The idea of cruising with a baby can be a non-starter for many families. Many folks are intimidated by 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.
I have cruised many times 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.) You can absolutely cruise with a baby and have a wonderful time! Here’s how.
Common Objections To Cruising With A Baby
When you first contemplate taking your baby on a cruise, you may hear from well-meaning friends and family who try to discourage you. Or, perhaps you have been researching cruising on the internet and seen some negative comments about people who take babies on cruises.
Many of the objections you see about cruising with babies generally apply to traveling with babies virtually anywhere. For instance, sometimes people have complained that their baby was too young for kids club, so someone was chained to the room for nap times.
This is a basic childcare issue and one that you would face at most hotels or resorts. But, more importantly, with pre-planning, it is a concern that can be addressed.
Some people express concerns that their baby won’t enjoy the cruise because there won’t be any activities for babies and toddlers. Or, that they won’t be able to enjoy the pool and water activities because their babies are in diapers. And, other common objections or concerns involve the possibility of negative reactions from other passengers to the presence of small children.
All of these issues can be fully addressed by choosing the right cruise. Some cruise ships now offer a full program of fun activities for babies and toddlers, including appropriate water facilities.
And, as for other hypothetical grumpy passengers, if you choose a family-oriented cruise, there will be many other small children on board. The addition of your individual munchkin won’t meaningfully change the tenor of the cruise for other passengers.
Obviously, cruising will not be a good choice for every family. Cruising with small children does present challenges. But most of those challenges are all of the same ones that you would have on any travel vacation – e.g., navigating naps, tantrums, picky eaters, etc.
Related Content: Reject Hostility To Taking Babies On Cruises
Choosing The Best Ships For Cruising With A Baby
Choose a cruise line that offers infant childcare in some form.
The childcare options for babies on cruises vary widely across cruise lines and across ships. 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, Norwegian Escape) to group babysitting at night that includes options for actual babies (e.g., Carnival, Cunard). Check out our post on cruises with childcare for babies for more information.
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 the sitting area. This will allow you to stay up enjoying yourself while your baby naps or goes to bed for the night.
Consider the available waterplay options for babies.
All major cruise ships offer many exciting water activities that appeal to kids. But, most of them will not allow babies or toddlers who aren’t potty trained to participate. So, one challenge for cruising with a baby is finding a ship where a baby who is still in diapers can play in a pool or splash zone.
We have a detailed post on the different policies regarding cruise ships and swim diapers. But, here’s the key takeaway: All Disney cruise ships and many Royal Caribbean cruise ships have dedicated water play areas that permit swim diapers.
Related Content: Absolutely The Best Family Cruise Ships For Toddlers
Know that different cruise lines have varied options for feeding babies.
When you’re planning on cruising with a baby, make sure you know what your baby will be eating. (Obviously, if you will be 100% nursing, then you won’t need to worry about this.)
Although all cruises have an abundance of food choices for solid food eaters, the same isn’t true for baby food. Different cruise lines take many different approaches. Some cruise lines don’t carry any baby food at all. Some cruise lines will offer baby food for purchase for an additional fee. And, a few cruise lines will provide age-appropriate food at no additional charge.
You should also know that most cruise lines that do provide baby food (whether complimentary or for a fee) require some type of advance notice — sometimes as much as 60-90 days advance notice.
We have a post that provides a detailed survey on which cruise lines offer special food options for babies on cruises that will help you with your research and planning.
What You Should Take When Cruising With A Baby
Arrange to have more baby supplies than you think you could possibly use.
When cruising with a baby, 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.
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.
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 them was suitable for washing baby bottles. It was either shampoo-type products or industrial-strength cleaners. These are not designed for everyday dishes and leave 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 the 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 lightweight travel 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 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.
Many different models of lightweight strollers could be a great asset, but Kolcraft puts out one that is my personal favorite. I originally purchased mine several years ago, but you can find the current version here on Amazon. (See our disclosure on Amazon links here.)
The key features I love about this stroller: (1) It has a very roomy basket underneath — great for storing a wide range of family items when out and about, not just the baby’s. (2) It has a multi-position recline — great for accommodating naps. For more tips and recommendations on great stroller choices, check out our post on the best lightweight travel strollers.
Related Content: Reduce To These Essential Baby Items On Your Family Cruise
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.
If you know someone with a baby who needs a vacation, forward this to them for inspiration.
Founder & Crew Chief