Is a Disney Cruise with a toddler worth the cost? Keep reading for a breakdown of the pros and cons of taking your toddler on a Disney cruise to help you decide if it’s worth it for your family.
Traveling with a toddler isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vacation! And, if you’re a Disney lover like us (or the parent of one), then you might be wondering what’s the best way to bring your kiddo to the mouse. A Disney World trip? Disneyland trip? A Disney cruise?
The answer is going to differ for everyone, but there’s a good case for a Disney cruise being the best option for toddlers in particular. From amenities that make traveling with a kid under 3 easy, to activities that will keep them busy for hours, and more, here’s what you need to know to decide whether a Disney cruise is right for you and your toddler.
Why Consider a Disney Cruise With a Toddler?
A Disney cruise is unlike any other Disney vacation. With world-class ships packed full of Disney characters, over-the-top theming, delicious food, and award-winning shows, a cruise onboard any of the Disney ships maintains all the magic and nostalgia of the parks minus the scorching sun and long lines that you might find in Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort.
Plus, the Disney Cruise Line is built with families in mind. Yes, there are some adult-only areas for some peace and quiet (which you should certainly indulge in!), but the majority of the boat is designed for the entire family to enjoy together. That’s not something that all cruise lines can say!
It’s important to note that, unlike the parks, toddlers under the age of 3 aren’t free. However, the fee for children is minimal compared to an adult and includes all of the food and entertainment your kiddo will enjoy onboard.
But, what exactly can you do with your toddler onboard? And, is cruising with a toddler more complicated than it’s worth? Let’s dig into the details.
One of the best parts about a Disney cruise is that many of the baby essentials are provided for you. This makes it easier to pack lighter and worry less about forgetting all of the equipment that toddlers require.
In your stateroom, you can request a complimentary Pack-n-Play or crib that will be installed before you arrive, taking one big hassle out of the equation when it’s bedtime. You can even request that your stateroom host set up the crib and take it down for you each day so that you have more space to spread out during the day.
Additionally, diaper disposal units, bottle warmers, and bottle sterilizers can be requested free of charge. And, bathtime is made easy thanks to the split bathroom design on the Disney Cruise Line ships with separate rooms for the bath and toilet.
At mealtimes, you can request a high chair or booster seat at your table prior to your arrival. Crew Members will have your table arranged with the toddler seats prior to your seating time so that you can enjoy your meal without lugging a giant high chair across the restaurant. And, you don’t even have to worry about bringing a stroller – just head to Guest Services and ask to check out a complimentary stroller for the length of your stay!
The Disney Cruise Line ships were created with kids in mind, so there won’t be a dull moment onboard with your toddler. While children must be potty trained to swim in the pools onboard, each ship has a Disney-themed splash zone that only toddlers up to age 3 can enjoy. On the Disney Dream and Fantasy your little one can play in Nemo’s Reef, Dory’s Reef is located on the Disney Wonder, Nephews’ Splash Zone is one the Disney Magic, and the Toy Story Splash Zone can be found on the Disney Wish.
When you’re not playing in the water, you can find plenty of activities in the daily entertainment schedule to keep your little ones busy including Toddler Time (where toddlers can get out their energy in playrooms designed specifically for them), character meet and greets, character dance parties, and crafts.
And, if you need some adult-only time, each Disney cruise has a nursery that serves as a built-in babysitter. For an additional fee, you can reserve time to send your toddler (ages 6 months to 3 years, or one to 3 years on Transatlantic, Panama Canal, and Hawaii itineraries) to the Disney-themed “daycare” where caretakers will play, nap, diaper change, and feed your little one while you enjoy some me-time.
Dining With a Toddler On a Disney Cruise
One of the best parts about going on a Disney cruise is the food and you’ll actually get to enjoy your meals onboard – yes, even with a toddler!
For an easy breakfast, you can opt for room service (which we’ve found is easiest with toddlers) or head to the buffet-style quick-service restaurant. And, for lunch, you have even more options. So, whether it’s chicken fingers, mac and cheese, or a filet, you won’t be dealing with any mealtime battles (and you won’t have to make anything yourself!).
For dinner, all Disney ships have a rotational dining experience, meaning that you’ll get to experience a new dining room and menu every single night of your trip. The great thing about this is that there’s always something fresh and new for your toddler to see and do. One night they’ll be singing along to a Frozen sing-along show, another they’ll watch their drawings come to life on the screen, and another they might see Mickey Mouse – each ship has their own unique dining experiences that you can learn about before you cruise.
But, maybe you have a really picky eater. Or, maybe you’re traveling with a toddler that’s still eating purees. The Crew Members are often able to get you anything you might need including things that aren’t even on the menu! Plus, they can even prepare fresh pureed vegetables in the main dining rooms and through room service if you request it.
Visiting Castaway Cay With a Toddler
The cruise ship itself isn’t the only family-friendly aspect of a Disney cruise, Disney’s private islands are also a huge draw to choosing to cruise with the Disney Cruise Line. Castaway Cay (and soon Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point) features a variety of activities for your toddler including a splash pad, character dance parties and photo ops, bike rentals with toddler seat attachments, and more. And, of course, your little one is also sure to enjoy some beach time!
Don’t forget to request a complimentary wagon when you get onto the island to help you navigate the island’s sandy beaches and stow everything you need for your day on the island.
Is a Disney Cruise Worth It With a Toddler?
So, is a Disney cruise worth it with a toddler? Here are some of the pros and cons that we haven’t mentioned yet:
Pros of Cruising With a Toddler
- Your room is always a short walk away. Unlike the theme parks, don’t have to deal with stroller naps or long transportation wait times. This gives you even more time to enjoy all the activities onboard, including late-night activities.
- The entire boat is built with kids in mind. From amenities that lighten your load to activities that will entertain your little one for hours, the family-friendly atmosphere of a Disney cruise is unmatched.
- There’s so much flexibility. While there are plenty of activities, shows, and food to enjoy across the ship, you are in control of your Disney cruise. Well…it might be more accurate to say that your toddler is in control. An unexpected diaper blowout won’t make you miss a dining reservation, naptime is anytime and anywhere you need it to be, and you don’t necessarily have to do anything. Flexibility is the name of the game with a toddler and a Disney cruise provides you with all the flexibility you need.
Cons of Cruising With a Toddler
- You may miss late-night activities and shows. Many of the live shows and themed parties take place late in the evening, which is often past bedtime for toddlers. If you have a kiddo that goes to bed before 9PM, you may miss things like the Pirate Party, fireworks show, and other stage shows which are a highlight of a Disney cruise.
- Toddlers under the age of 3 (or who aren’t potty trained yet) cannot visit Disney’s Oceaneer Club. Disney’s Oceaneer Club is a large themed space designed exclusively for kids ages 3-12. This interactive play area features fun character encounters, creative activities, unique digital experiences, and more. Plus, it’s a free built-in babysitter. However, this area will be off-limits to your littlest sailors, though you can still get some adult-only time by utilizing the nursery onboard (it’s just an additional cost).
- Toddlers can’t swim in pools unless potty trained. Even if you’ve got a toddler who loves the water, they won’t be able to swim in the pools onboard. Due to health and safety regulations, swim diapers are not permitted in any of the pools on Disney cruise ships. However, each ship has a toddler splash zone that any children ages 3 and under can enjoy with adult supervision.
Overall, a Disney cruise is a fun and unique way to immerse yourself and your toddler in the magic of Disney. And, the best part is that a lot of the hassle of traveling with a child under 3 is eliminated thanks to the amenities and continual activities and food available onboard. You might even walk away thinking that sailing with the Disney Cruise Line was easier than a Disney World or Disneyland trip with a toddler – I certainly thought so!