Are you looking for the best cruises for babies and toddlers? We are fortunate to have gone on cruises with both our kids when they are babies and toddlers on a variety of lines. In this guide we will compare the best ships and cruise lines for toddlers and babies, to help you decide what is the right cruise for you!
Questions to ask before you cruise with a baby or toddler
But before we get onto the best cruise line and ships for toddlers and babies, there are some questions you should ask yourself before you take your first family cruise to ensure that this is the right holiday for you!
Is there a minimum age for cruising with a baby?
There is absolutely a minimum age for cruising with babies but it depends on the cruise line and itinerary as to what the minimum age for cruising with a baby.
Generally speaking however on most cruise lines the minimum age for cruising is 6 months. However you will need to select your itinerary carefully as if the itinerary contains two or more consecutive cruise sea days (i.e. days where you don’t dock in port), the minimum age is 1 years old. Therefore if you want to do a cruise with lots of consecutive sea days you will need to wait for your baby to become a toddler.
Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you!
Do you have to pay for taking a baby on a cruise ship?
The truth is babies are not usually free on cruise ships which surprises many people. However there are two notably exceptions to this rule:
- MSC and
- Cunard Cruise Line
These lines will often offer free sailings for children under 2 – though sometimes you can find deals with free sailings for under 11s. However on Cunard you may have to pay the gratuities (Tips) for each day your infant is on board.
Therefore if budget is a key component to your decision making in taking a baby friendly cruise it is worth considering these two lines first.
For more information on costs of taking a baby on a cruise ship check out this post.
Are cruises safe for babies and toddlers?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked by first time cruise families is “are cruises safe for babies and toddlers?”.
And I would say generally they are providing that you are sensible and keep an eye on your children. particularly toddlers, at all times. For more information on keeping toddlers safe on cruises check out this post.
Is your child potty trained?
This is a big one for those cruising with babies and toddlers as it can really affect your enjoyment on the on ship amenities such as the pool.
Maritime Law states that unpotty trained babies and toddlers can NOT use the swimming pool on board cruise ships. This comes as a surprise to those cruising with babies and toddlers for the first time and can be disappointing if you find this out on board. So you may want to consider this before you book your first cruise.
However, there is one way in which some lines have got around this rule and are able to provide water based fun for the youngest children and that is through the addition of splash pads / splash pools. But these are not present on all ships on every cruise line. Therefore if having access to pools and water play on your cruise is important to your family you will need to select your cruise ship carefully.
So know you now some of the questions you should ask before you book, we will look first at the best cruise lines for babies and toddlers, before we look at specific ship guidance.
Do cruises offer kids clubs for toddlers? Is there babysitting on board for babies?
If having childcare on the cruise line is a key component for you when cruising with a baby you will need to choose your cruise line carefully.
Many lines will have minimum ages to use kids club and potty training requirements.
One of the few lines that does offer babysitting for babies is MSC and Cunard. On some ships they one hour babysitting however they usually have to be aged 12 months to use. Be sure to check with the line and ship before booking if is this important to you.
Other lines will offer stay and play sessions for parents traveling with babies but this is worth checking especially since COVID as this has curtailed some kids activities.
What is the best cruise line for babies and toddlers?
There are lots of cruise lines out there including some boutique, luxury and adults only cruise lines. In this guide we only be examining the main family friendly cruise lines which are:
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Disney Cruise Line
- Holland America Cruise Line
- MSC Cruise Line
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- P &O
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Carnival Cruises with babies and toddlers
Carnival is known for being one of the more budget cruise lines and also can have a reputation for having a few more party ships in its fleet? But are carnival cruises good for babies and toddlers?
We took a Carnival cruise as a family with four toddlers and a baby and have to say we actually found it great for little ones.
One of the things we love about Carnival is that there is baby care on all of Carnival ships. Between the age of 6 months to 1 year Carnival provides the Turtle club which provides age specific activities run by child care experts. Little ones will also enjoy the Seuss at Sea theme with Dr Seuss meet and greets and special activities such as story time.
However while Carnival has some splash pads called Waterworks, this is only accessible for those with potty trained children.
Disney Cruises with babies and toddlers
When you think about family friendly cruise lines the line that springs most to mind is Disney. Now apart from the general Disney magic and meet and greets, there are lots of baby and toddler focused facilities.
For instance Disney actually provides complimentary baby gear for those cruising with babies or toddlers such as bottle warmers, pack n plays, cribs, sterilisers and diaper disposal bins. This is very handy especially if you plan on flying to meet your cruise as it reduces the amount of stuff you need to pack for babies.
Also unlike many cruise lines too, Disney provides babysitting and childcare service even for the youngest cruisers meaning parents can actually have a night out on their own.
Childcare for babies and toddlers is provided in their amazing It’s a Small World Nursery and caters for cruisers aged 6 months to 3 years. Please note: there is an additional fee for babysitting and childcare for babies and toddlers.
And if you are cruising in the Caribbean, as opposed to Alaska or cold weather destination, you will be pleased to hear that there are splash pads and water play areas that even unpotty trained children can use.
Holland America with babies and toddlers
When we did our round the world trip with our toddler, we did a leg of our journey (from New Zealand to Hawaii) on a Holland America cruise ship.
Now Holland America is generally regarded as a more high end cruise line that appeals to older cruises so what is it like cruising with a little one?
Well the first thing to know about Holland America, is that is only provides a kids club for children between the ages of 3 and 17. Therefore you won’t have access to kids club facilities if you are cruising with a toddler or baby. Also no Holland America ship has a splash pad so you won’t have access to any water facilities on a Holland America ship.
Therefore, although we like Holland America with older kids, it is probably not the best line for those sailing with babies and toddlers.
MSC With Babies and toddlers
If you are looking for a cheaper cruise with a baby or toddler, then MSC may be the best line for you as under 2s sail free. But on top of this MSC has some great baby and toddler orientated facilities such as amazing family cabins, Chicco Baby toys and perhaps my favorite thing, a dedicated bay laundry service. This guarantees that baby laundry is done separately with special detergent.
Also all MSC ships have a Baby Club for those between the ages of 0-3 which has age appropriate activities. Also children can be left or parents can attend meaning you can do whatever you feel most comfortable as as a family.
On top of this certain ships within the fleet have splash Pad though anecdotally, the use of them with swim diapers is varied.
However overall I think MSC is one of the best lines for babies and toddlers.
Norwegian Cruise Line with toddlers and babies
Norwegian Cruise Line has a reputation for being kid friendly largely due to its freestyle concept. This freestyle concept means there are no fixed tables, or dining times which provides ultimate flexibility for families. But what other facilities for they have for toddlers and babies?
While most Norwegian cruise ships will have baby and toddler activities that parents need to supervise from 6 months to 3 years, it isn’t until toddlers are 3. And if you have a 3 year old who is not yet potty trained you must be within a 15 minute pager of the club as you will be required to come back and change your little one.
For a full review of how kid friendly Norwegian Cruise Line is check out this post.
Princess Cruise Line
Princess cruise line is another more upmarket cruise line that people don’t typically associate with families. However having being on a princess cruise with our baby I can say that we found it to be surprisingly baby friendly.
Although the kids club on Princess is only for children 4 years and older. However children under 4 can use facilities supervised.
Also while the majority of Princess cruise ships don’t have splash pads, the new Caribbean Princess has a splash pad for children of all ages to use.
P&O offer a number of family cabins onboard their ships but as well as that there are plenty of special facilities that kids will love. For instance, every night P&O hosts a special kids tea, which includes children’s favorite food and baby food for those traveling with babies.
And while the supervised kids club is for children aged 4 and over, there is a night nursery for children aged under 4 years which runs from 6pm to 2am which allows parents to get some alone time.
Royal Caribbean with toddlers and babies
Royal Caribbean was the first cruise line we went on with our baby and I have to say we loved our experience. We found the staff very accommodating. And while Royal Caribbean does not offer in-room babysitting on any of its ships, it does offer nursery babysitting for children aged 6 months to 36 months.
Also, depending on what class of ship, and ship itself, you are sailing on determines whether or not there is a splash pad available.
So how do we rank the cruise lines for babies and toddlers?
Best Cruise Lines for Babies and Toddlers Ranked
- Disney Cruise Line
- Royal Caribbean
- Carnival Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Princess Cruise Line
- Holland America Line
We would love you to tell us your favorite cruise line for toddlers in the comments below.
Best Cruise Ships for Babies and Toddlers
So now you know are favorite cruise lines we will turn our attention to the best cruise ships for babies and toddlers
Best Carnival Cruise Ship for Toddlers
Generally speaking all of the carnival cruise ships have very similar amenities for toddlers and babies. The reason for this is that they all provide the same baby care facilities and on all their ships their splash pads are only for use by potty trained children.
Best Disney Cruise Ship
As you would expect from such a family orientated line as Disney all the ships are great for little ones.
Therefore if you decide to cruise with Disney Cruise Line, you will have a great time no matter which ship (Disney Wish, Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder and Disney Treasure) you choose to sail on.
Best Holland America Ships for Babies and toddlers
Due to the lack of toddler and babies focussed amenities on the Holland America ships, we recommend cruising Holland America with older kids. But if you do decide to cruise them with a toddler or baby you will find the facilities on all their ships are much the same.
Best MSC Ships for small children
MSC is one of my favorite lines for cruising with toddlers and babies and you really can’t go wrong with whatever ship you go on. However some of the best ships in the fleet include:
- MSC Seascape
- MSC Grandiosa and
- MSC Meraviglia.
Best Norwegian cruise ship for babies and toddlers
Although all Norwegian cruise ships offer freestyle dining, we recommend cruising on one of the newer ships if you are cruising with toddlers and babies as they offer Guppies play sessions and some splash parks. These include Breakaway and Breakaway Plus Class as well as the new Prima Class Ships.
Best Ships on Princess Cruises for toddlers and babies
Princess Cruises aren’t renowned for being the most family friendly. However the new Caribbean Princess has a a splash pad. Therefore if you are cruising with a toddler or baby this is the ship I would select.
Best P&O ships for little ones
When you are selecting the best P&O cruise ship for your family, first you will need to make sure you pick a family friendly rather than an adults only ship that P&O runs.
Of the family friendly ships one of the best in the fleet is the Arvia. This is one of the newest ships in the fleet. We also love”
Best Royal Caribbean ships for toddlers and babies
Royal Caribbean have loads of ships that are great for those cruising with toddlers and babies. But overall some of our favourites are:
- Oasis Class Ships – Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Symphony of the seas. These ships have Royal Babies & Tots Nursery which cater for children 6 months to 36 months and the Splashaway Bay water park which children in swim diapers can use.
- Quantum Class Ships – Odyssey, Ovation and Quantum of the Seas all have the Royal Babies & Tots Nurser and the Splashaway Bay water park for unpotty trained children.
FAQs About selecting the best cruise for babies and toddlers
What should I pack for a baby on a cruise
If you are cruising with a baby be sure to check out our dedicated baby cruise packing list!
Baby friendly cruises visiting private islands
If you are travelling to the Caribbean consider if your cruise goes to a private island or if you will have to pay to visit beaches and resorts. It might be more cost effective to pick a cruise which stops at its own island.