We just got home from our first cruise with Boston and it was such a great time. It was a totally different vacation than what we were used to before we had him but I appreciate the changes.
I had tried to research before we left to find good advice about taking a baby on a cruise but I wasn't able to find much so I figured I would put together some tips for those of you who may be thinking about cruising with your little one.
- Check the cruise line's rules regarding baby age restrictions. Royal Caribbean would not allow a passenger to cruise who was younger than 6 months. And they also had a maximum number of consecutive days at sea depending on a child's age. You should be able to find this info online but if you aren't having any luck, call the cruise line. How bad would it stink to get to the ship and be turned away because the baby didn't meet the requirements.
- Research the amenities on-board for a baby. There are so many items that the cruise line can provide for you to limit the amount of things you need to pack.
- See if there is a nursery on the ship. I believe most Royal Caribbean ships have a baby nursery (they call the program Royal Babies and Tots) but not all do. If you want a night or day away, they will watch your little one for $6/hour during the day and $8/hour in the evening. We checked out the nursery on the Allure of the Seas and it was awesome! They had a sleeping area with cribs, toys, tv's, and cell phones to keep the parents and nursery workers in constant contact if needed. We didn't actually use the facility though because Boston had developed a cough prior to our vacation and I didn't know if he was contagious or not. (And I believe once your little one is 3 years old they can go to kids camp which is free!)
- Think about the weather. We traveled to the Bahamas and Virgin Islands in December and the weather was very nice. I would say it was around 70-80 degrees most days but one of the days we were at port it felt pretty hot so we got back on the ship early. Had we traveled in the summer, I would think it would be extremely difficult to keep a baby comfy and cool outside for very long.
- Research ports and baby friendly excursions. The best thing we did at any port this trip was go to the Atlantis Beach Resort for an afternoon. It was nice, clean, and had tons of great things to do with a baby besides being outside.
- Check the ships policy on kids that aren't potty trained in pools. Our ship had a small splash park designated for babies not potty trained. It was perfect for Boston because they kept it heated, since babies shouldn't be in too cold of water. But it would have been a little too small for those older kids on the cusp of being potty trained. I heard one dad complaining about it because his son was not yet potty trained but a little too old for the tiny baby section.
- Choose My Time Dining. This allows you to go to dinner at any time you want and not at a designated time. This was perfect for us because Boston never naps at the same time everyday so we would set our dinner schedule depending on when he woke up from his nap.
- Spend some extra money and upgrade to a balcony room. When we traveled before Boston, we sometimes would save money and do an Oceanview or just an Interior stateroom because we were never in our room much. But with a baby you are spend so much more time in your room.
- If you are traveling outside of the US, get the baby a passport. Yes they need one.
- Pack as light as possible. This is my motto for just about every trip I take but it is especially important on cruises. I know us parents always try and prepare for every situation, and tend to carry around a ton of extra stuff for the baby, but keep in mind that the rooms are pretty small so the less luggage and things you have in there, the better.
- If you are not a fan of other people wanting to love on your baby, maybe a cruise isn't for you. So many of the people working on the boat have little ones at home who they are away from for months at a time. Because of this, babies seem to get a ton of attention. We loved it though and I think it was great for Boston to meet and see tons of new faces. He made so many new friends on the boat and I really enjoyed seeing peoples faces light up when they saw a cute, squishy baby. After all, I am one proud mama.
- And most importantly, go with the flow. I honestly think attitude is the biggest game changer when you are traveling with a baby. If you go into it expecting things will be different, and knowing that everything will not go according to plan, you will be so much better off.
What to pack:
- Umbrella Stroller. This is way easier than having to lug around and store our full size stroller.
- Baby Carrier. If your kid loves the stroller, I envy you and you can skip this one. Boston isn't a huge fan of it for real long so this was my saving grace. I carried him around in the airport, all over the ship, and at most destinations. He naps so good in this thing too so it was a great way to get us out of the room during nap time.
- Baby Sunscreen. For obvious reasons.
- Sanitizing wipes. The first thing we did when we got to our room was wipe down the light switches, surfaces and remote with sanitizing wipes. We do this anytime we travel because those are always the germiest of places even in the fanciest hotels.
- Formula for the entire cruise (obviously if you aren't breastfeeding). I did not see any formula for sale on our boat but if you really get in a bind I am sure most destinations will have a place for you to purchase some. I would just recommend you pack more than you think you need because the selection at ports is not always the same as back home. We learned this the hard way.
- A couple of bottles (again if you aren't breastfeeding). Having 2 bottles was good for times we were gone for a couple of feedings and didn't have a place to properly wash out a bottle.
- Bottle Soap. In travel size.
- Small toys. We brought a few small toys to entertain Boston mostly just during meal times. Other than that he was pretty entertained by everything going on around him. But if we had needed it, we could have gone up to the nursery and played with a larger variety of toys there.
- Baby medicines. Tylenol, Motrin, Gas Drops. Boston was cutting 2 teeth along with having a cold so we really needed help to get him comfortable a few nights.
- Swim diapers. I did not see these sold anywhere on the boat and they will need them to go into the splash park.
- A bunch of extra clothes for baby. They offer laundry service on-board and they will do an entire bag for a reasonable price. So if you really get in a bind, and the baby has blown out his diaper more than you had anticipated, you can just ask to have a load of laundry done.
- Pack N Play. They will provide this for you. Ours was even brand new and still in plastic when it was delivered to our room. This wasn't only ideal for nap times but for when we wanted to hang out on the balcony when Boston was awake. We would pull it outside and put some toys in with him. It was so nice for all of us.
- Baby food. We brought a few packets but we didn't need it. Royal Caribbean has teamed up with Gerber and they will deliver food directly to your stateroom for a fee. And we even had the main dining offer to make Boston fresh purees at dinner. Each night they would ask us if he wanted chicken and veggies or steak and veggies and the waiter even would ask me after the meal if Boston enjoyed it. So sweet!
- Diapers and wipes for the entire trip. Royal Caribbean also has a Huggies partnership and they can deliver diapers and wipes to your room. But of course, if you have a specific brand you like then bring them with you.
- Carseat. If you are going somewhere where you will need to take a cab then I would suggest you bring one. But if all of the transportation will be public (like buses) there isn't a need. And actually most of the time you can request a taxi with a carseat. Research before you go.
- Grandma. We asked my parents to come with us on this cruise but they had already booked their own. Next cruise though, they will be coming with. Boston loves them so much and it would have been nice having them there to give us a break when needed. The boat did have a the nursery service (as stated above) but he wasn't feeling well and we didn't want to leave him. So if you aren't sure you want to use the nursery service on board, you may think about bringing along a family member to give you some relief if you would like to have a night or day out without the little one.