FAQ Dining with Kids on Disney Cruise Line

A common refrain on Disney cruises is, “If you see it, eat it.” It’s no secret that, for many guests, a key attraction of cruising is the food. This holds true for kids as well as adults. Just the thought of the unlimited ice cream available on the pool deck is enough to send some kids begging you to book another voyage. Here’s everything you need to know about dining with kids on Disney Cruise Line.

All the Mickey waffles you can eat on the Disney Fantasy
All the Mickey waffles you can eat on the Disney Fantasy

THE BASICS

What type of restaurants are on board the Disney ships?

Much like the Disney theme parks, there are five main classifications of dining venue on board the Disney ships.

  • Counter Service. This is the equivalent of the quick service venues in the parks. You walk up to a counter, ask for your food, a cast member hands it to you, and you take it yourself to a table. The counter service restaurants are primarily located in a cluster on the main pool deck of each ship. Typical offerings include pizza, small sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, fresh fruit, chicken fingers, etc. You’ll also find fountain soda dispensers and soft serve ice cream dispensers nearby. All these items are included in the cost of your cruise. There are additional counter service windows located near the theaters on each ship. These counters offer packaged snacks like M&Ms, fresh popcorn, and canned sodas. These items are not included in the price of your cruise.
  • Rotational Dining. This is the equivalent of the standard table service restaurants in the parks. You are seated at a table and presented with a menu, a server takes your order, brings your food, and clears it when you’re done. With the exception of a few specialty beverages, the cost of these meals is included in the price of your cruise. There are three rotational dining venues on each ship. These are also known as the main dining rooms (MDRs).You will “rotate” through the three main dining rooms on different nights of your sailing. The longer your voyage, the more times you’ll experience each restaurant. But don’t worry about getting bored, the menus change nightly.
  • Buffet. While the buffet-style restaurants in the Disney theme parks hew closely to the table service model, the buffets on the ships are more like a cross between a food court and a school cafeteria during the breakfast and lunch hours. The buffet location will operate as a table service location for dinner service. With the exception of a few specialty beverages, the cost of these meals is included in the price of your cruise.
  • Cafe and Lounge. This is the equivalent of a Disney World hotel bar, or the in-park Starbucks (though they don’t serve Starbucks coffee). Each ship has several cafes, offering specialty coffees and teas, and lounges offering primarily adult beverages and soft drinks. None of the beverages here are included with your cruise, but there are snack-size food items at these venues which generally are included.
  • Adult Dining. This is the equivalent of the fancy signature dining restaurants at Walt Disney World. On the Disney Cruise Line ships, these restaurants are restricted to guests ages 18 and up. The adult dining venues are Palo on all four ships, plus Remy on the Dream and Fantasy.

Additionally, you’ll find that room service (in-room dining) is available for all staterooms on the Disney ships.

Animator's Palate on the Disney Wonder
Animator’s Palate on the Disney Wonder

What time are meals at the Main Dining Rooms?

The main dining rooms will have two seatings each night. The exact times may vary slightly depending on the voyage, but typically the seatings are at about 5:45 and at about 8:15pm. Every guest will be assigned to one of those two seating times. This time will be consistent throughout your cruise. Not only will you have the same dining time throughout your cruise, you will also have the same table number, table mates, and serving team.

How do I know which meal time I’ve been assigned?

When you make your reservation, you can choose your dinner seating time, pending availability. You can double check your assignment on the Disney Cruise Line website in the Planning Center section. The time will also be printed on your stateroom key (Key to the World Card).

How will my assigned dining time impact my kids?

In general, the younger the child, the more you’ll want to stick as closely as possible to his usual eat/sleep schedule, which for most guests with young kids means that you’ll want to choose the earlier seating. However, you should also consider the influence of time zone changes if you’re cruising in a locale that’s distant from your home.

For sailings out of the United States, the earlier seating is often more popular, becoming fully booked more quickly. On European sailings, where late dining is more common, the late seating may be more popular. If your preferred seating is fully booked at the time you purchase your cruise, keep checking back. It’s often possible to make a switch, even in the middle of a trip. To make a change before your sailing, call Disney Cruise Line directly at (800) 951-3532, or speak to Guest Services while you’re on board.

If you have older kids who can be somewhat flexible with mealtimes, I encourage you to look closely at your planned port excursion itineraries. Depending on the return time of your excursions, the later seating may give you more time to shower/change/relax before dinner, making the actual dining experience more pleasant.

Kids' menu on the Disney Fantasy
Kids’ menu on the Disney Fantasy

What are the hours for the other restaurants?

Except on the last night/morning of your cruise, room service is generally available 24 hours per day.

The main buffet restaurant will have posted hours for breakfast and lunch. Details on the exact hours will be advertised on both the print and electronic versions of the Personal Navigator. These hours are somewhat limited. For example, having the Cabanas buffet open for lunch from 12:00-1:30pm or from 12:00-2:00pm is typical. There is always food available somewhere, but if you want the full buffet, then be sure you arrive during the posted hours.

Timing may vary slightly depending on your itinerary, but the poolside counter service venues are typically open continuously from mid-morning (10:30am-ish) until early evening (6:00pm-ish). Again, check the Personal Navigator for details related to your specific sailing.

At least one of the table service venues will be open during both breakfast and lunch. This will be menu-based service, or possibly a menu/buffet hybrid. The Navigator will have all the details.

The coffee bars are typically open from early morning until late evening. The lounges may be open during most of the day, but will usually only serve beverages (and sometimes food) during the late afternoon until late evening. If something special is happening, a major sporting event, for example, the lounges may be open longer hours.

What will I be charged for my child’s food?

Counter service pizza
Counter service pizza

As noted above, almost all food is included in the price of your cruise. Kids can’t dine at Palo or drink alcohol, and they’re probably not drinking lots of specialty coffee, so the only possible upcharge for kids would be soda in areas other than the main dining rooms or pool deck, packaged snacks at the movie theater or from room service, and specialty drinks like milkshakes at dinner. It is 100% possible not to pay anything above the standard cruise fare to feed your kids on board the ship.

For my family, we usually end up buying a few sodas or smoothies along the way, but typically spend under $50 over the course of a seven-night cruise on “extra” food for a family with three kids.

You should remember to look at the fine print for any port excursions you’ve booked off the ship. Some include a snack, or even a full meal, but many others do not. If you’re spending a day walking around port, your budget should reflect the need to feed your kids (and yourself) on shore.

Will my kids have to dress up to eat on the Disney Cruise ships?

It’s not a requirement, but there are few times when you may want to gussy them up a bit. Check out our FAQ post about what to wear on Disney Cruise Line voyages.

BUFFET DINING

What kinds of food are available on the buffet lines?

Omelets on the Disney Magic
Omelets on the Disney Magic

Unlike the buffet lines at many international hotels which offer items traditional to a range of cultures (you might find miso soup on the breakfast bar, for example), Disney Cruise Line buffets are geared to the palates of their primarily North American and European clientele.

Breakfast offerings will include things like eggs, pancakes, French toast, waffles, bacon, sausage, potatoes, fruit, yogurt, pastries, cold and hot cereals. You’ll sometimes find a cooked-to-order omelette station as well as UK favorites like broiled tomatoes, beans, or sauteed mushrooms.

Lunch offerings include salad and cold seafood bars, a soup station, cold cuts and cheeses, several vegetable dishes, several pasta dishes, and a few offerings from major protein groups including fish, chicken, beef, and pork. Specific sailings may offer unique dishes based on the local cuisine. For example, on Alaska sailings there is typically a day where game meats such as venison and elk are available in addition to more standard items.

Is there a kids’ section on the buffet?

Cold cereal selection on the Disney Magic
Cold cereal selection on the Disney Magic

There’s no special children’s section at the buffet or counter service dining venues on the ship. All food items are available to all guests, both children and adults.

The buffet will feature a range of items, from complicated and spicy to plain and simple. You’ll certainly find the buffet stocked with many “kid friendly” foods like Mickey waffles at breakfast and basic pasta at lunch, but adults will eat these as often as kids will.

I’m a single parent with two small kids. I’m worried about transporting all our plates at the buffet restaurants. What can I do?

You’re always welcome to ask for help. You’ll find that there are many cast members stationed throughout the buffet area. They mainly clear dishes, spot clean, and keep the beverage area neat, but if you need an extra hand carrying some plates, they’re happy to pitch in.

Depending on the ages of your children, you might find it easier to skip the breakfast and lunch buffets and eat instead at a table service venue or order room service. This way you don’t have to carry plates or worry about finding an empty spot in a crowded room. At least one of the main dining rooms will be open for breakfast and lunch most days of your sailing. Check your Personal Navigator for details on which main dining room will be open.

Breakfast buffet milk on a European sailing.
Breakfast buffet milk on a European sailing.

For packaged items on the buffet line, will these be brands my child is familiar with?

It depends on where you’re sailing. For example, single serve containers of yogurt are typically available at the breakfast buffets. The brand available varies depending on the ship’s itinerary. If you’re sailing out of Port Canaveral, you’ll find familiar American supermarket brands offered. If you’re sailing from a European port, then you’ll likely encounter European brands.

TABLE SERVICE and ROTATIONAL DINING

How long does dinner usually take? My preschooler doesn’t like to sit still and I’m worried about him running around the dining room.

I usually plan an hour and a half for MDR dinner, but I have teens and like to linger over coffee and dessert. But really, dinner can be as long or as short as you need it to be. Some of this is under your control. If you want to eat quickly, don’t order all four courses, or ask that some courses be brought out together. Or ask for your coffee in a to-go cup.

Art that will be part of a special film
Art that will be part of a special film

Your serving team should be your partner in planning a strategy on how to best meet your family’s needs. Do you want your kids’ food brought to the table first so they’re not ravenous? Do you want them to offer coloring pages or other distractions to keep the kids occupied? The staff will be happy to work with you to make your dining experience as pleasant as possible.

If you’ve been assigned to the second dinner seating, you can even arrange to have staff from the on board child care centers pick your kids up in the dining room so that you can linger over dessert while they’re off playing or watching a movie. Speak to the kids’ club staff if you’d like to do this. However, you should be aware that there are some special experiences that occur toward the end of the usual dinner hour, some of which your children might not want to miss. For example, at the end of dinner on one night at Animiator’s Palate on the Fantasy, guests will be treated to a short animated film created from guests’ drawings. Most kids get a real kick out of see their artwork on screen.

I’ve heard that you’re seated with other families in the main dining rooms. My preschooler is a handful. Should I be worried about disturbing our tablemates?

An appetizer for an adult might be the right size for a  preschooler's meal
An appetizer for an adult might be the right size for a preschooler’s meal

If you’re absolutely certain that your child will have a hard time interacting with strangers new friends, then you’re welcome to request that your family be seated at their own table. Do this at least three days prior to your sailing with through your travel agent or with Disney directly at (800) 951-3532. There are no guarantees, but I’ve had good luck with requests like this.

You should also know that Disney does a great job of matching families in the dining rooms with similar demographics. They’ll try to group families with kids of the same age and same gender whenever possible. If you have preschoolers, it’s highly unlikely that you’d be placed at a table with a group of senior citizens.

My toddler is in the finger food stage. Can he be accommodated in the main dining rooms?

Sure. You can even arrange to have your child’s food cut into bite-sized pieces in the kitchen, so you can spend your time eating rather than working on your child’s plate.

I don’t want certain foods offered to my kids during dinner, how do I make that happen?

Just speak with your servers. For example, some families don’t want a bread basket on the table so that the kids fill up on more protein and veggies than carbs. Other families don’t want dessert offered, or only want it offered on certain days. Still others only want milk and water offered to the kids, not soda. Other guests might not want their kids to be offered “upsell” products like smoothies or specialty beverages. Tell your serving team on the first night and they’ll make notes about your preferences.

A cruise is the perfect time to see if your child likes escargot. Seriously.
A cruise is the perfect time to see if your child likes escargot. Really, I mean it.

I want to visit an adult dining venue. Can my kids eat in the main restaurants by themselves?

Yes. Children are welcome to visit the main Dining rooms on their own.

Of course if you want to do this, you have to be comfortable with having your kids unsupervised on the ship in general. But many families find that from about age eight and up, kids can be trusted to find their way around the ship on their own, particularly if they’re with a sibling, cousin, or friend. My children have eaten in the main dining rooms on their own several times. If you plan to have your kids eat on their own in the main dining rooms, you may want to schedule this toward the end of your sailing. Typically by day four or so, the kids will have bonded with the servers enough so that it doesn’t feel strange to talk to them without mom or dad around.

If you’re uncomfortable with having your kids eat on their own, you can arrange to have them eat in the on board child care centers. Or you can feed them at a counter service venue or with room service prior to your fine dining experience, and then leave them at the child care center or own their own, depending on their ages.

I’m nervous that my child will order something and not like it. What do I do?

Mickey Check meals adhere to strict nutritional guidelines
Mickey Check meals adhere to strict nutritional guidelines

You should immediately cross this off your list of concerns. If your child has even the smallest inkling that he might want to try something, then order it. You can always replace that item with something more familiar if the “test” doesn’t go well. Or order both items at the same time. There is no extra charge for this. The servers will be thrilled to make it happen. Seriously.

The flexibility and free flowing food make Disney Cruises a terrific place to experiment with new flavors. You child may even find he has a new favorite food after sampling the offerings on the cruise.

My young child has a big appetite, is he restricted to eating from a special kids’ menu?

No way. While kids under the age of ten will first be presented with the kids’ menu, they’re not restricted to ordering from it. Any child of any age can order from the kids’ menu, the adult menu, or both. Feel free to mix and match at each meal, or even within a single meal. This applies to adults too. I’ve ordered from the kids’ menu myself several times and my kids ordered from the adult menu even when they were five years old.

My child is fussy and doesn’t see anything appealing on the menu. Any suggestions?

Most items on the menus can be prepared in a “plain” fashion. For example, if there’s a grilled or baked chicken with a sauce, your child can usually have it present without the sauce or presented with a simpler side dish. You can almost always get plain pasta, grilled cheese, chicken noodle soup, or a peanut butter sandwich, even if those items aren’t listed on the menu.

You can also order anything being served at any of the rotational dining restaurants, not just the one you happen to be assigned to on a given night. The menus for all the restaurants are available on the Personal Navigator app.

I’d like my child to eat healthfully during our cruise. Is this even possible?

Absolutely. Disney keeps taking positive steps toward offering healthful options at the parks and on their ships. There are now “Mickey Check” meals identified on all the rotational dining restaurant menus. The “Mickey Check” symbol indicated that the meal falls within specific dietary guidelines for calorie count, percentage of sugar, sodium, and fat, as well as content of vitamins and other nutrients. You can see details on the program on the Disney website. The Mickey Check compliant meals are now noted on the rotational dining room menus and on the menus posted on the Personal Navigator app.

You can also work with your servers to have them highlight foods you’d prefer your child eat, or to refrain from offering dessert or other items.

Fresh fruit is available at many locations on the ship
Fresh fruit is available at many locations on the ship

That being said, there are certainly many (many, many) treat-type foods available on the ship. The breakfast buffet offers oatmeal and fresh fruit; it also offers bacon and donuts. Your child will see both ends of the spectrum. If your family has rules, you may want to consider whether this vacation is a time to bend them, and if so, how far.

In my experience, it’s easier manage a child’s expectations if those expectations are communicated in advance. For example, perhaps say something like, “You can have one treat food per day: an ice cream by the pool or dessert with dinner.” Then the child has a bit of control over the situation, as do you.

Also on the plus side for healthy eating, I’ve found that the portion sizes for the meals served in the main dining rooms to be quite reasonable. They’re not teeny tiny, but you won’t find the gargantuan portions that are typical of a table service meal at Walt Disney World. This applies to items found on both the kids’ and adult menus. For me, the portion sizes are enough to be satisfied, but not stuffed. But don’t worry if you’ve got a growing teen boy in your party, even though the portion sizes are moderate, there’s no limit to the number of items you can order. It’s not uncommon for larger guests to order double portions of steak or other entrees. There’s no extra charge for this.

The "Mickey Check" whole wheat pasta meal
The “Mickey Check” whole wheat pasta meal

While keeping control of nutrition is fairly easy in the main dining rooms, this can be more challenging at the buffet. If you want to limit portion size or the number of choices made available to you or your child, try eating in one of the table service restaurants for breakfast or lunch.

DINING WITH BABIES

Are there high chairs on the Disney ships?

Yes. There are high chairs and booster seats available on Disney Cruise Line.

If you need a high chair or booster in the main dining rooms, just let your server team know. After the first night, they’ll have it already positioned at your table when you arrive. There are also high chairs available in the buffet restaurants but they may be more challenging to find. If you need assistance, just speak with a cast member and they’ll bring you one.

Extra high chairs and booster seats on the Disney Magic
Extra high chairs and booster seats on the Disney Magic

Can I breastfeed on the ship?

Yes, absolutely. Of course your stateroom is never far away when you’re on a ship, but don’t feel like you have to rush back to your room every time your little one needs to eat. You’re welcome to nurse in the theaters, in the dining rooms, or in other public areas of the ship.

However, the same rules may not apply when you’re off the ship. Your port cities may have different rules than are common in the United States. If you’re traveling with a baby, you may want to research the customs and regulations of your specific destinations.

If I pump milk, is there someplace to keep it cold?

The Disney Cruise Line staterooms all come with “beverage chillers.” These look like standard dorm refrigerators, but they’re not quite as powerful as the fridges in the Disney World hotel rooms. They’ll keep beverages cool, but not cold. DCL does have a supply of real refrigerators that can be supplied for medical reasons, which would include breast milk storage. Please request this in advance.

Do they sell baby food on the ship?

There is a small selection of packaged baby food available on the Disney ships. This is sold in the gift shop near the over-the-counter medications. You’ll typically find 2-4 different flavors of jarred baby food and one type of single-serve formula sold in the shops. That’s it. Also bear in mind that the on board shops are not open while the ship is in port.

Half a shelf of baby food for sale on the Wonder. Second shelf from the bottom, on the right.
Half a shelf of baby food for sale on the Wonder. Second shelf from the bottom, on the right.

Yikes, that sounds very restrictive. Do I have other options?

You’re welcome to bring your own packaged baby food on board the ship with you. Please be aware that this must be sealed, commercially prepared baby food. Homemade foods and open containers of any type are not allowed on board. You must bring this baby food with you in your carry-on luggage, not in your checked bags.

The DCL chefs will also puree any food available on the ship for you. For example, they can make something like pureed peas, carrots, or chicken quite easily. Also keep in mind that many of the soft foods already available on the ship may be appropriate for older babies: mashed potatoes, oatmeal, soups, scrambled eggs, etc.

How can I heat packaged baby food while on board?

The short answer is that you can’t. There are no cooking areas accessible for guest use. This is unlike Walt Disney World, where guests have free use of microwave ovens in the food courts. Additionally, you are not allowed to bring any electric cooking appliances on board with you. This means no electric kettles, rice cookers, hot plates, or anything else that could be a fire hazard. These items will be confiscated if you try to bring them on board.

Further complicating matters, the Disney Cruise Line kitchens cannot heat anything you’ve brought with you onto the ship, nor will they heat the baby food you’ve purchased in the ship gift shop. They are quite strict about adhering to this rule. If you want your baby to have warm food, you really only have two options: you can have the kitchen puree food that they’ve prepared in the ship kitchen. Or, you can do a minor workaround by getting a bowl of very hot water and placing the jar of baby food in the water for a few minutes. (A buffet cereal bowl and hot water from the coffee/tea dispenser should do the trick.) The food won’t get piping hot, but it will take the edge off.

The "Mickey Check" chicken skewers meal.
The “Mickey Check” chicken skewers meal.

My baby likes his bottle warm. How can I do this on the Disney ships?

This one is easier. DCL does have a supply of electric bottle warmers available on each ship which they can lend to guests for in-room use.

My child was napping and missed a meal. What can we do?

The poolside counter service venue is open continuously during the day, but if you want something healthier or more substantial, your best bet is likely to be room service. This is available 24/7 and has some baby-friendly items such as soups and fruit (which you could mash with a fork). There is no fee for the room service food (other than a few beverages and packaged snacks). However, you will have a small fee when you tip the delivery porter.

I need to leave my baby in the ship’s nursery during meal time. Will they feed her?

Yes. The child care specialists in the nursery will feed the children in their care. From the Disney Cruise Line website: “Parents should bring baby food, formula and bottles; the nursery is able to provide milk. Parents wishing to provide breast milk may do so. Parents may also bring non–perishable snack food items in their sealed and original packaging. Please do not bring products containing peanuts or nuts.”

Cold cuts and cheeses at the lunch buffet
Cold cuts and cheeses at the lunch buffet

DINING WITH ELEMENTARY AGE KIDS

If I choose to have my kids eat in the Childcare Centers, what will they feed them?

Breakfast is not served in the child care centers. At lunch and dinner, there will be several options available. You can tell the staff what you’d like your child to have, or you can let her order for herself. A typical lunch choice might be a turkey sandwich served with carrot slices and a melon wedge. Dinner options will resemble the Mickey Check meals served in the dining rooms. There will also be “kid food” choices like chicken fingers or mac n’ cheese. If you want your child to be served a meal in the kids’ club, she must be in the club 15 minutes prior to the posted meal time, which will be available on the Personal Navigator.

Childcare staff will not “make” your child eat. Food will be offered, but it’s your child’s choice whether to eat it.

We’re planning to have our child in the kids’ club for several hours. Are there snacks provided?

No. Outside the posted meal times, there is generally no food available in the clubs. There is one exception to this which I’ll cover in a bit.

There are water fountains in the clubs if children become thirsty.

The "beverage chiller" in your stateroom looks like a refrigerator, but it's not quite as cold
The “beverage chiller” in your stateroom looks like a refrigerator, but it’s not quite as cold

Are there character dining experiences on the Disney ships?

Some, but not all, sailings of seven nights or more will have a character breakfast, typically on a sea day. You’ll be assigned a dining time. If you’re trying to plan other activities, speak with your server or with Guest Services for information on your assignment.

My child is tiny and doesn’t have much of an appetite. Will he be overwhelmed by the food?

As I mentioned, the portion sizes are reasonable. That being said, you’re welcome to skip some meals. If you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat. While most guests do go to the main dining rooms every night, there’s no requirement that you do so.

You child could also order an appetizer as his main course, or just have a small soup or salad.

DINING WITH TEENS

I’ve heard that you’re seated with other families in the main dining rooms. My teen is shy and nervous about meeting new people. Any suggestions?

As I mentioned earlier, you can request to be seated at your own table. This request is not guaranteed, but is often honored. If you don’t make a request and you have a small party size, then it is likely that you will be seated with other families with kids of a similar age. I once sailed with just one of my daughters when she was 16. We were seated with two other moms traveling solo with their kids, a 15 year old girl and a 16 year old boy. If you anticipate something like this happening and you have a shy teen, it may be helpful to practice conversation skills. Perhaps come up with a list of talking points, funny stories, or questions you might ask of someone you’ve never met. Role play and practice if necessary.

My kiddo is almost 18. Any chance they’ll bend the rules and let him dine with us at Palo?

Nope. 18 really means 18.

Soft serve ice cream available by the pool deck all the time
Soft serve ice cream available by the pool deck all the time

In the Disney theme parks, you sometimes have a bit of wiggle room regarding an age requirement. This is not the case on the ships. Age requirements are strictly enforced. The ship will have proof of the child’s birth date from the birth certificate or passport presented at boarding.

My husband and I sailed on the Wonder with my oldest daughter when she was just days away from her 18th birthday. Despite the fact that she was high school graduate, celebrating her graduation and birthday on the ship (this was the same daughter that a few months earlier had traveled to Disney World without adult supervision), they would not let her dine with us at Palo, even though there was space available.

The restaurant manager, who was extremely kind and apologetic when declining our request, said that they can’t even let teens who turn 18 while on the cruise dine at the adult venues until the birthday actually happens. If your child turns 18 while on the ship on a Tuesday, he won’t be able to eat at Palo on Monday.

Burger and fries from the counter service restaurants by the pool
Burger and fries from the counter service restaurants by the pool

My going on a Disney Cruise to Europe, where the drinking age is 16, with my older teen? Can he drink alcohol on the ship?

What you do in port is your business. Assuming that you’re following the rules of your host country, then you’re fine.

The standard drinking age on the Disney ships is 21. This applies to all sailings that originate in US and Canadian ports. For sailings that originate in Europe, guests ages 18-20 may drink alcohol on board if they are with their parents (not going off drinking on their own) and if their parents have signed a consent form with guest services. This rule is to accommodate European guests who are accustomed to enjoying a glass of wine with dinner beginning in their late teens.

OTHER QUESTIONS

Can I bring food for my child onto the ship?

Sample plate from Castaway Cay
Sample plate from Castaway Cay

Disney will allow you to bring factory-sealed packaged foods on board in your carry-on luggage. That’s it.

Most ports also have rules about food items being taken off the ship and brought onto land. In many cases, the only thing you’ll be able to bring off the ship are sealed, packaged foods.

I see that there are several bars/lounges on each ship. Can my kids go in there with me?

During the day, many of the bars on the ship function as multipurpose rooms, hosting family activities such as trivia contests or arts and crafts; children are welcome. After 9:00pm, the lounges convert to adults-only status. There may be exceptions to this. For example, during a major national sporting event, some venues may allow kids to watch. Check your Personal Navigator for details.

What can my kids eat on Castaway Cay?

Cooking demonstration on the Dream
Cooking demonstration on the Dream

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island. Ships stop there during most Caribbean and Bahamian sailings. Given the hours in this port, neither breakfast nor dinner are served there.

A BBQ lunch buffet is served on Castaway Cay. This features things like hot dogs, burgers, chicken, corn on the cob, salads, beans, and the omnipresent ice cream on tap. Lunch will also be served on board the ship, with more options available. You’re welcome to eat in either location.

What food will be available to my child during our port adventure?

This depends on what you have planned. Some port adventure include a snack or meal as part of the excursion. Others do not.

Disney does not provide the food on your excursions. Virtually all excursions are run by outside agencies. If you have made food requests of Disney on the ship, this information is not automatically transferred to the excursion provider. You’ll have to communicate your food needs yourself.

How can I control my child’s spending on board the ship?

IMG_0096 (1)

A few food items, notably canned soda and snacks at the theater, do cost money. If you’d prefer not to allow your child to purchase such items, stop by the Guest Relations desk and ask to have your child’s Key to the World Card charging privileges rescinded. This will also prevent him from spending money in the ship’s gift shops.

My child has a food allergy, can they be accommodated on the Disney ships?

Many allergies and food sensitivities can be accommodated on the ship. The chefs on board are fully prepared to deal with common allergies such as those to nuts, dairy, or gluten. Depending on their complexity, other issues may also be accommodated. If someone in your party has a food allergy, download and complete the Disney Cruise Line Special Services request form and return it to Disney at least 60 days prior to your sailing. By mail to: Disney Cruise Line Special Services, P.O. Box 10210, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830-0210. Or by fax to: 407-566-3760. Reconfirm your needs at check-in time as well as with your server. If your kids will be spending time in the childcare centers, you should also discuss your child’s needs with the staff there.

In some cases, you may be asked to order your food the evening before. At buffet restaurants, you can ask to speak with a chef, or ask to have fresh serving utensils provided.

Servers often entertain kids at dinner with simple magic tricks or puzzles using tabletop objects
Servers often entertain kids at dinner with simple magic tricks or puzzles using tabletop objects

If your child has an allergy, it’s likely that you’ll want to bring some food items on board. As long as you’re bringing packaged items in your hand luggage, you’re fine. I would caution you whenever possible to bring single-serve size foods rather than large bags. On one recent cruise, I witnessed a frustrated dad pleading with a crew member to bend the rules about transporting food off the ship. The man’s daughter had a gluten intolerance. The family had brought a large bag of gluten-free pretzels with them on board. Their intent was to portion these out into ziptop bags during the cruise for the daughter to take with her as a snack on port excursions. However, since the ziptop bags were not factory-sealed, they could not be let off the ship. If the family had brought sealed single portion snack bags, they would have been fine.

My child is interested in cooking. Is there any way for him to meet the Disney Cruise Line chefs?

During most cruises, there are cooking demonstrations for families in one of the main lounges. These are taught by real chefs that work on the ship. Kids are welcome to ask questions. There are also occasional hands-on cooking activities in the kids’ clubs, usually something like baking chocolate chip cookies. In both cases, look for activities called “Anyone Can Cook” in your Personal Navigator.

Children will be allowed to eat the items they’ve made during the Anyone Can Cook sessions. If you child has a food allergy, speak to staff at the kids’ club and/or avoid the club during that activity.

Special treats on Easter morning
Special treats on Easter morning

My child is celebrating a birthday while on board. Can I get a cake for him?

You can order a celebration cake to be presented to your child during the cruise. Cake orders must be placed at least seven days before sailing.

I will say; however, that it’s likely that you won’t actually want to eat the cake if you order it. The cakes are delicious, but there is so much other food on board, that the cake feel superfluous. The chocolate and frosting definitely seems less alluring than it would during other circumstances.

You should also be aware that no candles are allowed on board. If you order the cake, it will be presented with flair. Your servers will sing and make a big fuss, but your child will not have a candle to blow out.

Are there special foods for kids during the holidays?

I was on the Fantasy this Easter. On Easter morning, there was a special table in the lobby atrium with cookies and cocoa. A cast member had a basket of wrapped chocolates from which you could take a handful. There are wrapped candies and other treats available at Halloween and Christmas. It won’t feel like celebrating at home, but your child will not be completely bereft of extravagance.

Are there any special food-related secrets that will wow my kids?

It’s not really a secret, but many parents thrill their kids by asking room service to deliver cookies and milk as a bedtime treat. You can also get Mickey ice cream bars delivered to your room, or for dessert in any of the table service restaurants. (Um, don’t tell, but I’ve been known to indulge in these even when I’m not traveling with my kids.)

Our servers were terrific with my kids. How can I thank them?

A suggested minimum tip for your servers will be added to your stateroom bill. However, many Disney Cruise Line servers go well above and beyond the call of duty to entertain and serve kids in an exemplary manner. Many guests will want to add a bit more to the tip. You can do this via your on board account, or you can add some extra cash to the provided tip envelope and hand it to them directly. Some guests ask about giving gifts to their servers, which is a nice idea, but somewhat impractical. Staff quarters are small and they don’t have much room to store things. If you do want to give them something other than cash, a prepaid calling card is often useful.

And of course you can also give them high marks on the trip review questionnaire you’ll be asked to complete at the end of your voyage.

Do you have any other questions about dining with kids on Disney Cruise Line? What have your experiences been? Do you have any helpful tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Like our frank advice about the Disney Cruise Line? You’ll love The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line or our Disney Cruise Line subscription.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

9 thoughts on “FAQ Dining with Kids on Disney Cruise Line

  • June 24, 2015 at 10:34 am
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    My son has a peanut allergy (mild-moderate) and I let them know ahead of time. I wouldn’t do that again. They literally refused to let him eat a lot of foods in the dining rooms that would have been perfectly fine for him. Ex- Chocolate chip muffins, croissants. I even offered to sign a waiver- but they refused and the server was watching us the whole meal so I couldn’t even sneak him a bite. Really, I just needed to make sure they didn’t give him peanuts or peanut butter- from now on, I will just self regulate. It was way over the top and caused some major issues. It also delayed his food and we would eat our whole meal before he got any food- it made him feel really bad. We ended up using the buffet for breakfast only because then we could decide for ourselves. I understand that this wouldn’t work for someone with a severe allergy- but it wasn’t worth it to us to tell them and wouldn’t do it again. On the flip side, we always let our servers know at WDW and have never encountered the problems we had on the boat.

  • June 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm
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    I suppose it should have been obvious, but all-you-can-eat Mickey waffles may be the selling point that makes me pay for DCL’s higher prices over a competitor :). Are Mickey waffles available on DCL room service?

  • June 24, 2015 at 3:38 pm
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    Wow! Thank you for such a thorough review!

  • June 24, 2015 at 5:09 pm
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    I’ve heard other people recommend bringing your own mug or cup for use at the soda fountains and drink stations. Are you allowed to bring your own mugs and get refills? Are there restrictions on the type (covered or uncovered) or the size? Or do you have to purchase a Disney mug like at the hotels at the parks?

    • June 24, 2015 at 8:51 pm
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      I was on a Wonder cruise in April, and I did bring my own covered beverage container. There are no restrictions about what you can bring as far as I know. You can fill up for free at the serve-yourself station on the pool deck, and then carry it (so a lid is practical) wherever you want. You can refill as often as you want, there was a wide variety of drinks available(sodas,water,coffee,cocoa, etc.) and it was open when the restaurants were not. Hope that helps.

      • June 26, 2015 at 11:37 am
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        Great answer. Thanks for the help. We are going in August so this will be helpful to know!

    • June 25, 2015 at 8:59 am
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      We brought our big tervis tumblers both the regular and the mug. The Disney provided paper cups are pretty small and I like to make sure the kids and I stay hydrated. I told the kids they could eat whatever but they had to have a drink of water after each pizza, ice cream or chicken tender ‘snack’. We were definitely not alone on the deck with our mugs. Some folks used their re-usable mugs from wDW too.

      • June 26, 2015 at 11:38 am
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        Thanks for the information. We will have to do this.

  • June 25, 2015 at 9:36 pm
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    We just got back from the 3 night Disney Dream cruise to the Bahamas. This is a great review. It would have been great a few weeks ago. I will add that my son had chicken fingers at each MDR. He loved them and I was willing for him to be picky. He also really liked the pizza at Cabanas so he ordered pizza one night in the MDR and he didn’t like it so that night he ended up with the chicken. Our servers were fantastic but so was everyone on the ship. Disney spares no detail to make their cruises perfect!!

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