It’s been a little over six weeks since DisneySMMC ended and if I’m being honest I’m still thinking about our Disney Cruise. While we experienced many memorable moments, the Disney Wonder stands tall above the rest. Since I brought my young four year old daughter, I thought I’d tackle a question I had myself before the cruise: should you take a young child on a Disney Cruise?
The reasons people might give to skip a Disney cruise with a young child often will be pretty similar to reasons to avoid traveling with young children at all. It can be stressful, they won’t remember it (though I’m on record saying that’s not important to me personally), it’s not worth the cost, etc.
Although you’ll definitely pay the Disney premium for a Disney Cruise, I’d argue that if you’re hesitant to travel with your kids a Disney Cruise is a great place to try some travel at an early age. So in honor of the six weeks I’ve been thinking about our cruise, I present six reasons to take a young child on a Disney Cruise.
1. Disney handles (almost) everything
Parents naturally get stressed out traveling with young kids because of the many logistics. Disney Cruise Line takes a lot of that stress off your hands.
First, getting to and from the ship, for a fee you can book round trip travel from MCO airport or a Disney resort. What really makes life easy is the onboard check-in. For certain airlines, you can check in on the cruise ship. Your bags magically get transported from your stateroom the night before all the way to your home airport’s baggage claim! This worked seamlessly for us even though our flight got delayed for over a day.
On the ship, you pretty much don’t have to worry about anything. You can do as much (or as little) as you want. Every day you will receive your personal navigator, a list of all the ship’s events. You don’t even have to show up to dinner on time if you want, you can go eat at any of the on demand eateries on the ship!
The great thing about young kids on Disney cruise ships (all cruise ships, really) is you everything is contained. You can find pretty much anything and everything you need, you don’t need to negotiate through unfamiliar languages or cultures (I guess the argument can be made about a cruise ship having it’s own culture), you don’t really have to worry about paying for anything extra if you don’t want to, etc. It’s simple and clean, something you paid for up front. As an aside, I think cruises are great for group trips for that very reason – everyone can do their own thing or can hang out together as much as they like.
2. Your young kids will probably love the Oceaneer Club
I won’t say that all kids will love the Oceaneer Club, Disney’s childcare for potty trained 3+ year olds, but I’d venture that most will. There are playgrounds, character meet and greets, arts and crafts, games, group games, iPad games, hula hoops – it’s basically a daycare on steroids. The good kind! (Just kidding don’t use drugs, kids).
I’ll give one example. On the Disney Wonder, kids got the chance to make boxcar racers. After about an hour or so of this craft, Mickey comes out to help the kids race their cars! If that’s not fun for a young child, it certainly would be a bunch of fun for me.
You can also leave the kids in the club for dinner while you spend some quiet time with adults. Or drop them off after dinner and spend some time walking the decks on your own. The hours of the club are generous and you’ll get a message if your kid needs you, so I personally felt very comfortable leaving my daughter there.
3. Castaway Cay is an island paradise for both young and old
One exception to the whole “you don’t have to navigate new and confusing environments” thing from #1 would be port visits. Now personally, I love visiting new places and locales. I don’t love not being sure which tours operate on the up and up or stressing about which souvenirs present the best value.
Castaway Cay was a lot of sun and a lot of funCastaway Cay, Disney’s private island, solves that problem. The island basically serves as an extension of the cruise ship: the beach is free, food is free, souvenirs are…definitely not free. But you know that everyone working on the island works for Disney thus you can relax a little bit in terms of worrying about getting scammed or the like. Yes, you will get scammed for $10 sand toys (bring your own, seriously), but you know who’s selling them to you. Quality Disney sand toys! (That’s a joke, they definitely sell the same toys you can get everywhere, bring them from home. Or bring some shovels and grab some big soda cups from the airport.)
Expensive sand toys aside, Castaway Cay rules. The beach is beautiful and picturesque, there is an amazing water slide, there’s a private beach for adults only, you can bike, you can hike, you can do water sports: there’s a reason “double dip” itineraries that visit Castaway Cay are so expensive. The port of call is simply spectacular.
4. The entertainment caters to both young and old
One thing that surprised me about the Disney Wonder? The quality of the entertainment. I had serious reservations about my daughter sitting through an hour long Broadway styled show. But Disney knows its target audience incredibly well. Each of the Disney cruise ship has a unique show, while some shows feature on multiple ships.
I first took my daughter to Disney Dreams, which basically hits some classic numbers from a variety of well known Disney movies. That gave me the confidence to bring her to the Disney Wonder’s unique show: Frozen, a Musical Spectacular. That show was a truly impressive rendition of a story whose plot I find questionable but whose music I find unquestionably excellent (don’t @ me. Horrible parenting. Obviously I support the strong female lead and sisterly love stuff).
Anyway, the Frozen show combined great acting and singing with some pretty cool technical feats. I won’t spoil them here but they were well worth the hour and my daughter loved every minute of it. It didn’t hurt that it was her first ever viewing of Frozen, either. The Disney Dream will have a new Beauty and the Beast show starting this fall so that should be pretty amazing.
Besides the shows, you have your normal cruise staple: the pool. To be honest the pools are designed for kids in mind, so young kids on a Disney Cruise will have a blast at the pool. To be fair, most young kids have a blast at any pool, but the theming is fun :).
5. Unlimited chicken fingers (and great dining experiences)
Let’s not bury the lede here: unlimited chicken fingers. The very fact that I can go order chicken fingers and fries almost anytime I want makes cruising a magical experience. OK, the quality of the chicken fingers is only average, but still! Chicken fingers!
Joking aside, the dining on the Disney Wonder was great for young kids. The pace of the meal moves quickly, but more importantly, Disney took great care considering how to keep kids entertained during meals. Each dinner restaurant (you are scheduled on an eating rotation) has its own unique menu and coloring page, so that occupies the kids for awhile right there.
Since you have the same servers every night, they get to know what your kids’ enjoy. Even by the end of a three night cruise our server already was able to pretty much predict and get anything M needed (broccoli).
Finally, the entertainment at Tiana’s Place and Animator’s Palate blew me away. Live music always keeps my daughter happy and dancing, and the New Orleans inspired music at Tiana’s Place didn’t disappoint. I got the chance to see two different shows/experiences at Animator’s Palate; both were a ton of fun. Basically, dinner becomes more than just a meal on a Disney Cruise, it’s an experience unto itself, and that’s great for young kids.
Plus, chicken fingers.
6. That Disney magic
Young children love magic the most. Yes, they can be whiny, but older kids are whiny too. But the great thing about young kids is the sense of wonder they have when “magical” Disney moments occur. Unplanned, unscripted, these moments happen from time to time on Disney properties.
Now, if you’re a cynic, you won’t appreciate this stuff at all. But that’s the thing: young kids aren’t cynics. So a young kid on a Disney cruise will love magical moments that happen that you might not even think twice about. For starters, they will get to meet Mickey dressed up in his captain’s outfit, which is pretty great.
But the moment that stood out for me was one night when M and I decided to take a walk through the ship. We were just standing around in a very quiet part of the ship, just the two of us. Suddenly, Mickey, dressed in full Fantasia garb, just sidled on in. He obviously had something very important to do, but he stopped for just that split second to say hello. That’s a cool moment for a 36 year old. That’s a mind-blowingly magical moment for a four year old. You’re not gonna get that on any other cruise line.
DisneySMMC gave me the great opportunity to see how my four year old enjoyed both the Disney Parks and a Disney Cruise. And, surprisingly to me, she enjoyed the Disney Cruise more! Perhaps it’s because she had to find other things to do in the parks because of her fear of the rides. I can’t say for sure, but ultimately, she preferred the cruise.
Disney makes their cruises so easy, I wouldn’t be surprised if your young child on a Disney cruise had a great time as well. Think I’m loco and Disney-brainwashed? You’re probably right, but have at me in the comments!