Cruising with Young Kids ~ Tips and Tricks

Cruising with Young Kids

It is true – we have been on quite a few cruises, and we realize what an amazing blessing this is.  We could never afford to do this on our own and are spoiled by grandparents.  Recently real life friends asked me for advice about cruising with tots, and I figured they probably weren’t the only ones with questions!  Because of our cruising experience, I thought I would share some things I have learned along the way for those of you who might be thinking of taking a cruise in the future, with young kids. It really is a great experience and way more affordable for us homeschoolers who can easily go during the off season.  All of our cruises have been purposely planned {by my mom} during the absolute cheapest times of the year {usually Feb-Mar}.

We have cruised multiple times {with young kids and without}, but with the young kids we have been on Royal Caribbean {once ~ Freedom of the Seas} and Holland America {more than once ~ Nieuw Amsterdam, Westerdam, Eurodam}.  The youngest we have taken a child cruising with us was age 1 {Ladybug}.

Our favorite…

Holland America for sure!  Here’s why…

  • Holland America ships are smaller ships with less to do.  This may seem like a bad thing with kids, but we personally think it is a great thing.  The Royal Caribbean ship was so big {we weren’t even on their biggest one!} and had so much to do {rock climbing, putt putt, ice skating, etc.} we felt like we were always trying to fit in something else. It was honestly exhausting!
  • HEATED POOL…need I say more?  Oh yeah and it has a glass “ceiling” that closes if it rains or is chilly!  The pool wasn’t huge and is “deep” even at the shallow end, but this didn’t bother us-the heat made up for it! Royal’s pool was freezing and it was chilly the week we went so we were in the pool very little. Sure they had an awesome kiddie pool and spray park but my kids were shaking and blue because they were so cold!
  • The service…amazing!  Although Royal Caribbean had awesome service too, Holland America steps it up a notch.  Honestly it is just in the genuine kindness you feel from just about everyone on board.
  • The food…awesome!  Again, Royal had great food too, but Holland America steps it up, especially with their breakfast/lunch buffet options.
  • HAL Kids Program…wonderful!  It begins for age 3 and goes up.  Each night, we had a late dinner seating {8pm} but HAL opened at 7pm, so the boys could just eat at the buffet {Lido deck} and head up to their club. Other ships have amazing kids’ programs too.  Be sure you know ages, most are potty trained 3 years old and up only.

But, you might not be like us!

Many people would disagree with us for choosing an “older people” ship as our favorite with young kids, but we like to relax, not be so busy.  If you enjoy constant activity, have lot of energy, love crowds and tons of kids, I definitely recommend choosing Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney or one of the more kid activity based ships.

 

Packing Tips…

Cruising with a Tot

  • clothespins {to hang up wet suits everywhere!}
  • power strip {there are usually only 1-2 outlets and taking things in and out is a pain}
  • DVDs {check beforehand, all of our rooms had DVD players in room, if not-bring a small one}
  • noise machine, the hallways get loud
  • night light
  • wet bag {or plastic store bags, to tote wet items}
  • lanyard/hole punch {to use for your key cards, wear them as necklaces}
  • bandaids
  • more sunscreen than you would ever think you’d need, oh and sunscreen chapstick!
  • hats for everyone, swim shirts too-the sun at sea is brutal
  • wind breakers/sweatshirts
  • blow up ducky pool {many rooms have showers only, and if you have a kid who only takes baths, you don’t want the fight in a tiny cruise ship bathroom}
  • umbrella stroller {yup, even for kids a bit too old for one} We brought one on a whim when Ladybug was almost 4 and used it at every port and are so glad we brought it at the last minute.
  • baby carrier {Ergo recommended} for non-walking babies. We used this a LOT when Ladybug was 1.
  • small toys {Littlest Pet Shops, play doh, cars, squinkies, crayons, coloring books, etc.} They are easy to pack and bring to dinner to occupy kids when the wait is long.
  • small purse for little girls, or bag for boys {to carry those tiny toys you brought}.  We brought a tiny bag with tiny toys to dinner on the nights when she came with us and it helped tremendously for multiple course meals!  iPads/iPhones aren’t a bad distraction either!

      A few other things to think about when planning…

    Potty Trained?

Many cruise ships have a potty-trained only rule about their pools.  This means no swim diapers of any sort. Be prepared if you aren’t going on a ship with kiddie pools {no Holland America ships had kiddie pools}. I have heard people bring small blow up pools to let babies sit in on deck.

Sleep Arrangements

All cruises we have been on provided a pack and play free of charge and we used that, be sure to ask, I am not sure all cruise lines provide one.  When Ladybug was almost 4 she slept in the loft bed for the first time, with a nice pillow border we created.  She LOVED it!

Floaties

Bring your own blow up rings/floaty devices, even for your older kids.  They are fun and every child wants one, we regretted the year we only brought one for Ladybug and not the boys.  Last year was much more peaceful, we brought 4 {in case one popped}. Also-goggles, swim socks/shoes for young tots {decks can be slippery}, swim shirts, hats {our favorite}, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.

You Don’t Have to Get Off the Boat!

Some of our favorite times are when we stay on the ship when others get off at a port!  We have a few ports we don’t care for {with kids} and we love to enjoy the empty pool. Once our kids are older this may change, but while we have a young one, some ports just aren’t worth the trouble of lugging them all around, especially if you’ve already seen it once.

Balcony or Not?

We have only sailed with a balcony one time, the others have mostly been the cheapest inside staterooms, and once we had a window.  We got the balcony this past time and although it was nice, I don’t think I would pay extra for it, since we didn’t use it nearly as much as I thought we might. Some would disagree, but I vote for saving money!

Room Service Breakfast

It took a few cruises for us to figure out what a gem this service was to us.  You see, I am not a morning person and neither is Ladybug. Having to get dressed and look decent just to go get breakfast was a bummer to us.  Cruises offer free 24 hour room service, just fill out the card and hang it on the door with the time you want it delivered.  This also made sure we didn’t oversleep and miss the day!

Tot Food and Drinks

If you have a younger tot still using a sippy cup, be sure to bring a stash of disposable sippy cups and a small bottle of dish soap. I just rinsed them out all week long in our sink and we always had a cup of water, juice or milk in the little room fridge for her. Also, we would snag tot snacks for her to keep in the room too {yogurt, cereal, crackers, bananas}, all from the buffet or from room service.

 

Have you cruised with young kids?  Any advice to add to my list?