We somewhat naively booked our first cruise shortly after our son was born. It was well before we knew much about traveling with a baby or toddler. And while we were completely new to cruising ourselves, we had an amazing first cruise as a family. We’re here to share with you our best tips for cruising with a toddler or baby, including a few lessons learned.
For our first cruise, we decided on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas with a cruise stop in Bermuda. We chose this cruise primarily for the Bermuda destination and also because we could drive from our hometown of Pittsburgh to the Baltimore Port. It was so great not having to tack on a flying with a baby in addition to our first time cruising with a baby!
Although our first hand cruise experience is specific to Royal Caribbean, these tips can apply to essentially any cruise ship. Keep reading for our top tips for cruising with young children.
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Check if the Cruise Ship Has a Splash Pool Before Booking
I put this cruise tip first on the list since it’s a pretty big consideration when you’re cruising with a toddler or baby. Did you know that potty training requirements for cruise ships require kids to be fully potty trained before going into the regular pools? I had no idea until a few weeks before the cruise was leaving that our son couldn’t go in the pool.
These rules are based on strict CDC requirements, as most cruise ships have saltwater pools that lack the typical chlorine and other chemicals. The best family cruise ships typically have some type of baby pool or splash zone. Our smaller Royal Caribbean ship was great but it had neither. (Most Royal Caribbean ships do have splash pads. We booked a subsequent Bahamas cruise on Navigator of the Seas with our toddler. It’s a bigger, newly revamped ship with a splash pad.)
Pro Tip: If your child isn’t fully potty trained, make sure they have a good swim diaper on before getting anywhere near the pool. (Just in case!) We love this reusable swim diaper or these disposable swim diapers.
Bring Snacks on Board for Your Cruise With a Baby or Toddler
If you’re used to traveling with a baby or toddler, bringing snacks is probably already second nature. Since our son was still exploring solid foods, we wanted to make sure we had some healthy snacks with us as a backup. We brought a supply of puffs and fruit/veggie pouches to make sure we had healthy and easy snacks on the go.
Keep in mind, Royal Caribbean has a policy against bringing outside food and drinks. Like most places, we found that they made exceptions for young children. We had no issues with bringing a big bag of snacks with us. I do recommend, however, that you bring any snacks in your carry-on versus checked luggage. That way the staff can see that you’re cruising with a young child.
Umbrella Strollers and/or Baby Carriers are a Must When Going on a Cruise With a Baby
Even with our cruise ship being on the smaller side, it was still big enough that it required a lot of walking. We brought an umbrella stroller almost everywhere with us, as did the other parents we saw with babies or young toddlers. In addition to giving us a break from lugging around our big guy, the recline feature of this lightweight stroller was perfect for naps on the go. (Particularly during excursions.)
I was glad I decided to bring this baby carrier on our trip as well. It was perfect for my early morning walks when it was just my son and I. Plus, he loved having the outward view to say hello to everyone in the morning.
Take Advantage of the On-site Nursery Services and Kids Programs
We took our son to the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery for 2 days for an hour or so each while we were there. Part of me felt guilty dropping him off when we were on a family vacation. It gave him some time to roam around in a clean space though, with lots of new toys and other kids his age. And it gave the adults a little bit of relaxation time. (Without worrying about what our wild child was getting into.) Whether you’re going on a cruise with a toddler or baby, I recommend looking into the childcare options beforehand.
Additional information on Royal Caribbean Daycare
- Royal Babies is available for babies/ toddlers from 6-36 months.
- Nursery times can be reserved on Day 1 during boarding and any time the nursery is open. Hours vary by ship and whether it’s a port or sea day.
- At the time of our cruising, Royal Caribbean child care cost for children under 3 was $6 per hour before 6pm and $8 per hour after 6pm.
- Royal Caribbean daycare hours, availability and pricing differ by ship. Our nursery was open for drop off from 9-12pm and 6:30-midnight during sea days.
- Open play sessions are available every day for family and friends to play with their baby or toddler and have access to all of the toys in a clean space at no charge.
- A Royal Caribbean Toy Lending Program is offered for families to borrow age appropriate toys during their cruise.
- A free kids program is also available for kids over 3. We are excited to take advantage of that when our son is older!
- Some Royal Caribbean ships no longer offer the nursery for babies. Be sure to check in advance if you’re cruising with a baby or young toddler.
Request Items Needed from the Cruise Ship in Advance
When packing for a cruise with a toddler, avoid overpacking given the limited amount of space in a cruise ship room. Fortunately, there are a few items you can request from cruise ships in advance of your trip to help ease the burden of packing. Here are a few things to consider pre-requesting when cruising with a baby:
- Pack-n-Play or similar travel crib for your room if needed.
- Mini fridge for the room if it doesn’t come with one. This is ideal if your child is drinking milk regularly or if you are pumping/ breastfeeding. We were able to request small cartons of milk from the buffet and keep them in our room when needed.
- Diapers, wipes and/or baby food in advance, if needed. Many ships do not readily keep these items on hand, but you can request them prior to cruising with a baby. We opted to bring everything on board with us since we were driving to the port.
- Be aware that most cruise lines do not have bath tubs or even sinks large enough to bathe a baby. We love this inflatable duck tub when traveling with a baby.
Related Post: Packing Tips for the Beach with a Baby
Upgrade to a Balcony or Suite when Cruising with a Toddler or Baby
After having a balcony on our first cruise, I don’t know if I can go without it in the future. (In fact, we booked a balcony room for a subsequent cruise as well.) Our son was going to bed around 7:30pm, with his bedtime routine starting at 7. The balcony was perfect for my husband and I to relax with a drink in hand at night. And it was great for early mornings with my son as well. Plus, you can’t beat the sunsets and port side views from a cruise balcony.
The rooms with a balcony are also larger, so they fit the pack-n-play without it taking up half the room. If a balcony is out of your price range, consider an outside room. They are typically larger than an interior room and have the needed space to fit a portable crib.
Don’t be Afraid to Eat in the Formal Dining Room on a Cruise with Young Children
To some people, the idea of eating with a baby in a formal setting is anything but enjoyable. We loved it, because the food in the Grandeur Great Gatsby dining room is SO good. Plus, the super attentive staff made the whole dining process easier. (Wrangling a baby or young toddler in a buffet line can be less than enjoyable!) After the first night, our initial requests were replicated without us even having to asks. The high chair was ready and our son’s fruit was on the table the minute we sat down. We were also able to request special items off the menu for our son with no issues.
Not up for formal dining with a baby or just need a break one night? Most cruise ships, including Royal Caribbean, offer in-room or nursery babysitting during dinnertime hours.
Bring Small Toys for the Cruise
You’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting by the pool, sitting at dinner, sitting at a show… you get the point. This doesn’t just apply to cruising, but we always have a small bag of toys with us that are suitable for either in the room, on-the-go or dinner time. Our favorite travel toys are these water coloring books and these stacking cups.
Fortunately for our son, even without the toys he probably still would have been entertained. He loves attention, and the number of people in one place talking to him and telling him how cute he was was basically heaven for him. Note: If you forget toys, check if your cruise ship has a toy loaner program available. Royal Caribbean often has toys available to rent out from their royal babies nursery as well.
Related Post: 10 Travel Toys for Babies & Toddlers for Under $10
Research Options for Cruise Excursions With a Baby or Toddler
We were happy to find that there were several options for excursions when we went on a cruise with our 13 month old. The cruise lines will often indicate age and weight minimums, which makes it easy to search. While we could not go snorkeling with our family, we were able to find a few excursions in Bermuda that accommodate babies. In addition to going to Horseshoe Bay, we were able to do a glass bottom boat cruise. Our son loved looking at the fish beneath the boat. We also felt that the water in Bermuda is calm enough to bring a baby on a boat ride.
Be sure to also check for holidays in advance. Our 24 hour cruise stop in Bermuda fell on a major holiday when we arrived. In Bermuda, this meant that taxis were more expensive and the Ferry shut down early. And it resulted in very long, unplanned ride by taxi van from Horseshoe Bay to the Naval Dockyard where our ship was docked. We’re typically sticklers for car seats, even when traveling in countries that don’t require one. In the future, I would definitely book a Royal Caribbean excursion to Horseshoe Bay from the Naval Dockyard in advance.
Enjoy the Ease of Traveling Without Having to Leave Your Room
This by far is my favorite thing about cruising. Let’s face it, our days of touring 5 cities in 5 days are over for the foreseeable future. Although we only stopped in one port on this trip, the best part about cruising is that you stay in the same room the entire time. That means you only have to unpack once and have the baby adjust a new bedroom once. And with travel typically taking place overnight, you can go to sleep in one city and wake up in a new one. All from the comfort of the cruise ship.
Have you been on a cruise little ones? I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any addition tips for cruising with a toddler or baby!
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