When you have a young baby we can think of no better why to holiday than letting the world come to you. Cruising provides the luxury of having someone else worry about the dinner while still satisfying your wanderlust with new ports to explore every day. Our editor Claire from Tin Box Traveller took her first family cruise with a 13-month-old and had the most amazing experience. But there are a few important things you need know before cruising with a baby.
Here’s Claire’s guide to taking a baby on a cruise:
Cruising with a baby – important things to know
Age restrictions and pregnancy
Most families will book a cruise well in advance. If you’re pregnant or planning to add a baby to your family bear in mind that there are restrictions on taking young babies on cruise ships. Family-friendly cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises, MSC and Disney do not allow infants under the age of six months to cruise. If you are going transatlantic, or have more than three days at sea, your tiddler will need to be 12-months-old on the first day of your cruise. Also check with your cruise line if you are planning on travelling beyond 24 weeks pregnant.
Nappies and wet wipes
Cruise ship shops are much more focussed on souvenirs and gifts than baby essentials. You will find they do not stock nappies or wet wipes. So either bring them with you or buy them in port. Always carry more than you would usually need to be on the safe side.
Baby-friendly cruise food
Buffets are great for weaning babies with plenty of pasta, vegetables, cooked meat cuts and cheese for mini-munchers to test their tastebuds. If you prefer to serve your weaning baby pureed food then bring your own mini hand-blender and Tupperware, or pre-prepared food pouches and jars.
Baby milk and cows milk
Like nappies, you’ll not find baby formula to buy onboard cruise ships. You also may not have a kettle in your cabin. The best solution is to bring pre-made formula and top up your stock while in port. We also discovered cartons of milk at breakfast and topped up our cabin fridge with these for our girls to have at bed time. Cows milk is only recommended for children over 12-months-old.
Shore excursions with babies
Something you might find when cruising with young kids is that you don’t need to pay for their place on excursions. We found several where our two under fives could join us for free. However, be warned, if you’re not charged for your little ones it’s unlikely it will be a family-friendly day. Speak to the shore excursions team to find the best day trips for you and your baby. Also, if there’s a coach involved the kids will have to sit on your laps if you haven’t paid for their place – important to know when you are on a six hour excursion from Livorno to Florence!
Swimming pools and splash parks
The majority of cruise ships do not allow babies and toddlers who are not potty trained to bathe. This is to limit the spread of infectious bugs onboard. However, some newer ships have splash pools for babies wearing a swim nappy. Disney and Royal Caribbean are among the cruise lines that have ships where babies can enjoy a dip.
While laundry is not something you’ll be hoping to do lots on holiday it’s inevitable with a small person. There may be a few options open to you: bring your own detergent and wash items in your cabin sink; make arrangements with your steward for your washing to be done for you; or, if available, use the passenger laundry room. These are small, so avoid them on a sea day as you could get caught in a queue. MSC have a special baby laundry service onboard, which uses a different machine and gentle detergents – ideal for sensitive baby skin!
Cots and high chairs
You can request a travel cot for your cabin at the time of booking and linen will be provided. Dining rooms will have high chairs and we didn’t have a problem finding these during our cruise with Carnival. Often the waiting staff would bring them over for us as we entered the dining room or buffet. They just loved making a fuss of our girls.
Baths and showers
Not all staterooms will have a bath so consider lining a suitcase with a baby bath if your little one doesn’t get on with showers. We were lucky that our Ocean View Stateroom on Carnival Vista had a small bath tub, which was ideal for giving the girls a quick wash.
While cabins with balconies might be a concern to parents of active toddlers, there’s no way your baby is going to be able to open the patio door by themselves, so indulge your desire for an outside cabin if your budget allows. Do bear in mind that kids pay the same passenger rate as their parents unless your cruise line has a special offer on third or fourth passengers.
Kids clubs on cruises
A lot of cruise lines offer amazing kids clubs but you may find that not all activities or sessions are open to babies. For example: Carnival and P&O Cruises have clubs where you can leave your kids from the age of two; Norwegian Cruise Line offer play sessions for children aged six months to three-years-old supervised by their parents; MSC have a bookable baby sitting service for babies over one-year-old and stay and play sessions for guests with kids up to the age of two; and Disney Cruises have a bookable nursery for babies from six-months-old.
Getting around the ship
The most family-orientated cruise ships tend to be of a reasonable size. Bring a compact stroller and a baby carrier to help you get around by day and night. You’re going to cover some miles visiting all the decks and wandering the promenade! On busy port days put your baby carrier to good use going up and down stairs to avoid waiting for lifts. And reserve your stroller for evenings when your baby will hopefully be napping while you enjoy a meal.
You can read all about our first cruise with a baby. Please note that all cruise ships are different and cruise lines are updating their offer for families all the time.
Are you planning a cruise with a baby? Do you have any questions or concerns? Pop them in the comments below. We’re always happy to share our experiences.