Tips for a Disney Cruise with a Toddler or Preschooler

by Shannon

Are you planning a Disney Cruise with your toddler or preschooler in tow? Maybe you’re questioning whether cruising with a toddler is a good idea, or if you should wait until they’re older. We’ve done a few Disney cruises now with our children at all different milestones. Our first was when our daughter was 1 and our most recent was when our son was 2 and our daughter was 4. I’m happy to share my personal tips for cruising with a toddler or preschool aged child in hopes that they’ll be helpful for you!

Disney Cruise Toddler and Preschooler Tips

I’d like to start by saying that we had an amazing time on every Disney Cruise we’ve been on as a family. If you’re cruising with little ones in tow, you can’t go wrong with a Disney Cruise. They absolutely cater to families and young children and I think that makes the world of difference when it comes to cruising with young children. Plus if your kiddos are Disney fans, they’re destined to feel the magic on a Disney Cruise.

Understand what Childcare Options are Available for You

Disney Cruises offer special childcare options for children of all ages. Toddlers or Preschoolers will be able to spend time in either the Small World Nursery or the Oceaneer Club.

Disney Cruise Small World Nursery

The Small World nursery is available for children aged 6 months – 3 years old. You can reserve the nursery for an additional fee and reservations can be made in advance or same day (if there is availability). Rates are as follows:

  • $4.50 per half hour for the first child
  • $4.00 per half hour for any additional children in your family
    • note: reservations are a one hour minimum

Disney Cruise Oceaneer Club

The Oceaneer Club is available for children aged 3 – 12 that are fully potty trained. There is no additional cost to utilize the Oceaneer Club.

We’ve used both the Small World Nursery and the Oceaneer Club and they’re both wonderful! The counselors are so sweet and the available toys and entertainment are exactly what you’d expect from Disney; they don’t disappoint!

If your little one is too young for the Oceaneer Club, they can still spend time there with you during the Open House hours they have onboard. My son loved exploring the Oceaneer Club during the Open House when he was 2 and too young to actually be checked in during the day.

Choose your Stateroom Wisely

There are different stateroom categories to consider when booking your Disney Cruise with little ones in tow. We personally like spending the extra money for the Deluxe Family Stateroom (either Verandah or Oceanview).

Not only is your room larger, but you also have an additional murphy bed available. We personally felt better about our kids each sleeping in a bed close to the floor vs using the pull-down ceiling bunk.

If you’re a family of 5, the Deluxe Family Stateroom is a great choice as well!

On our first cruise when we only had one kiddo and she was used to her crib at home, we booked a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom (not the Family Stateroom) and she slept in the pack n play and that was perfectly fine!

Regardless of stateroom size, bed rails and Pack n Plays are available to request (or you can bring your own).

Early Dining or the Early Show?

When cruising with littles ones that struggle to stay up very late, you may want to consider whether spending time as a family at dinner is priority vs watching the shows together each night.

When you book your cruise you’ll have the choice between the Main Dining or the Second Dining options.

The Main Dining is around 6pm and the Second Dining is around 8pm. The idea is that if you eat during the Main Dining, you would watch the late show. And if you eat during the Second Dining, you would watch the early show.

On our most recent cruise we tried the Second Dining because my daughter had struggled to stay awake for the shows on our previous cruise. She LOVED watching the early show with me and then making our way to the late dining. Our server was wonderful about bringing her food quickly and then she often fell asleep at the table while laying across 2 chairs. It was nice that she got to watch the entire show and also eat before she fell asleep (vs falling asleep and missing the show).

Another option you have available if you choose the Second Seating is the Dine and Play program that the Oceaneer Club hosts. You simply tell your server that you’ll be utilizing Dine and Play. Your server will bring your child’s food more quickly and then a counselor will bring the children to the Oceaneer Club while the adults take their time with their meal.

The Pools & Potty Training

Another thing to keep in mind if you’re cruising with little ones is that they must be potty trained to enjoy the pools. They cannot swim with a swim diaper.

However they can play in the themed splash zones! My kids loved these but it was a whole new world for my daughter when she could finally swim in the pools and enjoy the slides!

Lifevests are available for those who need them while swimming (or you could bring your own from home).

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay (pronounced Castaway Key) is Disney’s private island and it’s a ton of fun! My kids really enjoyed swimming, playing in the sand, and adventuring around the island.

Scuttle’s Cove is also available at Castaway Cay for children that are aged 3-12 and potty trained. It’s essentially the Oceaneer Club option on the island.

One tip I have for Castaway Cay is that 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.

There’s also a tram that runs on the island and stops at all of the main attractions along the way. It may be worthwhile using the tram if your hands are full and there aren’t any wagons or strollers available.

Don’t Forget to Reserve the Special Extras

There is so much to do on a Disney Cruise that you’ll no-doubt have an amazing time. BUT! There are extras to reserve that you don’t want to miss! While you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet characters on board, some special character meet-and-greets are by reservation only (no additional charge but you must have a reservation).

You can make these reservations before your cruise however they do go quickly. If you miss out on booking a special character meet-and-greet ahead of time, try to reserve it right when you get on board.

Something else you may want to reserve for your children is an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirates League onboard. This is an additional fee but it’s a lot of fun and very special.

I hope these tips are helpful if you’re considering a Disney Cruise with your toddler or preschooler! We loved our cruises and my kiddos still talk about all of the fun they had onboard!

If you need help booking your Disney Cruise, I recommend Love of the Magic Vacations! They’re an amazing agency that I personally use to book our Disney Cruises. They can answer your cruise questions and get you ready to sail! You can request a free vacation quote right here.

Follow along on all of our Walt Disney World fun on Instagram @brbgoingtodisney! I share tips and tricks LIVE from the parks each week on Stories! See you there!

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