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When my husband told me that he wanted to take a family cruise this January, at first my answer was “no way!” Our baby girl was only going to be 10 months old and I could not imagine trying to keep up with her on a cruise ship or taking her out of the country.
After doing a little homework, and checking out intineraries, I had a total change of heart! We found a cruise with easy ports of call to English-speaking countries and grabbed that baby a passport (which was not as bad as I thought!). I learned a few things before we left, and learned a few things in the process, so I figured I would share the love with you all just in case you feel a little wild and want to take your baby cruising, too!
1. First step, travel with a Grandma!
Okay so this isn’t totally necessary, but it was a HUGE help and I am so glad we did! The special time and the memories made were something she will cherish forever, but also the free childcare doesn’t start until age 2 with Carnival and it was really nice to have an extra set of hands!
2. Plan ahead for sleeping arrangements.
Most cruise lines (Carnival for sure) offer a crib if you ask for one. Just let them know prior to arrival and they will have it in your room. They do not, however, provide sheets. So make sure you take a crib sheet with you! (We used a simple Pack n’Play sheet because the mattress was thin). Addie actually hated it and refused to sleep in it, but it was a nice option and good for containment when needed! She was still co-sleeping at that point, so I blame that more than the crib. You don’t have to haul a pack n’ play though which was so nice! They even will make sure your room has a working refrigerator at no extra charge if you tell them that you are a nursing mother.
Also- balloons are GREAT for a cruise! We didn’t have a lot of extra space for toys with all of her gear, so I threw a package of them in my suitcase on a whim. We blew up a batch and they entertained her all week.
3. Probably one of my biggest tips- buy an umbrella stroller.
You may think you don’t need one (or are planning to wear your baby like I was) and don’t want to keep up with one, but you do and you will. We grabbed this one because it was lightweight and easy to manage, plus it had shade from the sun. My aunt is a travel agent and she convinced me that we would want one. I am so glad we listened! Wearing her in that heat with sunscreen on would have been miserable. It was great to have for waiting in lines and to keep her out of the sun and honestly she enjoyed riding in it. When we took the water taxi, the stewards were super helpful with it and when we had to carry her, it was great to pile our junk on!
4. Keep your plans low-key and go with the flow.
Don’t expect to go on any wild shore excursions. I was really uncomfortable with the idea of putting Addie in a vehicle without a car seat (especially in a foreign country) so that was pretty much a non-starter for us. We went into it knowing that we would be focusing more on chill family beach days and shopping, and it was totally restful and relaxing! We even did some ocean-side napping.
5. Be prepared for unexpected meltdowns, and do your best to prevent them by planning ahead.
Elegant evening. I had planned well ahead. Ordered matching dresses for us girls. Took her to the room early for a nap. Forbade daddy from coming into the room and potentially rousing her. I tried to do everything right to make sure it was the perfect night.
Well, mid-nap I had two girls either prank calling or simply making the same mistake over and over again and calling our stateroom phone (for the love of all that is good, UNPLUG that bad boy when your baby is napping! Lesson learned the hard way). This woke the baby up early and created a bit of a grouch situation. By the time we got ready, went downstairs and waited for our table, she was over it all. We are talking epic. meltdown. mode. Before the main course even arrived.
Bless them, our cruising crew tried their best to help. Daddy tried. Grandma tried. Grandma’s friends tried. Waiters stopped by and danced for her. People cast looks, some understanding and some slightly judgy. I wanted to crawl into a hole. Finally I hauled my grouchy self and angry child back to the room, stripped out of our fancy clothes and into pajamas and settled down. Wouldn’t you know…she was instantly in a good mood. Maybe it was the dress? Who knows. This was easily the hardest part of the trip. If you intend to participate in the fancy nights, protect your nap, send someone ahead to wait on the table, and take entertainment. And also make sure the clothes aren’t scratchy…just for good measure!
She was a dream for dinner, most nights! We ate in the dining room for every evening meal.
6. Pool-side naps are your friend!
Seriously. Especially if you get an interior stateroom and can’t sneak out onto a balcony. We did almost all of the naps in a sun chair (in the shade, of course) so that we could enjoy the views and not get literal cabin fever. We took turns holding her for naps and got to enjoy some quality time together. Sure beats naps anywhere else!
7. Enjoy the attention (and all the lovin’).
Or be prepared for it if it’s not your cup of tea. We chose to embrace it! Not too many people take babies on cruises. Addie was one of 4 babies on our cruise and by far the littlest, so the crew doesn’t get to see babies very often. Most of them are on the ship for months at a time without any home time, and I was shocked by how many of them have babies at home that they aren’t getting to see grow up. It actually was kind of heart breaking to hear their stories. Our little girl reminded them of home and she got to be a sun spot for them. We couldn’t go anywhere without stewards and waiters excitedly saying “Hi baby!” and surprisingly almost all of them knew her by name, even if we hadn’t met them yet.
Along this same line, because they view babies as special, they bent over backwards to accommodate us and make sure we had a great time. They grabbed things for us, rushed dinner orders, went to different parts of the ship to get things for her, gave our room extra attention, and made sure we had what we needed. We even got sweet gifts delivered to our stateroom. I am so glad that we were able to bring joy to the ship with our precious girl, and if you choose to embrace it you will be too!
A few final tips that I don’t have pictures for but are super important! And then I will drop some cuteness below!
8. Take a power strip!
I actually knew this, but I forgot until we were on the boat and out to sea. Babies need a lot of gear. We use an Owlet and White noise machine when she sleeps. There is only one outlet in the room, so those occupied it. Because of this, we had to charge our phones when she wasn’t sleeping (or in the bathroom) and weren’t able to use her monitor so that I could go next door to my mother in law’s room and see her while she slept. Which meant I had to commit to going to bed when she did. No TV or fun out on the ship at night. I made my peace with it, but next time I will take one!
9. Purchase an inflatable bath tub!
This was a great investment and I am so glad that we did it! The average stateroom only has a shower, and it is tiny. Trying to wash a squirmy, slippery baby in there would have been a nightmare. We bought this one and took it with us. We blew it up on the first day and stored it in the shower when not in use. When we showered we just set it outside. Bath time was a breeze and she actually really liked the little tub! And they are pretty cheap, so if you wanted to you could just chuck it at the end of the cruise. (We kept ours for future trips!)
10. Take a small bottle of dish soap (and bottle brush).
11. Pack more diapers than you think you will need.
I planned out for 5 a day, and then added an extra diaper or two per day, just in case! For a week or two before you travel, pay attention to about how many diapers you are using each day. When Addie was tiny we used way more (hello, newborn blow outs!) and it may be different for everyone. There isn’t anywhere to buy them on the ship, and to be honest I didn’t really see any at any of the ports, either. I also packed swim diapers, but learned that babies aren’t allowed in the pools on the ship until they are potty trained (womp, womp, womp), so I had more of those than we needed. Better to have too many than not enough!
12. Ask about priority boarding.
Our cruise planner was pro-active with this, but if they don’t offer it to you, ask before you go! No one wants to wait in that massive long line to board the ship with a grouchy, fussy baby! We were able to literally walk from the parking garage to the priority area and then right onto the boat. This gave us time to get a nap in before the muster drill.
Also, when you have a small baby, you get to do the cushy version of the muster drill! They take you and any other parents with small children and guide you to one of the dining rooms. You get to sit in the air condition with the elderly passengers and not be cramped in like sardines in the humid heat. For this reason alone, I would take a baby cruising every time! (I only know for sure Carnival does this, but I could assume other cruise lines probably do as well.)
13. Take an Ergo (or other baby carrier).
I know, I told you that you won’t want to use this on shore, and you most likely won’t. But it was a life-saver on the ship! When you are going through buffet lines (or just walking around), you will probably want your hands free. I wore Addie a lot on the boat for this very reason. She also did a few naps in it which was nice because I wasn’t confined to a chair holding her. I was able to go and see things on the sea days and was really glad that I had this!
14. Eat all the ice cream!
Okay not really a tip. But Addie-girl was living her best life! She had a blast sharing cones with us. The messier the better!
That’s all that I have for you! I hope this was helpful. And seriously, if you have been saying no to a cruise simply because you have a baby, stop it! We had the best time, and I would do it again in a heart beat!