Our family’s favourite way to holiday has become cruising. We find it such a relaxing, easygoing way to travel with kids. You avoid airports and unpacking at each destination. You have access to multiple dining options, and babysitting around the clock. The tropical locations we’ve chosen haven’t been half bad, either.
Of the 10 cruises my husband and I have taken, nine have been with our children.
Three of our four kids made their first voyage right after their first birthday (as the liner we chose only takes infants over 12 months). The other one cruised in-utero (pregnant women can only cruise up to 24 weeks gestation, it’s worth mentioning).
So we’ve done our share of cruise holidays with a baby. Only one of them has been a total disaster, because our daughter became violently sea sick and got us both kicked off the ship.
I’ve put together a few tips for cruising with your bub here:
1. Take a travel stroller
I only figured this one out on our most recent trip in December. Previously, I’ve tried squashing a regular-sized pram into the cabin, moving it around like I’m losing a game of Tetris where luggage, pram, port-a-cot and kids are the blocks. Cruise cabins are tiny. It’s part of the novelty to experience sea life in mini living space. But no one wants to negotiate a wall of stuff just to get to the loo every morning, or bash around trying to manoeuvre it all in the evening when you’re trying to put kids to sleep.
I got my travel stroller specifically with cabin space in mind, but its also came in very handy when boarding; we had to go through security and were asked to fold down the pram and send it through the X-ray conveyor.
In port I took three of the kids ashore myself and we had to use a tender boat to get to the shore, then a coach to tour the area. I could quickly fold down the pram and sit it in the bus with me, nursing my child on my lap.
Ships have very narrow corridors and common areas are often packed, so having a narrow pram was of benefit on board.
This pram was relatively inexpensive and definitely worth having during our trip. I loved the space-saving so much I’m now using it as an everyday pram. It takes up so little space in my boot, I can fit school bags/shopping/an extra kid easily.
2. Book an early dining reservation
The two companies we have cruised with, P & O and Princess, both have online customer portals where you can select your dining options prior to departure. We always choose to dine a la carte in the restaurant in the evenings, because buffets can be difficult when you’re outnumbered by children who can’t independently serve themselves meals, and who are tired.
We reserve a 5.30 booking at the restaurant so that the kids can swim in the afternoons, have an early shower, eat dinner with the family (we sometimes cruise with extended fam), then zoom off to kids club by about 7.00 for evening activities. This means baby isn’t over tired, and we can then decide to see an early show (usually there are two show times per evening, early and late).
3. Take Tupperware
Babies snack around the clock. So they kind of don’t fit into the scheduled dining on board a cruise. Some companies offer 24-hour dining, but this is often at an extra cost.
Cabins all have mini fridges in them. So I usually take some plastic tubs and store fruit and cheese from the buffet at breakfast each morning. Maybe a couple of bananas and a yoghurt tub or something. Just for when someone tiny gets the munchies.
4. Request a portacot as soon as you board
Soon after you board you’ll meet your cabin steward, who will give you the lowdown on everything from the safety muster (always fun with a squirmy baby!) to room service menu, to toilet blockage avoidance.
Make sure you request your cot as soon as you meet him, these guys get really busy on embarkation day and the last thing you want is an overtired bub with no bed come rest time.
5. Visit kids club
Even though babies aren’t able to be left in kids club, they’re welcome to attend with one adult to have a play. We loved taking turns with our bubbas in kids club, letting them stretch out and explore new toys and activities. You can pop in and say hi on the first day so you’re known to the lovely staff.
6. Baby led weaning at the buffet
Seriously. The buffet is a finger food baby/toddler dream. And a mum’s too. Think of it this way: no preparation! You can let your baby try all sorts of food in tiny quantities with little to no risk because you haven’t bought each item separately and/or in bulk. Things my babe ate this cruise: olives, feta, honeydew, Bircher muesli, about five varieties of cheese, croissants, corn on the cob, pasta, raw veggies galore. It was awesome.
7. Earplugs for everyone
Cabin walls are thin. You might have a screamer or a squealer. I always pack several packs of ear plugs. Not for me. In case a neighbourcomplains.
I’ve had a sick baby on a cruise and it was very unpleasant. I’m sure there was a lot of noise as we helped her, moved around furniture to clean up, and were in and out of the bathroom all night.
Our neighbours that time were too gracious to complain but I feel like maybe, in hindsight, I should have just made it rain ear plugs for the whole deck plus cabins below and above.
8. White noise machine FTW
Just as noise will come from your cabin, you’ll also hear every single noise outside it. If your baby is sensitive to loud noise, a white noise machine might be a great option. It just kind of blurs the sounds into one constant, relaxing, rain-on-the-window-pane noise.
(Noises may include; Country Music performance on main stage below your cabin, late night Karaoke in bar above your cabin, nudie-running drunk schoolies bolting past your cabin at 1am, captain’s announcements over loudspeakers in corridors).
Okay. That’s about it! If you’re still keen to cruise with your baby, I wish you a wonderful journey. We have found all of our cruises with tots to be most enjoyable, even the super eventful one in 2014.
As a final note, I know most families are looking for economical trips, so I’d love to recommend Cruise Sale Finder as the best agent to book through. We always find their fares way cheaper than through any other agent.
If you have already experienced cruising with a bub, please drop me a comment below with your top tip!