Cruising with toddlers or going on a cruise with a baby can be a fabulous experience for the whole family, especially as affordable cruises for families are increasingly being provided by cruise companies eager to provide an option for everyone. While packing up your whole family to take a cruise can be a little daunting we will provide you tips to make sure that you enjoy your cruise and have a fun, stress-free trip.
Cruising offers a few key benefits for those with young children when compared to any other sort of holiday or vacation. Your food is all prepared for you and it is available only a few minutes walk from your room. The ship is packed with entertainment and activities so you do not have to leave your cruise ship bubble. Plus you can visit a variety of locations without the ordeal of packing and unpacking repeatedly. Packing becomes much less fun once your bags are filled with an array of baby stuff.
We have personally taken three cruises so far. Two without a child and one with our eighteen month old daughter Zoe. The cruise with Zoe was a ten day long Royal Caribbean relocation cruise on Explorer of the Seas traveling from Singapore to Australia. During those ten days we had plenty of time to get to grips with on-ship parenting.
Note that Royal Caribbean does offer baby sitting services, which is a very handy service that makes for a far more baby friendly cruise. We personally are not comfortable with the idea of a stranger caring for our child without one of us being present although I am sure that the staff are lovely. Accordingly we decided against using these services. The following is based on our experience of cruising while also doing all of child care stuff ourselves.
We are going to cover some things to do while on-board, a little of what to take on your cruise as well as free activities for kids to keep everyone entertained and pleasantly worn out for the their next nap. This should also provide you with a little window into what to expect on a cruise if you are about to head off on your first one.
Lets get to it. Tips for a cruise with a baby or toddler!
- 1 1. Make Sure There Are Toddler Play Areas
- 2 2. Turn Down The Announcement Volume
- 3 3. Remember Your Do Not Disturb Sign
- 4 4. Stock Up On Baby Supplies Before Setting Sail
- 5 5. Leave Your Pram In Your Room
- 6 6. Bring a Baby Carrier
- 7 7. Bring an Inflatable Baby Bath
- 8 8. Bring Quiet Entertainment For The Adults
- 9 9. Find Outdoor Areas Suited To Toddlers
- 10 10. Moderate Your Expectations
1. Make Sure There Are Toddler Play Areas
This is only relevant if they are mobile. Particularly if they are up and running around they will need some safe spaces to do that.
If you child is under 3 they are most likely too young for kid's club. If they are not fully toilet trained they are also not allowed in the swimming pools. Not only is there a "no babies in the pool" rule but the chlorine is very strong for sensitive little eyes and skin. Chances are they also go to bed in the evening so early that the various evening dining and entertainment options are essentially irrelevant. A child being in the baby/toddler range rapidly whittles down the entertainment options that are available for you and, more importantly, for your child. If they are going to sleep well they will need a good amount of exercise which can be hard to come by on a ship. Your room and the corridors can only provide so much entertainment before boredom sets in.
Even before you book find out if there is an under 3s playroom. For a cruise of more than three or four days I would actually consider the absence of some sort of toy room for under 3s a deal breaker. As the days roll by you will really appreciate having a dedicated space for your little one to really stretch their legs and be amused without being on top of you.
Failing that at least ask about toys you can borrow. Some new toys for the kids plus some sort of reasonably contained space is all you need but free space is usually at a premium on a ship. If the cruise provides a dedicated under threes room that is a very very good for you and your toddler. You will be in there every day.
2. Turn Down The Announcement Volume
There will be a dial somewhere in your cabin to let you turn down announcements. This does not seem to affect absolutely every announcement but it works for most. Some more important announcements will come through at full volume regardless. Likely these full volume announcements will coincide with nap times. Not sure how that works but their timing is excellent. They are rare however.
Find the announcement volume dial and turn it down BEFORE nap time to avoid a nap being interrupted by updates on the weather, the shows on that night etc which probably won't interest your child anyway. Although you have chosen to go on a cruise it does not mean that you necessarily need to know everything that is going on when much of it is not suitable anyway.
3. Remember Your Do Not Disturb Sign
In particular, Royal Caribbean's room attendants are extremely hard working. That can be a little troublesome if you are spending blocks of time throughout the day trying to get your child to nap.
Fortunately they anticipated this and every room will have some form of "do not disturb" sign, you just need to remember to use it. This is something you will probably only forget to do once but hopefully you can avoid that single interrupted nap. Find the do not disturb sign when you first arrive and remember to use it.
4. Stock Up On Baby Supplies Before Setting Sail
Cruise ships do not usually have a maximum luggage weight allowance. If you do not have to fly to get to the cruise starting point you can stock up at your leisure. If your cruise will be preceded by a flight consider getting to a supermarket to top up your stockpile before boarding the ship.
Chances are your ship will actually be pretty well stocked with the various bits and pieces you might need as a baby on a cruise is not all that rare but there is really no need NOT to show up with a surplus of diapers/nappies, extra food, and more clothes than you are likely to need. Worst case, the leftovers all come home with you for later use.
As a rule of thumb we suggest bringing 25% more diapers/nappies than you think you will need.
5. Leave Your Pram In Your Room
Your pram/stroller/buggy does not have to come everywhere with you. For our first few days on Explorer of the Seas we brought ours everywhere, mostly just out of habit. It was fine but a bit of a hassle. The elevators are often crowded with people so having the pram was awkward. If you have the pram you can't easily just take the stairs, even if its only a single floor and the stairs are right there!
Things got much better once we realized we could just leave it in the room. Zoe can walk here and there, we can carry her when her legs get tired. Every food venue provides high chairs. And if we ever decided that we really truly needed our pram one of us could dash back to our room and grab it.
If you are going to bring a stroller make sure to bring a compact stroller to make it easier to get around the ship and so it takes up less room in your cabin.
6. Bring a Baby Carrier
We are big fans of baby wearing as evidenced by our ever growing collection of baby carriers.
A baby carrier is perfect for the many short walks around the ship you will be taking. This is particularly important for travel with toddlers because little legs get tired and carrying your child in your arms can get a little much after a while. With a baby carrier you can put your child on and happily walk around with both arms free to carry things and hold onto railings.
With a little practice it only takes maybe thirty seconds to put your child on and maybe five seconds to let them out. If they do not want to walk anymore when you are halfway back to your cabin that does not have to mean tired arms for you. If you want to carry food back to your cabin, just pop your child in your baby carrier and you can now happily carry your snack.
7. Bring an Inflatable Baby Bath
Ignore this if you are happy to shower your child instead of using a bath. We got by for 10 days with just the shower but totally understand why you might insist on bathing.
Track down an inflatable bath. They exist. They pack up small and are quick to inflate. Be aware that they are not usually as stable as a solid bathtub so they can be relatively easy to tip. Or at least it can be relatively easy to press down one side causing water to spill out.
Try to avoid deflating your bath and folding it up when it is still wet. It is easy for pockets of moisture to get trapped and a moldy bath is no fun.
8. Bring Quiet Entertainment For The Adults
Assuming you and your child are in one room, you will likely have to simply hang out during naps. You do not want to leave your child unattended, opening the balcony door (if you have one) is noisy and lets light in, and there is no separate space to go to where you can turn on a light aside from the bathroom.
You need something quiet which can entertain an adult for a few hours each day and which does not produce a huge amount of light. If you are looking for packing tips for a cruise here is an important one. A Kindle Paperwhite is perfect for this situation. You can read and it produces enough light to let you read while not lighting up the room in the way that laptops tend to. No idea exactly how it is done but these things are magic for reading in a dark room.
If you are a bit organized you can bring food to your room or get room service delivered just before nap time. That way you will have a stash of food to eat during nap time. Make sure to open any noisy packaging in advance.
Spend a little more time thinking about how you will spend your time in the cabin if your child requires multiple naps a day as that means lots of time in the cabin. Taking a baby on a cruise means someone has to hang out in the cabin. They will want something to amuse them.
9. Find Outdoor Areas Suited To Toddlers
Sunlight and fresh air are important for the health of both adults and children. You will need to get out occasionally to get a little of both. A lot of the main outdoor areas are crowded and simply have too many people going every which way for them to be suitable for a toddler just finding their feet. If you look around however there are areas that are both safely enclosed and relatively quiet.
The best place to start is outside the kid's club. The deck nearby has likely been designed with kids in mind. That means it will be safer and likely devoid of adults who are not chasing around a toddler themselves.
Also check outdoor areas on lower decks. The upper decks are where everyone congregates to lounge in the sun so open lower decks are rarely crowded.
10. Moderate Your Expectations
Due to the requirements of caring for a young child your ability to have long dinners before heading to a show etc is going to be severely reduced. The earlier you internalize this, the more you will enjoy your cruise.
By all means act as a team, take turns performing various baby care jobs and share the responsibility of taking care of kids so that everyone is able to have a nice dinner but be realistic about how often you will be able to do this. Also accept that it may not be possible to all have these dinners together as someone will be watching the baby.
Those are our tips for going on a cruise. Hopefully they will help make your experience easier and more enjoyable.
Traveling with a baby or toddler is tough. I am not going to tell you that it is not. However it is manageable. Going on a cruise with a baby or toddler is an especially good option because cruising is uniquely suited to families with small children. Do not be put off by the naysayers. With a bit of planning and organization your whole family can enjoy your cruise.