Image c/o Royal Caribbean
Are you considering a cruise with young kids? Do you picture a beautiful, serene vacation where everything is at your finger tips, in one contained place – where mom and dad can watch as their kids careen down ship-top waterslides? Or, do you imagine the sound of Caribbean bongos beating out the tunes of poolside dance games? Either way, whether you’re hoping for a relaxing cruise, or a jam-packed, playful trip, there are a few things to consider before clicking the “book” button:
Common questions about going on a cruise with toddlers:
- Is it safe for kids?
- Are the rooms big enough for families?
- Is it worth taking toddlers on a cruise ship?
- What’s the best family cruise line?
- Do you have any tips on cruising with kids?
The bottom line is, if you aren’t booking a Disney cruise (which is obviously targeted toward families and often offer childcare, activities etc), make sure you do your research (since you’re reading this blog post you’re already on the right track).
Since we haven’t cruised ourselves with kids (we’ve both cruised prior to having children), we enlisted the help of a guest blogger who recently embarked on a trip with her parents, husband and their two young sons (an infant and a four-year-old).
Here are some tips straight from the mouth of Alexis Lenihan.
(1) Make sure the cruise offers special kids programming.
Some cruise lines offer daily activities and events specifically for children, which will help keep them stimulated and happy. In some cases, you can even drop your kids off (age dependent) and get some alone time.
(2) Don’t rely on the pools as full-time stimulation.
If a cruise line offers spectacular pools that’s definitely a bonus. But, if you’re vacationing with young children, even if there’s a designated kiddie area, young children might get bored. Make sure there’s something else for them to do aside from swim or play poolside.
(3) Be aware of Sun Exposure!
You need to keep in mind that sun exposure is different on a ship than on land. There is usually a constant breeze on the ship as it sails so the temperature can be deceiving, and sunburns can sneak up on us quickly. A fun indoor activity can give the kids (and us!) a much needed break from the sun.
(4) Be Water Wise
If you are travelling with an infant, keep in mind that you cannot drink the water from the tap in your room (brushing your teeth is fine but you will need bottled water for drinking or mixing formula). Disposable bottle liners are a great option since they are sterilized — that way you don’t have to worry about washing bottles in unsafe water.
(5) Factor in Flight Times
When booking a cruise vacation, families need to remember that there’s usually a flight (pre and post) involved in the travel day. Before clicking that “book” button, make sure there are decent flight options that will work for your young family. Sometimes, you’ll need to book a hotel room near the cruise ship so that you can arrive early enough to board.
Alexis’s 5 bonus tips for an unforgettable family cruise experience:
1. Arrive the day before. Traveling with kids can be stressful in the best of circumstances so adding yet another deadline (trying to make it from a flight ot he ship) won’t help. If your budget allows it, arrive the night before and stay in a nearby hotel, especially if you need to take a flight to get to the port. This will give you a chance to prepare yourself for the embarkation, get your travel documents in order, repack your carry on and get a good night sleep so you can enjoy your first official cruise day. If you have no choice but to fly in the same day, find out if your cruiseline is partnered with any specific airlines. Most do, and this
can be helpful as they communicate with each other so if there is a delay, the airline will notify the ship and, if possible, hold it until all passengers arrive.
2. Pack your carry on properly. Be prepared for Embarkation (getting on the ship) which can be fairly quick, but, depending on the time (and luck) it can sometimes be a lengthy process. Be as organized as possible with all boarding documents. Have passports, confirmations, sail passes etc ready for all
individuals. You will receive all the information you need beforehand in the form of a checklist from the cruise line. Use it! Have everything grouped PER PERSON. Typically, they will check in each person individually. Don’t forget to pack snacks, water, a few novel toys/activities, and a stroller if you have younger children. It can take up to 2 hours if you arrive at rush hour and the kiddos
can get antsy just standing around.
It’s also wise to pack a swim suit and sunscreen for everyone in the family, in your carry on bag. Porters will take your luggage and deliver it to your room but this can take a few hours. You don’t want to be stuck waiting for your swimwear. On this note, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you’ll need for a few hours after check-in (like formula, extra diapers, training pants, a change of clothes)
We boarded at noon and didn’t get our bags until almost 6 pm.
3. Unpack as soon as you arrive. There is so much to do on a cruise for both adults and children, all day, every day, that you should be spending very little time in your room. For this reason, the rooms are quite small (unless you book a suite) but they do use the space efficiently. Once you get into your room and your luggage arrives, take a few minutes to unpack completely. From toiletries to clothing, use every drawer, shelf and ledge so that everything has
a secure spot and you have as much clear floor space as possible. That way, you can store all empty suitcases and bags under the bed and get them out of the way.
If you’ve got an extra set of hands (like hubby or grandparents) send them out with the kids to explore for half an hour so you can get the room organized.
4. Check out the Kid’s Club on Day One. You will most likely need to register your child for Kid’s Club activities. It is a first come, first serve basis and the spots do fill up quickly so make sure you visit them on Day One to register to avoid disappointment. I thought we would only use them here and there when we wanted some quiet time but our 4 year old insisted on going every morning after breakfast! He loved it! Every day was a different theme and was a combination of
active play, crafts and free play.
5. Walkie Talkies. This was one thing I wish I knew beforehand. When we are on vacation, I like to use this time to completely unplug and do away with our devices for the week, however, I have to admit that phones come in handy when you need to check in with your spouse or older children throughout the day. Internet packages can be very expensive to purchase on board ($30- $85 a day!) so many families brought walkie talkies.
Genius! They work great and are free! We did bring our tablet with us but just downloaded a few favourites shows on our Netflix app and kept it as a secret weapon for when we needed a bit of quiet time at the end of the day! Worked wonderfully and didn’t cost us thing!
Bonus: I highly recommend a good umbrella stroller for cruise ships but you’ll want one that is comfortable for your little one, but is compact when folded up so it does not take up too much space in the room.