If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I recently sailed on the Allure of the Seas and Disney Dream within about a month of each other. These are two of the newest ships at sea, and both are heavily marketed towards families. Since I traveled with 4 kids, ranging in age from 2 to 10, I was able to really put all of the childrens programs to the test. Read on to see how the ships stack up! This post is all about childcare for babies under 3 on both ships.
About the Nursery: While a nursery for babies has been a part of Disney Cruise Line since their inception, Royal Caribbean recently launched the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery on the Oasis and Allure of the Seas (and seeing the popularity, added the Nursery to several other ships in the fleet). If you’re going to cruise to the Caribbean or Bahamas, these are the only ships available that offer guaranteed childcare throughout the day and night for babies and toddlers.
Both cruise lines ask that you provide a change of clothes, diapers/wipes, and any other necessity your child requires (we packed a favorite stuffed animal). Royal Caribbean provides a cute reusable bag that they label with your child’s name, and you can take it home with you after the cruise.
Rates & Availability: For both cruises, I didn’t have any trouble securing the times I wanted. While I could pre-book some hours for the Dream online prior to the cruise, I could only make the Allure’s reservations in the Nursery once I was on the ship. Both nurseries only allow a certain number of hours (I believe it was 10 hours on the 3-night Disney cruise, 20 hours on the 7 night Royal Caribbean), but you can add more hours later in the cruise if available. And if you don’t think you want to use all the hours you reserved, both lines were very accommodating to cancellations, as long as you give them a little bit of notice.
Disney’s rate is currently $6 per hour, and Royal Caribbean’s is $8 per hour. Both require a 1 hour minimum.
Contact: On the Disney Dream, all staterooms are equipped with 2 “Wave Phones” that can be used to call or text any other wave phone or stateroom. While this is a great way to keep in touch with those you’re traveling with, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of toting around a phone to text or make calls…I’m on vacation! That being said, we did keep it nearby when our son was in the nursery…just in case!
On the Allure of the Seas, you are given a “DECT phone” only if you register at the nursery. Whenever you drop your child off there, be sure to keep the phone nearby in case you are needed.
The Play Space: On the Allure of the Seas, the Nursery is located in the same area as the older children’s activity rooms. There is a glass wall and door with a full view of the room, so you can always peek in on your child (though they may see you!). The reception area is very small, only really big enough for one family to enter and check-in at a time (it also makes the drop-off process feel more personalized and a little bit calmer). The play area is large and wide-open, and the toys in the room are changed daily. Being a partner with Fisher Price and Crayola, there is no shortage of kid-appropriate toys in the room! There is also separate area with cribs for when the little ones get tired and want to sleep.
On the Disney Dream, the setup of the play space is a little bit different. There is a large reception area, where many families can be checking in at one time, and a small play area for kids and siblings while they wait. There is one doorway where the babies enter into a corridor filled with a variety of toys. Beyond that, the room opens up into an area off to the side that you cannot see from the reception area, as well as another room in the back with cribs.
Interaction: Every time my son was dropped off on the Allure of the Seas, there were 3 counselors and no more than 4 children or so at any given time (maybe it was a quiet week?), so I know he was given extra-special attention. Although he cried every time we dropped him off (he isn’t used to daycare or babysitters), the staff was caring and patient, and he always stopped crying within a few minutes. By the end of the week, the counselors really got to know him, figured out his language, and even did a special finger-painting with him. One night (with our permission), they brought the babies (in their strollers) to the parade in the Royal Promenade. I know he really enjoyed that little “field trip”! Every time we picked him up, the staff gave us a written report and explained to us what our son had done, how many times his diaper had been changed (and why), and on the night he ate dinner there, what he ate.
On the Dream, we were only onboard for 3 nights, and ended up using the nursery only once so we could have dinner at Palo (adults-only specialty restaurant). Again, he cried when we dropped him off, but he quieted quickly, as we checked on him just before we set off to dinner. When we arrived to pick him up, he was within view of the reception area, so we were able to watch him briefly before he noticed us. He and another boy were having fun making noise by banging puzzle pieces on the table. One counselor was sitting nearby with a little one on her lap. There were quite a few children in the room, but I couldn’t see any other counselors (they were around the corner, I’m sure!).
When I picked him up, I asked the counselor what he ate for dinner (he was there from 5:30pm to 8pm). No one seemed to remember, but after consulting a list, it turned out he didn’t eat anything (this was probably because that night’s dinner was corn-dogs - NOT a favorite for him!). I have no idea what he actually did in the time he was there, but he was happy and healthy, and we enjoyed our one quiet dinner. After our experience on the Allure of the Seas, I think I would have liked some feedback on what he did while he was there, especially a note that he hadn’t eaten any dinner.
The Winner: While I think both nurseries provided overall good care for my son, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use either one again in the future, I think Royal Caribbean’s Royal Babies & Tots Nursery wins. I think my son did receive more personal care and attention there, but that could be attributed to the fact that there were less babies on the cruise, and we were onboard for a week (more time for the counselors to get to know him). The nicest touch was the personalized feedback they provided at the end of each session letting you know what your child did while they were in the nursery.