Many people believe that Disney cruises might not be great for the under-three-crowd. This is mainly due to the fact that the youth programming and pools are reserved for those who are potty trained and, in the case of the kids clubs, over three years old.
My son has sailed twice on the Disney Cruise Line as a toddler and we have felt there was so much for him to do.
If water play is a big deal for your little one, consider the Dream or the Fantasy because their under 3 water play area is much larger and more interactive than on the Wonder and Magic. On the two newer ships there is a Finding Nemo water play area which has lots of jets and sprayers and a tiny slide. My son loved it.
While the kids’ clubs are not available for the under 3 crowd, there is a nursery on-board. We used it for when we wanted to dine in the adult-only restaurants and there is a nominal fee. The crew members were very attentive and took great care of our son. There are some times set aside, called Open House, when anyone can go in and check the Kids Clubs out. They are usually in the morning, we took our son to the Oceaneer’s Club and he had a blast playing in Andy’s room.
As far as filling your time on sea days with a toddler– we found we were never without an activity. There is almost always a character greeting somewhere on the ship. There are also activities in the D-Lounge (Family Club Lounge) for babies and toddlers with a Disney Junior theme. One morning Jake came in to play. There are also free arts and crafts activities usually each sea day. One day we made door hangers and two other days we made memory pages, we really enjoyed these crafts and we had free souvenirs.
There is also miniature golf up on the sports deck. What better place for your child’s first game? There is a movie theatre that shows Disney movies throughout the day. We didn’t have a chance to do either of these things, but they were on our list!
Dinner time is where you really need to be prepared. Dinners are long and a toddler’s attention span is not long enough to accommodate. We brought along a bag of trains and cars and brought it to dinner every night. They actually allow you (and encourage you) to draw on the table cloths, a habit I had to break my son of once we were back home, he drew train tracks all around our table and it kept him occupied all throughout the meal. Whatever you child is into, bring that with you. Playing at the table is encouraged and it also keeps you engaged with each other.
Try your best to get the early dinner seating, if you do not get it when you book, be sure to request to be put on the wait list. You can also check, when you get on board, if there is availability. The timing is better for the toddlers and then you can either have an early bed time or enjoy the show for the evening. My son really enjoyed the shows, so our nightly routine was: eat dinner, return to the stateroom and give him a bath and have him wear his pajamas to the show. As soon as the show was over we went back to the room for bed.
A big tip for excursions: plan easy half-day excursions and go at the time of day that is best for you little one. My son is an early riser, so the morning excursions worked best for us. We did tours and visited the beaches on our Caribbean cruise and it was perfect. Be sure to pack some sand toys for the ports and Castaway Cay day– your toddler will be so happy and you won’t have to pay for over-priced beach buckets on the boat or island.Cruising with a toddler does require a different strategy and extra planning. You should definitely read your on-board Navigator well and just remember to enjoy the moments with your little one while he or she is still so young– these years never come back! We had our best vacations aboard the “Mickey Boat” (as my son calls it) and can’t wait for our next one.