To celebrate our anniversary and Lily’s 2nd birthday, we decided to take our first Disney Cruise aboard the Disney Dream! We took a 5 day/4 night cruise to the Bahamas in March. I know I’m a little late in posting, but being pregnant in the first trimester with #2 will do that to you! There are so many Gator fans living in Florida with easy access to Port Canaveral as well as Miami, that I had to share these tips with you!
There are so many blogs/recommendations out there when it comes to Disney Cruises… I know, I looked! But here are 19 tips geared specifically to those with kids under 3, to help you take your vacation to another magical level.
Before you Go
1. For us, outfits were important for various activities, photos and any themed nights. I made sure to pack a princess dress ahead of time for the Pirate/Princess party (more on this below), and to have pirate gear packed for Pirate Night. I also surprised Lily with new Frozen pajamas when we arrived. It was a nice way to get her excited for bedtime after such an adrenaline-filled day. There are plenty of photo opportunities, so if you want to coordinate matching outfits for kids and family members, plan ahead! Our table mates had 3 girls, and their Mom had coordinating outfits for each day of the cruise. They were adorable and it made for some great photos.
2. Purchase an autograph book before your trip. That way, your child can begin collecting memories right from the start! I bought one at Walt Disney World a few weeks before and tucked it into my purse. In the cruise terminal, she was able to collect her first autograph from Goofy. It became part of the routine during the cruise, and bought her a little more time with the characters as they signed her book. Now, after the trip, I have added photos alongside the autographs and she loves to look at her book regularly.
3. Decorate your Stateroom Door! This scrapbooking Mom loved this project! I made our door decoration prior to the cruise and made sure to keep it at 12 x 12 so I could later add it to my scrapbook. Disney will not allow tape of any kind on the doors– you must use magnets. Instead of using boring magnets, or general Disney ones, I headed to Shutterfly and made my own. They became a way to show who we were as a family, our love for Disney, and became a lasting memento now for our fridge. Lily loved the door decorations and it made it easy for her to run ahead and “find” our door. There is a scavenger/secret Mickey game some families play, but we felt she was too little for this now, but we look forward to doing that on a future cruise.
4. Did you know Disney Gift Cards are good on board? Because the ship operates on a cashless-based system, this is a great way for kids to spend their own money/gift money without turning their ID card into a charge card to the room. Plus, this may make a good gift idea from grandparents, friends etc before you cruise.
5. Book a Disney Character Call! You can have Mickey and friends tell your little ones that a cruise is coming up and he’ll see you real soon! Lily loved getting the call and was even more excited about the “Mickey boat.” You can book your call date once you have secured a reservation.
6. Disney has JUST discontinued Mickey Mail (as of August 2015) where you could drop off a matte etc at Guest Services and receive it with character signatures on the last night of your Disney Cruise. (I’m so sad about this, as it was wonderful)! You can still however pack a photo matte, pillow case, canvas tote bag or something other than an autograph book for them to sign when you greet them during character meetings. As you can see, it creates a wonderful souvenir.
7. If you can, try to secure an early embarkation time. Once on board, head immediately to the tickets counter to obtain tickets to visit with princesses and other popular characters like Disney Jr. characters. You need to know your other plans as they aren’t just passes, but assigned times (kind of like FastPass+, except there is no standby line).
September 2016 Edit: You can now do this online when you book your port arrival time, Palo reservations etc!
Also, this is the time to swap your dining time if you need to. My husband and I split up duties, with me waiting in line for the tickets, and he waiting in line to switch to early dining. Once he returned to me in line, he then took Lily to see some of the characters in the Atrium.
TIP: The air conditioning on the ship is limited while in port, and we found the line area for tickets very hot, so be prepared with light clothing and water. Also, with an early embarkation time, know that the rooms aren’t ready until 1:30 p.m. so you need to have snacks, diapers, and things you will need until you get to your room, and even then, your luggage may not have arrived yet.
8. We had booked a pack-n-play ahead of time when we booked our cruise. When we arrived in the room, we were pleasantly surprised to see it already in there, but in addition, they added a diaper genie for us!
9. The room had a dividing curtain which made it nice for bedtime. We could pull the curtain and leave the lights on for our side of the room as we got ready for bed. A nightlight feature on the overhead light above her pack-n-play provided just enough light to check on her at night, but not keep her awake.
10. Once again, Disney’s attention to detail did not go unnoticed. Every single bathroom had an attendant, changing table, AND a diaper genie. They were SPOTLESS. Until you have a baby/toddler, you don’t appreciate these extras.
11. Nemo’s Reef, a splash pad with jets and a slide, was by far her favorite activity and perfect for toddlers. She STILL talks about it. Make sure to bring water shoes so your little one doesn’t slip. Children who aren’t potty trained aren’t allowed in the pools, so this splash area was our only option for her on board, but we LOVED it.
12. We took advantage of the It’s a Small World Nursery twice while on board. Once when we dined at Palo, and then again for some down time for the two of us (I headed to the spa)! Lily loved the nursery and had fun making arts and crafts and playing with the counselors. Reservations can be made ahead of time online, or you can stop by their Open House on embarkation day to see what times they have available. (A small fee of $9 per hour is assessed).
13. We found the sit-down dining options to be very toddler/kid-friendly. Every night, Lily had her high chair already set up, with a cup of water with a lid/straw waiting for her. A kids menu and crayons were already there so she was able to entertain herself right away. The kids menu options were varied, and she enjoyed her meals. We had no issues, and the dining team made it fun for her. Our dining team brought her food out first, which helped keep any crankiness at bay. They also bring the older kids’ meals out first so kids can finish and head to the Oceaneer Club. The quick service areas were fine as well, but we took advantage of sit-down dining more.
Entertainment & Activities
14. Lily LOVED the Pirate/Princess party with Sofia the First and Jake the Pirate. We were happy we decided to stay on board at the port as this was the perfect event for her. I had packed her Anna dress and she was able to dress up for this party and dance around.
15. We found the nighttime shows very entertaining and they held an active 2-year-old’s attention just fine.
16. Pirate night was a bit intense for her so we headed to the rear of the ship where it was quieter and we were able to watch the fireworks at sea with a smaller crowd.
17. We stuck to the family beach and Lily had a wonderful time. The water is calm and she loved splashing around and playing in the white sand. We ventured to the Spring-a-Leak splash pad on the island, and that was another hit. There isn’t much shade there, so if you plan on watching the tots, bring a hat!
18. There are characters on the island as well. We saw Stitch who we hadn’t seen on board, so remember to pack those autograph books in a waterproof Ziploc to bring with you to the island.
19. We brought our smaller umbrella stroller to Castaway Cay which was easier to navigate on sand, fold on to the tram, and it came in handy after a long day at the beach.
20. I have to give a shout out to MotionEaze (they are not sponsoring this, but I am so thankful for them!). I had been on 2 cruises before this one, and I got so sick on both with Bonine, pressure bracelets etc. On the previous cruises, I was so sick, they had to wheel me to the infirmary for a shot! MotionEaze worked so well for me on the Disney Cruise and it smelled good too. And, because it was all natural, it was fine to use on Lily too when she would tell me she felt funny. I highly recommend it! I think combined with Disney cruise technology, a stateroom with a balcony on a higher deck and the MotionEaze, it made the cruise enjoyable for me with no seasickness at all!
Added September 2016:
21. Find a Facebook Group for your cruise and make new friends before you sail. We have done this and it’s wonderful!
See You Real Soon
We can’t wait to take another Disney Cruise next year once baby #2 hits that 6 month mark!