10 Tips for Cruising with a Toddler or Baby

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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.

Cruising with a Toddler or Baby Toddling Traveler

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Check if the Cruise Ship Has a Splash Pad 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. That said, 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 as well as all Disney Cruise ships do have splash pads.)

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.

Playing by the Pool on a Cruise with a Baby Toddling Traveler

Pack Snacks 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, many cruise ships have policies against bringing outside food and drinks. They do make exceptions, however, for young children as well as any sealed snacks. Just be sure to include these in your carry-on as they can be confiscated if they’re in your checked bags.

Bring an Umbrella Strollers and/or Baby Carrier

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.

Bring a Stroller on a Cruise with a Baby or Young Toddler Toddling Traveler

Take Advantage of the On-site Nursery Services and Kids Programs

Most family-friendly cruise ships offer a nursery for children under 3 and a kids club for children ages 3 and older. Typically, there is a fee for babies and young toddlers under 3 to use the nursery given the extra care needed with that age group.

We took our son to the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery for 2 days for an hour or so each while we were there.  I felt a little guilty dropping him off during a family vacation, but it gave him time to roam around in a clean space with lots of toys and kids his age. We also had some time to relax without worrying what our wild child was getting into.

Note: Some cruise ships require you to book nursery services in advance. 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.
Cruising with a Toddler Royal Caribbean Daycare Toddling Traveler

Request Items You Need in Advance

When packing for a cruise with babies or toddlers, it’s important to avoid overpacking given the limited amount of space in your room. Fortunately, there are a few items you can request from cruise ships in advance of your trip. Here are a few things to consider pre-requesting when cruising with a baby:

  • Pack-n-Play or similar travel crib for your room.
  • 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. On most ships, you can also request small cartons of milk from the buffet to keep in your room.
  • 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

Cruise with a Baby Toddling Traveler

Upgrade to a Balcony or Suite

After having a balcony on our first cruise with a baby, 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.) With babies and toddlers typically having earlier bedtimes, the balcony is the perfect place to relax at the end of the night without being stuck indoors. It’s also great for early mornings if you have younger kids that wake up earlier than the rest of the family. 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.

Sunset on Bermuda Cruise Toddling Traveler

Eat in the Formal Dining Rooms for Dinner

To some people, the idea of eating with a baby in a formal setting is anything but enjoyable.  We loved it since the food was so good, and 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 Your 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. Like most young toddlers loves the 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

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.

Bermuda Cruise Excursions with a Baby Toddling Traveler

Enjoy the Ease of Traveling Without Leaving Your Room

This by far is my favorite thing about cruising with kids or without.  Let’s face it, our days of touring 5 cities in 5 days are over for the foreseeable future. Even if you only have one stop on your cruise, 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. With the ship typically traveling overnight, you can also go to sleep in one city and wake up in a new one. All from the comfort of the cruise ship!

Cruise with Toddler Toddling Traveler

Have you been on a cruise with young kids? I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any additional tips for cruising with a toddler or baby!

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Cruise with a Baby Tips Toddling Traveler
Cruising with a Baby Tips Toddling Traveler

7 thoughts on “10 Tips for Cruising with a Toddler or Baby”

  1. Pingback: Intro to Traveling with a Baby: 5 Things to Keep in Mind – Toddling Traveler
  2. Pingback: 24 Hours in Bermuda for Little Kids – Toddling Traveler
  3. Pingback: Intro to Traveling with a Baby: 5 Things to Keep in Mind - Toddling Traveler
    • We actually didn’t bring a car seat to Bermuda. The glass bottom boat excursion left right from Royal Dockyard and most of the beach trips through the cruise ship we’re in large buses.

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