It used to be that if you wanted to take a cruise, you were either retired, didn’t have any kids, or had the funds for a reliable babysitter to watch your children for the week. Cruise ships were simply not family friendly, especially not for the infant and toddler crowd. But that’s changing.
The number of family cruisers grew almost 200 percent in the last 5 years, and cruise lines are striving to offer more family friendly activities and amenities onboard for parents and their youngest passengers. Still, cruising with an infant or toddler can still feel like sailing in unchartered waters, but these tips can be your navigational guide to help you plan that family cruise vacation.
Baby On Board
Even though your little one is well, little, you will find yourself paying full fare, but there are a few cruise lines that offer a break for families with children under 2:
- Norwegian Cruise Line only requires you pay the government taxes and port fee
- Disney Cruise Line offers a lower infant rate
- Carnival Cruise Line requires the full fare but you do not have to pay for the gratuities onboard.
Keep your eye out for ‘Kids Sail Free’ promotions, which can be frequent during cruising’s off or shoulder seasons. Disney, Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean also offer larger stateroom options with nurseries, tubs, room-dividing curtains, babysitters and more for families.
Time to Eat
Each cruise line will have high chairs and booster seats you can use in the main dining room, but the lido deck will have the best selection of tot-friendly foods like buttered noodles, fresh fruit or pizza and chicken fingers.
Don’t forget your own baby spoons and forks. If your baby is still receiving breast milk, make sure you store milk in the storage bags versus a bottle. The freezer compartment of the mini-fridge in your stateroom is extremely small.
On Disney Cruise Line, take advantage of their Baby Travel Lite program that lets you pre-order your baby gear. Royal Caribbean also offers this feature with their Babies 2 Go! option that will have diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, food, bathing supplies and countless other items that you don’t have to pack.
Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Clean Up
If your stateroom doesn’t have a bathtub, bring an inflatable tub so you don’t have to maneuver around the shower. They don’t take up too much space in your luggage, cost around $20 and will make your life so much easier.
Bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down your stateroom. Also don’t forget to bring a small bottle of dish detergent and a bottle brush to clean those bottles in the sink. Check beforehand as some cruise lines now provide bottle warmers and sanitizers at the Guest Relations desk.
The nurseries onboard will require you to bring diapers and wipes with you and only a select few lines will actually change their diaper, like Carnival. You will most likely be given a beeper and paged if needed for a fresh diaper.
Getting around onboard will be easiest with an umbrella stroller. They take up less room in crowds and in your limited cabin space. Bring a backpack when going ashore, so you don’t need the storage of a larger stroller. Another option is bringing a sling or other kind of baby carrier/backpack. This can be convenient for shopping or sightseeing in port.
There will be so much for your infant or toddler to do onboard so bringing a lot of bulky toys from home isn’t necessary. A small bag of books, their favorite doll or airplane, or little necessities like their teething ring will suffice. You can borrow a book from the library, grab paper and crayons, have playtime in the nursery, and Royal Caribbean has Crayola workshops and Fisher-Price toy lending program when your child is enrolled.
If your child likes to relax to Nick Jr. or a Disney movie, some cruise lines have children’s programming on the stateroom television for you, but the selection is usually limited. If you are bringing your laptop, or have a portable DVD player, you may want to bring a few of their favorite movies or shows.
Naptime and Night-Night
Every cruise line will provide a pack-n-play or crib that you can reserve ahead of time so that it will be in your stateroom. If you have a tall toddler, a cabin with a bunk or Pullman bed and bedrail might work better to prevent any escapes.
Many cabins will have a curtain that will divide the room so your child will actually lie down, and allow you a place to read or take your own nap. If you can, book a balcony stateroom so you can go out and watch the ocean and catch some sun so you don’t have to be stuck inside.
Bulky items like high chairs, pack-n-plays, baby towels or washcloths, or bouncy seats won’t be necessary. If you don’t want to preorder, bring the baby gear like diapers and food is to put all of the items in a box and mark it as checked luggage. Then when you get to your cabin you can empty its contents and have your cabin steward throw the box away because you will use up the items during your cruise.
The list of must-haves:
- Baby Food and Utensils
- Disposable Placemats for Table
- Formula Packets or Breast-Milk with Storage Bags
- Bottle, Bottle Brush and Soap
- Diapers, Swim Diapers, Wipes, and Diaper Rash Cream or Vaseline
- Umbrella Stroller and/or Baby Carrier
- Sunscreen and Sunhat (expensive onboard)
- Medicine such as Infant Benadryl , GasX, Tylenol (hard to find onboard)
- Inflatable Tub, Baby Wash and Lotion
- Sanitizing Wipes
- Sound Machine and Nightlight
- Portable DVD Player and Movies
- Extra Clothes or Laundry Detergent (if your ship offers self-service laundry)
About the Author
Erin Leigh is a blogger and freelance writer for Cruise Now, a website providing the best prices on cruises to the top destinations and cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean cruise deals.