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micheledb49 03-22-2013 04:14 PM

Cruising with a toddler, perfect family vaca
When I was researching this vacation, I ran into a lot of threads about people wondering if they should cruise with a toddler. After this cruise, my answer is YES, YES, YES!

So here goes....
My husband, myself and our 17 month old son went on the March 15  19 cruise out of Galveston. We drove in from Austin. Houston was one accident after another. Luckily, I'd added a buffer of 2 hours to our drive and we used all of it and then some. If you have to drive through Houston, give yourself plenty of time!

We used Discount Cruise Parking. They were super easy to find and very friendly. Once at the port our check in was incredibly smooth and our wait time was less than 5 minutes. We went right on through to the ship with no wait.

Day 1 (embarkment day) highlights:
- Adventures Away dance party/show on pool deck. They gave away free pompoms and our 17 month old had a blast shaking them from atop my husband's shoulders and watching the characters dance. It was not overcrowded at all which was such a pleasant surprise.

- Our 17 month old enjoying an ice cream cone from Goofy's Galley. He was SO excited! He really never gets ice cream at home.

- Dinner at Animator's Palette. Best food of the entire cruise. Loved the décor! And Mickey came in towards the end of dinner and my DS was thrilled to see him. Clapping like crazy!

- Stumbled upon the family dance party in the prelude lounge, 17 month old had a blast! He LOVES to dance!

- Villains Tonight show. Thought 17 month old would be scared, but he loved it.

Day 2 (sea day) highlights:
- Had breakfast in Parrot Cay. Our server made DS a little Peter Pan hat from the napkin and he left it on and ate like that. SO cute!

- Attended Wake Up with Disney Junior dance party. Too choreographed for DS's age, but Daisy showed up and everyone got high fives which was fun.
- DS loved the splash pad.
- Used the nursery and loved having a little adult time to wander the ship and play cards in the cove.

Day 3 (Cozumel) highlights:
- Took a cab to Paradise Beach. Pure Heaven! This place is spotless, has amazing service and is a tropical vision! DS played in the sand forever. Had lunch at their restaurant. And then sweet DS napped for almost 2 hours while DH and I enjoyed pool time.

- We did Palo this evening. I regret to say I thought the food was only okay. The service however was outstanding!

Day 4 (sea day) highlights:
- Character dance party in the Lobby Atrium. Super, super fun!
- Attended the Oceaneer Club open house. That place is awesome! DS loved the slide and the tree house and the computer room! It happened to be mouseketeer training and Mickey came in and said hi to everyone and they all got badges.

- Used the nursery for a bit this afternoon. DH and I enjoyed the adult pool and hot tub. Very surprising how few people were there. Loved this time!
- Watched the 2:00 showing of Disney Dreams. Our favorite show of the trip. Spectacular.

Day 5 highlights:
- Super easy and smooth debarkation. Had breakfast, let DS run around a bit and by then the crowds were clear and we just walked right off.

My take on cruising with our toddler:
- Seeing our son enjoy the amazingness of the Magic made it magical for us. An ice cream is simple to us. But seeing him eat his first Mickey bar is priceless.
- Our son is very expressive and when Mickey came into dinner the first night, his eyes lit up and he just kept saying, woah! Woah! And he doesn't even watch Mickey on tv.
- We took our son to Disney World in December and never even got close to the characters. On the ship, we'd turn a corner and they'd be at the elevator with no one else around. We had plenty of time to high five them and take pictures. It was unbelievable.

- I don't see the issue with the pool thing at all. If you have older children, I definitely see how you'd have to split up the family and that would be hard. But with only 1 toddler, he had a blast in the splash pad.
- Luckily our son is a good napper. And he has no problem napping in his stroller. On board, we'd push him around deck 4 until he was completely asleep. Then we'd either enjoy the view with a cocktail while he napped or play board games in one of the lounges. Napping in the stroller is key. Getting stuck in your room for 2 hours would stink.
- We don't have any family that takes our son, ever. So having a nursery option during a vacation was the biggest treat. This is him passed out in the nursery! ha!
- There is SO much to do. There is always a show, a dance party or something going on. Even just the ship itself is fun. We found the huge port holes over by Rockin Bar D and probably played in those for half an hour!

- During one of our nursery times we enjoyed drinking a beer, eating nachos and playing foosball in Diversions. The available options are endless!
- Of course our son had a couple of tantrums. Usually boredom at dinner or food was too slow (our service was pretty bad). But he has the tantrums at home too. It's life. They can't talk yet. They are going to throw some fits. I can't think of any other vacation where almost every single person around you gets it and is not judgy.
- Don't miss regular nap times. Just like at home, if he misses a nap, we all pay for it :)

We had the BEST family vacation and are already planning our next cruise. It was just so EASY! Disney is so magical. The ship was gorgeous. And SO clean. And everyone is so nice, including other guests. We had cruised twice before (Princess to Alaska and RC to Bahamas) and were not impressed. We constantly felt like we were in lines for everything and were completely underwhelmed by it. The Disney Cruise has changed cruising for us, forever. And with a toddler, I truly believe it is one of the easiest vacations for our family. Our toddler is very independent and wants to go, go, go. The Disney Cruise is perfect for that. It is safe & full of options.

Crchapm 03-22-2013 06:03 PM

Thank you so much for posting this. We will be taking our little man with us on our 8 night Bahamas in May. He will turn 17 months the day before the cruise, so your report is really relevant to us.

Rozzy 03-23-2013 02:51 PM

Yes, thank you so much for posting this! Our DD will be the exact same age as your son when we cruise in October and your trip report was very reassuring to us.

Question: Did you book your nursery times ahead of time? It says that you should do it immediately when cruise begins as it books up fast. I am not sure if we have the option of reserving ahead of the cruise. I'm just not sure when we should put her in the nursery and how often. I read that we may not be able to reserve multiple times over the 7 days as it will be quite busy. Did you have issues with this, or did anyone else reading this post have any experience or issues with this?

Thank you so much!

micheledb49 03-23-2013 11:01 PM

I'm so glad it's helpful :)

We did book them ahead of time (I guess about a month before the cruise). We were only on the 4 days cruise and after day 1 we realized the times we booked were not the best and were able to rebook while on the ship. However, on day 2 we tried to book an hour for the last evening of the cruise and we were wait listed. We ended up getting in, so it all worked out. But from my experience, they try to be as flexible as possible but definitely are not completely open so it might be best to at least get some booked and then rebook on ship if you need to.

Also, I had read somewhere that there were no snacks in the nursery. We packed way too many snacks for him. Every time we dropped him off they had crackers or something for the kids, so we really didn't need to haul our gold fish and teddy grahams from Austin :) But I guess it's always better to be safe than sorry.

The nursery staff is SO nice! We didn't even use them that much and if we saw them anywhere on the ship they remembered us and said hi. They are a great team!

jjje 03-24-2013 12:28 AM

Your son is adorable! (I'm partial to redheads since I have one of my own.) I'm glad your family had such a great time!

LisaHK 03-24-2013 06:40 AM

Thank you for your report and gorgeous pictures. It is so nice to see the cruise from a toddlers perspective.

Our daughter will be just 2 when we cruise in August and I am pleased to see so many options for her. DH & I rarely have any alone time so I think we will try and ask our boys to go to the kids club and book her into the nursery for a couple of hours. :)

micheledb49 03-24-2013 11:24 AM

Thanks everyone!

Using the nursery and having some alone time each day was so key for us. And after an hour or two I really was excited to go pick up DS and experience more with him.

We were seated with a very nice couple with 3 little ones at dinner (ages 8, 5 and 2.5). They never used the clubs or the nursery and I'm not sure how much they loved the cruise. I can imagine having 3 to try to please at different ages could be tough too.

I also recommend eating in Parrot Cay (or whatever is similar on other ships) in the morning. You are seated at your own table with a server that brings you drinks and clears plates, but it is buffet style. It is not crowded at all and having someone do drinks and just help out is really nice. We actually never ate at topsiders (the main buffet). We had every meal in Parrot Cay or Lumiere's and only once at pluto's dog house. For some reason, this just worked really well for us and was so much less crowded than the very busy pool deck with topsiders.

jedijill 03-24-2013 10:35 PM

Great report. Your little guy is a cutie pie! Love the 3rd picture of him looking in awe! That's classic.

Jill in CO

Woodmnky 03-25-2013 02:24 PM

The pic of your son seeing Mickey in AP is priceless. We have cruised for our son's 1st & 2nd birthdays. I agree this is the best possible vacation option for toddlers. There is so much to do, but you are always within 5 minutes of your room. We are planning another Disney cruise for just before his 3rd birthday.

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