Guest Post: Twelve Tips for Cruising with a Toddler

Below is a fantastic article written by Sicilianalamode.com about Disney cruising with a toddler!  If you’re considering a Disney cruise, check out what she has to say about it!
TRAVELING WITH A TODDLER ON A DISNEY CRUISE?…here’s some advice from a mama who was crazy enough to do it.
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In November of 2015 my little family (Angelina {me}, Jeremy {hubs}, Leonardo {toddler extraordinaire}), embarked on the Disney Fantasy for the Very Merrytime Thanksgiving cruise. Not only did we create some life-long memories, but we learned several lessons along the way as well. Here are a few tips that I am passing on to other toddler families out there considering a Disney Cruise.
I’m not going to lie: It WILL be hectic. It WILL be [at times] painful. BUT it WILL be wonderful.
So, here goes:

1.) Buy your own drinking cups & bring them with you. 

This is not late-breaking news as a tip, but it’s important. Here’s why: The only cups they offer on board are very small and have just a standard lid/straw. I don’t know about you, but my kid does not do well with that combo. He ends up somehow dumping the entire drink on himself and/or chewing on the straw more than drinking from it. If you bring your own cups, you can fill and refill them. Your waiters at the restaurant will even fill your child’s cup for you too if you ask.
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Here are the cute ones we ordered to take with us. I found them on Etsy HERE.


2.) Get adjoining rooms.

Are you traveling with grandparents or other family members? Make sure you get adjoining rooms. We chose to ask my dad (Leo’s grandpa) to come along with us on the cruise. He lives in Florida and doesn’t get as much quality time with his grandson as the other grandparents do. We had adjoining rooms and it was perfect. There were a few nights when my husband and I wanted to enjoy the adult nightlife on the boat or go take in a late night movie. After Leo went to sleep, (in his provided pack & play from the cruise…a side tip: make sure to request one before you go) we would prop open both adjoining doors. My dad could stay in his room, watch TV, go to sleep, & read, but was right there to hear Leo in case he woke up (which he never did…we’ll get to that). Then, while out, there is an app that you can download on your smart phones and text to check in too.
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Leo used to say “knock knock” on the door when he was ready to see Grandpa. Now, whenever they see each other or talk over the phone, it’s still a thing. A very cute thing.


3.) Decorate your port door in a unique way.


Yes, it’s kind of dorky. Yes, it seems like a simple tip. Yes, you should do it. After awhile you will realize a sea of doors starts to look the same. Even your toddler or young one will know where their ship “home” is when you have a unique door decoration. We decided to go the ole’ Mickey route and had Thanksgiving themed magnets for our room.
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Our door: the perfect mix of cheesy & practical. Trust me on this oneOurs is from HERE.


4.) On-Demand movies are wonderful & available at your fingertips, literally.

Oh yeah, there are some fun music channels you can listen to in the background while you’re getting ready or just hanging.  Leo was a fan.
Never got around to seeing Brave or The Incredibles or Up? See them on your ship. In your room. For free. As often as you like. This was a cool feature we didn’t discover until a couple of days in & we really ended up enjoying it. After a long day of running around, eating, swimming, & playing; we would get a drink (in our cute little Etsy cups), cuddle up as a family while Leo would wind down to a new movie. Shortly after that, he would drift off into Pixar dreamland (again, more on that later).
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5.) Character appearances are the shit. Pardon my language, but it’s true.

We did a few things to make this run smoothly, as our toddler is a number 1 on a scale of 1-10 for patience (with 10 being most patient). First, we would check out the daily navigator and see what was essential. Honestly, Leo had no preference except that he wanted to see ANY character. Here’s an upside to having a toddler, they aren’t too picky in the character preference department yet. If we saw a popular character was having an appearance (let’s say Mickey) but a less popular character was also having an appearance at the same time (let’s say Pluto) we’d opt for the “less popular” character appearance. Often, the “less popular” character would have a very short line & BINGO! These “less popular” appearances would often take place in an area of the ship called Preludes. Here’s another pro-tip…if the line is too long, Leo was often happy just watching the kids and characters from across the room on the bench & we even had a few run-ins with other characters while watching. For instance, Donald Duck high-fived Leo as he waddled by once and the smile on Leo’s face was the equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio walking past & giving me a high-five.
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Pluto, Jer, & Leo in front of Preludes.

6.) Atrium entertainment should not be missed.


There are so many opportunities for entertainment, many of them in the main atrium of the ship. The atrium is two stories high. One story is where the main show takes place, the second story, or balcony, is where we liked to hang out during performances. We would find a spot on the railing near the top of the stairs. When the characters would appear first, they would be right there next to us. Leo’s eyes would light up like a Christmas tree. It was the best. It was less crowded up there and we could always find a good spot if we arrived about 10-15 minutes before the show. It’s also situated near a coffee shop and porthole window. Once the characters walked off, they would walk past the porthole window, waving to Leo as they passed by. It was special. On the days where maybe he wasn’t into it and started acting like a nut, this location was also an easy place to escape swiftly back to the room.
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7.) Live shows and movies are actually doable!


Want to try out some live shows or movies with your little one, but not into paying for a ticket when you know you’ll inevitably have to jet out of there 20 minutes after the show begins? Go on a Disney Cruise! This was an opportunity for Leo to experience live performances but without the regret of disturbing everyone. First off, everyone has kids, or nearly everyone. They do not care that you have a toddler with you in the theatre. Second of all, there are booster seats available and a sneaky spot to sit in that won’t be a bother when you exit early. We would get there ahead of time, grab some popcorn to share, go up to the balcony, find a booster seat, sit in a back row on the aisle and enjoy. It was so fun to watch Leo’s eyes light up and chair dance as the show began. Then, of course we would leave about 20-30 minutes later…but who really cares!?!? Good times.
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8.) Port adventure excursions are limited when you have a toddler.

If you don’t want to over-schedule and over-stress yourself, I suggest not scheduling an excursion, or at least go very simple. Keep in mind, when you’re on the boat, everyone is beyond helpful, used to children, and you get super accustomed to that “Disney” treatment. Once you leave the boat and go on an excursion, you’re in the real world again. Often, these are contractors through Disney running the excursions & the level of care may not be the same. We had one fantastic experience and one not so fantastic experience. The GOOD involved a private vehicle charter in St. Maarten. I will warn you, it is pricey, but well worth it if you can budget for it. This was a great excursion for us because we had a wonderful local guide, were escorted off the boat straight to the car (READ: no long lines, no waiting: hallelujah!), we went everywhere we wanted to go for as long as we wanted to be there. It was perfection. Leo even grabbed a nap in the comfy car seat as we toured the island. It was a highlight day for sure. The BAD involved a cattle call of an excursion on St. John’s with an over-crowded boat ride and bumpy, uncomfortable bus tour. Then, at the end we waited at the “ye ole’ cattle call” again. On paper it seemed idyllic. In reality, don’t take a toddler on an excursion like that. My advice: catch a cab or walk to something near the port, and find your own adventure at your own pace.
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Yes. It’s very pretty. This was part of the “GOOD” excursion.

9.) Your little one will sleep well!


This was one of the best things about the trip. Our kiddo is wild and has never been that good of a sleeper, but there was something about sleeping on the boat. The enclosed coziness of the room? The comfy pack & play? The rocking of the ship? Mom & dad being right nearby? It’s hard to say what it was for sure, but Leo slept like a baby the entire vacation and for that, we were thankful. This is a definite thing to look forward to if you are graced with a spirited non-sleeper like us.
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Mommy & Daddy grabbed drinks at La Piazza & listened to live music while Leo slept in the nice adjoining room next to grandpa.

10.) Mealtime will be a challenge.

Maybe your toddler isn’t a maniac and sits well through long, late dinners. If so, WHY ARE YOU READING THIS BLOG ARTICLE? No, seriously, congratulations to you, get on that cruise & stop reading now. For the rest of us…here’s my advice on mealtime. Do not, do not, do not stress about it. The servers, and subsequently, other folks on the ship have seen worse, and are not fazed by a tantrum or overtired child. However, don’t make yourself miserable with higher expectations than what you or others in your party might have. **Guilty as charged** Learn from my mistakes. There is late night pizza on the pool deck. You can always get your meal to go. Room service is free (besides tip). Children 6 months and up can go to the kid’s clubs during dinner. Take advantage of these things when there is no other option. We tried to take Leo to dinner every night. Every night. {Enter side rant} I’m not judging anyone in saying this, but we refuse to allow media at the dinner table with our child. While it might be an option other families chose to use, it isn’t right for our family. We feel if we start now, although that would be an easy way out with as active a child as we have, we’ll never be able to stop and we want him to learn to enjoy mealtime as a person socially active with the rest of the table. With that being said, some of the fancy cruise dinners hurt. Hard. {Exit side rant} All I can say is plan accordingly with what works best for your family & don’t stress…that will only make it worse. Or, if you have a cherub of a toddler, then more power to you sister & brother, I’m super jelly. With all of that being said, Leo did do really well with one restaurant, which is NOT to be missed: Animator’s Palate. There is animation, media (I know, I just said we don’t do media at the table…haha, must be why this restaurant sent him into overload), vibrant colors, your own characters, and so, SO much to look at. It’s one of the highlights and more casual of dinners you will come to enjoy on the boat, look forward to that night. If you plan on skipping the big dinners, don’t miss the Animator’s Palate night.
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Our sweet server made a napkin hat for Leo. It distracted him. For a minute. 
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Applause even from the littlest of guys during the Animator’s Palate night.

11.) Castaway Cay really is the best.

Maybe it’s because I was least looking forward to Castaway Cay that I ended up loving it the most. I had heard/read everyone say it was the best. So, naturally, I went in skeptical. I’m joining the masses and telling you, yes, this day is GOLD. Remember when I said a tip or two ago that excursions are limiting with toddlers and part of my rationale was that you leave the fantasy world of Disney for the real world. Well, this is like an excursion day but WITH the lovely Disney staff. All of the staff leaves the boat and heads to the island to work. They are again, approachable, kind, and understanding of all things toddler. Plus, the island is small, easy-going and beautiful. We really, really wanted a private cabana but didn’t get one reserved in time: bummer. Actually, not so much. There are plenty of places to set up shop on the beach. We found a really great set of lounge chairs under the swaying palms. When we were ready to eat we went to the outdoor barbecue set up by the staff on the ship. The food is all included as part of your trip and it’s delicious. There is full plumbing on the private island with nice Disney-ified restrooms and cute little shops where you can buy beach goods and small souvenirs. Leo was in love with the sand and the water. They have wagons and strollers available for use and there seemed to be plenty. Leo was so enthralled in the beach day, he fell fast asleep at the table. After lunch, we threw him in a wagon along with our beach accessories and strolled leisurely back to the ship. BEST BLACK FRIDAY EVER! Don’t miss this day with your little ones.
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Castaway Cay: sun, sand, passing out at the table, & wagon rides

12.) KEEP YOUR LUGGAGE AND WALK OFF OF THE BOAT.

My last piece of advice and something I don’t remember reading about despite the thousands of blog posts and pinterest posts I perused before our trip is what happens when you leave the boat. That’s why I put it in all-caps above, ha. They will give you two options on disembarkment day: put your luggage out at night before at a certain time and they will take for you, spend the day on the boat leaving later to meet your luggage OR keep your luggage and leave first thing in the morning with your bags in hand. Jeremy and I mulled around for a while on what would be the best, keeping in mind our child’s disdain for waiting in long lines. Ultimately, we made the right choice and decided to hold onto our bags, wake up super early, and leave the ship immediately. I’m SO glad we did. Keep in mind, we had my dad’s car parked nearby the terminal, so this might not be the best option for everyone. However, if you are parked nearby or catching a taxi: do this. We only had to wait for a few minutes in a long line.  We were initially worried about the line, but once they opened the port doors it moved fast & we rolled right off the boat and to the car. It was glorious & the path of least resistance, consider it with your family on the final day of the cruise.
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 I wish you smooooth sailing.
Until next time,
Photo Jan 31, 11 19 53 AM

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Are you going on a Disney Cruise with a younger child? Have you been on a Disney Cruise with a toddler? I’d love to hear your feedback below. If you are going soon, I hope your trip is truly magical, that special Disney variety of magical.

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