Taking babies on cruises can be a non-starter for many families. Many folks are intimidated at the prospect of taking their baby on a cruise. They may be concerned that it will end up being a miserable experience for everyone. They fear lots of crying, many sleepless nights, an abundance of crankiness, and numerous hostile glances from fellow passengers. It doesn’t have to be like that. Not at all.
Over the years I have taken many cruises with babies and toddlers. In fact, my youngest son was four months old when he went on his first cruise. (The age rules have now changed. He would have to be at least six months.) In total, I have sailed nearly 100 days (over the course of nine cruises) when one of my children was under the age of 3. And from that experience, I believe that the following 6 steps can help most families taking babies on cruises have fun.
Choosing The Best Reservations For Babies On Cruises
- Choose a cruise line that offers infant childcare in some form.
You will want the opportunity to have a break of your own. This could be to have some solo spa time, read a book by the pool, or go to a specialty restaurant with other adults. You will want childcare for your baby at some point, if not many points, during your cruise.
Most ships don’t start providing drop off kids’ programming until age 3. Many ships do, however, offer some type of infant care for at least a few hours a day. Options range from a fully staffed nursery that is open for care almost the entire day (e.g., Disney, Royal Caribbean on many ships (soon fleet-wide), Norwegian Escape) to group babysitting at night that includes options for actual babies (e.g., Carnival, Cunard). Some ships also offer in-room babysitting to children 12 months and older (e.g., Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Holland America (for kids under 3)).
- Reserve a stateroom that has an option for some privacy.
When you select a cabin, choose one that allows your baby to have a separate sleep schedule. This could be a private balcony, or a curtain that separates the sleeping area from a sitting area. This will allow you to stay up enjoying yourself while your baby naps or goes to bed for the night.
What Families Should Pack for Babies on Cruises
- Arrange to have more diapers, wipes and baby food than you think you could possibly use. And then add enough for one more day just to be safe.
When taking babies on cruises, families should pack more diapers, wipes and baby food than they think are needed. You do not want to run the risk of running out of critical baby supplies. It is very likely that they will not be sold on board. Or, the ship could sell out. You don’t want to face a full sea day empty-handed.
Although you may seem weighed down in the beginning (unless you are able to have some items delivered on board), because all of these items are consumable, your load will grow lighter over the course of the cruise. And as an added bonus, you will now have an extra bag to use for souvenirs (or dirty laundry). Note: If you arrive in port the day before your ship leaves, you can plan to pick up some of these items at a local store, rather than hauling them on a plane.
For more tips and strategies on how preparing and packing for a cruise with your baby, download a free copy of our Prep & Pack checklist.
- Take your own bottlebrush and dish soap.
If you have reason to use a bottlebrush at home – for baby bottles, toddler cups, or related items – you should bring one with you to the ship. You should also bring a small bottle of dish soap to go with it. I was shocked to discover that dish soap is not easy to come by on a cruise ship. While there certainly were different kinds of liquid soap on board, none of it was suitable for washing baby bottles. It was either shampoo type products or industrial strength cleaners. These are not designed for every day dishes and left a horrible aftertaste.
- If your baby is mobile, bring along a roll of duct tape.
A roll of duct tape can provide all kinds of child-proofing if you have a baby who can crawl or walk on his own steam. You can use it to neutralize many an attractive nuisance. Use tape to shut drawers, tape shut refrigerator, and tape phone cords out of the way. You can also use duct tape to secure curtains against unwanted light, or tape the bathroom door jamb to prevent unwanted lock-ins. Electrical tape or painters’ tape can serve the same purpose. But, I found duct tape to be stronger and easier to peel back and forth.
- Leave your deluxe oversized stroller at home.
You will most likely want to bring a stroller (unless you are on a ship that rents them out). It should be a lightweight one that can fold easily. This will make it much easier to find a convenient storage spot in your stateroom. It also makes it easier to roll down narrow hallways on the ship. The hallways that often have service carts in them. Conversely, if your stroller is too big, it may be too wide to roll through the door of your cabin. Seriously.
Don’t let misplaced anxiety stop you from having a fantastic family cruise with your baby. You can start planning today. Start browsing the websites of any of the cruise lines mentioned here or contact a travel agent. You should also download your free copy of our Prep & Pack checklist, which is specifically designed to include information on babies and toddlers. Get your copy now!
If you know someone with a baby who needs a vacation, forward this to them for inspiration.
If you have used other successful strategies for taking babies on cruises, please share a comment below.