Babies on the Seasby Adrienne Krock, staff writer
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!