As Central Florida moms, we have a little thing in our backyard called the Walt Disney World Resort. I mean, how lucky are we that we’re all neighbors to the most magical place on Earth, and can practically schedule playdates with friends somewhere on Disney property?! People save their whole lives to come vacation here. However for us locals, while it’s certainly easy to take a Disney World staycation, it definitely does not feel like a vacation getaway. So, when our family wants to truly get away with the kids, we set a course to see Captain Mickey. Keep on reading for reasons why a Disney Cruise is the easiest vacation for Central Florida families, especially those with young children.
Because there are so many itineraries, ships, and date options, these are the cruises our family has taken to give you some background:
- February 2015 – 7-night Eastern Caribbean on the Fantasy
- October 2016 – 4-night Bahamas including Castaway Cay on the Dream (Halloween on the High Seas)
- February 2018 – 7-night Eastern Caribbean on the Fantasy (Star Wars Day at Sea)
- November 2019 – 3-night Bahamas including Castaway Cay on the Dream (Very Merrytime)
- March 2023 – 3-night Bahamas including Castaway Cay on the Wish
1. First, Let’s Talk Cost
Let’s get it out of the way…. Disney Cruises can be expensive, but we have an awesome benefit…Florida Resident rates! Florida Resident rates are usually released on Mondays and they are typically for cruises sailing in a few months (they usually don’t offer specials on high demand weeks like Spring Break, major holidays etc). If you have a flexible schedule (kids aren’t in grade school yet etc.), this is the way to go! Military discounts are also available. Periodically Disney Cruise Line discounts certain itineraries up to 30%. There have been promotions recently for savings on third and fourth passengers in a state room for Disney + subscribers. Sometimes, they will run promotions for a reduced deposit, but the overall cost remains the same. Any possible discounts can be found on the Disney Cruise Line website.
The best pricing is typically on the day they release new itineraries. Cruise dates are released 15-18 months before sail date and are dropped as a chunk of months; usually a season like Summer and early Fall. There are lots of ways to save money in other ways (i.e. Disney credit card specials with no interest, using Disney gift cards etc). I recommend you join a Disney Cruise Facebook group and search the posts for lots of great information.
2. No Flying.
Arriving at the port is so easy with Disney’s dedicated terminal.
This is a huge one for us! No lugging car seats and strollers onto a plane, or worrying about luggage limits. We can load up the car with whatever we want to bring with us, and in less than an hour (40 minutes if you live on the east side of town!), you are at Port Canaveral. We love that once the work is done of loading the car, the hard part is done. My husband drops me and the kids and our carry on items at the port curb, the porters take our luggage onto the ship, and then he parks the car in the adjacent garage.
Plus, most of the Disney Bahamas/Caribbean cruises don’t require a passport because they are closed-loop cruises. So if your kids don’t have one yet or yours is expired and you want to cruise soon, you can still check out some foreign countries. That being said, it’s still a good idea to have passports in case you have to remain in one of the destinations due to an emergency. Make sure to check the identification requirements for your intended cruise.
3. Catering to Baby’s Every Need.
Friends ask me all the time, “isn’t it hard to travel with the baby?” No way! Disney Cruise Line makes it so easy! Disney Cruise Line provides bottle warmers, sterilizers, cribs and playpens (with linens) at no cost. We also request toddler bed rails for our stateroom. Plus, every public restroom has an attendant keeping things clean and stocked. Every restroom has a changing table (except those in the nightclub areas) stocked with paper liners. It seriously doesn’t get any cleaner than a Disney Cruise. A limited number of strollers are available at guest services for guests to use.
With an onboard nursery,* you can even take a few hours for some adult-only time in the spa, pool or for brunch in Palo. On Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, there are even beach wagons available for you to use. At dinner, they pureed our son’s favorite food and had his highchair ready and waiting. One night, he fell asleep on me, and our server cut my food for me so I could still eat. They will work with you to make sure all your, as well as baby’s, needs are met.
*[There is a small per hour cost for the nursery (children 3 and under who are not potty trained)].
4. Lots of Options When Traveling with Extended Family
I highly recommend the Deluxe Family stateroom if you have a Pack-n-Play and another child in your room. We had it on our Very Merrytime Cruise, and will now get this room category from this point on (and now we have to with our new family of 5!). It was worth the extra floor space for us. The split bathroom is also a wonderful feature for families, allowing Mom to get ready in one, while Dad gave the kids a bath in the other. There are adjoining room options, so if you travel with grandparents or extended family, it’s very easy for everyone to be together, again, making it the ideal vacation for families! Dinner locations have the ability to accommodate large families as well. And your servers rotate with you each evening to your dining location so they get to know you and your preferences. This is another benefit for families— if you were taking a vacation on land somewhere, you’d have to find a restaurant every night to accommodate a large party. On a Disney Cruise, everything is set up and ready for you.
We’ve cruised with friends as well as grandparents. They could do what they wanted to, while we went off and did our thing. It was nice to have that flexibility and know that we would meet up later. We stayed in contact via the ship’s mobile app and never felt like we’d get lost/miss each other, unlike if we were at a theme park or other land-based vacation.
5. Making Magical Memories.
As a WDW Annual Passholder, we see characters all the time. Our kids are at the age where those experiences are more magical than rides. However, on a Disney Cruise, it’s all about character interaction at another level. Our daughter danced and twirled with Minnie Mouse at the Character Dance Party, had Royal Tea with Cinderella and friends, and then later had a pajama party with Pluto in the Oceaneer Club (for kids 3-12) while our son was visited by Chip and Dale in the nursery. Especially on longer cruises, the characters get to know your kids, and even more magical moments are made.
Between planned activities (there’s a daily schedule filled with things to do), the aquatic areas, Broadway-style shows, movie theater, and baby/toddler time there is so much to do on board. Off the ship, there’s lots to do as well! Depending on the ports you visit, there’s something for every age group.
Even though we live in Florida, a trip to the beach for us is a bit of a production. Carrying chairs, an umbrella, lunch/snacks, sand toys, towels, a baby, and a toddler and then having to drive back to Orlando after a day in the fresh air and sun… it can be exhausting. That’s why our favorite stop on a Disney Cruise is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. There’s no tender boats– the ship docks right at the dock, you grab some towels and a tram takes you to the beach. There are plenty of umbrellas and chairs, and options for shade. Plus with a lunch buffet, someone to bring you a drink, clean restrooms nearby, and stores if you forget a hat or sunscreen, it’s so easy to relax and enjoy a beach day with your family because the logistics are taken care of.
6. A New Twist for the Holidays
Throughout the year Disney Cruise Line offers incredibly themed cruises. Do you enjoy dressing up for Halloween and want to trick-or-treat around the ship? Or does your family prefer to hear Christmas Carols and stories in front of the gorgeous Christmas tree in the lobby while wearing your cozy pajamas? If you want to make a Holiday season memorable, book your cruise during one of these times. You will surely not be disappointed.
In addition to Holiday themes, Disney often offers other themes featuring your favorite characters from Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars. You receive the full experience of a Disney cruise with an added activities specific to the theme.
My family has cruised with themes of Halloween on the High Seas, Very Merrrytime and Star Wars Day at Sea. Each cruise was uniquely themed and executed perfectly while featuring special characters and costumes, bonus activities (like cookie decorating) and special shows (even an extra fireworks show on the Star Wars Cruise!) I truly cannot recommend cruising during one of these specially themed times.
Disney Cruise Line has thought of everything, no matter what your family age range is. I could keep going on about Disney Cruise Line because there is so much to do, and there’s so much attention to detail in everything they do. This will be our family vacation until our kids are older to make flying a bit easier, or we can walk around cities without the use of a stroller. That’s when we will head to Europe, New England or another destination. And even then, we may just take a Disney Cruise to get there.
Have you been on a Disney Cruise? Or, are you planning on taking one?
First published April 26, 2017 by Jaclyn Rhoads. Updated December 2018 & 2/25/2024