Growing up, my parent's LOVED taking my brother, sister and I on cruises. What's not to love? Your kids are quarantined to boat with no escape, the drinks, food and fun are all inclusive and your usually somewhere tropical. We always had an absolute blast on our cruises but when I became a parent, anxiety was a huge beast that I had to learn to live with. I have never been a strong swimmer and now that I have children, the idea of being surrounded by water morning, noon and night did not sound great. None the less, my sweet mother convinced me to take a DISNEY cruise with our entire family to set sail January 2016. We booked our cruise one entire year in advance and made a payment plan. Disney cruises on a budget can only be accomplished in the off season (after New Year and before April). The cruise itself was less than $1500 for my husband, myself and my son. But six weeks before departure, I became pregnant with our second child, Fallon. So morning sickness, our son's sudden and surprising fear of characters and no fruity drinks for mama along with my new found friend, anxiety, the trip was challenging. Disney cruise has a policy about children in the pools. If they are not potty trained they are not allowed. This means no swim diapers. And if they even think that a child in the pool is wearing one, you will be approached. I can say this from personal experience. So our son was confined to the Nemo splash pad. But that was so fun for him, so no fun was missed. He was also too short for the slide, which broke my thrill seeking husband's heart. So my man child baby daddy went sliding alone. With all of that being said, Disney cruises are best without morning sickness and definitely more fun for a child who is fully potty trained and maybe past toddler years. It was still an amazing trip with our family. We announced our pregnancy to them on the boat which was so special and memorable.
Fast forward a couple of years and we decided to give cruising another try. Royal Caribbean had some amazing deals going on in May. We booked a last minute cruise for the four of us for about $2000. We had some money left over in our travel savings and decided to go with some friends and family. I must say, our kids had the time of their lives. Although it was still stressful keeping up with our crazy toddler, Fallon, it was much more enjoyable. The boat was Mariner of the Seas. The boat itself is for much older kids and adults but our two littles only need a pool and some good music to have a good time so they were as happy as can be. Coco Cay is so dreamy and relaxing. The picture opportunities there are an instagrammers candy land. The snorkeling in the lagoon is right up our kids' age level. You can rent a float and snorkel gear for about $30 a person but if you bring a cheap deflated float and your own snorkel gear, you'll be set. TIP: The sand is so hot. If your kids don't mind wearing close toe water shoes, invest. Put them on them and forget about it the rest of the day. "Where are your shoes?" and "The sand is burning my feet!" were heard way too often. TIP: Get off the boat early at Coco Cay. There is so much to do but you don't want to feel rushed. TIP: The large souvenir cups are worth every penny. They will fill them with alcoholic beverages as well. A single regular margarita was X amount of money but the souvenir cup held two margaritas and cost less so you could buy that and have it filled with whatever concoction you want and sip on that throughout the day.
The drink package was a tough decision. Our kids are still pretty young (meaning we still have to chase them quite a bit) and I am and have always been a bit of a lightweight so I don't drink much at one time. Our cruise was only 3 nights. RC now allows you to carry on wine and other nonalcoholic beverages so with that being said we decided it was not worth the money. However, in the future, a cruise sans kids or a longer cruise would definitely be accompanied with a drink package.
The new water park at Coco Cay was getting lots of media attention around the time we set sail so of course I booked tickets for us and the kids to partake. But when we got on the ship we were told that both of our children were to short to ride most anything inside. We were refunded our money and ended up skipping out on the water park. That was a great idea for us because outside of the water park is 100% geared toward our kid's age group. With endless pools, lagoons and splash pads with their own miniature water slides, it was a day well spent. TIP: Bring a waterproof lanyard for your phone and sea passes. You need your sea pass for EVERYTHING and your phone will be needed near or in water to catch beautiful moments in the lagoon while snorkeling.
All in all, I recommend Disney for cruising with fully potty trained kids and older. If you go in the off season, plan ahead and set up a strict payment plan, it can be totally affordable. If you're looking for a longer cruise with the loads to do, I recommend Royal Caribbean for older kids or an adult only get away. As far as babies in diapers go, unless you are bringing along help, I'd save the cruising for another time.