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10 Tips for Cruising with a Baby

Whew, this was a fun post to write! I really tried to include things that helped us for our first cruise with a little one. A few quick details about our trip: We cruised to the Caribbean in February on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas ship. It was just me, my husband, and our daughter, and we drove down from Georgia to Florida.

I purposefully left my real camera at home, because I wanted to enjoy the trip instead of trying to take hundreds of pictures. Luckily, I brought my iPhone with me to snap a few here and there. Unfortunately, I dropped it in the ocean during one of our excursions (unofficial tip number one: don’t drop your phone in the Atlantic ocean! If you do drop it in the water, order some uncooked rice from room service the second you get back on board!).

Of course, some (or all) of this may not pertain to your situation, so just take it all with a grain of salt.

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Honestly, the only time I blinked an eye about taking our 11-month old on a cruise was a few days before our trip when I realized I had no idea where she’d sleep at night (during naps we could wear her or she’d sleep in her stroller).

To save a few bucks, and because we didn’t want to tempt our very mobile and curious baby, we decided to forgo the balcony option and just get a room with a window. I’m sorry, let me rephrase: we opted for a shoebox-sized room with a cut out window in it so we could look out at freedom from time to time. But then I realized that our daughter goes to bed around 8 pm and after she went down, we’d be stuck—literally—in our room. We wouldn’t be able to move around the room (she’d likely be sleeping in the middle of it) or make a peep, because otherwise she’d wake up. Shoot! Cue panic.

After realizing that we’d be trapped inside a tiny room during our vacation, I freaked out and insisted that we needed to get a balcony. I started calling Royal Caribbean every single day asking about available upgrade, but I always got the same answer: nothing was available. I called several times a day for about a week straight. And then, three days before our cruise, a room opened up and we scored ourselves a balcony: halleluiah!

That, my friends, is my number one piece of advice when cruising with a baby: get a room with a balcony. 

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Having a balcony means that you can go outside once the baby goes to sleep. Being stuck inside your room is a drag when you’re on vacation, but especially so when you’re on a cruise. If you’re hanging out on the balcony, at least you’re embracing the ambiance (and not listening to a baby cry herself to sleep). By the way, I worried about her crying (she takes anywhere from twenty seconds to twenty minutes to fall asleep) and how loud it’d be for our neighbors, but then I realized that unless they had young kids, there’s no way they’d be in their rooms and sleeping that early.

Tip number two: Embrace the space. So, this could create a little bit of controversy, but this is what we did and there’s no way I’d do anything different. We had very few options when it came to where her pack ‘n play (provided by our cruise) would go for the night, so we embraced the space and set it up in the bathroom. Nope, that’s not a typo; my 11-month-old daughter slept in the bathroom during our cruise. I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.

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After sleeping in the same room as her for three months, we know that she doesn’t sleep if we’re all in the same area, and co-sleeping was out, because she just wants to play instead. We quickly ran out of options, but then my husband realized that the pack ‘n play could fit snuggly in the bathroom. We were sold.

We had her stuffed animal in there, turned the lights off, turned the white-noise machine on, and shut the door. This worked out PERFECT for us—she slept through the night the entire night, every night. Then, we got to hang out on the balcony and read, talk, watch the dolphins (for real), drink wine, and enjoy the rest of the evening. (And in case you’re wondering, our room was near the deck’s public bathroom, so for my late-night pee break {thanks Julia, for lack of bladder control} I just quietly left the room.)

Tip number three: Bring diapers and wipes! When traveling with babies, this is basically a no brainer, but it needs to be said. We bought a new pack the night before the cruise at CVS and then brought a few extras just in case. We also brought some swim diapers for the beach day, so we had extra, extra spares. On our particular ship (and possibly with other Royal Caribbean vessels) you can pre-purchase diapers and wipes and have them waiting in your room when you arrive (they also have baby food available). They were a little more expensive than from a retail store, but could be a huge convenience if you’re flying and don’t have the extra space for bulky diapers and wipes.


Tip number four: Utilize child care. This was AMAZING on our cruise. When we embarked we went straight to the nursery to register Julia with the child care on board. Because she wasn’t a year old yet, we couldn’t use in-room babysitters ($10 an hour), but we could partake in their nursery ($6-$8 an hour). This. Was. PERFECT.  We used the nursery at night around dinner/bedtime.

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Here’s how we made it work for us: We picked the early bird dinner time at 5:45 pm (gotta love eating with kids), and as soon as we sat down, we ordered Julia’s meal. Her meal arrived just before we ordered our appetizers. After she finished her meal and we finished our apps, my husband took her up to the nursery where she played with other babies. Then, the providers put her down at bedtime in the cribs they had there.

My husband made it back down every night just as the main courses arrived (so he only missed the conversation in between appetizers and the main course). Taking her up during our meal allowed us to still eat together as a family, but finish dinner child free (!!) and have a few hours after to see shows, get some drinks, check out the ship, waste money at the casino; you know, have date nights!

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The nursery was open until midnight, but we usually picked her up around 10. It was wonderful! Another perk from cruising in the off season was that the place was virtually empty. Every night there were maybe one or two other babies there, but they said it can really fill up during the peak travel months; I’m just glad we didn’t have to worry about them not having a spot for her.

Tip number five: Leave the toys at home! Royal Caribbean loves kids, and I love them back because of their toy lender program. They have around 15 bags full of toys for their little guests to enjoy. This was great because we didn’t have to pack toys for her, and because we had toys for her in our room. All of their bags were themed (animals, motor vehicles, tea party, music, etc.), and you could check out a bag for as long as you’d like. I’d suggest grabbing a bag when you register your child so you can pick from all of the options available. We kept the same bag the whole trip (only because I kept forgetting to take it back), but I liked knowing I could have swapped it out at any time (if they were any available).

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Tip number six: Enjoy open play time. Unless you child is potty trained, they aren’t allowed in any of the pools. This is a huge bummer when your vacation is centered around a boat with several pools. Luckily, RC knows your little one will need to be entertained somehow, so they open up the nursery for certain hours during the day and hold an open play time! The nursery staff would take out toys (always different toys) during each session, and the babies could play their little hearts out.

This is where my husband won Dad of the Year, because he’d take her up there and play with her for a couple hours a day while I’d relax by/in the pool (a parent has to be present during open play time). I always felt bad that he was watching/playing with her while I was soaking up the sun. Then he’d remind me that he’s deploying soon and will be gone for months, so he was enjoying playing with her just as much as I was enjoying the break. Win/win!

Tip number seven: Pack light. To follow up on embracing the space, remember that your room is much, much, much smaller than your average hotel room. Unless you have several formal nights aboard your ship, leave the extra pairs of shoes at home and only bring the necessities. You will have a little closet, but it’s little and won’t hold a ginormous suitcase. We made extra use of the room and put Julia’s suitcase under the bed. (Yeah, she had her own suitcase—girl needs several outfits a day, plus accessories!) We also left the big, bulky stroller at home and brought a cheap 10 buck umbrella stroller with us, which turned out to be the best decision ever. I felt so bad every time I saw someone with a child around Julia’s age using the big stroller—where did they store that thing?!

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Tip number eight: Remember that you’re traveling with a little person. Yes, we were on vacation, and while we didn’t necessarily lower our expectation from what vacation means to us, we were fully aware that we were traveling with an infant. We knew she’d still need to take her two naps, so we brought the Ergo with us—one of us would wear her and we’d go on walks along the top deck as she napped. There were a few times she got overwhelmed with how many people were around us, so we’d leave that area and find some place a bit more quiet to hang out. She just started walking, so we knew she’d need some place bigger than the “living area” in our room to roam around, so we let her “wander” around on a deck outside (she made just about everyone smile as they passed by). Basically, just go with the flow. 

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Tip number nine: Wait until your child is three years old. If keeping an eye on your kid doesn’t sound all that enjoyable to you, wait until they’re three (at least with Royal Caribbean). At three years old, you can enroll them in the Royal Tots program and basically leave them in the kids program all day. I’m not gonna lie, the Royal Tots program looked like so much fun; I kinda wish I could have done some of their activities. (Get this: one night they had a pirate parade—how cool is that?!) Cruising with an infant, while still very much enjoyable, was a decent amount of work. We’re already looking forward to taking her on a cruise again once she hits that three-year mark.

Tip number 10: Relax and have fun! You’re on vacation, so enjoy yourself. Ask the bartender to make you the drink of the day and relish your trip! Every single staff member got the biggest kick out of seeing our baby. The majority of them have families back home, so seeing Julia reminded them of their child(ren). I loved traveling when it was just me and my husband, but to know my daughter could experience new things now, too, just made this trip even more exciting. I’m thankful my husband and I discussed how we’d manage things (the baby) on our cruise, because it didn’t leave either of us feeling resentful; we both had a relaxing and fun vacation.

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Well, that’s all from me; now it’s your turn! Have you cruised with a baby before? Is there anything you’d like to add? Do you have a question about our trip? I’m all ears—leave a comment below!

*linking up with baby talk at mama & mou

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19 Comments

  1. Amazing. I had no idea they even have childcare on board as well as toys, etc. They make it so easy for parents! Thank you so much for all the tips.

  2. I love these tips! We JUST had a conversation yesterday about going on a cruise with our toddler. We did one for our honeymoon and my husband wants to go agin, but I was feeling pretty iffy about taking our son. I'm pinning this for us to look at later!

  3. This is amazing! We are big on cruises but have been kind of sad lately at the thought of not going on another one since having a little one. This helps so much! 🙂

  4. aww I loved this post! My kiddos are all grown (25 and 24) so no travel tips from me, but this made me giggle at times and loved seeing your pictures of your beautiful family. Oh and sorry about your iPhone! ECCKK!

  5. Gah – you know me and how I love to leave long comments! But I'll try just to add from my own experience onto your tips 🙂 (just in case they might help someone else!)

    Tip 1 – we had a balcony on our Alaska cruise when our son was 18 months old. We had the same plans as you, but unfortunately, it was cold, so not fun to sit out there during nap time. Then, he's a climber. He would push the chair up to the railing so he could look over… and talk about mama's nerves on edge!! Freaked me out!!!!!

    Tip 4 – You've gotta go with the right cruise line, for sure. On NCL, we couldn't put our son in childcare (not without paying an arm and a leg), and then depending on the kiddo's age… man, you may not be able to leave them. As our kids get older they seem to fight this more and more…

    Tip 7 – Yes! Though we love our Chicco Liteway stroller, because it's tall enough my hubby can push it comfortably, and it fully reclines so kiddos' can sleep comfortably. It's also still small enough that we were able to fit it under our bed in the room. We never had issues with storage, even when we traveled with 4 of us — and I don't necessarily pack light 😉

    Tip 9 – it may sound better to wait until they're older, but just know your kiddo. Our son at 3 1/2 refused most days to stay at Camp Carnival and didn't want to participate in their activities. He's very social, but can be shy in new environments… so if you go again when older, just be prepared for the possibility that when you show up they'll change their mind and rather stay with you!

    We love cruising, but my hubby's convinced it's too hard to do with young kiddos. I think if we did it with younger (closer to a year), it would have been easier. 🙂

  6. Thanks for this post! We've been looking at doing a cruise after Baby G gets here. The biggest hold-up for us, though, is that infants on cruises really aren't that cheap….I mean, Disney lets you take them as young as 12 weeks, but you still have to pay half-price (what are we paying for, if I'm feeding her and she stays in our room???) But I loved hearing your experience. It sounds like you had a great trip!

    1. Such an excellent point. I think the price is the only thing stopping us from going on more cruises all the time. It was frustrating knowing that we paid for her to just breathe the ships air, especially since we had to pay extra for the nursery at night (I believe the Royal Tots program is free, but don't quote me on that). But yeah, that's definitely an annoying part of cruising. At least she got her own "room" out of it?! 🙂

  7. Great tips! I've been trying to convince my husband to take Harper with us when we go next winter, but he's dead set against it. Maybe he'll be more up to it when she hits the 3 year mark 😉

  8. Awesome tips! I've never been on a cruise before, so I'll probably do my first one sans children. However, we are experts at the road trip already. Also, Cora totally has that same dress as Julia! Love it.

  9. This is super helpful! We are cruising with a 7, 4 and 10 month old in August and I'm slightly terrified. Here's my #1 tip: talk a set of adoring grandparents into taking the trip with you and get adjoining rooms. That's what we're doing. 😉

  10. I love this post! I do not have kids but I love to cruise and even have a cruise section on my blog. You give great advice! I love the pack n play in the bathroom! lol. And I had no idea RC has a toy lender program! Having a nursery on board so you can enjoy adult activities is also great! Cant wait to include this in the jetsetter roundups!

  11. Thank you for some great tips & also, you have a beautiful family! We have cruised twice before with our older 2 and had a great experience, esp with the kids club (RC) after dinner to enjoy adult time! We leave in a month with a 10mo old in addition and I’m hoping for it to go as smooth as possible. One tip I am hoping to use is the in-room fridge. I plan on stashing a few healthy snacks for just in case moments when he needs a quick snack & we happen to already be in the room after/before a nap. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you! I hope you have an excellent time! Now that I have two kids, I really can’t wait until we can go on another cruise, and this time take advantage of the kids’ club for them!

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