Cruising with a Baby: Tips and Tricks for Smooth Sailing

Wondering if cruising with a baby is possible? Absolutely miserable or totally worth it? We LOVE cruising with our kids. Find out why and how we make it not only fun, but relaxing!

cruising with our baby on the norwegian escape

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Cruising with a baby is definitely different. Isn’t everything with kids?

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.

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.

I’m here to say, though, that cruising with a baby is fun, even relaxing at times, and – dare I say it – an ideal way to travel with kids!

Related: 35 Amazing Benefits of Family Travel

should you go cruising with a baby

Why We Love Cruising With a Baby (and Toddler!)

Overnight Transportation

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.

Cruise critics prefer remaining in a destination longer, and at times I do too. With young children, though, you don’t have more than those in port hours, anyway. Chances are, you’re not hanging out for the nightlife with a toddler in tow, anyway.

If you’re the type of traveler who enjoys seeing a few places each trip, cruising is the way to go with your kids.

Unpacking Once

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.

Onboard Activities

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.

My Kids Sleep Better on a Boat

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!

Endless Options for Picky Eaters

Have you seen how many restaurants are onboard? Most have kids menus. A cruise buffet, too, never fails to have kid friendly fare and grab and go fruit. My kids are partial to the 5:00 somewhere bar. Me too, kid, me too.

Margaritaville at Sea

Tips and Considerations for Bringing Your Baby on Board

Logistics

  • Most cruises have age restrictions of six months or older – check specifics before you book.
  • Do you need to fly to your embarkation port? Air travel can come with more packing and more time getting to your destination. Our first cruise to Bermuda left from NYC, which was only a 40 minute train ride. Long travel days aren’t easy with a baby. I was happy when we made it from our home to sipping cocktails on the boat in just a few hours. If flying is necessary, consider bookending your cruise with extra days.
  • GET A PASSPORT. Many closed loop cruises allow you to sail with alternative proof of citizenship. 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, I want the passport stamps.

Fees

  • 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.

Stateroom/Accommodations

  • Balcony rooms should be the only option when sailing with kids. Once the kids fall asleep, you can enjoy a few out on the patio and still feel like you’re on vacation.
  • Most cruise ships are not baby proof…obviously. There are stairs everywhere and people drunkenly stumbling all over. The room, however, isn’t exactly unsafe. Most outlets are not accessible and the fridge can be locked. You can ask that the mini fridge be opened and emptied to store baby food if necessary, too.
  • Be mindful that there’s usually no bathtub.
our son on our cruise ship balcony

Embarkation/Debarkation

  • Embarkation is the trickiest part of cruising with a baby. Because it’s A LOT of waiting. And a lot of mama needing that seaside cocktail stat. Babywear while you wait in line. Or let your kids throw a fit so someone begs en 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 dock home. You debark first, which cuts out tons of the waiting. You’re going home anyway…might as well get to it.
  • Consider Global Entry for your family. At $100 a pop (even infants need their own), GE isn’t exactly cheap. But, it speeds up customs upon reentry from both cruises and flights. It also includes TSA PreCheck.

Activities on Board/In Port

  • Before booking, see if there is an on board nursery. In addition to babysitting services, they may offer family activities and play sessions. Check out the ship’s public areas to see what else might interest your tiny little human.
  • Diapered children cannot use the pools. It’s a health code violation – and please don’t be the a**hole that just does it anyway. We look for an on board splash park that’s baby friendly.
  • Many shows are held at night – like after bedtime – but sometimes there are family showings or live music around the boat.
  • Again, many shore excursions are not baby friendly so pick a trip that has ports that might be of interest to your kids. Anything that is accessible by public transportation or within walking distance lets you forego bringing a carseat.

Meals

  • By nature, meals onboard are designed to be longer and sometimes more upscale. We always try to snag a slightly earlier reservation when service is faster and the dining rooms might be less crowded.
  • Family friendly ships have children’s menus, high chairs, and boosters. Considering how many restaurants are in a small vicinity, even if the menu doesn’t appeal to your picky toddler, ask for something from a different restaurant.
  • 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 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.

What to Pack/Not Pack

  • Pack minimal for a cruise. There’s usually a mid-cruise laundry special if you really need it! And it’s worth it as a mom to go home with clean clothes.
  • An umbrella stroller is easy to travel with, but I find that I babywear almost everywhere. Skip the bulky stroller and travel light.
  • 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 and a syringe. You can find pain meds, but not necessarily infant dosage.
  • 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. Did you know we cloth diaper…even on vacation? You can read about our part time cloth diapering commitment here.
  • Cruise lines typically provide pack and plays (free of charge) but it’s also a personal preference if you feel comfortable renting one. They also tend to take up valuable cabin space. Pop up cribs are a great option if you have the space to pack one.
  • Since there isn’t typically a bath onboard, we bring bathing wipes. Showering with your littles is a great option, too!
  • Last, I let my kids pack a few small toys to entertain them in the room, on embarkation lines, and whenever necessary.

Whether driving to the dock or flying, consider packing or traveling with a lightweight car seat alternative. These safe, legal, and federally approved restraints give you the option of booking driving excursions and getting to your ship safely, without needing to store a bulky seat! Check out seven car seat and booster sear alternatives here.

our baby lounging on a cruise

If all else fails, jam pack the front end of your day with laps around the cruise ship and let your baby fall asleep watching the waves surge. I promise, the moment is worth it!

So are the moments poolside with your little lounger, onboard ski-ball for the 1026th time, and dressing up your little sailors for those family picture nights. And the towel animals!

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.

Cruising With Your Little Ones Soon? Pin These Family Cruise Tips for Later:

cruising with a baby tips and tricks

Did I convince you to try cruising with your baby? Have you sailed with young kids before? Are there any tips you’d add to this list?

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