Baby On Board?

September 23, 2014

Mention the idea of a cruise holiday to a new parent and watch their eyes widen in horror as images of their baby crawling overboard flash through their mind. Of course, that’s a completely irrational fear (unless you’ve a spider-baby who can scale walls) but still, cruise holidays aren’t generally thought of as being baby-friendly.

At we’re here to blow that myth out of the water and open up cruising as a valid holiday option for new parents.

With the right liner and itinerary, cruising can be a brilliant choice for families with even the tiniest tots – here’s why:

On-Ship Nurseries

When you’re flicking through the holiday brochures choosing a hotel for baby’s first holiday how many of them actually have a dedicated nursery as well as a kids’ club for ages 2 or 3 plus?

Not many we’d guess.

Remember that this is a holiday for mum and dad as well as baby – more so, as you’re the ones that will remember it (and are paying for it!).

With many family friendly ships boasting well-equipped nurseries with trained staff you can leave your little sailor in capable hands whilst you enjoy some of the ship’s grown-up facilities. Or maybe head straight to your cabin for a snooze!!!

Family cruise superhero Disney Cruise Line offers nursery care for babies from twelve weeks old and fifteen Royal Caribbean ships have a Royal Babies day-nursery that can be used by tots from six to eighteen months.

Remember to factor a charge for this into your holiday budget – although, with hourly rates as little as £5, we’re sure it’s worth it for the chance to see a show or take a swim in peace. Dad’s got his wallet out already!

Onboard Babysitters

If an evening out has become as distant a memory as a Sunday morning lie-in, cruise liners offering babysitting services are sure to have you rifling through your wardrobe in excitement. Cunard Line and the P&O family liners even offer a night nursery service absolutely FREE of charge – yes, you read that right, free babysitting!

If the thirteen year old down the road charges £20 to watch your TV and eat your favourite ice-cream of an evening then you’re sure to be looking at each other in wide eyed wonder around about now. Imagine what you could do in those blissful few hours (but let’s keep it clean, unless you want two tiny tots in tow on next year’s cruise!); uninterrupted dinners, a theatre show or movie that doesn’t feature Postman Pat or Peppa Pig, a flutter in the casino or maybe even a spin on the dance floor; once you’ve got your energy levels back up from ‘new parent’ to ‘normal anyway’.

The possibilities, when presented with a few hours footloose and child-free each evening, will seem endless!

Table for Three

When long, leisurely dinners for two are disrupted by the addition of a high chair, cruise lines with flexible dining options and tot-friendly meals are on the menu.

Carnival goes the extra mile with activity sheets, kids’ menus and whole milk, as do Disney. Most of the family friendly cruise lines will mash or puree fresh fruit and vegetables for little weaners but it’s best to check before you book. If you’ve got older tots, Cunard and P&O’s family liners offer an early children’s tea buffet full of all the delightful freezer food that kids love (fish fingers, sausages and pizzas galore!) meaning you can take advantage of the free evening babysitting and enjoy a dinner for two, without ketchup on everything, later.

Play Areas and Splash Pools

If you’re not used to cruising you’re likely to be surprised at the sheer scale of space, facilities and activities that the larger liners give over to keeping their younger customers happy.

Whilst the ‘death slides’ and climbing walls might be a little bit out of your little one’s age range you’ll find plenty to keep them occupied (and, as all parents know, tots want to be occupied constantly) without having to resort to Peppa Pig on a loop in the portable DVD player.

Check out Cunard’s on-ship libraries, Royal Caribbean’s toy lending program and the P&O soft play centres. If you do have a water baby though, beware, not all liners allow nappy-clad babes access to the pools. Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean (Freedom and Oasis class) are two that offer dedicated baby splash areas.

One top tip for other liners is to take an inflatable paddling pool aboard with you, so your baby can have his own private place to splash without the threat of a nappy incident causing embarrassment (to you, baby won’t give a – oh, he already did)

Shopping Centre

When you holiday abroad with a baby getting hold of everything you’ll need in a foreign country can be a concern. If only a certain type of nappy will do for your baby’s little bottom then you’re usually wise to take them with you and anyone who’s tried to pack two weeks worth of nappies (plus milk, plus bottles, plus wipes, plus toys, plus sets of little plastic keys or chewy things filled with water) for a young baby will know that the rest of the family will be going naked for the duration of the trip.

On a cruise liner you’ll usually find well-stocked shops to help you free up some room for your bikinis but check that any one particular brand is available before you go. Royal Caribbean and Disney even offer a pre-order service where you can get what you need delivered directly to your cabin, whilst P&O will lend you bottle warmers and baby baths and Carnival rents out strollers.

Now that’s cruise ship service!

Cool Characters

A person in a giant, colourful, squishy costume will be a source of endless amusement and delight for most babies so Mr Bump on P&O’s family liners, Fun Ship Freddy on Carnival and SpongeBob SquarePants on Norwegian Freestyle Ships will quickly become baby’s best friend.

Unless, of course, you have one of those little ones that screams in terror at the sight of anyone in a costume (giant talking sponge? Who can blame them?), in which case you might spend the entire trip playing dodge the mascot!

Family Friendly Cabins

With ‘family class’ cruise liners you don’t have to worry about squashing ‘baby in a corner’ and tripping over the buggy on your way to the bathroom. Carnival and Disney boast larger than average standard cabins, with Disney having the added advantage of a proper bathtub (have you ever tried hosing down a sticky baby in the shower – not fun!). If you’re holidaying with more than one child then many Royal Caribbean ships have cabins which sleep six.

These cabins aren’t available to book online however – If you’re interested you can speak to one of our specialist cruise consultants about them here

Shady Spots

Keeping baby out of the sun can be a big concern for parents on holiday and being tied to a hotel room watching bad foreign game shows from 11 till 3 is no way to spend your precious break.

On a cruise ship you’ll find many more undercover areas than in your average hotel resort. From vast atriums to play centres to libraries to nurseries, the larger liners have plenty to keep both you and your baby busy away from the strong sunshine.

In fact, on some ships, you need never see daylight for the duration – handy for families of vampires but not usually in the holiday spirit for most.

Happy Siblings

Larger families will be well aware of the precarious juggling act that’s required to keep kids of different ages happy at all times. Well you can drop the ball on a cruise holiday as tots to teens are so well catered for that you won’t hear a single ‘I’m bored’ during the entire break. In fact, you might not even see them for the entire break!

All family friendly liners have dedicated kids’ clubs for all age groups, with everything from waterparks to themed days to video game arcades to keep older kids busy having fun. With the rest of the brood well taken care of, you’re free to focus on baby without constantly being pulled in different directions – you might even get a moment to yourself, if you’re lucky!

Mum and Dad Time

Which brings us to the final point.

A holiday with a young baby or toddler can feel like not much of a holiday at all.

Choose a cruise liner with a nursery or babysitting service and you can indulge in a new parent’s most treasured commodity – Mum and Dad time!

Whether that’s an afternoon in the spa, a relaxed evening meal or just an hour or two with a good book, it will ensure that you come to the end of your holiday feeling refreshed, relaxed and, well, like you’ve actually had a holiday.

Remember, happy parents mean happy kids – now where’s that spa menu?

With the right ship, taking a cruise holiday with baby can actually be easier and more enjoyable than your average package holiday on dry land. With our top tips to taking baby onboard, you won’t have to resign yourself to the next five years at a holiday camp after all!

To read our full baby friendly cruise line guide go here 

To read our full family friendly guide to cruising go here 

Don’t take our word for it – You can read real cruise reviews submitted by the public here; all unedited and unbiased! 

If you have a specific question about cruising with a baby then you can ask it here