Considering taking a cruise with a baby? In this guide we will round up the top tips for cruising with a baby including everything from cruise line baby policies, which cruise lines and ships are best for cruising with infants and of course what to pack for a cruise with baby in tow.
Updated: November 2019 First Published: January 2017
When we first considered going on a cruise with a baby the first article I saw extolled that cruises were not a baby friendly holiday and I suddenly worried that we were planning the wrong first vacation with our baby. However based on experiences from cruising as a couple and with our extended family we decided to plough ahead with our plan and we are so glad we did but there are definitely things you need to know before cruising with a baby. Here are our top tips for cruising with a baby.
Top Tips for Cruising with a baby
At What Age Can you Cruise with a Baby?
The first thing you will be wondering when considering your first cruise holiday with a baby is at what age can you cruise with a baby. The general rule of thumb is that you can cruise with a baby from a minimum age of 6 months however there are exceptions to this rule.
Firstly if you are looking at an itinerary that has more than two consecutive sea days you may find that the minimum age for sailing is higher. Secondly if you are considering a more exotic destination than say the Med or the Carribbean you may find that the minimum age is again raised. Not to mention that some ships or particular sailings may be adult only.
So while most cruise lines and itineraries will let you cruise with baby from 6 months old it is always worth checking before booking.
Next Read: Considering taking a babymoon cruise? Read our top cruising while pregnant tips
Do cruises charge for infants? Do you have to pay for babies on cruises?
Possibly one of the most frequently asked questions we get from people considering booking a cruise with a baby is do cruises charge for infants? And the bad news is that in most cases cruises do indeed charge for infants. However you may not have to pay all the cruise gratuities for babies and occasionally you will find a sailing with a kids go free offer. In some instances if a baby is the third or fourth passenger in your room then they may be eligible for a discounted fee too.
Wondering on which lines babies cruise for free? Our post gives you a comparison of all charges for infants on all the different cruise lines.
What are the best cruise lines for babies? What to consider when going on a cruise with a baby
So you have decided you are going on a cruise but which cruise? What are the best cruise lines for babies?
The truth is I don’t think there is one right answer for this as they are so many factors to consider including that amenities on cruise lines ships do vary quite a lot from ship to ship. However some things to consider include:
Does the Cruise Ship have a laundry room?
Babies create a lot of washing wherever you are. My preference as a mom is always to be on a ship that has a guest laundry room as opposed to having to use the ships laundry as this can get expensive fast.
Can my child use the pool on the cruise ship?
Most ships have a policy that only children who are fully potty trained can use the pool. Exceptions to this tend to be if there is a splash pool on board which will allow unpotty trained toddlers and babies into the pool.
Does my stateroom have a bath?
The truth is that unless you are booking a suite then there will not be a bath in your stateroom. There is one exception to this rule which is Disney Cruise Line (Click here for more Disney cruise tips) which has a bath in every stateroom. I don’t know about your baby or toddler but mine hated the shower so do factor this in when booking your cruise – we do however have a great cruise hack for those cruising with a baby – pack an inflatable bath to double up as a bath and paddling pool for your baby.
Babysitting on cruises for babies / cruise kids club restrictions
Most cruise ships will have a kids club on board but not all of the children’s facilities will be available to those travelling with babies. For instance, Kids Clubs will often have a minimum age where you can leave a child – Celebrity and Norwegian its three, Carnival, P&O and Holland America are 2 (please check details before booking).
However some lines such as Norwegian offer stay and place sessions for the under 3’s where the kids can use the kids club facilities but only under the supervision of their parents. Other lines such as Holland America will offer play packs or books for kids to take away when they are below the kids club age.
Some lines such as Celebrity and MSC do offer some in room babysitting services at a premium but there is usually a minimum age of at least 12 months for this and can not be guaranteed on every sailing.
Disney perhaps has the best offer in terms of babysitting on a cruise ship as they have an offering for children as young as six month old in a nursery setting.
What type of Stateroom should I book for a cruise with a baby?
What type of stateroom you book when you go on a cruise with a baby will largely depend on your budget. The cheapest cabin is an inside and goes up through sea view, balcony to suite. My advice when booking the stateroom for a cruise with a baby is to pick the best room you can afford. When we were a couple we would always book an inside cabin as it was a cheapest however now we cruise with our baby we tend to go for a higher level of cabin for the simply reason that we use it far more!
For a full breakdown of the pros and cons of each kind of cruise staterooms for families then check out this post.
What Should I Pack For a Cruise with Baby?
If you are wondering what to pack for a cruise with baby my advice would be pack as light as you can (especially if you are travelling on a ship with laundry facilities) while also being sure to take all of the essentials with you.
Things able to buy for babies on cruise really do vary ship to ship and sailing to sailing so my advice is don’t assume that you can get everything for your baby on board because even if you can they will be charged at a premium.
I also take enough diapers for the entire sailing with me plus some (just in case) as you aren’t guaranteed they will be available. If you are flying to meet your cruise and worried about packing limits then my advice would be to buy them in port before you board your ship.
Other essentials we take are formula milk, (for more tips on traveling with formula click here), any medicines we might need such as teething gel and calpol, swim diapers, baby formula and depending on customs regulations some baby food.
When we are on a cruise we tend to use ready made formula as there isn’t usually a kettle in your stateroom and it is just easier to use ready feed. If you are cruising with a one year old who drinks cows milk you will find plenty of availability of the cruise ship.
For a full baby cruise packing list click here
Pack your Hand Luggage for Embarkation
No matter at what age you are traveling we always recommending packing your hand luggage well for embarkation day. On embarkation day your luggage will be taken away from you and delivered to your stateroom later that day (it might be quite late). So out top tip is to always have essentials in your hand luggage i.e medicines, diapers, milk etc.
What are the best Strollers on a Cruise?
As I have mentioned above, stateroom space is at a premium when cruising. Now I do not recommend leaving the stroller at home because you are going to want it in ports and it is also useful for letting your baby sleep while you are having dinner but my top tip for cruising with infants is to take an umbrella stroller. You want something as light weight and something that packs down as small as possible to save space in your room.
We personally use the Familidoo Air Stroller as it packs away and fits into an overhead cabin. If you are going to somewhere sunny then I would recommend getting a sun shade to protect babies eyes too.
Also, if you are using an umbrella or new stroller for the first time I would advise testing it out at home first and getting your baby used to sleeping in it. Our umbrella stroller was our favourite thing we cruised with as it did mean we could eat a nice dinner while she slept soundly in the stroller.
For a complete guide to the best strollers on cruise ships click here!
Dining on a Cruise Ship with a Baby
One of the things I love about going on a cruise with a baby is that I am never worried about food options. There is usually at least one 24 hour restaurant on a cruise ship and room service options too which means you have access to food no matter the time of day.
At main meal times there are usually three main options for dining
- The buffet restaurant – usually on the lido deck which is self service
- The Main Dining Room (MDR) – which depending on the line will either be freestyle or have two dining room sittings that you should arrange at booking.
- Speciality Restaurants – Restaurants that charge a premium on top of your cruise fee to use.
The buffet restaurant is always a great option because it is casual and there are plenty of options who those who are traveling while doing baby led weaning.
However we personally enjoy the experience of the Main Dining room where there is waiter service and we find the staff here are usually fantastic with kids especially babies. We found when we had a set table we would arrive and the high chair and children’s setting was already done, and staff would go out of their way to help the parents have a relaxing night.
On our first cruise with our baby on Royal Caribbean we found that the chef and staff would always have fresh fruit puree waiting for our little girl and by the end of the week the staff all knew her favourites and were happy to provide.
If your baby has favourite foods or snacks then we recommend packing them to take with you.
Cruising with a Baby and Shore Excursions
Can you take a baby on a cruise shore excursions? The truth is this really depends on the cruise excursion. Some will have minimum ages that even primary aged school kids can’t go on so always double check before booking.
There is usually at least one cruise run shore excursion that will cater to the under 5s markets and they will often be free providing they sit on your lap. If you are going on a cruise excursion of a longer length or you want to use a car seat you may want to consider booking them their own seat.
Where we can we prefer going to ports where we can just walk off the ship and see things independently when travelling with a baby however we have also done shore excursions.
If you want to do a longer excursion but are worried about doing with a baby I would recommend looking into a private excursion as this can be tailored to your families pace of travel more easily.
Don’t Over Schedule
Being in a new place every day can make it tempting to be on the go constantly but do not over-schedule when travelling with a baby. This is the biggest adaptions when we made to out travel style when we became parents. You aren’t going to be able to do everything but that’s ok.
Other things to Consider when Cruising a baby
Bottles and Sterilising on a Cruise Ship
Although I recommend packing light I also would advise packing enough bottles, pacifiers etc so you only have to wash them once a day. We also recommend taking a sterilising kit that can be used in room without hassle.
As not all rooms on a cruise ship will have kettles our preference is to use ready feed formula. This pre prepared formula is a lot less hassle when travelling. Though I always advice letting your baby have it before you go a couple of times so they get used to the taste.
We also like using Chili Peeps Teats as these fit straight onto ready feed bottles and saves on the amount of washing and sterilising you have to do in your cabin.
FAQS about taking a Cruise with Baby
Is is safe to take a baby on a cruise? Is it OK to take a baby on a cruise?
Having done several cruises with a baby and toddler I have to say that we found it to be as safe as any other holiday as long as you follow precautions and supervise your child well like you would on any holiday.
Do babies need passports for cruises?
Babies need passports for cruises if your cruise is international. You may not need a passport on a closed loop cruise however it is my preference to always travel with a valid passport for every member of the family.
What Other Parents Say About Cruising with Babies and Toddlers
We loved cruising with a baby but don’t just take our word for it. In this section other parents tell you what they though about cruising with babies and toddlers on different cruise lines:
say about taking babies on cruises and give you their top tips for how to cruise with a baby successfully!
Looking for more cruise tips? Check our our guide to cruise tips for first timers!
Claire from Tinbox traveller says: “If a friend was to asked me do babies and cruises mix my answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. It really was the best family holiday we’ve had so far.
However, there’s lots of things you need to be aware of so you are well prepared before you set sail. We took our then 13-month-old baby and three-year-old on a Mediterranean cruise with Carnival Vista in June 2016.
Over eight days we visited three countries and seven ports of call. It was a trip that satisfied our desire to explore new places but also allowed for the down time needed when travelling with small children who are still dependant on ridged meal times and naps. We sought the advice of other seasoned cruisers before our holiday and learnt lots of lessons for ourselves.
Cruising with an 18 month old on Carnival
Sharon from Where’s Sharon says “We went on our first family cruise when our kids were three and just oner 18 month old. It was on the Carnival Freedom exploring the Caribbean for 7 days. I must admit that beforehand I was worried after reading that our kids couldn’t play in kids club together, that non toilet trained kids couldn’t use the pool, etc. I wondered if it was a good choice at all with a 20 month old.
I worried for nothing. We absolutely loved it. It’s the only time I have felt like I had a break since becoming a parent. It was just so easy. The biggest thing that made it a success for us was deciding not to worry about whether we thought activities were kid appropriate and just trying things anyway. It was great! We all enjoyed the shows and I never would have thought that a bar with live music would be good with a 20 month old, but he loved dancing away!
We found our youngest could go to kids club – just only super early and on port days we could pay for him to play there. We did that one port day and it was so amazing to spend time in the Bahamas with just my husband.
The food was great. We went to the fine dining room most nights and they were fabulous with the kids. It was no problem at all. We loved getting room service for breakfast and would order a bit extra so we had some snacks in our room for later.
All four of us had a great time and we are looking forward to doing another cruise in January with our newest baby who will be 7 months old”.
Royal Caribbean Cruise with a baby!
“Our first cruise was in 2014 on Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas – my hubby booked it and I’m not going to lie I was a little hesitant about taking babies on cruise ships . I had NO idea what to expect, especially with kids aged 7 5 and 9 months. But we have since cruised every year after and I found cruising with a baby much easier than with a toddler!
We stayed in a Grand suite (3 kids don’t fit in normal rooms), and it was perfect size for us. A lot of the normal cabins don’t have baths and the basins aren’t a great size for bathing a baby. So make sure your baby is used to having showers before you go.Check to see if the ship you want to sail on has a nursery / daycare for under 3. Rhapsody of the Seas did and it was fantastic. Some days you could only do 2 hour slots once a day depending on how many kids where in there.
Have we convinced you to cruise with a baby? Have you been on a cruise with a baby? What are your top tips for cruising with a baby?