by Melanie Essman
Cruising is absolutely my favorite way to travel with my kids! Everything is right there and easily accessible. And the wait staff and cabin stewards cater to your every need!
Get there early! You don't want to be the last one on the ship! Most of the cruises that I have been on start boarding at noon, so that is when I like to be there! That will give you plenty of time to find your cabin, explore the ship a bit, grab some lunch at the buffet, and rest a little bit before the Muster Drill.
If both parents aren't traveling, it is best to have a notarized document from the other parent stating that you have permission to travel with the child.
A passport is recommended, but not required (as of now), to travel. Contact your local passport agency for details on obtaining a passport. If you don't have a passport, a birth certificate is acceptable along with a photo id for adults.
Take a carry-on bag with you on the ship! Pack a change of clothes and a swim suit. You can start enjoying the pools immediately. You will need the carry on for the last night as well.
Most importantly, don't stress! Your vacation starts the moment you step foot on that ship!
Safety first! Your cabin steward will provide you with an infant or child size life vest. Be sure that you get this!
Cabins are sometimes small, but you can make it work. You just have to make efficient use of your space! Put empty suitcases under the bed. Make full use of the closets and drawers. We always have the cabin steward remove the coffee table to get it out of the way.
Most cruise lines will provide a crib for the baby. On Princess, they provided an actual crib, and on Royal Caribbean they provided a pack and play type crib. Both worked well for us.
Be sure to take your child's favorite blanket or lovey to sleep with! It will make being away from home easier for them.
It is also a good idea to take a small flashlight. The cabins get very dark, and with the baby sleeping, you don't want to turn on the main lights!
I have found the wait staff to be very helpful while cruising with kids! All you have to do is ask them. If there is something that you need for your infant or toddler that isn't on the menu, ask anyway, chances are that they will get it for you!
For the infant or child that is just being introduced to solids, sliced fruit is almost always available. Banana, mango, papaya, etc., just mash with a fork and it is ready to go! Some cruise lines will also provide baby food. You need to let them know in advance.
There is plenty of food available all day every day, but you might not always want to sit down to eat. When you walk by the breakfast buffet, grab a couple extra boxes of cereal, a banana or two, or some yogurt. These are great snacks for the kids during the day.
Entertainment on the ship is endless. Each night you will be provided with a schedule of the days events for the next day. Look that over and plan your day accordingly. Kids are welcome in most places except the casino.
Getting out to see the port city is a lot of fun, but it can be tiring as well. With the young kids, I try to just book the short excursions like a glass-bottom boat, or a pirate ship ride. I would avoid the 8-hour, all day excursions, mainly because if your child still naps it would be difficult to fit that in and it might ruin your day!
Depending on the cruise line, many of the excursions are free for ages 3 and under. Check with the Excursion desk before you book. Also be aware that many excursions have minimum age requirements.
Children's programs are great on the cruise lines! They have many activities to keep them occupied while you go catch a show or a game of Bingo.
There is no additional cost to use the program, but you must register. Also, on most cruise lines the child has to be fully potty trained to participate in the program.
Individual in cabin babysitting is also available on most cruise lines for an additional charge.
Ok, I'll admit, disembarkation is the worst part of the cruise for me! The night before you put your bags out for the attendants to pick up. This is where your carry on comes in handy! Be sure to keep a set of clothes out to wear on the way home!
The day of disembarkation you have to get up early, eat breakfast, vacate your cabin, and wait, and wait, and wait to go through Customs. Then you have to wait, and wait, and wait some more before you can actually get off of the ship. All of this waiting is with the rest of the passengers on the ship in the public areas. This can be uncomfortable for adults, but it is worse for the little ones that don't really understand why you are waiting!
So, my tip here is to bring something to keep them occupied! A coloring book, a favorite toy, maybe a new toy that you bought at the gift shop the night before. Also have a snack in your carry-on.
If you haven't yet tried cruising, now is the time! It is a great way to relax and just be with your family. You can do as much or as little as you want on the cruise. Just be prepared to have a good time! Happy cruising!
Melanie Essman is the owner of Family Funcations (www.familyfuncations.com) and a native of Houston, Texas. She is the mother of Cale, 4 and Brant, 16 mos. She has cruised often with her sons since Cale was 1. If you think that cruising with little ones isn't much of a vacation, she can certainly relieve your fears about cruising with toddlers. It can be a delightful and very fun adventure.
Copyright © Melanie Essman. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.