Going on a Cruise With a Baby: Tips for Smooth Sailing

Updated September 15, 2021
Girl traveling by ship with her father

Going on vacation with your baby is one hundred percent worth the work it takes to get to your destination. Sure, the days of getting up and just going are long gone, but in place of travel on a whim is a lifetime of magical memories for you and your beautiful baby. If a cruise is in your family getaway plans, be sure to pack, plan and prepare for taking this trip of a lifetime with an infant.

Get Ready to Be a Baby Proofing Machine

This goes for any space your infant will be temporarily occupying: vacation will require some serious baby proofing. Cruise ship cabins are small, but that doesn't mean they have fewer spaces for little ones to seek out trouble and danger. You will want to pack items that will help you keep your temporary ocean dwelling safe.

  • Pack socket coverings to cover electrical outlets. You won't need many, and some will be out of your child's reach, but bring some along just in case.
  • Never leave kids unattended on balconies, and never leave chairs or furniture on the balcony, especially if you have little climbers.
  • Pack a night light or two for the bathroom and for the area near baby's crib.
  • Invest in a toilet lid lock.
  • Bring along drawer and cabinet latches so tiny fingers don't get pinched.

Consider Various Ways of Bathing and Bedding

Ship cabins are notoriously tiny, and this can make a good night's sleep difficult for parents and infants all sharing a small space. Some cruise lines offer a dividing curtain so you can keep your snoozing infant in a darker, 'lights-out' space while not sitting around in the pitch-black yourself as your baby catches some zzz's. If your cruise line doesn't have this amenity, consider packing blackout curtains and strong magnetic hooks or a line to string across the room and hang curtains from.

It isn't uncommon for cruise ships to offer cots or portable cribs to parents with babies. Bring your own fitted sheets as well as a great white noise machine if your tot is a light sleeper. Call the cruise line before your departure day and ask to reserve a crib for the duration of your journey.

How Picky of an Eater Do You Have? Better Check the Buffet

Tots can be awfully particular when it comes to food. The great news for parents traveling via cruise ship is meal choices are often limitless. Still, do your research and know what nutritional items will be available to your budding foodie. A few kid-centric cruise lines (like Disney and Cunard) will even go to great lengths to mash and puree food for infants. If your infant isn't eating solids yet, you will want to pack baby food and formula to last them the entire trip. You may also want to pack distilled water and check which types of milk are available on your ship, especially if your baby has dietary considerations. Check with your cruise line and ask if high chairs are available in dining spaces and ask about in-room refrigeration, especially if you will be storing formula or breast milk.

Know What Medical Care Is Available and What Is Not

Cruise ships do have limited medical care aboard to treat patients. That said, the services offered are not going to be as extensive as those provided on land. Parents of young children should know exactly what medical services are extended to passengers, infants included. Research your cruise line's medical facilities and ask questions of staff. If you feel that your infant might not receive the proper care aboard a ship in case of an emergency, consider other travel options.

How Much Is Baby Going to Cost You? It Depends

Depending on the cruise line you choose, including an infant in your travel plans could cost you nothing or it could cost you a pretty penny. Several cruise lines allow families to take little ones on board for free or at a very low cost. Costa Cruises and MSC Cruise Lines, Cunard, and Seabourn Cruises charge nothing for an infant to be added to a traveling party. Disney Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises charge half the price of adult passengers for tots, and P & O Cruises offers a discounted rate for kids under age two. Carnival Cruise Lines charge the full adult price for infants. If your family includes three or four people, some cruise lines extend discounts to families. For example, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines often give discounted rates for families traveling with a third and fourth person.

What Are the Best Cruise Lines for Babies?

When it comes to infants and cruise ships, there is no one-size-fits-all policy. Some cruise lines are simply not geared towards infants, while others make sure family comes first.

Cruises With Infant Restrictions

While several cruise lines are geared specifically to families with little ones, some cruise lines have age restrictions for kids. Many cruise lines require babies to be six months of age by the date of embarkment, meaning they must be six months old on the day you set sail. Transatlantic, transpacific, or Hawaiian cruises often require babies to be at least one year of age to board the ship. If your ship will be at sea for three consecutive days or more without docking at port, babies must be 12 months of age. Before booking, look into your cruise line's age requirements and restrictions. Check out pool policies as well, as some cruise lines don't allow un-potty trained kids in the pools.

Cruise Lines That Cater to Little Ones

Just as some cruise lines are specifically designed to cater to adults on getaway, others keep children in mind. Several cruise lines are well known for their accommodations and activities geared towards families with tots.

  • Disney Cruise Line - Offers an on-ship nursery, large cabin rooms with dividing curtains, ship stores packed with plenty of infant necessities.
  • Royal Caribbean - Large family cabins, playgroups for children and babies, play areas designated for little ones, and stroller rentals.
  • Cunard Cruises - A night nursery for little ones six-23 months-old, baby baths and bottle warmers available.
  • MSC Cruises - Offers free babysitting services, offers a program called The Baby Club, allows parents to bring inflatable pools to use with infants.

An Infant "Must Have" Packing List for Cruise Travel

Regardless of the type of vacation you and your baby are gearing up for, packing is going to require thought and consideration, and perhaps even more so when embarking on a cruise. While every family will pack depending on their personal needs, some key must-haves for a cruise vacation with a tot in tow are:

  • A stroller if your cruise line does not rent them out
  • Infant carrier
  • Inflatable bathtub and baby wash
  • Plenty of diapers, wipes, and formula
  • Bottles and a scrub brush
  • A floor blanket
  • Sunscreen and an infant first aid kit
  • Passport and birth certificate, if travel requires
  • Backpack or diaper bag for excursion days
  • Extra clothing if your cruise line does not provide laundry facilities or services

Savor the Moments

You know what they say, the days are long, but the years are short. It's so true. You are going to blink, and BAM! your baby is going to be nearly grown and ready to leave the nest. Embrace the vacation madness, the mess, the meltdowns, and the memories because someday, believe it or not, you are going to miss all of it.

Going on a Cruise With a Baby: Tips for Smooth Sailing