Thinking about cruising with a toddler? Worried about if cruises are good for toddlers? In this guide we round up all our top tips for cruising with a toddler from our extensive experience of cruising Japan, South Pacific, the Med and the Caribbean with a toddler.
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Tips for cruising with a toddler
When we first considered taking a cruise with a toddler we had lots of questions about whether cruises were safe for toddlers and what are the best lines and ships to cruise on. However we found very little information from parents who had actually taken a cruise with toddlers.
In this guide we will round up our top tips for cruising with a toddler from our personal experience of spending over 100 days on cruises with our toddler.
Can toddlers go on cruises?
So probably the first question you have about taking your first cruise with toddler is “Can toddlers go on cruises?”.
But before we go on to discuss cruising with a toddler probably the most important thing to talk about first is “Can toddlers go on cruises?”
The truth is that on the vast majority of cruises, toddlers can indeed go on cruises. While cruising with a baby can be quite restrictive in terms of itineraries as you can’t go on cruises with too many consecutive sea days, this restrictions does not apply to children aged 1 and over on cruises.
The only restrictions on toddlers going on cruises is if the line or ship you are looking at are adults only.
Cruise lines that are adults only and don’t allow toddlers are:
- Virgin Voyages
- Viking Cruise Lines
However other ships within fleets may be adults only and there are usually some areas of ships i.e. adults only pool and casinos where toddlers will not be allowed to go.
Is it safe to take a toddler on a cruise?
What is the best toddler cruise line?
Possibly the biggest factor that will determine how much you will enjoy a cruise with a toddler is the line you select.
There are some cruise lines that have more of a reputation for being toddler friendly than others and there are a lot of cases to be made for which is the best cruise lines for toddlers.
- Royal Caribbean Line,
- Carnival and
all have a great reputation for toddler friendliness.
Things to consider when you are looking for both a toddler friendly cruise line and toddler friendly ship are the facilities that your toddler will be able to use.
Facilities that you may want to look out for include:
- splash pads and pools
- kids clubs
On top of that as a parent I like to be on a ship with a laundry just in case of accidents and spills.
Disney perhaps has the most toddler friendly cruise ships in their fleet as they are geared particularly at the family audience! If there are any cruise for toddlers I would say this is it!
The great things about Disney are they have splash pools so that even potty untrained children can use the facilities, they have shows and experiences aimed at the toddler audience and you will be surrounded by other families!
And of course – plenty of Disney character interactions! However the only downside to this line are that they are pretty much one of the most expensive cruises out there! Disney never comes cheap.
For more information on taking a Disney Cruises with toddlers check out this post.
Another one of our other favourite cruise lines with toddlers is Norwegian. We love that Norwegian has the whole flexible dining options as this means you can adapt to your toddlers schedule and what you have done in port that day. We find having options for some flexibility helps a lot when taking toddlers on a cruise!
Having said this we have also have cruised with a range of lines including Holland America – a line that is most commonly associated with an older demographic. We really enjoyed our cruise because the itinerary we did with them was so interesting however they are not the most toddler friendly cruises in terms of the amenities for toddlers.
This didn’t bother us as we were using the ship as mode of transport more than as the destination in itself however in other circumstances this might not make the best cruise for toddlers.
It is also worth checking what lines offer discounted or free cruise sailings for infants on toddlers as this can be a huge difference to your cruise budget.
Overall, when thinking about is the best toddler cruise line I think is important to assess what is important to your family – Children’s facilities versus itinerary etc and make the decision based on your family needs. No family is the same so just think about what you want!
What is the best cruise ships for toddlers?
Again, as with the question what is the best cruise line for toddlers, answering what are the best cruise ships for toddlers is another difficult question as it depends so much on what you are looking for in a ship.
The lines I have mentioned as being toddler friendly are all worth considering but I would urge you to look at the details of the specific cruise ship you are booking on.
It is worth noting that ships within a line can vary – bigger ships have more people but also more facilities so it is worth comparing and working out the type of atmosphere you would enjoy most.
Another thing to consider when looking at the best ship is the age of the ship and date of refurbishment as this can also play an important role in family friendliness.
Are toddlers allowed in cruise ship pools?
Whether or not a toddler can use a cruise ship pool will depend on whether your toddler is potty trained and if they aren’t whether or not the ship you are on has a splash pad which has different rules to the pool.
Many people are surprised to find out that toddlers and babies can’t use a cruise ship pool. That is because it is against Maritime Law for unpotty trained babies and toddlers to use swimming pools on board cruise ships.
However splash pads tend to have different rules and allow babies and toddlers in swim diapers to use.
Cruise ships that have splash pads include:
- Allure of the Seas.
- Anthem of the Seas
- Freedom of the Seas
- Harmony of the Seas
- Independence of the Seas
- Liberty of the Seas
- Oasis of the Seas.
- Odyssey of the Seas
- Symphony of the Seas
- Wonder of the Seas
It can be difficult if you select a cruise ship without a splash pad to explain to your toddler that they can’t use the pool.
My advice is to either wait until after your toddler is potty trained to cruise or ensure you cruise on a ship with a splash pad designed for very young children.
Alternatively if want to take your toddler cruising before they are potty trained you could consider picking an itinerary with fewer sea days and perhaps a more beach based or active port day based holiday, then you won’t miss using the pool so much!
Note: As always with anything cruise related it is always best to talk to the cruise line directly before booking to ensure the rules are up to date as regulations for cruise ships change quickly and regularly.
How to pick the best itinerary for cruising with toddlers
All cruise itineraries are good but some are better than others when you are thinking about cruising with toddlers.
My advice for picking an itinerary with a toddler is to think about what sort of activities your family enjoys doing and select ports that align with that.
For instance if you and your family enjoy beach time then a Mediterranean cruise or a Caribbean Cruise may suit you more than say a Baltic cruise.
Or maybe your family loves a theme park? In which case you might want to select a cruise that goes to Florida and its many theme parks.
Another consideration when selecting your itinerary is sea days. When we cruised as a couple we loved a sea day as it was a change for some downtime and relaxation. However if you are traveling with a toddler you may be concerned about how to entertain your child on them. It will be more important to pick a ship with lots of toddler friendly amenities if there are lots of sea days.
For more consideration on how to pick a toddler friendly itinerary check this post out!
Can toddlers attend the cruise kids’ clubs?
Whether or not a toddler can attend a kids club on a cruise will depend on their age. Usually on cruises children need to be aged 3 and over to use the kids club.
There are a select few ships which have kids clubs that toddlers can use. P&O, Cunard and Carnival has some for instance.
If this is important to you we recommend researching which ships have young age limits for kids clubs.
However even if your ship does not allow two year olds in cruise kids club they may have hours where parents may take their toddlers to go and use the facilities supervised.
Do cruise ships offer babysitting for toddlers?
The availability of babysitting on cruise ships really varies from line to line and ship to ship.
Also depending on the line will affect whether babysitting services are free or an additional charge.
For instance P & O offers a free night nursery on some ships so parents can have an adults dinner. However this is done on a first come first serve basis so be sure to book this very early in your vacation to avoid disappointment.
Cunard also offers a complementary night nursery for under twos while Carnival offers babysitting at an additional fee.
Use a variety of dining options
When we first went on a cruise ship we thought we would end up using the buffet for most of our dinners. However once we got on the ship we found the constant movement in the buffet confused my toddler who just wanted to get up.
We found that the main dining room was great with a toddler as it had more structure. We also ask for a fixed table as this way your waiter gets to know you and prepares your table ready for your toddler to eat quickly.
Best Cruise Cabin for Toddlers
It is always a dilemma choosing the type of cabin on a cruise line but I think this dilemma is amplied when cruising with a toddler. In this section fo the guide I round up all our info on cabin cruise toddler tips to help you with your booking decision.
In truth all cabins are acceptable but travelling with a toddler you may want to consider whether you are happy with a balcony? Having walking toddlers and a balcony may fill you with dread – if so maybe an ocean view cabin is better for you!
However if you travelling with a toddler you might want to have a balcony so you and your partner have somewhere to sit on those inevitable early nights! It really just depends on what you feel comfortable as as a parent.
If you can afford it I wouldn’t choose an indoor cabin with a toddler as my toddler tends to stick to her bedtime routine as we travel and cabins are small so it can be hard to watch something in the evening or talk. The balcony cabins being that bit bigger and having outdoor space does give parents more evening options!
For more information on room types check out our post here
And if you want to know more about cruise suites you can see our review here!
What to pack for a cruise with a toddler
Now that hopefully I have helped you book your toddler friendly cruise, what should you pack for a cruise with a toddler?
We have a full toddler cruise packing list here but some of the things that I would like to draw your attention to here are the following essentials.
Wherever you travel – it doesn’t matter if you are doing Baltic Cruise, a Caribbean Cruise with a toddler or an Alaska or Hawaii Cruise with a toddler – the nights at sea and air con on the cruise ship can get cold so layers are a key to pack! I always have little cardigans and jumpers at hand even on warm nights just in case!
Remember a cute outfit for your little for those important formal night photos.
Inflatable Swimming Pool
If your line doesn’t allow toddlers in the swimming pool this will be a godsend if you have a balcony. Also doubles up as a bath if your room doesn’t have a bath!
We usually go for low irritation toys that can be used outside the stateroom such as colouring, sticker books and jigsaws!
Umbrella Stroller or compact stroller
Space is a premium on cruise ships so make sure your stroller is compact.
For a full guide on what the best stroller for cruise travel is click here!
Though sometimes available it is best to take a good supply with you and stock up in port. And be sure not to forget swim diapers if your ship has a splash pad.
For more general toddler travel tips check out this post!
If you are cruising with a baby or toddler be sure to check out our dedicated baby cruise packing list!
Should I take a car seat on a cruise?
Whether or not you should take a car seat on a cruise will largely depend on what type of excursions you usually take. If you plan to take any excursions by car this is going to be necessary unless your private tour operator can supply these.
However you will also need to consider the size of the car seat. Staterooms on cruise ships are small so having a more compact car seat to reduce the space it takes up in your room.
You can read about our favourite car seats for toddler travel here!
Is a cruise with toddler a good holiday?
So overall are cruises a good holiday with toddlers? As I mentioned above toddlers can go on the majority of cruises once they have reached the age of one year. And while we think some cruise destinations are better than others with toddlers, we think the combination of accommodation, child clubs and babysitting and cruise facilities make cruises a great great vacation for toddlers.
In our opinion they absolutely are especially if you follow our tips.
However if you have a questions that hasn’t been covered just drop us a comment below and we will do out best to answer.
What to Read Next!
- Tips for Cruising with A Baby
- First Time Cruise Tips
- Cruise Cabin Guide for Families
- What to do on Sea Days?
- Are Suites on Cruises Worth the Money?
- How to Find a family friendly itinerary
- A Guide to Italian Cruise Posts