Travel With Kids

Cruising With A Toddler Or Preschooler On Disney

Family of 3 on the Disney Dream cruise ship
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Oh, hey there! If you’ve made it here, you’re probably on the search to find out if cruising with a toddler or a preschooler is a good idea. The quick answer is you won’t be disappointed!

But in this post, I’ll cover why Disney Cruise Line is such a fantastic option for families.

Nope! This is not a sponsored post.

We toyed with the idea of going to Disney World or doing a Disney cruise for a few months before finally deciding to book a cruise.

My husband and I cruised with our 4-year-old son so not too far removed from the toddler years. We decided we would start with a cruise as an intro to Disney World.

I will say the first day was pretty overwhelming for him and some time into the middle of the second day, he found his groove. We now know we made the right choice and Disney World is better left for when he gets older.

If the start of the cruise was overwhelming, I can only imagine what Disney World would be like for him.

So now you’re probably wondering what is the best age to take a child on a Disney cruise, right? A Disney cruise is perfect for families with children of any age but the best age for them to take it all in and enjoy everything the ship has to offer is three years old and up in my opinion.

Father and son posing with Chip & Dale on Disney cruise.

Related: Disney Cruise Packing List For Families

Cruising With A Toddler Or Preschooler


I think the million-dollar question when planning a cruise is what stateroom should I choose? Especially if you are taking a toddler on a cruise or even a baby.

A few things to consider when deciding on a stateroom is the age of the child and how much time you will actually spend in your stateroom.

Do you want to do as much as you can and explore everything the ship has to offer?

Or do you have a little one that needs frequent naps?

Also, consider the size of your party that will occupy the stateroom.

We wanted a Verandah but considering our child thinks he’s Spider-Man we chose an Oceanview. Now I’m certain Disney has gone above and beyond taking all things safety into consideration. After all, it is the best cruise line for families for a reason. But we were just way too nervous about it.

Once inside our room, we realized an Oceanview was more than enough room for a family of 3. Also, Joakim loved the porthole. Whenever we were in the room, that’s where he spent his time watching the waves.

We were never in our room we wanted to get into as much as we could. And we did! We took about an hour’s nap before dinner and after dinner; we didn’t return to our room until bedtime.

By the end of our five nights, we were certain it didn’t really matter what type of stateroom you booked if you weren’t gonna spend much time in it. I mean can you really be cramped up in a small room while cruising with a toddler or preschooler all day?

Inside– An Inside stateroom is 169 square feet and has a queen bed, sleeper sofa, and a pull-down bed. This will be the cheapest.

Oceanview- The smallest Oceanview stateroom is about 204 square feet and the Deluxe Family Oceanview is slightly bigger. The same queen bed, sleeper sofa, and pull-down bed but your room may have one or two portholes.

Verandah- The Verandah starts at 246 square feet. You’ll have a queen bed, sleeper sofa, pull-down bed, and a private verandah.

Concierge- This one is for the big dogs!

Some other things to consider:

  1. If you know motion sickness is an issue pick a stateroom midship.
  2. View the layout of the ship before picking your room. Where are the pool areas? Where are the clubs located? How much will you hear if you’re near the elevators?
  3. The price varies depending on the category you choose.
Waffles in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
Mickey waffles at breakfast.

Related: Creative Summer Preschool Worksheets

Nursery & Kids’ Club

If you’re cruising with a baby when it’s time to complete your online check-in that’s your opportunity to register for the “It’s A Small World” nursery on Disney Cruise and the kids’ clubs.

Are you taking a cruise with an infant? In order to sail children have to be at least six months of age so that’s the Disney cruise nursery age six months to 3 years old.

You can also make reservations on a first-come-first-serve basis. There’s a small fee for nursery child care.

Are cruises child friendly? Whether you are cruising with a toddler, baby or tweens there’s literally something for everyone—even plenty of adult-only activities.

Disney makes cruising with children a breeze!

Kids’ Clubs

Oceaneer Club-3-12 years old

Oceaneer Lab- 3-12 years old

Edge-11-14 years old

Vibe-14-17 years old

The Hideaway is on Disney Wish for tweens and teens.

Cruising with toddlers can be overwhelming for most of us. Use this Cruise Vacation Planner to get started off on the right foot.

This is an instant digital download. No physical product will ship to you.

Open houses will be held on embarkation day so you can get a feel of what the nursery and kids’ club offer. The kids’ club is included in the cost of your cruise.

When you’re on a Disney cruise with a toddler or kids headed to either the Oceaneer Club or Lab, they’ll get a magic band to use.  

They have to scan their band as they come and go.

You will see a charge for the Disney magic band but at the end of your cruise, you’ll have the option to keep or return the band. 

You’ll get a refund if it’s returned. Joakim wanted to keep his, so it’s now on display in his room with his “key to the world” card. 

Father and son posing in front of Disney cruise.

Shore Excursions- This is where I dropped the ball. Every day after booking I would say today I’m going to sit down and book some excursions and would never do it. By the time I did, everything was sold out! When I say everything I mean for Joakim’s age.

There are limited options for four-year-olds so they go pretty quickly.  This was the one downside I had about cruising with a toddler or preschooler.

Most excursions were for five-year-olds and up for our ports of call which were Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay.

I checked Every. Single. Day for cancelations and once we got onboard. Nothing!

Highly advise once you pay for your cruise in full start booking excursions.

A little boy taking a photo with Stitch on a Disney cruise.
Ran into Stitch as soon as we got back on the boat from exploring Castaway Cay.

Onboard Activities- I’ve probably said this one, too many times but there is plenty to do onboard. There are some activities you have to reserve a spot for like the Royal Gathering and the sports simulator on Goofy’s Sports Deck.

Goofy’s Sports Deck is on both the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. There’s also a lot to do on Goofy’s deck that doesn’t require pre-booking.

There’s tequila, whiskey, and a few other cocktail tastings that need to be pre-booked as well.

Yellow children life vest.
Life vest around the pool area on the ship. You can find them at Castaway Cay too.

Dinner Times- The main dining time is 5:45 pm and the late dining time is 8:15 pm. We were slated for late dining but a simple phone call fixed that.

If you have a late dining time check out the early shows. If you are having dinner during the main dining time go see the late shows.

You’ll see characters all day and night so don’t worry about that.   

Disney does rotational dining. You will get to experience all 3 of Disney’s themed restaurants and your servers will follow you to each.

Family of 3 posing for a picture.
Dinner at Animator’s Palate

Disney Cruise Line App- As soon as you book your cruise even if it’s not paid in full yet download the Disney Cruise Line app. You will do just about everything here and you can see the countdown of your cruise.

  • You’ll book and look up excursions for your port of call.
  • The date you can start your check-in process will show within the app.
  • You’ll upload passports, birth certificates, and photos of everyone in your stateroom within the app.
  • When each person is “cleared” to sail it will be here.
  • Once on the ship, everything that is happening from character meets to where you are dining for the night is in the app.
  • You can chat with others aboard via the app as well.

I will say once onboard my app didn’t work but my husband’s did.

Related: Travel Essentials For Families

Cruising With A Toddler And Preschooler Tips

Here are a few tips for cruising with a toddler or preschooler:

  • Bring at least 2 outfits for each day for each person in your party. One to wear during the day while you’re out exploring the ship or port of call (the country you’re visiting). The other should be something nice for dinner, parties, and shows.
  • Kids who are not potty trained cannot get into the kiddie pools but they are allowed to use the water play areas. On the Disney Dream, this would be Nemo’s Reef.
Mother and son in the water play area on the Dinsey Dream
Nemo’s Reef
  • Bring one-dollar bills to tip room service, port adventures, adult dining restaurants, and a few others.
  • Pre-pay your gratuities. If you prepay it’s one less thing you need to worry about during your cruise. Those gratuities go to :

Your server

Assistant server

Stateroom host

Head server

These are the folks that will take care of you your entire cruise. No ask was too big!

  • Don’t go overboard with Port adventures and booking at-sea activities. There is so much to do on the ship try to enjoy what the ship has to offer. 

I can tell you I completely missed an onboard activity I booked because we were having way too much fun doing other things. And yes, I was charged for it!

  • Can I take a stroller on Disney Cruise? Yes, you can and you should. The best part about a Disney cruise is that it is geared towards families and just about everything you need is available.

Disney has strollers available for guests but on a first-come-first-serve basis and in a limited quantity. So bring your own compact stroller. You’ll be glad you did when you want to keep exploring but your baby wants to nap.

Strollers on Castaway Cay.
Where some families parked their strollers on Castaway Cay.

If you need to go shopping for a stroller you truly don’t need a fancy one. Get something like the gb Pockit. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, it will do the trick.

  • Covid vaccinations are required for everyone 5 and older.
  • When it’s time to choose a check-in time pick an early arrival. Especially if there is still a covid testing requirement upon arrival for kids under 5 to sail.

Give yourself time to get through, figure out where things are on the ship, and even have lunch.

  • I’m not kidding when I say there is so much going on. There’s something for everyone to do all day long. Some parties don’t occur until later into the night, like 10 pm.

If you can, take a nap. Like everybody, not just the kids. Lol.

  • If your kids can stay up past their bedtimes let them. It honestly surprised me my son made it past his bedtime.

A Disney cruise is truly a magical experience. Let them enjoy it. Play, character meet, watch a movie on the deck or just run around the ship until their little hearts are content.

  • Pack a carry-on. It may take some time for your luggage to arrive in your room. Make sure you have everything you need for your kids, yourself, and whomever else is in your stateroom.
family of 3 on disney cruise posing with Mickey.

How To Afford A Disney Cruise

Many people including us had the same question about a Disney cruise. Why is it so expensive compared to other cruise lines?

It really is much more expensive than other cruise lines but after sailing one, for us, it was worth every single penny. There are a few ways to cut down on cost so don’t think it is not within reach if you’re looking to travel on a budget.  

  1. Drive- Driving eliminates flight costs for you and your family. So if you can drive to your port do it to save some money. I highly recommend arriving the day before your departure.

Our drive was from Virginia to Florida which was about a 13-hour road trip. We made a lot of stops in between and our little guy did a 1000x better than I thought he would.

We stayed at citizenM for one night and after disembarkation; headed to Daytona and stayed overnight at Hard Rock Hotel.

We were so exhausted from having so much fun on our cruise that we left the room once for dinner. I have nothing exciting to share about Daytona, sorry.

  1. Gift Cards- Ask for Disney gift cards for presents and use them towards your cruise cost.
  1. Book A Cruise With Restrictions-This is what we did and it can save you up to 35%. It comes with some restrictions so you truly need to know for sure the dates work for you.

-You have to pay the full price at the time of booking and it’s not refundable.

-Only for new bookings.

-You decide on the type of stateroom inside, Oceanview, etc but Disney will pick the exact room. You won’t know your room until right before embarkation.

We had no issues whatsoever with this option. We wanted a room midship, and it’s actually what we ended up with.

  1. Save While Onboard- While onboard you can save on your next cruise but you have to do it onboard by placing a $250 deposit.  

It’s called a “placeholder reservation”. Book within 24 months and get 10% off.

Toddler on a Disney cruise meeting Goofy.

I don’t want to give away every little detail about our cruise on the Disney Dream even though I shared a lot on Instagram. LOL There still needs to be some sort of element of surprise, right?

Your kids will love it and so will you! Take a break from land travel and go cruising with your toddler. Enjoy.

Cruising With A Toddler Or Preschooler FAQ

Are swim diapers allowed on cruises?

For a Disney cruise or any cruise, if your child is not potty/toilet trained you should absolutely bring swim diapers. Keep in mind the U.S. Public Health Service requires only potty/toilet-trained children can swim in pools.

 If the cruise ship you’re interested in has a water play area they can have fun there. You will also need swim diapers if you plan to get off the ship to go to beaches at your port of call.

We sailed the Disney Dream the water play area on that ship is Nemo’s Reef. By the way, every Disney ship has a water play area.

What is the best cruise line to take with kids?

Disney of course! A Disney cruise is what family vacations are made of. Every and anything you might think of has been thought out for you.

There are kids’ clubs, the wait staff goes above and beyond keeping families happy especially the children, movie theaters, space for kids to be kids, water slides, child care and so much more.

Does Disney cruise have child care?

Yes, the “It’s A Small World” nursery is available to you but you have to make reservations. The Oceaneer Club and Lab are options as well.

What is Pirate night on Disney Cruise?

Pirate night is a huge deal! Most guests dress up in pirate attire and you will find some items in your stateroom to wear for pirate night.

The dinner that night is pirate themed—those who have dressed up come to dinner in their pirate outfits. You can purchase all things pirate in the gift shop for pirate night.

There’s a big celebration in the deck area.  

If you are still wondering if cruises are good for toddlers and preschoolers, a Disney cruise is a fantastic way to vacation with your kids!

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