Cruise lines have come a long way in being able to accommodate young children, babies, and infants on their ships. It was not long ago that you would not have any ships with nurseries or babysitting services and it was a big hassle just to try to take care of your baby while on the ship. Disney has been a front runner for taking on the youngest of passengers and offering some very convenient amenities for the parents.
Nursery and Babysitting
A lot of cruise ships now offer a nursery for the little ones, although not all ships have this so ask your travel agent or check out the cruise lines website before you leave. One of the first things you should do when you get on the ship is go to the nursery and try to get some times reserved. The nursery is not open 24/7 usually so you will want to see their schedule and try to work in some times. Often you can reserve your times on the cruise lines website as well.
Every cruise line offers different amenities for babysitting and nurseries, but here are some of the main ones.
Disney – This company has set the industry standard to cruising with babies and infants. From the very beginning Disney has offered some of the finest accommodations for taking care of little ones. Kids as young as 12 weeks old can cruise with Disney, and you can only have each child in the nursery for a total of 15 hours during the whole cruise. So choose your time wisely. The cost is $6 per hour.
Royal Caribbean – There are now 5 ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet that have “Royal Nurseries” and babies as young as 6 months can be taken on board. Parents can interact with their kids on the ship or leave the children to play with the many Fisher Price toys already there. So you don’t have to bring a lot of toys on your trip either. They also offer in-room babysitting and the rates are about $8 and you pay in cash usually. Again, these rates are subject to change. The great thing about Royal Caribbean though, is that if you call ahead of time, they will deliver diapers, baby food, and wipes to your room ahead of time (for a fee of course), so you don’t have to worry about packing all of those baby supplies.
Norwegian – For children 2 and up, Norwegian offers a lot of fun games and activities. The cruise line goes as young as 6 months and any younger than that cannot sail with Norwegian. The new Norwegian Epic has a family deluxe balcony which is right near the kid’s zone. You should know that the staff on Norwegian is not allowed to change diapers, so if your child needs to be changed you will be paged to come take care of it. Not exactly how you want to spend your cruise, but know you know. You should also note that Norwegian doesn’t offer strollers at this time so you will have to bring your own.
Carnival – To sail with Carnival your child has to be at least 6 months old, but for much longer cruises that go over seas he/she needs to be at least 1 year old. There are babysitting hours available with Carnival as well, but again, you will want to check the schedule ahead of time. Nighttime babysitting options are from 10p to 3am. Strollers are available for a small fee per day (about $6). If your child is under 3 years old you will receive a pager in case you need to be contacted. In room babysitting is not allowed on Carnival, but they do change your baby’s diaper when needed in the nursery.
Not sure what to pack? Well there are some things that cruise lines will provide for you, but again, every ship and every cruise line is different so you should always contact the cruise line or your travel agent to confirm this information. Pack some toys, baby medication, formula, diapers, bottles, wipes, sunblock, jars of baby food,
What is offered for free (usually): A crib, bed rail, toys (in the nusery), high chair
What is offered for a cost: Baby wipes, diapers, strollers, formula
Showers and Tubs
Disney is one of the few cruise lines that offers tubs in every room, and if you are going to wash a baby, a tub is practically a necessity. We all know how tiny those bathroom sinks are, and you can barely even wash your hands in them. If you are on a Royal Caribbean or Carnival ship you may have to request a family stateroom or suite to ensure you will have a tub to wash your baby in, otherwise you will have to use that shower head in a tiny shower stall to get your precious one all squeaky clean again.
If you don’t want to have to pack a lot of baby clothes on the trip that will take up a lot of room you can choose to just wash a few sets of baby clothes. Not every ship has a laundry room, so check with your cruise line to see if the ship has a place to wash clothes. If not, you can always have the staff wash the clothes for you, but it will cost anywhere from $7 to $15 per laundry bag, depending on what cruise line you are sailing with.
Most cruise lines will offer complimentary cribs for your room as well, but you need to request it ahead of time, and the sooner you do the better. This will help save you a lot of extra luggage and bringing your own Pack’n Play onto the boat. You can always use one of the twin beds with a bedrail as well, but again, you should call the cruise line before your cruise to confirm what you need.
Most cruise lines will also have strollers on board, so if you want to save some room with your luggage you can just use the ones that are provided. Some ships offer the strollers for free (with a $200 deposit with Disney) and cruise lines like Carnival will charge you so much per day (about $6) and so much per week ($25 or more). These fees are always changing so be sure to check with your travel agent to get the exact figures. Get the umbrella strollers if you can too, since they don’t take up a lot of room and will be less of a hassle when you are off the ship.
You need to bring your own bottles and formula. You can bring some disposable bottle liners so you just have to wash out the nipples and not worry about washing out the whole bottle every time you feed. Some cruise lines may have formula on board, but you should always bring your own because it will cost you MUCH more on the ship, and they have very limited supplies. It’s also a good idea to bring jarred baby food, although most cruise lines will puree the food for your child.
Diapers can actually be delivered to your room ahead of time, although it will cost you some extra money. It will save on having to pack all of those diapers and lugging it round the port. Everything from diapers to baby wipes can be sent to your room, but always check the price and availability of these items as each ship is different.
As far as I know, Disney is the only cruise line that lets your baby swim in a diaper. There is a Mickey pool for this that has a filtration system should something go wrong. Most other cruise lines have a strict policy to not let non-potty trained children or children with diapers into the pools, and I’m pretty sure you can understand why.
There may already be a child’s life vest in your cabin on embarkation day. Often it will be in the closet. If there is not an infant’s or baby’s life vest should ask the room steward for one to fit your child.