Many parents with young children are strongly considering traveling via cruise for their next major vacation. While some of the major cruise lines are definitely equipped to accommodate young children, we are going to go through the top questions that parents with young children are wondering when considering cruising with toddlers.
From bringing strollers on board to the best port excursion advice, we will be covering all the popularly questioned topics regarding cruising with toddlers, so stick around!
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Anyone who has tried cruising with toddlers before definitely knows how overwhelming it can be. No one enjoys toddlers fidgeting on flights, struggling to cope with new bedtime routines, and refusing to eat a variety of different foods than they are used to.
For those reasons and more, you may be hesitant to cruising with toddlers that may act a little more unpredictably than desired.
But in all reality, bringing a cruising with toddlers is far easier and more enjoyable than you could ever expect. After sailing with your young kids for the first time, we definitely will not be surprised if you start a new yearly tradition of family cruising!
What are the best cruise lines for young families?
While cruising with toddlers can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience with your family, it can quickly become a nightmare if you do not choose an appropriate cruise line to travel with.
Thus, we recommend traveling with one of the major five cruise lines. While Disney Cruise Line does the whole family cruising thing the best (duh, it's Disney!), Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean International offer spectacular amenities for even the smallest of passengers.
All of these cruise lines offer immersive care facilities where your young ones will have a blast! Just drop off your kid and head off to the spa to rejuvenate during a day at sea. Both you and your young ones will have loads of fun with the other activities offered on board as well! Most of these cruise lines have ships that boast a colorful, interactive splash pool on the top deck of the ship.
Also, you will not have to worry about irritating other passengers as many of them will also bring along their children. All your meals will be a blast as these major four cruise lines offer booster seats and high-chairs for your children to enjoy their meals.
And if by chance there is a major meltdown in the restaurant, the servers are more than okay with you having to head back to your stateroom to soothe your upset child.
How old should your child be?
Typically, cruise lines require infants to be at least 6 months old.
I mean, let's face it, you probably do not want to bring your tiny newborn out on a cruise ship anyway!
Cruise lines typically offer daycare facilities and clubs for kids for you to drop off your children if you want to have some alone time doing adult activities.
It is important to note that if you are planning a transpacific, transatlantic, or a cruise with three or more days at sea in a row (and some South American cruises) your children must be at least 12 months old. With these guidelines, cruising with toddlers should be a blast!
What are the best cruises to book for young children?
It goes without saying, but some cruise itineraries are better for toddlers than others.
Cruises with departure ports close to your home are the best bet. Toddlers are notorious for not enjoying flights, so if you could drive to the cruise departure city, you will be saving yourself from a huge headache.
If you do not live near one of the offered departure ports, maybe break up your travel and spend an extra day or two in the city you are sailing from. Plus, you can stock up on snacks, sunscreen, and diapers for your vacation!
What itineraries are best for cruising with toddlers?
Shorter cruises will also be a blessing when considering your ideal cruise itinerary with your young children. If this is your first time cruising with toddlers, you definitely should look for shorter itineraries between 3 and 4 nights to see how your young one does on the water.
If your toddler has already successfully completed a cruise, go ahead and opt-in for a longer itinerary between 7 and 10 days. We recommend booking a cruise with a lot of ports included with a few days at sea in a row to avoid uncomfortable seasickness.
Watch out for cruise itineraries offering family-friendly destinations as well. While most ports offer fun and exhilarating shore excursions, some are more geared towards families than others.
For example, your kids may not enjoy a historic tour of some South American city as much as they would love a day climbing a jungle gym in the ocean of a Caribbean island. Make sure to browse the cruise itineraries you are looking at before deciding on which cruise lines are best for cruising with toddlers.
What is the best stateroom to book for young kids?
The type of cruise stateroom you book for your family highly depends on what you want to prioritize.
If you are worried about not having enough room to breathe with all the kid stuff jammed into a room, we highly recommend opting for a balcony room.
On the other hand, if your toddler is new to cruising, you might want to opt for a room located mid-ship where there is less motion to reduce the likelihood of developing seasickness.
Ultimately, you are going to need to research and find out what the best stateroom location will be for your unique family dynamic to have a great time cruising with toddlers.
What about formal night when cruising with toddlers?
While some cruisers dread formal night (especially if traveling with young kids), we suggest that you and your family fully embrace the fun experience.
Formal nights is a fantastic opportunity to get dressed up and pose for a professional family photo while your toddlers are still little.
You do not need to worry about purchasing ballroom gowns and tuxedos for the whole family either. Most major cruise lines allow a wide range of cruise attire on formal nights and want everyone to have fun!
Are cruises fun for young children?
Definitely! Cruises are not only fun for infants and toddlers, but amazing for kids of all ages.
Kids younger than the age of three will typically have access to the ship's playroom where they will enjoy playing with educational toys and interacting with other young passengers around their age.
If your toddler is not quite potty trained, do not worry, you can still accompany your young one to Toddler Time where you can enjoy a fun experience with your child. Depending on the cruise line, you may also be given the opportunity to check out certain toys and books to bring back to your stateroom!
Kids over the age of 3 and are potty-trained can typically be fully immersed in the onboard kids club experience. For example, Celebrity Cruises offers a Camp at Sea which offers activities for kids from STEM-oriented excursions to culinary experiences to art programs from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Many cruise lines also offer late-night or overnight accommodations for children if parents want to enjoy a romantic dinner or just a couple of hours off the clock. There are also a variety of babysitting services available at sea for travelers typically staying in suites.
Does my kid need to be potty-trained?
While it is not necessary for your toddler to be potty-trained to get on a cruise ship, we highly suggest potty-training your kid before your vacation.
Why, you ask? Your young one will not be able to ride virtually any of the slides or pools onboard. Plus, many of the kid clubs onboard the major cruise lines require children to be potty-trained to stay during the day.
While you may have thought you could just pack swim diapers, cruise lines do not allow kids with any type of diaper or pull-up to enjoy their swimming facilities.
Can I bring a stroller onboard?
Of course you can! We suggest bringing a smaller, umbrella style one because you will be required to keep it in your stateroom onboard. If you are planning on going out at night, you will most likely be able to store the stroller at the onboard nursery.
If you are bringing a younger infant, we suggest packing some sort of baby-wearing device so you do not have to wait forever to catch a ride on one of the ship's elevators.
Should I bring a Pack-n-Play?
You will definitely want a clean, familiar place to have your toddler stay when onboard your cruise.
Thus, we suggest packing your own Pack-n-Play for your young one to enjoy and sleep comfortably on your cruise adventure. If you forget, do not worry, many cruise lines will provide you with a pack n play once you get on board if you request it.
What else should I make sure to pack?
While cruising is an easy vacation to bring your kiddos on, there is still plenty for you to know about cruising with toddlers to make the cruise adventure go even smoother. One of the best ways to prepare is knowing exactly what to pack when cruising with babies, toddlers, and other young children.
While you will definitely need to personalize what you bring on your cruise for your child, we have outlined the top 7 items that you should definitely not forget when cruising with toddlers.
- Night Light -- You will save yourself from countless worries and headaches at bedtime if you pack a night light for little ones who are scared of the dark. This simple item can make your child feel safe. If you have a favorite night light from home, make sure to pack it in your suitcase for your cruise. Otherwise, we suggest investing in a battery-operated light because of the short supply of outlets found in cruise cabins.
- Sippy Cups -- We recommend that every passenger on a cruise ship packs a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated at sea. However, we completely understand that young children typically cannot handle a full-size water bottle. Thus, opt into bringing your child's favorite sippy cups onboard. We like Chicco Insulated Sippy Cups which feature cute, ocean-themed designs.
- Beach Toys -- If you have any stops in a tropical port that boasts sandy beaches, you will definitely want to pack beach toys for your cruise. Most toddlers and young kids love the beach, and your day in the Caribbean will be 10x better with this great entertainment option. Bring a set of toys that come in a carrying bag for easy transport or invest in pool noodles and inflatable balls that will pack flat in your luggage.
- Sunscreen -- It goes without saying that you need to protect your toddler's skin from the intense sun while on vacation. No one will be happy when your toddler burns their skin on day one and is grumpy for the rest of the trip. Try to pack some sun protectant with a high SPF that is easy to apply to fidgeting kids. We like this Spray Babyganics Sunscreen that includes safe ingredients that your kid's skin will love.
- Umbrella Stroller -- As we stated earlier, you are not going to want to forget this essential item on your cruise. Do not even think of dumping your cash into a fancy jogging stroller for your vacation. If you opt for these expensive options, your toddler will be walking with you everywhere while in port. Bring a stroller that is collapsible and won't take up a bunch of room in your cabin. It also helps if the umbrella stroller you pick out reclines. We found an affordable option on Amazon by Summer Infant if you are interested here.
- Children's Medicine -- While cruise ship pharmacies may have all you would need if your child got sick, medicine found onboard will come at a steep price and is frequently in short supply. Thus, we recommend bringing your go-to non-liquid medicines in case your young ones get sick on vacation. Make sure to pack your own first-aid kit with kid's ibuprofen, powdered Pedialyte, adhesive bandages, and antiseptic wipes.
- Inflatable Tub -- Not all babies enjoy being rinsed off with a showerhead, so we recommend packing an inflatable tub for your young one to enjoy a playful bath. An inflatable path is not only easy to pack, but it also doubles as a kiddie pool if your kid is not quite qualified to swim in the public pools onboard. We love the yellow ducky tub that kids love and packs nicely into any luggage you bring on your cruise.
We hope this guide answers all your questions as you prepare for your first cruise with your young ones!
If you have any further questions about cruising with toddlers or other cruising topics, feel free to contact us or join this fabulous Facebook group dedicated to aiding parents on their cruise vacations with children.