Before deciding on a cruise, I had a few reservations about how baby friendly a cruise ship would be and if it would be a manageable trip. I looked a bit online and found mixed reviews. Mike and I thought about what we value in a holiday and thought that for our needs, a cruise would suit us.
First off, each cruise line has different restrictions when it comes to traveling with a baby depending on their age and other factors like if it is a transatlantic voyage or has more than two consecutive days at sea. We traveled with Norwegian Cruise Lines and our ship was the Norwegian Epic. Various cruise lines also have different babysitting services. I read about some cruises that have a night nanny where you can put your baby to bed in your room and then a babysitter comes in to watch them and gives you a buzzer in case you need to come back. Some lines have a night nursery, which is the same concept except you put the baby to bed in the nursery and collect them at the end of the night. On our ship, the children’s activities and babysitting were for children 3 and up, so we could not use any of the services. They did have a little soft-play room for young babies that you could take your child to during the day.
As I mentioned in my last post, we got a balcony room to give us some extra space. It had a large king bed and sitting area and was approximately the same size as a small hotel room. Our large stroller did not fit through the door without being folded down, and once we got it inside there wasn’t much room for it, so we ended up keeping it folded down and put it into the shower at the end of the day. They removed the couch in our room (which could be a second bed) to put in a large pack-and-play crib. This also gave us more floor space so that we could lay a blanket down on the ground for William to play. William sleeps in his own room now and I was a bit nervous how it would go sleeping in the same room, but it went surprisingly well. Our room had a mini fridge that we could use to put his food into. We brought some bottled water with us to give to William, but we also called down to room service to deliver carafes of boiling water to make his bottles and cool for drinking water.
It is worthwhile to look into the ports your ship will visit when deciding which cruise to take. We could walk into the centre of town right from the dock at all of the ports that we went to. I could see it being a hassle if you had to get an excursion or taxi at the port because then you would need to bring a car seat and follow the timeframe of the excursion. Leaving the cruise ship was very straightforward and easy, however you had to go through security when getting back on the ship. Sometimes there would be a line up and you usually had to take your baby out of the stroller and send the stroller through the x-ray machine.
We found dining on the ship with a baby very easy and stress free. I think having the Ultimate Dining package, and eating at the restaurants that usually have a surcharge was handy because they weren’t as crowded as the main dining room. We would usually go right at 6:00, so the restaurant wasn’t too busy and even though we were eating at fancy restaurants, we didn’t feel like we were bothering anyone.
The restaurants were accommodating in giving us foods that William could eat like poached salmon or pureed vegetables, but we also came prepared with store bought baby food that we sometimes gave him if we thought the restaurant food was too salty or he wouldn’t like it. They had a buffet that was open 24 hours a day in case you did not want to be bothered with a more formal meal or wanted to pick and choose different things to eat. Our room attendant offered to take our bottles and baby feeding gear to the kitchen to wash and sterilize, but we opted to just wash them in our room. I brought some cold-water sterilization kits but never ended up using them.
Throughout the trip we tried to be very vigilant about avoiding germs. We would use a disinfecting wipe on the highchairs before putting him in it and always sanitized our hands. Each time you entered a restaurant and at various points in the ship, they had hand-sanitizing stations that everyone was encouraged to use.
In terms of activities, there were plenty of things for older children to do. My two young nephews would have had a blast! Our ship had water slides, a bowling alley, basketball court, ping pong, rocking climbing wall and a bungee trampoline.
It also had a children and teens camp. There wasn’t as much for children William’s age, but we weren’t expecting that. There was the soft-play room that I mentioned as well as a little splash park. We only had two days at sea and we didn’t really have that much down time. We would let William have his morning nap in our room while Mike and I took turns going to the gym and then after lunch he would nap in his stroller as we sat on the main cruise deck or walked around. Despite this, he was still very entertained by all the activities going on around him and all the different people he was meeting.
The days when we went on land provided some variation for him. We always make sure to incorporate some time for baby friendly activities when we travel. We were often pleasantly surprised to find local businesses that were very baby friendly and even had toys for William to play with.
One area that we did not get to take full advantage of the cruise is the entertainment. The cruise had various shows like musical productions, concerts and karaoke. We initially thought that we might take turns going to some of the evening shows, but by the end of the day, we were happy to take our desert to go and just relax in our room after William went to bed. Occasionally we would have a drink in the lounge while they were playing live music and we did go to the dueling pianos, both of which William enjoyed.
Overall, I would say our cruise holiday with a baby was a success. It may not be for everyone and I do think it is dependant on the cruise line and the ship itself. But with a little research, you can plan a holiday that the whole family will enjoy.