Wondering if cruising with a baby or toddler is possible? Absolutely miserable or totally worth it? Discover why it’s an ideal way to travel with young kids and how to hack your cruise to have the best time ever.
Before having kids, we sailed frequently, mostly to warm, sunny Caribbean islands where we could lounge on the deck or the beach and justify having a cocktail at 10 in the morning. Cruising was always our go-to vacation.
I live for that feeling of stepping foot on the boat and feeling instantly relaxed. Set me up by the pool with a mid day rosé. Give me all the trivia before a five course meal. Then, send me off to bed with the gentle roll of the ocean outside my sliding doors. (Spoiler alert: that gentle ocean roll lulled my non-sleeper off to dreamland like nothing and no one else!)
It’s no wonder I loved cruising with a baby!
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At no point did I consider giving up our love of the sea #becausekids but I didn’t have the false notion that it would be instant cocktail in hand, either. Vacations with young kids are work. They’re worth it, but they’re not immediately relaxing like they were before kids.
I’m here to say, though, that cruising with a baby or toddler is fun, even refreshing at times, and – dare I say it – an ideal way to travel with kids!
Below, we’re sharing why we love cruising with a baby or toddler, how to go about booking your family cruise, and a few added tips and tricks for smooth sailing!
Why We Love Cruising With a Baby or Toddler
As much as I adore a good family road trip or a quick flight to an otherwise too far away for a weekend place, cruising, especially cruising with a baby (or toddler), holds a special place in my family travel heart.
When it comes to family vacations nothing beats the convenience of cruising with a baby. Here’s why…
Sailing to the next port overnight, while the kids are sleeping, is ideal. Unlike road trips, the daytime hours are maximized without worrying about getting to the next place.
And, let’s be honest, when you’re traveling with very young children, enjoying the nightlife isn’t exactly on your radar anyway. Staying in one place after hours truly doesn’t matter…might as well sail on! If you’re the type of traveler who especially enjoys seeing a few places each trip, cruising with a baby or toddler is for you. Of course there are cruises that dock for overnights if you wish.
The best thing about cruising with a baby, rather than road tripping, is having a “home base.”
Despite my many efforts to travel light with two kids, they come with baggage. Literally. I love having one room to unpack, shower, nap, etc. and still enjoy multiple destinations and excursions without packing and unpacking multiple times.
Kids Can Sleep Better on a Boat
As an added bonus, the gentle rocking of the ocean makes for ideal sleeping conditions. Not only do we wake up in port rested and rejuvenated, but we return home from our trip feeling great after a full week of decent sleep!
There’s Actually a Ton of Activities for Kids and Babies
Many cruise lines are designed for families. Cruisers can find kids clubs, crafts, arcades, structured activities, sports, water parks, and more onboard. Despite missing out on some of the after hours adult entertainment, we’ve never experienced a lack of family friendly activities.
Occasionally, you’ll find a cruise ship with a nursery willing to accommodate babies. At the very least, you’ll find activities for toddlers, like bubbles, splash pads, and music times. Don’t overlook the idea of cruising because you think all of the onboard activities are for adults or older children!
How to Book Your Family Cruise with a Baby or Toddler
Picking Your Destination
When it comes to traveling with very young children, there’s a few things to consider when picking your destination. First, you’ll of course want to take a look at the cruise itineraries and their ports of call. Are there excursions you can enjoy while docked? Beaches, museums, parks, or hikes nearby? Are the port’s amenities and activities within walking distance or will you need a taxi (which means a car seat!).
Do you need to fly to your embarkation port? Air travel can come with more packing and more time getting to your destination. Is there a port of call you can drive to or access via train?
Is There an Age Requirement?
The next step, once you’ve narrowed down your location and/or ship, is to double check the age requirement. Most cruises have age restrictions of six months or older, meaning cruising with a baby may have to wait a few months.
I also recommend checking if your ship has an onboard nursery for your little one, if you wish. When we sailed to Bermuda, we specifically went with a ship that has a nursery, rather than one (with the exact same itinerary) that did not.
In light of the pandemic and recent decision of many cruise lines to begin reopening sailings, please check age and health requirement.
Get Your Baby a Passport
Some closed loop cruises (such as New York to Bermuda) technically do not require a passport. If something happens abroad, though, and you need to fly home, you’ll need a passport to reenter the US. Not worth the stress. Also, baby passport photos are the cutest.
Know That There Are Fees for Kids
Despite the fact that they eat six bites of food and don’t contribute to the bar tab, kids aren’t free. Kids sea fares are typically nominal, and kids sale free promos exist, but they may not outweigh other free options. We have opted to pay for our littles and take free open dining and open bar because #winemom.
Booking Your Stateroom Accommodations
The best way to make cruising with a baby relaxing, is to book the balcony room. Once the kids fall asleep, you can enjoy sitting outside on the patio and still feel like you’re on vacation.
Of course inside cabins are an option, and can save a pretty penny. But we personally prefer having the additional outside space. Know, also, that sailing with two or more children may put you in a room category that “sleeps four” even if you’re bed-sharing or bringing a travel crib. These rooms are a bit more expensive than the standard balcony rooms, but not much more.
Lastly, know that most standard staterooms do not have bathtubs. You can bring an inflatable tub or shower with your babe, which is what we usually do.
Tips & Hacks to Make Cruising With a Baby Even Better
Now that you’re ready to pull the trigger and book that family cruise, consider these tips and hacks to make cruising with a baby or toddler even better.
Embarkation is the trickiest part of cruising with a baby. Because it’s A LOT of waiting. My biggest tip for cruising with a baby is to embark last and debark first.
Consider babywearing while you wait in the embarkation line. Or let your kids throw a fit so someone begs an employee to let you jump the queue. That never happened to us…
We always always opt to take our own bags off the ship when we debark. You exit the ship first, which cuts out tons of the waiting, and don’t have to wait even longer for your luggage. You’re going home anyway…might as well get to it.
Consider Baby Proofing Your Room
Most cruise ships are not baby proof…obviously. The room, however, isn’t exactly unsafe. Most outlets are not child height and you can bring a few outlet covers for the ones that are. The fridge and interior mini bar can be locked, or you can ask that it be opened and emptied to store baby food if necessary.
Other safety items you might consider when cruising with a baby are inflatable bed rails, an inflatable bathtub, and door handle covers. You’ll also want to make sure to keep heavy luggage, medicines, remotes, and phone wires out of reach of little hands.
Don’t Skip the On Board Activities
We already touched on the fact that there may be a nursery or kid’s club on board, but even if you aren’t comfortable dropping your little one off, you can take advantage of their structured activities. Check your ship’s daily itinerary to see what play sessions are being offered either in the club room or around the boat.
Beyond designated activities, don’t shy away from using the ship’s public areas simply because you have children. Kids of all ages can enjoy live music, arcade games, sports, and pools. While diapered children typically can’t use the pool – it’s a health code violation – many ships have a baby friendly splash park.
As long as you’re respectful of other ship guests and age rules, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your vacation, as well.
Dine Out Beyond the Buffet
Families love to hit up the buffet because there’s always something for the kids, like mac and cheese, nuggets, and fruit. But the finer dining spots can also have kids’ meals or can provide something at your request. When cruising with a baby or toddler, we typically find it’s no problem to order pizza, chicken, or a modified menu item for our kids, plus we enjoy our meal much more.
Some other tips for mealtime:
- By nature, meals onboard are designed to be longer and sometimes more upscale. We always try to snag an earlier reservation when service is faster and the dining rooms are less crowded.
- If you’re little one is new to eating, you may want to bring his own baby friendly utensils. We always bring silicone placemats, too, to keep the area clean.
- We love grabbing yogurt and a few pieces of fruit to keep in our room (bananas, apples, oranges) so our kids have something healthy and available whenever they’re hungry. Mom Hack: reusable pouches are a great way to bring yogurt and applesauce back to your room or in port without the mess!
Pack minimally for a cruise, even if you’re cruising with a baby or young child. You’ll be surprised at how little you need to enjoy the trip.
There’s usually a mid-cruise laundry special; we love to pack half the amount we’d need and take advantage of this! Cruise ships can also provide a travel crib if you’re comfortable using it. We’ve also co-slept with our kids once they hit the toddler stage.
A few things we do pack:
- An umbrella stroller or soft structured carrier: both are lighter and take up less cabin space than a full sized stroller. Related: Best Strollers for Travel
- Though, you can buy almost anything on the ship, bring certain baby emergency items that you might not find. I bring baby safe sunblock and any meds I might need, along with a syringe. You can find pain meds, but not necessarily infant dosage, in the sundry.
- Pack enough diapers and wipes for the trip. If you’re lucky enough to find them in the ship’s sundry, chances are they’ll be astronomically priced. Don’t forget a swim diaper, too.
- The baby-proofing items we listed above.
- Lastly, though we simply just shower with our babes, you may want an inflatable tub.
Will you be cruising with a baby or toddler sometime in the future? If you cruise with kids, do you enjoy it or prefer a different style of family travel? And what would you add to this list?
When we sail with our kids, we’re reminded of why we love cruising so much. It brings me so much joy to share it with my little ones and instill in them a love of travel and the ocean. From running laps around the ship, to the adventures in port, to just lounging with a sleeping baby on me as the waves surge, I promise all of the effort is worth it.