If you want to take a cruise with a baby, it doesn’t get much better than a DISNEY cruise with a baby. Disney Cruise Line caters to families and babies are no exception. The ships are designed to be family and baby friendly and cast members do so much to ensure you have a smooth sailing. We loved our recent cruise on the Disney Dream, so I thought I’d put together some tips for how to best enjoy your Disney cruise with a baby.
One important note: babies need to be a minimum of six months old to cruise with Disney. On some select cruises they even need to be one year old, so be sure to check the age requirements before you book your cruise. Also, since children use the nursery on DCL up until the age of three, we’ll consider 0-3 year olds as babies for this post! Be sure to check out Disney’s guidelines for traveling with a baby, too.
1. Get as much equipment as you can for your baby from Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line provides almost any piece of large equipment you think you might need for your little one. You should definitely request a Pack-n-Play and a diaper genie before you even embark. (You can do this by calling Disney or your travel agent). If you forget, you could also ask at Guest Services or even just ask your stateroom host. You don’t need to bring a high chair either, they are all over the place in every restaurant.
If you’d like, you can even skip bringing a stroller. Guest services provides a limited amount. We actually regretted bringing our stroller on board, we never used it. Our baby was ten months at the time of sailing so she was small enough to be in our Beco carrier (affiliate link) the entire time. An 18 month old might need a stroller though. If you don’t borrow from Guest Services, make sure you bring a small umbrella stroller. Don’t be like that family we saw that had to leave their double stroller in the (already) tight hallway!
Finally, when you’re on Castaway Cay you can borrow a complimentary wagon which is sure to be a hit with your baby (or your older kids). Disney also provides bottle warmers and sterilizers on request.
2. Find the stateroom that works best for your family
Choosing a Disney Cruise Line stateroom can be stressful. I think with a baby, space probably matters more than things like having a balcony, etc. A couple notes for you to consider:
- Getting two connecting cabins can be a great way to travel with a baby, especially if there are siblings. We paid about $1000 more than we would have for a single room but the extra space was invaluable. This also prevented us from having to breakdown the Pack-n-Play everyday (great for naps).
- Get an idea of the entire ship layout. If you book a stateroom above the movie theater, like we do, you might hear large explosions late into the night (luckily, we’re heavy sleepers).
- If you’re looking to save money, you can save by booking “guaranteed staterooms”. You’ll basically book a certain class but can’t choose your cabin. Touring Plans does a good job of releasing what last minute deals are available weekly.
- If you’re worried about getting seasick, staying towards the middle of the boat and on the lower levels minimizes the effects.
- All staterooms have a heavy light blocking curtain both by the window/balcony and in the middle of the room to provide some separation, useful for your family.
All the cabins on Disney ships are pretty great (and suites on the concierge level are even better of course). You can’t really go wrong, but still I like to choose my cabin strategically. Won’t be staying on top of the movie theater again!
3. Trust your cabin attendant and restaurant servers
Disney Cruise Line crew members are some of the best service industry professionals I’ve ever worked with. Use this to make your Disney cruise with a baby easier for yourself.
Your cabin attendant takes care of all your stateroom needs. If you didn’t receive any of the aforementioned free of charge baby items, definitely ask them. They can also help you set up the room as you like and turn down your room while you are at dinner. Our cabin attendant was especially helpful as we had some wet bed incidents; he was very understanding and we felt bad he had to deal with it, even though it was minor. He even got us extra pens, haha.
Our head waiter at dinner was even better. Disney uses rotational dining, meaning you will stay with the same wait team for your entire trip. Like all Disney, they handle allergies spectacularly. But I was even more impressed with how they handled food for the baby. We received avocado, berries, banana, and more on request. Even better, after the first night, our waiter asked us to “order” what we needed for the baby the next day and we’d show up at the table with food already prepared for her. That really made traveling with the baby easier and it was great not to stress about what to feed her every night.
4. The nursery and kids club are great, but don’t count on them
Both times I’ve sailed on Disney Cruise Line, I’ve told myself I’d get free time because the kids would be in the kids club or nursery. Both times that backfired! The nursery and kids club are both great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great for your kids. So don’t count on them and be prepared to have your little ones with you.
The kids club is included in your cruise price but the nursery costs a modest $9/hour. The nursery covers children 0-3 years old, so it is a pretty diverse age range. Still, the crew members are great and there’s a lot for your child to engage with.
But your kids might not want to go or you might not feel comfortable dropping them off last minute. So it’s a great option, but be ready to be flexible if the nursery or kids club doesn’t work out for your children.
5. Take breaks
Just like taking a baby to Disney World, it’s important to schedule in breaks. This is especially important when you’re at a port of call. The baby will get hot and tired quickly. Make sure you have a plan for getting her rest!
For us, that meant my leaving Castaway Cay before lunch. I enjoyed a quiet date with our 9 month old daughter at Cabanas before putting her down for a nap. We also made sure we tried to get her a nap every single afternoon. Having quiet time for the baby (and the older kids) really helped us to combat exhaustion. There’s a ton to do on a Disney cruise and if you don’t slow down you’re liable to burn out.
6. Don’t feel pressure to do everything
On that note, don’t feel pressure to do everything. The cruise is set up so you can find something to do at any minute of the day. Watch a movie, go meet characters, play trivia, do arts and crafts, play bingo, swim – the list is endless! You’ll never do everything a Disney cruise has to offer (not on one sailing at least!).
So don’t feel pressure to do everything. Every day we like to choose two things that will be priorities. We schedule around those two things and let go of the rest. That’s not to say we don’t do anything else, we just didn’t put pressure on ourselves to make sure those things happened. For our family, that usually revolved around the shows and swimming at the pool. As long as we got those things done, our kids were happy and we were happy.
7. Take turns
Finally, my best advice is to take turns. Both my wife and I spent time in our cabin just relaxing with the baby while the rest of the family was off gallavanting and having fun. It works for us at home and it works for us on a Disney cruise. Taking turns helps to prioritize the babies needs while also helping us to meet the needs of the other kids. (Mostly, their need to have fun and make memories). I’m getting to the age where I no longer experience FOMO as intensely. I don’t need to do activities as much as I just need quality time with the kids. So if that means chilling in the stateroom with the baby, so be it.
We had a blast on our Disney cruise with a baby. Sure, we had to change things up a bit, but that didn’t mean we had any less fun. These tips definitely worked for us, but I’m curious what others do to enjoy their cruise with a baby. Let me know in the comments!
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Great post. I’m excited that Disney is going to operate a Hawaii-Vancouver route in 2020 (I’m based in Hawaii). Any tips on how to book a cruise now that the Chase UR points option is out? I keep reading that a travel agent is the way to go but what was your process? Perhaps a future blog post on this is in store!
You can still book using Citi Thank You points (at 1.25 cpp too if you have the Premier). Travel agents are good because they will stay on hold for you (mine did for three hours this morning :P) and sometimes you can get a small discount or onboard credit. I’m working on a post on stacking onboard booking with a Travel Agent, which I think is the way to go right now.