real medical care in case of an emergency. We didn't take the triplets on a cruise until they were close to eight years old. Even then, none of us had a particularly great time. Just not our style.

    As for how to take a family of five? GRANDPARENTS! Invite the grandparents along. Then you can sleep three to one room and four to the other. It takes the pressure off when you want to have a little down time, too. Before we became DVC members, that was the best way to stay in "value" resorts at WDW, too.

  6. By GusMan

    Going on the "Discounts" theme for a moment...
    I think the best way to look at costs for a DCL trip is to simply book with a good TA when you are ready to make the commitment.
    I say that because when a trip opens up at first, you may not know if you can really travel during that time. So its a guess.
    If you wait too long to try to get some discounts, you may run into other logistic issues.

    Other than that, you are going to find a lot of discounts. In fact, most TA's and and Disney will quote you around the same price, comparing apples to apples. What makes a difference is that if you use a TA, you might get some onboard discounts. Those discounts may vary. If you are a Disney Visa card holder, you can get an additional onboard credit as well.

    On the shameless plug side, I book my cruises with one of the MousePlanet sponsors and have been very happy with the quality of service and overall value.

  7. By Niwel

    We took DD on the Disney Fantasy last October when she was 8 months old and she LOVED the nursery - and so did we. We were able to take her in the splash zone - and she usually slept through dinner. She sat in on some of the shows, and we took her to meet Mickey. It was not difficult to get around (although we determined we like the charm of the classic ships vs. the newer ships)

    We did a non-Disney cruise in january which was not nearly as fun - DD is a great traveler but the amenities for babies were lacking.

    We are booked on the Magic in October after a few days in WDW and are really looking forward to it (she will be 20 months old).

    We never considered NOT cruising with a baby.

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