Cruising With Kids


Cruising with Kids

People often say that once you have kids, vacations are just parenting in a different zip code. While that’s technically correct, if I’m able to get away for a week where I don’t have to cook or clean, and I can wear a bathing suit most of the day, I’ll take ALL the vacations. I recently returned from a cruise with my husband and two girls who are three-years-old and six-month-old. This was our 8th cruise but second since we’ve had kids.

Here are some things I’ve learned about cruising, specifically when traveling with kids:

1. Go in with ZERO expectations. Everything is not going to go the way you plan, and there will be things that you want to do, that you might not be able to. You might get three days into your cruise and realize that an early bedtime is more beneficial for your family than the show you booked ahead of time.  

2. Don’t let the first day/night set the tone for your trip. On our most recent trip, we had a 6:30am flight to Florida the day we boarded the cruise, which meant we had a 3:30am wake up time. I got maybe one hour of sleep that night because I was anxious about our kids’ first flight, making it to the ship on time, etc. Our three-year-old had a 20ish minute nap that day and our baby had taken a few carrier naps. By the time our 5:30pm dinner rolled around, our children were MONSTERS. We went straight to our room after dinner to go to bed and it was chaos trying to get everything settled and everyone in bed. I thought we had made a huge mistake trying to take both our kids on this trip and was dreading the rest of the week. However, after we got a full night of sleep and woke up to the breakfast buffet and sunshine, things started looking up. The rest of the week wasn’t perfect, but we had so much fun.

3. Watch all the YouTube videos you can. YouTube has more cruise videos than you could ever watch. If you’ve never been on a cruise or you’ve never been on a specific ship you are thinking about booking, watch videos about it first! I cannot believe the amount of posts I see in cruise Facebook groups (more about that later) where moms will say “I booked X ship because it was a good deal, but I just realized that they don’t have a kids’ splash pad or any kid activities for my seven children.” You have to do a little bit of research ahead of time if you want to set yourself up for the best possible vacation.  

4. Book itineraries with private islands. Depending on the cruise line you book with, they may have their own private islands that are stops on your cruise. We’ve always cruised with Royal Caribbean and they have two private islands. Now that we have kids, we prefer to book cruises that stop at both of these islands for a few reasons. First, they feel safer. On the private islands, the employees on the island are either employees that come off the ship for the day or they are employed by the cruise line and they stay on the island. You don’t have people hounding you the second you get off the ship and you don’t have to book any “extras” if you don’t want to. Everything is within walking distance once you get off the ship, there are free beach chairs and they provide lunch. It’s an easy, relaxing day that doesn’t require extra planning. 

5. Get to the pool deck early. On days where you’re on the cruise ship all day, get to the pool deck early. Our kids wake up early so we have no problems getting chairs on the pool deck, but I can’t tell you how many families we see wandering around looking for chairs at 10am or 11am.  

6. Don’t get the internet package. I know it seems scary to not be able to contact people back on land, but if you don’t absolutely have to get the internet package, don’t. It feels so great to disconnect from everything and truly relax while you’re on vacation. We put our phones in airplane mode as soon as we got on the ship and we only used them to take pictures throughout the week.  

7. Join a cruising Facebook group or two. There are a million Facebook groups for specific cruise lines, specific ships, and even specific sailings. I joined a Royal Caribbean Moms group and just a general Royal Caribbean group before our last trip and I learned a lot. There are plenty of negative posts on those pages, but there are some very helpful posts too!  

8. Befriend the crew. Being kind to the crew can make your vacation 1,000 times better! Cruise ship crew members are usually working seven-month contracts where they work about 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week, for seven months straight. They work so hard to make sure you’re happy. We love getting to know our servers at dinner and learning about their families and what their home countries are like. On our first cruise with our older daughter, by the second night, there was a high chair at our table, cartons of milk, and a cup of fruit waiting for us as soon as we entered the dining room. I was pregnant at the time and asked for a few bread rolls to take back to our room in case I felt nauseous in the middle of the night, and our servers went above and beyond. They sent me with fresh bread every night and they delivered fruit and cheese plates to our room during the day. My husband saw one of our waiters in the buffet at lunch time and asked him if there were any quesadillas on the buffet for our then two-year-old. The waiter had fresh quesadillas made and literally found my daughter and me on the pool deck and delivered the food to us. That’s not happening at Myrtle Beach. We always bring extra cash to tip our servers and room attendants because they really do so much for you!

9. Don’t overpack, but bring the essentials. The first cruise I went on, I packed WAY too much! I thought I needed cute clothes for the pool and islands, clothes for dinner, lounge clothes, cute sun hats, and more. I learned quickly — especially with kids — that you do not need to pack that much. Now, I just pack shorts and t-shirts/tank tops to go over my bathing suits, and nice clothes for dinner. We like to dress up for dinners because that’s really the only time we ever dress up, but you will not feel out of place if you just wear casual clothes to the dining room.

Here are a few items I would not cruise without:

Towel clips: it can get windy on the pool deck and you don’t want your towels flying away. They’re also nice to dry clothes on if you get a balcony room.  

Refillable water bottle: we like to bring a stainless steel water bottle that we fill with ice water in the morning to have throughout the day. We also bring a little one for our toddler.  

Small USB fan: There is obviously air conditioning in your stateroom, but sometimes it can still get a little warm when four people are trying to get ready in a small space and one person is using a hair dryer. If you’re bringing a kid who will be in a stroller, bring a fan that can clip on to the stroller. The sun is 1,000,000 times hotter in the Caribbean!

Medicine: bring all the medicine you can think of for yourself and your kids. You do not want to pay astronomical prices on the ship.  

Passports: we prefer to travel with passports for everyone in our family in case of an emergency on one of the islands. We just feel safer having them.  

Cash: everything you buy on the ship will be paid for with a card they give you on the ship that is linked to a credit/debit card. You will want cash for the ports you stop at and for any tips you decide to give crew members.  

Backpack: we always end up bringing my trusty L.L. Bean backpack that I’ve had since the 8th grade. We use it to hold sunscreen, water, books, snacks, etc. while on the ship and in ports.  

Snacks: although there is more food that you could ever dream of eating on a cruise ship, we bring a few snacks when cruising with kids. Last time, we packed a few Ziploc bags of Cheez-Its for times when we were on the pool deck and our toddler just wanted something to snack on, or if we were on the beach and just wanted to hold her over to dinner.  

Baby carrier/stroller: if your kid is small enough, I 100% recommend a baby carrier. If a carrier isn’t an option, an umbrella stroller with a sun shade is a great option as well.  

Although planning a cruise for a family can seem daunting, if you do your research and go into it with an open mind, you can have a really fun, memorable vacation.  


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here