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Which is the best Disney Cruise Ship for Toddlers? Is it even a good idea to take a toddler on a Disney Cruise?
Best Disney Cruise Ship For Toddlers
Are you considering a Disney Cruise with a 2-year-old? A Disney cruise is a great choice for families, but is one of the Disney ships better than another if you are taking a toddler or baby?
Here you will learn everything you need to know about taking a toddler on a Disney Cruise.
The Different Disney Cruise Ship Choices
To get an idea of which is the best Disney Cruise Ship for Toddlers you first need to understand a little about the four different ships which are sailing at the moment.
The Disney Magic was the original Disney ship which was launched in 1998. The Disney Wonder followed the next year.The Disney Wonder and Magic are fundamentally the same basic design but have different interior decor and theming. These are known as the Classic Ships. They can hold up to 2,700 passengers and 950 crew members.
The Disney Dream was launched in 2011 followed in 2012 by the Disney Fantasy. These ships are known as the Dream Class and are much larger than the Classic ships. They can hold up to 4.000 passengers and 1,450 crew members.
Even though each Disney cruise ship is very different there are certain things that are very similar to each design.
On all the Disney Cruise ships the first two decks are stateroom decks with inside and outside cabins. The third and fourth decks have the restaurants, bars, and the Walt Disney Theatre. Deck 5 has the Kids Clubs and the movie theater. Decks 6, 7 and 8 are all passenger decks.
Deck 9 has the pool deck and the cabanas buffet. It also has the Cove Cafe, adult areas and the spa. The higher decks are the sports decks.
The Disney Dream and the Fantasy are the only ships to have the AquaDuck. This was the first water coaster at sea. This is a lot of fun, but if you have a toddler it is unlikely that they will meet the 42″ height requirement. If they do, they can ride with you on the AquaDuck.
Is one Disney ship more toddler-friendly than the other because of its design? Really this doesn’t help you much with your decision. The smaller Classic ships are easier to get around, but the larger Dream class are also pretty easy to navigate.
Aside from the design of the ship, you have to think about where the ship is sailing. Disney Cruise lines offer many different itineraries. From the Bahamas to Europe, from Alaska to the Mexican Riviera.
The Disney Dream sails on 3 and 4-night itineraries to the Bahamas. The Disney Fantasy sails on 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.
The Classic ships have a much more varied choice of itinerary. The Disney Wonder sails Bahamian and Caribbean cruise when she is based out of Port Canaveral, Galveston, and New Orleans. When she repositions via the Panama Canal each year she sails Alaska cruises out of Vancouver and Mexican Riviera cruises from San Diego.
The Disney Magic sails from Miami on Bahamian and Caribbean cruises. She also sails over the Transatlantic each year to reposition for a variety of cruises from Europe.
Is any one ship itinerary better for a Disney cruise with a toddler? If you have not sailed before it might be a good idea to try one of the three or four-night cruises on the Disney Dream. This gives you a taste of what cruising is like, without committing to the longer sailing. These all sail out of Port Canaveral Florida.
If you are on the West Coast you may want to try one of the Disney Wonder San Diego cruises as these offer sailings ranging from two nights up to 7 nights.
The new Disney Wish will be launched in early 2022 and we will be writing about this as soon as more details are known. We are sure that this is going to be an amazing ship.
All of the Disney cruise ships have toddler-friendly items free of charge. Subject to availability they have:
- Bottle Warmers
- Bottle Sterilizers
- Diaper Genies
- Pack n Play
- Bed Rails
You should pack any items which your baby or toddler needs such as diapers and wipes. However, sometimes you forget or run out of something. These items should be available at the store:
- Baby Wipes
- Formula Milk
- Baby bath supplies
Of course, these will be charged at a premium and also may not be your preferred brand. It is always preferable to pack enough supplies and bring them on board with you.
Is Your Child Old Enough To Sail on a Disney Cruise?
We think that a Disney cruise is a great option whatever age your child is. However, there are some rules as to the minimum age which your child needs to be in order to be allowed to board a Disney cruise.
For most Disney cruises the minimum age to sail is 6 months of age on the day of sailing.
However, the rules are different if you are sailing on a Transatlantic, Panama Canal or Hawaii itineraries. For these Disney cruises, the minimum age is one year of age on the day of sailing.
Are Disney Cruise Staterooms Toddler-Friendly?
Disney cruise lines go above and beyond to make sure that families are very well catered for. Their staterooms are some of the very best and are up to 25% larger than others in the cruise industry.
Which of the Disney cruise ships staterooms is the best for toddlers? It really depends on what you are looking for, as well as your budget.
Usually, the prices for Inside Staterooms will be the lowest, followed by Oceanview and then Verandah Staterooms. If you want to know exactly what is included in the cost of a Disney cruise and what is extra you can see this guide.
The staterooms on each of the Disney ships are very similar to each other.
Size is important. As you know, along with a toddler or baby comes a whole lot of stuff. Other cruise lines just don’t offer the space that Disney does.
The smallest stateroom is a Standard Inside Stateroom. However, even the smallest stateroom is a relatively generous 184 square feet in size. This is going to be a tight squeeze for a family with a toddler if you are going to use a pack n play, but it is certainly doable.
Here is a video that shows you a Standard Inside Stateroom on the Disney Wonder. Staterooms on the Disney Magic are identical.
There isn’t any need to bring your own as Disney will supply a pack n play for your baby or toddler.
However, you do need to think of the floor space available. Disney cruise staterooms are very well designed, but if you add a pack n play it does impact the space in the stateroom.
The alternative is that your toddler has a sofa bed. This is a good alternative if your child is used to sleeping in their own bed.
Bearing in mind the space that the pack n play takes up you may want to encourage your child to go in their own bed before you sail on your Disney cruise!
In some staterooms there is room for 4 guests, so one of the beds will be a pull-down bunk. They do have rails but many parents would not be happy about their toddler sleeping in the high bunk.
If you are thinking about staying in an Inside Stateroom with your toddler, then the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have a feature that the older classic ships do not. The Virtual Porthole.
Source Disney Cruise Lines
All Inside Staterooms on the Disney Dream and Fantasy have a virtual porthole. This makes them an extremely popular choice for families with toddlers on a Disney cruise.
A Virtual Porthole not only gives you a view of the outside by broadcasting images from the ship’s camera of the exterior view, but you will also sometimes see Mickey and his friends appearing on the screen.
All ages love this feature, but it is particularly entertaining for your toddler or young child. If a Virtual Porthole is what you are looking for then you need to book either Disney Dream or Fantasy as they are not on the Classic Ships.
A unique and very useful feature of most Disney cruise staterooms is the split bathroom. This is a particularly welcome feature when you have a baby or young children with you in the stateroom.
A split bathroom means that you have one room with a toilet and sink and another bathroom with a bath with a shower over, and another sink.
The Standard Inside Stateroom is the only stateroom which does not have a split bathroom.
It is a particularly welcome feature to have a bath in a Disney stateroom when you have a toddler. Bathtime is usually a very important part of a routine for any baby or young child. It is so great that you can continue this routine on a Disney ship.
Most other cruise lines only have baths in their most expensive staterooms. Disney has a bath in each and every stateroom on their ships.
The next step up is an Outside Stateroom. This can be a great choice if you have a toddler as they may really enjoy looking out of the porthole at the ocean.
Another thing which makes Disney Cruise Staterooms really great for families is the heavy thick curtain which you can draw to partition the living room/kids sleeping area off from the main sleeping area.
If your budget allows you really should consider a Verandah Stateroom on a Disney Cruise.
Is a Verandah Stateroom Safe? Many parents of toddlers and young children are concerned about the safety aspect of having a balcony stateroom.
Whilst you always need to use common sense you really should not let having a toddler in your stateroom put you off choosing a verandah.
A verandah stateroom is an excellent choice on any of the Disney ships. Disney always puts safety first. The verandah stateroom doors are difficult to open as they are heavy, but as an extra precaution, there is a child lock at the top of every door.
You should of course never leave your toddler or young children unattended on a Disney cruise verandah.
Having a verandah gives you a wonderful extra space and of course that fabulous view from your Disney cruise stateroom. There is nothing quite like sitting out on your verandah watching the ocean go by.
You should take the chance to sit out on your verandah whilst your toddler has their afternoon nap (if you are lucky enough to have a child that actually takes a nap)! It is a great chance to have some alone time whilst still being able to supervise your toddler.
Disney Cruise Food For Toddlers
There are so many great choices of food on a Disney Cruise you will not know where to begin! However, we all know that toddlers are not always the easiest of ones to please when it comes to food.
Not to worry – there are plenty of options for even the pickiest of eater on a Disney Cruise.
You may already know that Disney cruises do dining very differently to other cruise lines. On each of the Disney ships, there are 3 main dining restaurants. These restaurants operate on what is known as the Rotational Dining system.
What is Rotational Dining? It means that each night you will dine in a different restaurant. As most of the Disney cruises are at least 3 nights long this means that you will dine in each restaurant at least once.
There are two seatings for dinner. Early dining starts at 5.45 pm and late dining is at 8.15 pm. Most families with young children will want to choose the early dining time. There are not many toddlers who are going to want to wait past 8 pm for their meal!
Early dining is the most popular choice, which may mean it is not available at the time you request it before your cruise. As soon as you book your cruise you will see online whether or not early dining is still available.
If early dining is not available online then you can request to be put on a waitlist. Disney cruise lines will do everything possible to help guests get the time they want. However, sometimes you have to wait until you are on board to see if this request will be granted.
If you still don’t have the dining choice you want then visit the dining team as soon as you board your Disney ship. You can see where to go by looking at your schedule, which is known as your Navigator’s, as soon as you board.
For more information about this go here.
The restaurants on each Disney ship are individually themed. Each of the ships has Animator’s Palate. This is many guests’ favorite restaurant.
With the magic of lighting and special effects, your dinner show will be one to remember in Animator’s Palate.
The Disney Dream and Fantasy each have Enchanted Garden. This beautiful restaurant is themed after the Palace of Versaille Garden in France.
Royal Palace and Royal Court are also on the Fantasy and the Dream. As a very classic tribute to the Disney Princesses, you will find lots of rich colors and lavish materials. Even the brad basket is shaped after Cinderellas’s Pumpkin Coach.
The Disney Wonder has Tiana’s Palace which is themed after the movie Princess and the Frog. Here Princess Tiana herself will entertain you with her orchestra. You can even finish your meal with her famous beignets.
The Disney Magic has Rapunzel’s Royal Table. This restaurant is an example of Disney Cruise lines at it’s very best. Imaginative, immersive themed restaurants where you can meet the characters from a popular Disney movie.
Disney Wonder has Triton’s. Probably my least favorite restaurant on this ship, Triton’s is themed after The Little Mermaid. The lighting and decor give the whole effect that you are dining under the sea.
Lumiere’s on the Disney Magic invites you to be their guest in this French restaurant which is themed after the Beauty and the Beast movie.
Rotational Dining means that you will experience each of the restaurants on the ship at least once.
The great thing about this is that your Servers follow around with you. What this means is that you get to know your serving team and they get to know you.
The Servers on a Disney cruise are exceptional. They soon get to know your likes and dislikes.
You will find after the first night they will have your favorite drinks waiting for you. Want an extra appetizer? No problem. Whatever you want they will do their best to make it happen for you.
All of the Disney Servers we have ever met has been great with kids. They will even cut up your child’s food for them.
Just watch how they serve a plate of ketchup in the design of the famous Mickey Ears. They usually have a magic trick or two to show as well. They go above and beyond in entertaining your family and making sure that everyone is happy.
You can be sure that your servers will have a highchair already waiting for you for your toddler.
The restaurants all have a kids menu for the little ones. You will find the usual kid-pleasing food like pizza, chicken nuggets, and french fries.
You will find the Cabanas Buffet located on the pool deck of each of the Disney ships. This is a great place for breakfast and lunch. It is usually easy to find something for your toddler here.
The selection of different food options is huge, particularly on the large ships of the Disney Fantasy and Dream. You are sure to find something that your toddler is happy to eat. Here is a complete guide to Food on a Disney Cruise.
If your toddler is still at the stage where they are eating pureed food, this is not a problem. You can ask that freshly pureed vegetables be prepared at the main dining rooms. You can also request pureed vegetables from Room Service.
What if you know your little one will only eat things from home? Can you bring food onto the Disney ships? If you need to bring your own baby food and formula onboard a Disney ship this is fine. Just make sure that the items are pre-packaged, unopened and do not require any food preparation from the kitchen. You also need to make sure that you put these food items in your carry on bag.
The essential thing which parents of babies and toddlers on a Disney cruise need to know is that Disney does not have plastic straws or lidded cups on their ships.
This is part of their commitment to reducing waste and is commendable. However, if you have a young child who spills their drink you need to bring a Sippy Cup.
It’s a good idea for everyone to bring a reusable straw on a Disney cruise. We really like these straws
It’s a Small World Nursery
There are many reasons to choose a Disney cruise over other cruise lines. If you have a baby or toddler the It’s a Small World Nursery is going to be a welcome feature which will most likely make you realize that Disney cruise lines are the obvious choice.
Why? Because It’s a Small World Nursery will take babies and toddlers aged from 6 months to 3 years. Most cruise lines only have childcare facilities and kids clubs for children aged 3 and up.
Also, to attend It’s a Small World Nursery your toddler or baby does not have to be potty trained.
All the other kid’s clubs on Disney ships are free of charge, but the It’s a Small World Nursery has a charge of $9 per hour. If you have additional children in the same family they are charged at $8 per hour. If you cancel 4 hours in advance there is no penalty. If you miss that deadline you will be charged.
Every day between 8 am and 9 am there is an open house at the Nursery. This means that a parent or family member can spend time with their child in the Nursery. This could be a great way to ensure that your child is comfortable with being left there by themselves.
How To Book It’s A Small World Nursery
You do need to book ahead. This can be done online before your cruise on your Cruise Personalizer, or when you get onboard the Disney ship.
You can only reserve 10 hours on your Cruise Personalizer. It is on a first come first served basis, but according to your Castaway Club status, you may have an advantage at getting the hours that you need.
Here is the schedule for how many days in advance you can book the It’s A Small World Nursery online:
- 120 days for Concierge and Platinum Castaway Club Guests
- 105 days for Gold Castaway Club Guests
- 90 days for Silver Castaway Club Guests
- 75 days for First-Time Cruisers
As you will see, the more Disney cruises you have taken, the easier it is to book
You can also make or alter your reservations during the open house on Embarkation Day on a first-come, first-served basis. Because space is extremely limited, be sure to book your child’s nursery stay early. Additional times may be added later based on availability.
What Do You Need to Take To It’s A Small World Nursery?
We suggest that you book as far in advance as you can. There are only 4 infants (babies who are not yet walking) and 16 toddlers permitted in the Disney Cruise Nursery at any one time. This is subject to staffing levels of the Counselors.
The It’s a Small World Nursery is very nicely decorated with a brightly colored Mary Blair influenced theme. The main area has lots of toys to play with.
Each Nursery also has a quiet area at the back of the room where your baby or toddler can sleep. There are full-size cribs available.
Things such as a favorite toy or blanket often help a child to settle in an unfamiliar environment.
You do need to bring your own diapers, wipes, spare clothes, formula, and food. It is also a good idea to bring anything which is likely to make your toddler or baby feel more at home.
Food is provided for lunch and dinner in the Nursery. However, this is only solid food. If your baby or toddler does not eat solid food you will need to bring your own.
The type of food provided is the usual toddler fare of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. There will also be crackers and juice available for snacks. If you want your child to have anything different you need to provide it.
As you would expect, Disney cruise lines are very good when it comes to accommodating food allergies. Tell the Counsellors if your child has any special dietary requirements. Nuts and peanuts are not allowed in the Nursery or Kids Clubs.
Safety is a priority and there will always be a Counselor who is First Aid and CPR trained. They can’t give medication though, so if your child needs this make sure you have scheduled their visit around it, or you will have to go back to the Nursery to give them the medication.
You will need to be contactable by the Nursery Counselors. So you need to remember to take your Disney Wave Phone with you when your child is in the Nursery. We know that this technology seems like it is somewhere out of the ’90s but for now it is all that is available!
Disney Cruise Activities For Toddlers
There are a number of onboard activities that you can enjoy with your toddler. Disney really does want to include every family member in some activities.
Meeting Disney Characters
One thing which is, of course, unique to Disney cruise lines is the opportunity to meet the characters. Your little one may love meeting Cinderella, Goofy and Mickey Mouse. The lines to meet the characters are much shorter on the cruises than they are in the Disney parks, so this can be the perfect opportunity for your toddler to meet their favorites.
Always be careful if your toddler has not met a Disney character before. They can be scared of them! You may have your heart set on your little one meeting Minnie Mouse, but it is not unknown for a child to be very wary.
The characters are brilliant at dealing with these situations, but if your child just isn’t being won around, beat a hasty retreat and try again another time. A toddler may find the Disney Princesses easier to meet than the characters in costume.
If your young child is obsessed with Anna and Elsa there is a separately ticketed meet and greet with the Frozen characters. You have to get tickets to see these very popular characters.
The tickets are free and available online before you board, If you don’t get tickets before your cruise you may be able to get them by going to Guest Services as soon as you board. You can learn more about the Disney Frozen Meet and Greet.
Disney Cruise Shows for Toddlers
Disney cruise line is known for its amazing entertainment and stage shows. Each ship has it’s own Broadway Quality stage shows which really are amazing. You would pay hundreds of dollars for tickets to see these shows on land, but it is all included on a Disney cruise.
One of the most popular of the shows is Frozen: A Musical Spectacular. Your young child will most likely love this show. Another great one is Golden Mickey’s which is a celebration of a wide variety of Disney movies.
The great thing about watching a show on a Disney cruise is that you know that you are going to be amongst people who understand that a toddler may not behave perfectly all the time, and also that you may need to leave mid-show. Obviously you need to be considerate of others, so it can be a good idea to sit near the sides where you can easily leave if your toddler has had their limit of “Let It Go”.
The Buena Vista Theater screens a wide selection of Disney movies. This can be a great chance to introduce your child to movies on the big screen. No one is going to make a big fuss if you need to leave before the end.
Disney Cruise Toddler Pools
None of the Disney pools are available to use unless your child is already potty trained. Swim diapers are not permitted in cruise pools for health reasons.
However, every one of the Disney ships has a splash play area which is perfect for toddlers. Swim diapers are allowed in these areas.
Disney Castaway Cay With A Toddler
Photo by Disney Cruise Line
Disney’s private island Castaway Cay is one of the highlights of a Disney cruise. Most of the Disney Caribbean and Bahamian cruises have a port stop at Castaway Cay.
Castaway Cay is a perfect Bahamian island with all the advantages of the Disney magic. Blue ocean, huge white sand beaches, and Disney makes sure you can walk straight off the ship into paradise. No need to take a tender boat as you dock right at the port.
Castaway Cay is a fabulous place to spend some time on the beach with your toddler. However, you should always make sure that you are sun safe. Take hats and apply sunscreen regularly.
Disney cruise lines even have a limited amount of strollers available for you to use. These have big wheels so you can even take them on the beach. There is no need to book ahead, but they are limited on a first-come-first-served basis.
There are two beaches on Castaway Cay. Serenity Bay is the adult-only beach. The closest beach to the ship is the Family Beach and this is the perfect place for you to spend some time with your toddler.
Food is available on Castaway Cay. It is a barbecue style and a lot more limited than on the ship. If there really isn’t anything that your toddler will eat you could return to the ship as Cabanas buffet is open. This may be an opportunity for an afternoon nap in the air-conditioned shade.
Which do you think is the best Disney Ship for toddlers?
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