You’ve likely heard many people rave about Disney cruises; how they’re expensive but “worth every penny.” You wonder if most of the activities are aimed at older kids who are familiar with Disney. Are Disney cruises worth it with a baby? Is it worth it to fork out the money now, or better to wait until they’re old enough to appreciate Disney?
I’m not normally into cruises, but I went on the Disney Wonder as a single parent, and it was by far, the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever taken with kids. There were quite a few babies and toddlers that I saw on that cruise. Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) provides excellent opportunities for parents to have a relaxing time as well, which is always a plus.
However, let’s be honest – DCL comes with a huge price tag attached to it, and it’s not the only place you can find entertaining activities or childcare for your children. So, are Disney Cruises worth it with a baby?
We’re going to look at what there is to do on the ships for babies and toddlers, and how Disney Cruises cater to children in the baby and toddler ages. We hope that at the end of this article, you’ll be able to make a fully informed choice about whether a Disney Cruise is right for your family at this point in time.
First, let’s start with what there is to do for babies and toddlers on Disney cruises- are there enough activities for them to be worth it?
Are Disney Cruises Worth it For a Baby? Things to Do on Board with a Baby
Here are the things to do on board Disney Cruises with babies under the age of 2, to give you an idea of what you’ll spend your time doing and if Disney Cruises are worth it with a baby
1. It’s a Small World nursery
It’s a Small World nursery is for babies 6 months up to 3 years old, and open from 9 am to 11pm (and 8-9 am every morning for family drop-in play.) Drop in play with parents is free, but using the child care costs $9/hour for one child, and $8 for a joining sibling.
Babies and toddlers are cared for by Disney counsellors and there are crafts, toys, games, story time and movies, and a separate dimly-lit room for naps.
Tip: Some parents send their babies and toddlers to Its a Small World just for their nap time, so they can enjoy other activities on the ship instead of being confined to their stateroom during naps.
2. Movies in the Buena Vista Theatre
Buena Vista Theatre is an indoor movie theatre inside the ship. G-rated family movies are played during the day, and more current releases are aired in the evening, for an older crowd. Depending on your baby’s age, this may not hold their attention for so long, but you could stay until the novelty wears off, and then leave if they get restless.
Pro Tip: Give yourself a little time to purchase concessions at the Buena Vista Theatre, as there’s only one person working at the counter.
2. Character meet and greets.
You need to pre-book for some characters, and other characters is first come-first served.The meet and greets for all other characters are on a first-come first serve. You want to get there quickly, before the line gets too long. (And the lines do get long.) My daughter and I rushed to meet Captain Hook at 9am. We didn’t think he’d be one of most popular characters, but there was still quite a queue behind us!
If you are cruising only with a baby, then they may not have a huge preference which characters they meet, but here’s what you need to know about the meets anyway:
Characters you need to prebook for on a Disney Cruise: Frozen Meet and Greet, Princess Gathering, Character breakfasts, Royal tea (which only happen on select cruises.)
First-come, first served characters: Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Daisy, Peter Pan and Chip N Dale
Even though babies under 2 years old may not necessarily recognize some these characters, the actors wearing the costumes are very engaging so may still enjoy the interaction with them, and you can get some cute pictures too.
Pro Tip: The characters cannot hold your baby or toddler, so if possible, bring a second adult, plan for a selfie, or ask another adult to take a photo of you and baby with the character
3. Splash fountains
Non-potty trained children are prohibited from using the cruise deck pools. This is important to note, because its a deal-breaker for some parents. While non-potty trained kids cannot enter the pools, each ship has Disney-themed splash-fountains that kids in swim diapers can play in.
However, here are the different Disney-themed water fountains on each ship for babies to play in:
- Nemo’s Reef (Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream)
- Toy Story Splash Zone (Disney Wish)
- Nephew’s Splash Zone (Disney Magic)
- Mickey’s Splash Zone (Disney Wonder)
- Dory’s Reef (Disney Wonder)
4. Castaway Cay (select cruises)
If you’re sailing on one of the Disney Cruise out of Port Canaveral, you’ll get to stop at Disney’s privte island, Castaway Cay. Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas which is the epitome of family-friendly with crystal clear water, white sand, beach toys that you can rent or borrow, and a train that goes through.
6. Port adventures
The port adventures available will vary depending on which destination you’re sailing to. Many of them are not particularly baby-friendly. However, when the ship docks at one of the locations, its the perfect opportunity for a stroller walk outside. Put your baby into your umbrella stroller, and explore the new destination.
Good to Know: Unlike other cruise ships, you have the option of leaving your children in Its A Small World or Oceaneer’s Club if you decide to venture off at one of the ports, for activities they may not enjoy, like shopping or scuba diving. Most cruises do not allow this, but Disney Cruise does.
7. Walk around the ship, enjoying the Disney theme
Everything on the ship is designed to replicate something from Disney. On the Disney Wonder, we ate dinner at Triton’s (Little Mermaid themed), Tiana’s place, and Animator’s Plate. Princess Tiana, along with other performers made a guest appearance at her restaurant while we were eating there and did a parade through the restaurant in song. This is not like eating in regular restaurants. Even if babies and toddlers don’t know know who Princess Tiana or Triton are, they are entertained by the energy, the songs and the ‘fun family’ event of everything around you.
8. Oceaneer’s Club Open House
Oceaneer’s Club is the ship daycare for potty-trained children 3 and up. However, on the first sailing day, they have an open house where families can bring their children to play. So, even though the daycare is only for children 3+, your baby or toddler can get a chance to play in the Oceaneer’s Club for those few hours on embarkment day.
Are Disney Cruises Worth it for a Baby?: How Disney Cruises Cater to Babies and Toddlers
As a parent to a baby or a toddler, you understandably want to know if a Disney Cruise is worth it with a baby or toddler. Let’s look at how Disney Cruises cater to babies and toddlers.
Baby Food on the Disney Cruise
At mealtimes, the chef can purée anything from the menu for you at no extra cost. They can also take special requests for soft or easy-to-eat food, like mashed banana or other fruits, or mac and cheese. Tell your server on the first night of sailing that you’re requesting puréed food. You will have the same server every night for dinner, so they’ll become familiar with your family and needs.
If you request the need for a high chair, then it will be sitting at your table each time you arrive for dinner. If you eat at out on deck for lunch, let the crew members know you need a high chair, and they bring one for you. There is no shortage of high chairs on the ship and you don’t have to worry about bringing your own.
Pro Tip: Bring an umbrella stroller, it’s more lightweight and easy to maneuver on the ship!
Pack and plays
You can request a pack and play one under My Reservations and Special Requests after you book your Disney Cruise. Your stateroom host(ess) can set it up and take it down for you at your convenience. You let them know your baby or toddlers’ nap times so that they don’t take it down right before you want to use it.
While all the Disney Cruise ships are equipped with strollers, they have a very limited number, so guests are permitted and encouraged to bring their own strollers. Again, it should be a lightweight one, like this one. Your stroller must be kept in your stateroom when not in use.
Baby items and other necessities
You can request the following stateroom items, free of charge: diaper disposal units, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, playpens, formula, baby food, portable cribs (which your stateroom host(ess) can set up or take down for you.
In addition to that, a number of baby and toddler items can be purchased in shops on board the ship: Diapers, creams, wipes, pacifiers, bottles, baby creams, training pants, formula, swim diapers and more.
Things to keep in Mind about Babies on Disney Cruises
If you’re travelling with a baby, or a toddler under the age of 3, here are some things that you want to keep in mind about bringing them on a Disney Cruise
1. Babies are slightly cheaper
Children don’t generally end up being much cheaper than adults on a Disney Cruise but there is a small discount given for babies under the age of 12 months old. If you want to get an idea of how much a Disney Cruise will cost for your group, read my post on How Much Do Disney Cruises Cost in 2024
2. Minimum age
Children must be at least 6 months old to ride on a Disney cruise, and 1 year old for transatlantic Disney cruises.
3. Swimming pools and water slides
Only potty-trained kids aged 3 and up can enter swimming pools on the ship, due to U.S. health code regulations.
4. Child care
There are two childcare options for 3 year olds, and one for under 3 on all ships. It’s A Small World is for 6 months up to 3 years old, at an extra cost, and Oceaneer’s Club is for potty-trained kids 3+ years old, included in the cost of the cruise
5. Specific Dinner times
There are two seating times for dinner. The first one is between 5:45 and 6 pm (it varies on the destination) and the second is at 8 pm. You select the time you prefer when you book your cruise; whichever one you choose, it’ll be the same dinner time every day, and with the same server. Your preferred seating plan should be submitted as soon as possible, so you don’t get stuck with the alternate time!
6. The Disney app
Wifi does not come for free on Disney Cruises – you can buy a package of it at surcharge. However, there is a Disney Curise app you can use during your cruise that allows you to easily see all the events that are happening.
You can see which characters are available for meet and greets and what time, your dinner time, and any other important announcements – basically anything pertaining to your cruise. You can ‘unplug’ from the rest of the world, but just focus on your cruise.
Conclusion: Are Disney cruises worth it with a baby?
The biggest downside to sailing on a Disney Cruise now versus later is probably the fact that your baby or toddler won’t be able to use the deck pools unless they’re potty trained. Many kids under 3 may not recognize the Disney characters, songs or the theme of Disney, but may still be entertained by it.
At 0-3 years old, your child may not be old enough to prefer Disney cruises over other cruise lines. They won’t know its Disney, but the ambiance provides a Disney and family-friendly experience which babies and toddlers may still enjoy; the music, songs, characters and themed restaurants and activities.
Disney Cruises take the child-friendly and entertainment up a notch, which is part of why they come with a larger price tag.
Final Thoughts -Are Disney cruises worth it with a baby?
A big reason for the large price ticket is the fact that Disney is family-focused. We’ve outlined in this article the ways they make your life a bit easier on the cruise if you’re travelling with babies and toddlers under 3.
Some parents feel that the above activities and accommodations aren’t substantial enough for their baby or toddler, and that the cruise might be more geared to the 3 and up crowd. You’ll have to decide whether these activities are something your little one would get some use out of.
Additionally though, keep in mind that the ‘wait until they’re old enough to appreciate it’ argument can be made about just about any trip with a baby or toddler. Sailing with Disney Cruise doesn’t have to be something you just do just for them – maybe its something that you would personally enjoy as an adult. If thats the case, then the cruise might still be worth it.