Maybe your 2 or 3-year-old is more accommodating than mine, but ever since we went on a Disney Wonder Cruise to the Bahamas in 2/2017, my daughter has not stopped talking about “the Mickey Cruise.” She was 2 at the time, I thought she would have the same memory for the trip that she has about requests to put her toys away. Hey, some days I cannot even remember what I had for breakfast. How does a toddler recall specifics of a Disney cruise? I guess it’s just a trip that demands memories. Here are my 3-year-old’s 5 reasons why she desperately wants to go back on a Disney cruise, and why she thinks you would love one, too.
“You Want to See Goofy?”
Prior to our Disney cruise, my then 2-year-old had never met a Disney character. Honestly, we hadn’t watched much Disney channel or many Disney movies. I think about two weeks before we left we realized our mistake and tried sneaking in some Tangled and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. We had heard tales of toddlers who were terrified of the characters, so we were prepared to skip them if she was freaked out.
Who couldn’t love Goofy?
The moment our toddler spied Goofy in the atrium, she basically hurtled her little self down 6 flights of stairs, shouting Goofy’s name. She was hooked. We met everyone–Minnie, Stitch, Donald and Daisy. She didn’t really have any interest in meeting the princesses, but that worked out well because we would have needed to buy tickets in advance.
Benefits of Visiting Characters on a Disney Cruise with toddlers
On a Disney cruise, the lines are so much shorter than at the parks. I feel like the photo wranglers are also very good at keeping the line moving. For the popular characters (like the princesses, Elsa and Anna, etc.) they do sell tickets in advance through the cruise activities area of your reservation. Certain cruises also offer a Royal Court Royal Tea for kids 3-12. In addition to a tea party with princesses, your little one also will get to bring home some sweet mementos. On select cruises 7 nights or longer, there may also be a character breakfast options, though this is also an event that requires additional tickets. Meeting Anna and Elsa on some cruise is also a ticketed event.
Book tickets for any of these events right after you book your cruise, as they do tend to sell out.
“You can eat Mickey waffles in your jammies”
It’s no secret that cruises are famous for their delicious (and sometimes unceasing amounts of) cuisine. For my little 2-year-old, she developed a now lifelong love of Mickey waffles and pancakes. In the breakfast buffet line every morning, she would ask for them, then pile them high with whipped cream or syrup. In case you think we are really terrible parents, let me just say that we also allowed her to eat these while wearing her pajamas. Which our 2-year-old thought was the coolest thing in the whole world. So cool that now every time we go on a trip, she asks to eat breakfast in her pajamas.
These are lasting memories.
A few words about the food onboard a Disney Cruise
- It’s delicious. Especially for cruise food.
- You may never have realized just how many chicken fingers exist in the world until you see them in the buffet line.
- The food is customizable, to a point. They will serve kids’ meals with sauce on the side and things like that. As Disney’s customer service is exemplary, they will also accommodate allergies.
- Like on all cruises, you are not limited to how many items at dinner you would like to order. If you want to try 2 entrees, go right ahead.
- Unlike other cruise lines, sodas are included in the price of this cruise. Alcohol and some other specialty drinks are not. You can order a case of bottled water to your room, but bring a refillable bottle and stock up when you’re by the pool.
- You can get popcorn at the movie theater onboard the ship, and use the same bucket for popcorn at the shows.
- If you have a second seating dining time, your children will be served dinner first. After a little while, Youth Activities counselors will come pick up your kids and take them to the Oceaneer Club (age permitting) so you can finish your meal in peace.
- If you can do brunch or dinner at Palo or Remy’s, do it.
- The restaurants where you eat dinner are part of the experience. At Tiana’s Place aboard the Disney Wonder, they have live music and a parade at the end of the night. Animator’s Palate has a beautiful show on the walls, and one night of the cruise they actually will animate your drawings.
- The only downside is that breakfast in the restaurants does not usually open until 7 am, except on debarkation day. They do still offer room service, but if you have early (or jet-lagged) risers, bring some snacks.
“You can see Olaf dance!”
What would Disney be without shows? Of course, the Disney shows are all toddler-friendly. On board the Disney Wonder last year, we were able to see Frozen. My now 3-year-old still talks about seeing Olaf dancing with the flowers and the snowflakes from the sky. We have not yet seen Frozen at the Hyperion in California Adventure, but if it’s anything like the show on the cruise ship, it’s amazing. I’m a bit of a theater nerd (and honestly, I kind of don’t like the story) and I was surprised how much I liked it.
Entertainment on a Disney Cruise for Toddlers
Besides the live shows, there is also a movie theater showing first-run movies throughout your cruise. Check your Navigator (or the Disney Cruise app) for showtimes. They do offer one or two “Mommy and Me” movie times, where the lights are dimmed instead of off, and people bring their babies, kids run around, etc. It’s a lot of fun.
For the shows, there are usually two performances each night. Generally these run around the same times as the dinner seatings to accommodate people. If your child (like mine) happens to sleep through a show you want to see, they do show them on the TV in your stateroom. There is an afternoon show on sea days, but check the Cruise Navigator.
Another feature of the entertainment are the deck parties. Though they may be past your little one’s bedtime (or yours), they really are a ton of fun. My 3-year-old still talks about the fireworks over the ship on the last day of our cruise. She relates them to the fireworks in the Disney logo. Kids are so funny.
“You Get to Swim with Nemo!”
On board the Disney Wonder, which was newly out of dry dock when we enjoyed our cruise with our 2-year-old, they have Dory’s Reef. It is a splash pad designed for kids 8 and under where they can splash and pour water and have a generally great time. On other ships, they have Nemo’s Reef which I imagine is quite similar. Kids in swim diapers are allowed here, and you will get wet.
Cruise Ship Pools and Toddlers
So, as with most cruise lines, children in swim diapers who are not potty trained are not allowed in any of the Disney pools. Fortunately, because it is Disney, they have the splash pad area so your little one can cool off in sun before getting an ice cream cone from Eye Scream Treats.
“You can Play in Andy’s Room!”
So, yes, my 2-year-old was too young to go to the Oceaneer Club by herself during our cruise. Children have to be 3, and able to do all the mechanics of going to the bathroom by themselves. Still, though, check your Cruise Navigator for the times it says “Oceaneer Open House.” That means that you can take your older toddlers to the Oceaneer Club or Lab during that time period so they can get in on the fun, too. They will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, obviously, but these places are so cool. For my Toy Story-obsessed 3-year-old, Andy’s Room sticks out the most in her mind.
Toddler-Friendly Fun on a Disney Cruise
They also offer “Toddler Time,” where they wall off an area of a lounge with soft play items and a few toys, and kids tumble around while parents chat. The Disney, Jr. Dance Party is a lot of fun, and kids who aren’t quite ready to conga can still enjoy it.
For children under 3 who are not potty trained, they do also offer the “It’s a Small World” nursery. For an additional hourly fee, they will watch your child while you…I don’t know. Enjoy the adult-only pool, have a shower in peace, nap after an adult beverage, etc. They are open in the evenings, too, in case you want to see a show by yourself or eat dinner in peace. The facilities in the nursery are lovely; they have toys, games, arts and crafts, and a quiet section in the back with cribs for naps. The counselors there really care a great deal. If there is a problem, they will either phone you (you have a special Disney Cruise cell phone in your room) and/or text you through the Disney Cruise app.
Has my 3-Year-Old Convinced You Yet that a Disney Cruise is Perfect for Toddlers?
Honestly, I didn’t think I would write this post. Obviously, I don’t have a ton of photos from this trip because we cruised about 6 months before I ever considered starting a blog (or joined any social media sites). What convinced me was my daughter’s insistence. I ask her all the time, “where should we go on a vacation?” Without exception, one of her first two answers is “a Mickey cruise.” She loved it, and clearly it made a lasting impression on her. After all, isn’t that why we all travel with our kids? We collect memories every time.
Have you taken a Disney Cruise before with or without kids? What did you think?
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