Are you planning on sailing with a baby? We did, it was amazing, and no you aren’t crazy! We sailed on Disney Cruise Line with our then 18-month-old son for 7 nights to the Western Caribbean. There were some trials, tears and tantrums, but he did great. He loved it and we loved it. While he won’t remember everything, we will and those memories will stay with us forever. Plus he did some pretty cool things, such as travel to 4 countries, tried new food, and met over 15 characters! What did we learn from cruising with a baby? Here are 10 tips so you can set sail with ease and have an amazing time.
Pick A Itinerary With a Castaway Cay Stop
Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay, is simply incredible and the perfect port if you have a small child. Jogging strollers and wagons with wheels that can easily navigate sand are available to transport your little one more easily. The beaches have a very gradual drop-off that allows babies and toddlers to wade safely. Free life jackets in small sizes are stocked on every beach to borrow, just like on the ship. There is even a splash pad on the island, which we spent most of our time at.
Don’t Overpack, Disney Has Your Back
You will still want to bring baby necessities like diapers, wipes, pumps, infant formula, bottles, pacifiers, baby shampoo, stroller, baby carrier, etc, Disney Cruise Line provides a lot that you don’t need to tug along. Pack ‘N Plays, bed rails, diaper genies, bottle warmers, high chairs, booster seats, toddler-sized utensils, and kid plates can all be provided by the ship! There is even a refrigerator in the room to store snacks, milk, or formula for ease.
The Ship is Designed For Families
Seriously, don’t forget this! There is a nursery on board, kids clubs, family activities all day long such as the diaper dash specifically for crawling babies during at-sea day, a splash pad swim diaper babies and tots can play in, cabins equipped with bathtubs and two separate bathrooms one with a toilet and sink, one with a bath/shower and sink, plenty of storage in the cabins, a swivel TV loaded with on-demands to use during nap or early bedtime, even a curtain separating the kids sleeping area from the parents bed.
Take Advantage of Kids Club Open House Hours
While you are in port during embarkment day and at various times throughout the cruise there will be open house hours at the kids clubs. Utilize those hours to explore the kids clubs with your toddler or baby. Our son loved Andy’s Room and we went to toddler time in Andy’s Room every day. We also loved playing on the Magic Floor during open house hours and the Star Wars section! Really he just loved it all and we loved getting to play in there as a family. If you have older kids this gives everyone a chance to play together as well.
Stick to Low-Key Excursions or Port Adventures
Depending on where you are sailing, most of the port adventures or local excursions in port won’t be age appropriate or even allow babies and toddlers. This is not an issue! If their is a nearby beach or a port adventure offering an all inclusive beach day head to the beach! The beach club we went too was perfect mix of pool, beach and shade and offered a buffet lunch. In other ports we walked around and explored closet to the port. The one excursion we did that was more active (semi-sub tour) our son loved for about 5 minutes of the 45 minute tour… it was super cool and we would have loved it if our son had been older. He was however bored quickly as were all the other kids his age. Exploring the port or doing a low-key tour like a beach day is a much better plan (and cheaper) and gives you easy access to return to the ship if you need too.
Utilize The Nursery During Dinner
The only time our son was really fussy was during dinner. Dinners were long. It wasn’t uncommon for dinners to last more 1.5 hours before we even had dessert. After the first couple nights of him being bored and unhappy at the long meals, we decided to take him to the nursery once he was done eating. We even had him eat in the nursery one night. He loved the nursery and was much happier being there than sitting at a table. It gave him a chance to play with other kids and us the chance to enjoy our meal and even go see a show or do one of the many adult only activities on board before we picked him up. The nursery has a crib area where babies and toddler can sleep if parents are out past bedtime or need to nap during the day. I will definitely book more and use more nursery hours when we cruise again. Currently, it cost $9 per hour for children under 3 to attend the nursery. The staff is amazing and I highly suggest using the nursery as often as you need while cruising, but especially during the long dinners.
Take Breaks and Naps
There is a lot to do on the ships and babies and toddlers tire out quickly and still need their naps. The room setup is perfect to allow for nap time and breaks if your child doesn’t nap or rest well in a stroller or while baby wearing. We tried to stick with our home schedule as much as possible and keep our sons nap at the same time every afternoon. This helped him have a much more enjoyable cruise. We took turns hanging out in the room and watching movies or napping ourselves during nap time. This also gave the other parent the option to go enjoy the Quiet Cove pool, spa, or activities!
Only Bring a Small Stroller
The cabin doors as SUPER narrow and lesson learned our smaller stroller was still too wide for the door. This was actually probably our biggest issue. The stroller seat had to be taken off and folded to get in and out of our stateroom, which was a huge pain. I will bring a very small compacting easy fold style stroller when we cruise again. We loved having the stroller so our son had a place to sit and rest while we walked around from A to B on the large ship and taking it in the ports the days we planned to walk around. Getting it in and out of the room and storing it was an issue. Our stroller is 40.9 x 23.6 inches to give you an idea of size. I think would need something smaller than 20 inches to get through the door. We also used and loved having our baby carrier, so I recommend bringing one as well.
Do Meet & Greets With Short Lines
There are so many amazing character meet and greets on Disney Cruises! Many characters have special appearances like Captain Hook and Smee and some have special outfits like Captain Mickey. The lines can get really long and a few even may be ticketed like the Princess Gathering. Unless your children are very patient in lines I suggest only doing the character meet and greets when the lines are shorter. Some characters are available almost every day others are only available on certain days. Do a little research, so you know who you may expect and when. Try to take advantage of any short line you see! Also, try to avoid any activities that have a long wait.
Enjoy The Family Activities
There is so much to do on the ship and many of the additives are geared towards families or you can bring your child of any age too. Most of the activities you can come and go as you please, so perfect for a toddler with a short attention span! You can stay 10-15 minutes then move on to something else. Our son loved dance parties, sail away party, pirate night shows, fireworks at sea, seeing characters, Nemo’s Reef Splash Pad and all of the activities you know a small child would like, but he also enjoyed pushing the holes in the cards when we played Bingo, exploring the ship, “helping” us play the Midship Detective Agency game and many of the family activities that weren’t geared to a child his age.
Disney Cruise Is Amazing
Seriously, a cruise is one of the best ways we have traveled with our toddler. From the amazing service to the amount of activities for all ages there is something for everyone on board. Having a young child should not hold you back because Disney has your back! They had everything covered from the family friendly staterooms, children utensils and plates, and strollers to use at Castaway Cay. Our waitstaff, room attendants and all the cast members made us feel like royalty and made sure our experience and our sons was the trip of a lifetime. We will cruise on Disney Cruise Line again and I definitely think you should too.