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I went on a Disney staycation cruise with my 4 year old. Here’s how it was on board, and what we did to prepare.


On board the Disney Magic cruise ship. Spriha Srivastava

  • We went on a Disney vacation cruise and sailed for two nights with our four year old.

  • Almost two years after our last real vacation, we had forgotten what it was like to travel with a child.

  • We decided to plan ahead and focus on three areas: before the trip, day of travel and on the sea.

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December 2019 was the last time we took a flight together as a family and went on vacation. It was our 30th flight with our 2 year old, and my husband and I had become pro-travelers with a toddler. From flying to the sunny Bahamas and magical Maldives to the cobbled streets of Prague, we had it all. Then the pandemic struck and we all went into lockdown.

Like everyone else, we were skeptical about getting in and out of the country. So we opted for a Disney staycation cruise, sailing around the UK for three days and two nights.

Almost two years after our last real vacation, we had forgotten what it was like to travel with a child. Also, my 65-year-old parents had to accompany us, so we felt we needed to be more careful. We decided to plan ahead and focus on three areas: before the trip, day of travel and on the sea.

Pre-trip: check your reservation, plan some activities, upload your documents

The Disney site is easy to use and allows you to access your reservation and plan your activities well in advance. There are free activities, such as the youth club slots and karaoke, but there are also a ton of paid activities to choose from. We scheduled our son’s youth club activity with a beer tasting for adults.

The check-in process is very similar to air travel, in that you need to upload identity documents. Disney also asks you to upload proof of COVID-19 vaccination if you are over 18. Those under 18 must purchase a rapid test and download the result at least 24 hours before boarding.

Once all of your documents are uploaded, Disney verifies and completes your registration, and you’re good to go!

The great Disney Magic cruise

On the deck on Disney Magic. Spriha Srivastava

Now let’s pack our bags. There is plenty to do – sit-down dinners, informal lunches, poolside drinks, water sports, and more. – so there are a lot of looks to consider. We packed a variety of clothes, but still traveled light.

It is possible to check your baggage at the terminal before boarding and leave your suitcase outside your room to collect it the day before departure. This gives you the option of carrying just a handbag before arriving at your cabin at 4pm.

During the day: fill your snack bag, keep your water bottle handy and mask yourself while waiting to board

We started our day early. The cruise was due to depart from Tilbury, a container port in east London. The port was clearly signposted and we spotted the huge Disney cruise ship the moment we entered.

We dropped our bags off at the terminal and headed to the COVID-19 test center.

It should be noted that everyone was to be tested for antigen here, whether or not they tested negative in the past five days. The test lasted less than five minutes. We were then directed to a waiting room to await the results.

Passengers awaiting the results of their antigen test

Passengers wait for COVID-19 test results before boarding. Spriha Srivastava

It was by far the most agonizing moment of the trip. We had all been vaccinated and my son’s previous antigen test had come back negative, but as we sat there waiting we knew it could have been for nothing. The cruise ship was right in front of us, but it took up to 45 minutes for our test results to be released.

After several rounds of scrolling and refreshing my inbox, I finally spotted the test results: all negative. We were cleared to board and headed for the ship.

We were greeted on board by none other than Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and informed that our cabins would be ready by 3pm. fish and chips, lasagna, Indian curry, oriental cuisine, Mexican burritos and much more.

Our room with a private veranda overlooking the ocean

Our room had a private veranda with a sea view. Spriha Srivastava

We finished our lunch in time to get the keys to our cabin. It was nice and spacious and had a private veranda overlooking the English Channel. We decided to park for a bit, familiarize ourselves with the ship and prepare for the whirlwind that awaits us.

On the sea: quick meals at Cabana, encounters with Disney characters and rotating meals

COVID-19 restrictions, such as social distancing, were in place throughout the cruise. Guests were required to wear face masks when not dining. Social distancing was also in place for character encounters, which our 4-year-old wasn’t happy about – he wanted to run to Spider-Man and Thor and kiss them.

Once on board, passengers could access an itinerary on the Disney Cruise Line app. Our four-year-old’s only goal was to meet as many superheroes (or people dressed as Avengers characters) as possible. So we went through the app and added all the relevant events to our itinerary.

Meet and greet the Disney characters

A socially distanced encounter with Disney characters. Spriha Srivastava

The cruise fare includes breakfast, lunch and dinner at Cabana, Animator’s Palete, Rapunzel’s Royal Table and Lumiere’s restaurants. The cruise boasts of “rotating meals” – a concept that encourages guests to enjoy each of the three themed restaurants on board.

Our servers Valentin, Mario and Gian were extremely warm and welcoming and worked with us to achieve the perfect three course dining experience. The restaurants are grandiose with interactive storytelling experiences. Each has their own theme, with live music and character appearances to enjoy while eating.

Our last dining experience at Animator's Palete with our waiters Gian (L) and Mario (R)

Our last on-ship dining experience at Animator’s Palete, with our waiters Gian (L) and Mario (R). Spriha Srivastava

Food was a big part of our cruise experience, but we also spent a lot of time exploring the ship, meeting our favorite superheroes, taking a dip in the pool, and watching Disney Dreams, a magical theatrical performance at The Walt. Disney Theater.

Overall the two nights and three days we spent on the Disney cruise was a great experience. We spent a lot of time together as a family, made great memories and had a great vacation for the first time in 18 months.

“I want to go back to the cruise,” our 4-year-old said as we got back into our car to return home.

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