Taking the plunge(get it) and booking a Disney Cruise for your whole family is exciting! There is so much to do and see. You will never be bored when you’re sailing with Disney. Beautiful memories are made aboard a Disney Cruise. But, if you have little ones in tow for your cruise, those memories might be a little jaded if you don’t do the right planning.
You might question whether it is a good idea to cruise with a toddler or preschool-age child. Is there enough to do? Will I have any time to relax? Will there be food my child will eat? These are all very valid questions every parent has before looking into a vacation. Luckily we have a lot of experience cruising and have this awesome guide for you to plan every moment of your Disney Cruise!
Step 1:(we can have lots of fun) Book with A Travel Agent!
There are many reasons to use a travel advisor, but the biggest reason to use one now is the ever-changing cruising requirements around the world. Some cruises may have restrictions or requirements you may not be aware of. Using a Travel Agent specializing in Disney Cruise Line is the best way to ensure you have all the information you need to be prepared.
Step 2: Choose Stateroom to Fit Your Family and Budget!
If you need some room for little ones and all their “things,” it is worth the money to save up and spend a little bit more for the Verandah or Oceanview Deluxe Family Stateroom. There are several different categories of rooms when you book your Disney Cruise. You will be able to look at a floor plan of the ship, or you can ask your travel agent to choose a room for you based on your needs. With the Verandah or Oceanview Deluxe Family Stateroom, you have a slightly larger room and a murphy bed available if you need it! There is also room for a pack n’ play in this room!
But if you’re a family of 5, the Deluxe Family Stateroom is a great choice! You’ll have a lot of room with a Queen-size bed, a single convertible sofa, and a wall pull-down single!
**Pack n Plays are available to request (or you can bring your own).
Step 3: Choose Your Dining/Show Schedule Carefully
Disney has rotational dining and offers two different seatings nightly. The dining is opposite the Broadway shows they offer on the ship. The times for dining are 5:30 and 8:00 PM. The shows run twice a night at about the same schedule. So, if you have a little one that wants to see the show, you may want to opt for a late dining time and see an early show. Or, if you want to have a family meal and get the kids to bed early, the 5:30 PM dining slot will be the best bet for you!
Either way, if things don’t work out the way you planned(cranky kids/parents), order room service or stop at the buffet and grab something quick.
Step 4: Take Advantage of Kid’s Clubs and Childcare
I know parents don’t like to admit that they want time away from their kids on a family vacation… But let’s be honest, it’s your vacation too! Sometimes parents need to have some kid-free fun! Luckily, Disney Cruises offer special childcare options for children of all ages. Toddlers or Preschoolers can spend time in either the Small World Nursery or the Oceaneer Club. Teens can take advantage of the VIBE and EDGE Clubs on the ship!
Take a look at the options below:
Disney Cruise Small World Nursery *6 months – 3 years old
The Small World nursery is available for children aged six months – 3 years old. You can reserve the nursery for an additional fee, and reservations can be made on the same day (if available). Keep checking during your cruise if you see times booked up in advance. We noticed many people canceled or changed their plans the day of their reservation.
There isn’t an in-room babysitting option on the ship, so this is the best bet for a little baby-free time! And it is safe. If you’re nervous, visit the nursery when you arrive on the ship and check it out yourself. You can cancel your reservation with at least 4 hours’ notice to avoid a penalty.
Inside the nursery, the theming is inspired by the Disneyland Resort version of the “it’s a small world” attraction and features original artwork by Mary Blair. There is a quiet room for nap time but the rest of the nursery has so much to keep little ones busy! There is everything from interactive toys that encourage brain stimulation to age-appropriate crafts, books, and games.
Because space is limited, we recommend you make reservations before embarkation. You may make reservations online through “My Cruise Activities” within your advanced booking window or visit or call the Nursery once on board.
Advance booking windows are determined by your Castaway Club membership level:
- First-Time Guests: 75 days prior to sail date
- Silver Castaway Club Member: 90 days prior to sail date
- Gold Castaway Club Member: 105 days prior to sail date
- Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Members: 120 days prior to sail date
Rates are as follows: *reservations are a one hour minimum
- $4.50 per half hour for the first child
- $4.00 per half hour for any additional children in your family
Disney Cruise Oceaneer Club & Disney’s Oceaneer Lab *3 – 12 that are fully potty trained.
Kids 3 to 12 will find lots to enjoy in Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab play areas located aboard every ship. There is no additional cost to utilize the Oceaneer Club or Lab. The main difference between the two youth centers is the themed spaces and activities they offer. While each activity has an age-range recommendation, there are no restrictions on which ones the children may participate in. And since the areas are connected, children can explore both venues to find the activities they enjoy most. These interactive play areas are safe, self-contained environments where kids can let their imaginations run free while under the supervision of trained Disney youth counselors.
I will let you in on a little tip, if you want to spend a lot of time with your kids on your family vacation, don’t take them to the Club or Lab! I am not kidding… They will not want to leave.
Built for those between the ages of 14 – 17, the Vibe offers amenities and activities with teens in mind. Teens can connect with others while being chaperoned by Disney Cruise Line counselors. Activities include dance parties, karaoke, and activities designed with teens in mind.
This activity center allows kids ages 11-14 to participate in various activities and meet other kids their age from around the world! Since it was designed specifically for tweens, rest assured that your tween will find plenty to do and stay engaged throughout your cruise.
Step 5: To Swim or Not to Swim (All About the Pools & Potty Training Rules)
If you have really, little ones, keep in mind that swim diapers are not permitted in the pools on the ship. So, you have to be potty trained to swim. Children not toilet trained are welcome to enjoy Nemo’s Reef and Dory’s Reef, where they must wear swim diapers.
Make sure you take a look at the age and height requirements for all the pools on board:
- AquaDuck (Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy) – height 42 inches or taller
- AquaDunk (Disney Magic) – height 48 inches or taller
- AquaLab (Disney Fantasy and Disney Magic) – ages 3 and older
- Donald’s Pool / Goofy’s Pool (all ships) – adults and children ages 3 and older
- Mickey’s Pool (Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Wonder) – ages 3 and older
- Whirlpool Spa tubs (all ships) – adult supervision required for Guests under age 16
- Mickey’s Slide – ages 4 to 14; height at least 38 and no more than 64 inches tall
- Nephews’ Splash Zone / Dory’s Reef / Nemo’s Reef (all ships) – ages 3 and younger (swim diapers required)
- Quiet Cove Pool – ages 18 and older only
- Twist ‘n’ Spout Slide (Disney Magic and Disney Wonder) – height at least 38 inches or taller
Policies About Swim Accessories and Equipment Please note the following policies about pool toys and swim accessories:
- Swim goggles that fit only over the eyes are permitted at all pools, hot tubs and waterslides, except AquaDunk aboard the Disney Magic, where goggles are not allowed.
- Swim masks that cover the eyes and nose are permitted at all pools. They are not allowed on any slides, including AquaDuck.
- Snorkel tubes are not permitted at any pools, hot tubs or waterslides.
- Coast Guard personal flotation devices (PFDs), water wings and flotation sewn into bathing suits can be brought on board and are permitted in all pools and waterslides except the AquaDunk.
- Complimentary flotation vests are provided and may be used in all pools and waterslides except the AquaDunk.
- Floats, rafts and fun noodles cannot be brought on board and are not permitted in the pools.
Step 6: Have Fun in the Sun at Castaway Cay
If you are taking one of the cruises that visit Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, there are many options for little ones on the island! If you want to enjoy a beach day as a family, this is the perfect place! You don’t have to worry about towels; they give them to you when you arrive on the island. There are a limited number of strollers and wagons available on the island. They’re first come, first serve, so grab one early if that would be useful to you. A tram also runs on the island so you aren’t dragging the whole family by foot.
Scuttle’s Cove is also available at Castaway Cay for children aged 3-12 and potty trained. It’s essentially the Oceaneer Club option on the island. Scuttle’s Cove is the dedicated secured space for kids at Castaway Cay. There is no limit on how long your child can stay in the kid’s club. However, there is no food served in the club. You will need to check out your children and feed them, but then they can return to the club again. Currently, Scuttle’s Cove is open from the island opening until 4 p.m. Similarly, on your Castaway Cay day, secured programming on the ship is not opening until 4 p.m. So the kids must attend the island’s club if interested.
Step 7: Check Your Navigator App for Characters & Fun!
There will be a lot of activities going on while you are at sea onboard the ship. You can meet characters, play fun games, do some trivia, and much more! The Disney Cruise Line Navigator app has all of the information you need. There will be a schedule for the whole itinerary. You can check it out to pan your character meet and greets, activities, and more! We met many princesses, pirates, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Marvel characters, Star Wars characters, and more! These interactions and photos will stay with me for a lifetime!
Step 8: Decide if You Want Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League?
Depending on the age of your little one, you may have the option to have a princess or pirate makeover onboard your cruise! The packages are very pricey and might not be within your budget. However, if you can fit it into your budget, it is worth every penny! The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and The Pirates League is available on all the Disney Cruise Line ships and offer the following options:
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: Storybook fantasies come to life with a wave of a magic wand—and a few hands-on trade tricks like hairstyling, costumes, makeup, and more. Watch Fairy Godmother’s Apprentices transform your child into an elegant princess, a valiant knight or an adventurous sea captain. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique packages offer themed costumes, styling, and accessories that prepare kids for a royal ball or a daring adventure. With a sensational new look and a dash of imagination, it’s an experience they’ll remember happily ever after!
The Pirates League: Those with a saltier side, fear ye not: Channel your inner outlaw with your own timber-shivering transformation. All packages take approximately 30 minutes to apply and are designed for Guests ages 3 and older. Please also note that all Pirates League packages are available on Pirate Party Nights only.
Guests with fully paid cruise reservations may schedule appointments online for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and The Pirates League Packages through the Planning Center according to the following schedule:
- First-Time Guests: 75 days prior to sail date
- Silver Castaway Club Members: 90 days prior to sail date
- Gold Castaway Club Members: 105 days prior to sail date
- Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Members: 120 days prior to sail date
*You can make, change or cancel appointments online up to 3 days prior to embarkation. Once onboard the ship, visit Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for assistance:
*Cancellation policy: Reservations must be canceled at least 24 hours prior to the appointment time. A $10 charge will be added to the folio of Guests who fail to arrive for a reservation.
Going on a Disney Cruise is so much fun! I would do it over and over again with kids. I hope this post helped you plan for your first time on the high seas with kids.
Once you experience a Disney cruise, you will be ready for another one! Luckily, there are itineraries available right now through 2024! The best thing is, you can book your next cruise while you are still on the ship! Whether you already know what cruise you want or you are still deciding, you can return soon! A placeholder allows you to secure a booking in advance at a discounted rate but choose the specific cruise later. You may be sad to disembark but it’s great to have something else to look forward to!
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Are you considering a trip? This is a great time to plan your perfect vacation! Having a travel advisor means someone there to have your back. There is no additional cost to you, and you have peace of mind knowing that your vacation is in good hands. Click here for a free, no-obligation quote for your next trip.