Updated December 2018
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:
- March 2015: 4-night Bahamas Cruise on the Dream with our 2-year-old daughter. (Booked 6 weeks prior to sailing).
- September 2016: 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Fantasy (Halloween on the High Seas) with our 3-year-old daughter and 7-month-old son. Friends of our family on the same sailing. (Booked 8 months prior to sailing).
- December 2016: 4-night Bahamas Cruise on the Dream (Very Merrytime Cruise) with our 3-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son. (Booked 1 week prior to sailing).
- March 2017: 4-night Bahamas Cruise on the Dream with our 4-year-old daughter, one-year-old son, and grandparents. (Booked 6 months prior to sailing).
- March 2018: 4-night Bahamas Cruise on the Wonder with our 5-year-old-daughter, two-year-old son while I was 15 weeks pregnant!
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. This is about it on discounts. Sometimes, they will run promotions for a reduced deposit, but the overall cost remains the same. The best pricing is on the day they release new itineraries (Summer 2020 should be released in the next few weeks). 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.
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 (and let’s be honest, that’s usually the hubby figuring that out in our household), 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 Pack-n-Plays with linens (another thing we did NOT have to pack!), as well as Diaper Genies, 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. There are also a limited amount of bottle warmers and strollers available for guests’ 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
We love going to WDW for the holidays to see the decorations. However, as a passholder, it’s hard for us to rationalize to pay the extra admission for Mickey’s Not So Scary or Christmas parties year after year. Instead, we celebrated these holidays at sea, where it was less crowded, included in our cost of the cruise, and was something new for us, yet we still celebrated Halloween and Christmas/Hanukkah with Mickey and friends.
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?