Bigger and Better
When Disney Cruise Line launched its first ship, the Magic, in 1998, it offered private babysitting for kids less than three years old--and for those over three who were not potty trained. However, due to high consumer demand, the line added the Flounder's Reef Nursery by the time the Disney Wonder was launched two years later. So popular have these nurseries become that they were recently expanded on both ships.
Flounder's Reef Nursery is a reservations-only facility. As soon as you board, head for the facility on Deck 5 near the Oceaneer Club and Lab to make reservations for your little one. During a few nights on our cruise, the nursery had a waiting list. Since the line is careful not to overcrowd the nursery, only a limited number of spots is available at any given time. According to Brandy Krell, the counselor in charge of Disney Magic's nursery, she never books more than four infants to each counselor. However, whenever I stopped by the nursery, the ratio looked more like a very comfortable two counselors to every child. The ratio for toddlers to counselors is six to one.
The facility is generally open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight daily; 1 to 4 p.m. on three days during the cruise; 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on two days of the cruise; and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on one sea day. The fee is $6 per hour for the first child, $5 for the second child. There is a two-hour minimum per visit.
I made the mistake of going to check on Ethan during his first stay and found him crying. But by the time we finished our meal, he was happily being carried around in the arms of a calm counselor who seemed eager to give him one-on-one attention. By the end of his second and third visits, he was smiling and reaching for the counselors when it was time to leave the nursery. I took this to mean that he was well cared for and happy in Flounder's Reef.
"What I regret is that you finally get to know the babies and then it's time for them to leave," said Marianne, one of the counselors who gave Ethan plenty of TLC. This young woman was so experienced with little ones that she gave me some great advice about burping Ethan--a method I had never heard of even though he was my second child!
"They think of everything"
The counselors make sure that parents bring everything to the nursery that might be needed for the proper care of their little ones--diaper bag with wipes and diapers, pre-made bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, security items like blankets, and jarred food so that they can feed babies if necessary.
By the end of the cruise, my only regret was that more cruise lines don't have such a facility for children less than two years old!