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Cruising With Children: Helpful Cruise Tips for Your Sanity

As an experienced cruiser, I've got tons of tips to make your next cruise vacation a breeze.

Can (and should?) you take your little one cruising? Reading through these FAQs will help you find out if a holiday cruise with your baby is right for you.

Can (and should?) you take your little one cruising? Reading through these FAQs will help you find out if a holiday cruise with your baby is right for you.

Can I take a baby on a cruise holiday?

Yep, with a few exceptions, you can bring your little one on your cruising holidays. But be sure to check with your cruise line to make sure that they allow them, as there are a number of cruise ships that are for grown-ups only. For the most part, babies six months or older are okay, but on some of the longer ocean and repositioning cruises, the youngest that is allowed is one year of age.

One thing I will say is that you need to decide whether or not you feel happy to take your little one with you on a cruise, given that there might be limited or expensive access to doctors, and hospitals are hard to come by in the middle of the ocean.

I think the other thing worth considering is, are you really going to enjoy a cruise when access to the port is a lot more difficult? And are you going to be happy not being able to take some time to relax when you have to care for a baby 24/7?

Do I have to pay for my baby to cruise?

Sad to say that you do in fact have to pay for your baby to be on the cruise. What's more, the fee that is charged for them is likely not to be discounted at all. This is pretty fair when you think about it; not only does a baby potentially require more effort for the ship crew, but it is not going to generate any real kind of money as it can't spend its days lazing by the pool knocking back margaritas.

Check for Discounted or Kids-Sail-Free Fares

If you are dead set on taking your babe on the ship with you, make sure you look out for discounted fares. You might even find a children-sail-free promo that will offset some of your costs.

Is there babysitting on cruise ships?

Babysitting varies between cruise lines, with some ships offering in-cabin options, if there are any spare staff available to assist. Nurseries are available on the likes of Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Disney, with the option to drop your little one off. Just be sure to book your space as soon as possible, as this option is always popular, especially on the more family-focused cruise lines. Keep in mind that for this option, I believe children must be at least 1 year of age.

For those with kids younger than 3 years of age, options for babysitting are likely not to be available on most cruise lines, so make sure that you do your research. Just make sure that you never leave your children unattended in the room or anywhere else around the ship; it is not safe for a child to be alone on board, as anything could happen.

Is there a safe place for my baby to play onboard?

A few ships have nurseries that cruisers can access if required. They are play spaces designed for kids that are 3 years of age and under. Other kids' clubs will have areas for play for children younger than 3 with their parents or guardians, and some others will have times when little ones can use the spaces that are generally reserved for the older kids.

One thing that must be taken into account is that having an area for your little one to play is not always an absolute or done deal 100 percent of the time during your cruise. Unfortunately, the cruise experience is not really designed around people that have babies.

I would definitely just make sure that you keep an eye out for any spaces that might be suitable for your little one to get out and about and open up the motor a bit. Generally, my friends have been able to utilise the comedy club spaces on carnival cruises for a little playgroup session with other families on the cruise that have babies. It can be great fun for the little cherubs. Just make sure that you have a look around, check that the space is as safe as possible and clear any potential dangers if possible.

Can my baby use the cruise ship pool?

No. Children must be toilet trained in order to use cruise ship pools. But a few ships do have splash zones for the littlest cruisers; swim diapers are required for those, though some ships do require that a child is potty trained even to use these zones.

Before taking your baby on board, carefully consider your cabin's sleeping arrangements to ensure that both you and your baby get a good night's sleep.

Before taking your baby on board, carefully consider your cabin's sleeping arrangements to ensure that both you and your baby get a good night's sleep.

Where will my baby be able to sleep?

Pack 'n Plays cribs are usually made available upon request by cruise ships. But make sure that you let them or your travel agent know that you will require one when booking your trip. Baby can also sleep with you in the bed if you need, or you can arrange to bring your own travel crib.

For those that are a little older, there is the ability to use the pull-out or sofa beds that are available in most rooms; you just need to keep in mind that the cruise line is not going to be able to supply you with any kind of bed rail to suit the situation.

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For those that are in that awkward middle ground of not being old enough for a big bed but too big for a crib, you might have to settle for making up a space on the floor so that they are safe, but bear in mind that that might come with its own issues, especially in regards to available space.

It is worth being aware that space is at a premium and unless you are in a large family suite, there will not be a lot of space—or for that matter, any separation—as staterooms are generally just made up of one room and an enclosed bathroom

How can I bathe my baby on a cruise?

Unless you managed to get a suite, your stateroom is very likely to just have a shower with no bathtub, so tub time is going to be a little difficult. Bathtime options are a little limited, so I suggest simply taking them into the shower with you and using the showerhead (which is usually removable) to bring the spray down to the babe's height.

Other than that, there is the classic sponge bath technique. If you are a creative shopper, you might want to look into buying a collapsible or inflatable bathtub to make life a little easier. A plus to the latter is that if your baby isn't potty trained, they will be able to have a splash around in their little tub, as they are not allowed to swim in the main pools.

How do I feed my baby on a cruise ship?

If a formula drinker, you should double-check that your ship carries the type of milk your baby is used to. Naturally, you must also ensure that you bring enough formula for the trip!

Unfortunately, the bar fridges in the rooms are often not the best, so if you are expressing milk, you may have to look into other options to keep it cool enough to be useable. You will have to take care of washing bottles, etc. yourself, as no supplies or services will be on offer to assist with this.

Some cruise lines puree food for babies, but not all of them, so it is worth checking with your travel agent before booking your cruise so that they can check directly with the cruise company. If you are unable to gain access to pureed food from the kitchens, you will have to make sure to take your own sealed jars of puree. Make sure to have enough food to deal with any day excursions undertaken during port days.

Should I bring a stroller or car seat?

If you plan to travel by car or taxi during your cruise, you will need to bring your child's car seat to comply with the law and be safe. If you don't want to lug it, alternatives include only travelling by bus, hiring tour guides in port who provide their own car seats, renting cars with car seats or relegating yourself to port activities reached only on foot. It pays to be aware that in some cases, travelling in a vehicle can be a bit of an "anything goes" experience, so plan accordingly.

You will want some kind of stroller or baby carrier for taking baby around the cruise ship as well as when you are in port. Unfortunately, you will need to store it in your cabin, even if you do not have a balcony, so I suggest that you bring something storable.

Cruising with a baby might not be easy, but it certainly isn't impossible!

Cruising with a baby might not be easy, but it certainly isn't impossible!

Do I need to bring diapers and wipes with me?

Yes. A fair few cruise ships sell diapers and wipes onboard, but a lot won't (and even if they do, they will be hugely expensive), so you will need to pack enough diapers and wipes for your trip.

If possible, it might be wise to find out where you can buy baby things in the ports that you visit in case you run out. That said, finding the right thing that you need in the countries that you are visiting can be difficult (if not impossible) sometimes, so if you can, try to pack plenty to last you for your whole holiday.

Note: If your child usually wears cloth diapers, I have heard a few people recommend disposable ones for their ease and convenience for your cruise holiday.

What else should I pack for my baby?

It is best to bring a little emergency kit with baby medicines and everything else you need. Don't forget to pack heaps of baby-friendly sunscreen as well, because you will definitely need it. On that note, make sure you pack a hat and a high-quality rashie for your baby so that they can get in on at least some of the fun.

Can I bring my baby on a shore excursion?

All cruise-sponsored activities onshore have minimum ages set and advertised. Often, the littlest tackers won't be able to take part in some excursions on shore, just because of the physicality and effect on the overall experience. When they can go on tours, however, they will generally be free or a discounted price.

In some cases, it might just be easier and less stressful for you to plan your own tours so that you can be absolutely sure of what you are getting.

Can I do laundry onboard?

Babies can be a mess sometimes (insert, all the time!), so washing their clothing is definitely going to have to happen at some point during your cruise holiday. You can send out clothes for crewmembers to clean, but the fee is often quite high.

Some cruises have self-serve laundry rooms. Otherwise, you can bring your own detergent and stain remover to hand wash items in your cabin bathroom's sink. Most cruise ship showers have clotheslines where you can dry your washing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paddy Michelson

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