Babies Onboard.  

by Pool Builders on 11-10-2008 in Articles

When it comes to taking a baby on a cruise it may seem like a daunting experience, but just like every other holiday, it pays to research, plan and be organised. To start with, all cruise lines have minimum age restrictions, and these do vary greatly.

Disney Cruise Line will accept infants from 12 weeks, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess and Carnival will take babies over six months. You may find however, for Transatlantic, Hawaii and South American cruises, children are required to be aged at least one. It is always best to check with your cruise agent, in order to get the most up to date information.

Choosing your cabin can be a bit more tricky when travelling with an infant, having a balcony may be beneficial, being able to sit outside whilst your baby catches up on its well needed afternoon nap, means you can still sit and relax and enjoy the weather, or fresh air, or maybe even just a bit of peace and quiet.

If you do prefer to go for an inside cabin, be aware of the lack of sunlight in the room, this can cause a bit of confusion for the young ones, as they do not know what time of day it is, even an outside cabin has the port hole window to provide natural light.

In most cabins you will find a mini fridge which you can store baby formula and food, it is best to check with your cruise agent for this, but cruise lines that definitely have these onboard are Princess Cruises, Disney Cruises and Royal Caribbean.

You will find that most cruise lines do not have baths in the cabins, apart from the suites. Disney Cruise Line does however have a split bath tub/shower combination. It most cases a detachable shower handle is the best alternative to ensuring your baby can still have a good wash without forcing them under the shower, which many children do not like.

On Disney Cruise Line, they have a curtain that separates off the bed areas, which is great for those with slumbering infants. It is always best to reserve a cot when you book your cruise, I know babies do tend to like their own comfortable bed and blankets; you could bring their favourite blanket with you, to make them feel more at home.

There are onboard activities for children on most ships, so you can take your child to go and play, learn and explore in their own areas. Disney Cruise Line has The Flounders Reef Nursery, which is designed for 12 weeks to 3 years old. With a soft play area, an activity room and even a quiet area for those who cannot stay awake through all the excitement. The parents can leave the children, they will of cause be provided with pagers, this is when the adults can go and have some time to themselves to enjoy.
An hourly rate is charged for the service, currently it stands at $6 per hour, as the service is very popular it is recommended you book up as soon as possible, to reserve your little ones playtime.

Activities will vary onboard, and you will find most cruise lines offer activities for the older children, these being 2/3 and older. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity do however; have a programme aimed at 6 months to 18 months called Aqua Babies. The itinerary and program will vary on each ship, but you and your infant can experience Musical Inspiration, Baby Gymnastics, I Love Animals and much more. These have been developed by early childhood experts at Fisher-Price and are hosted by trained youth staff. All children at Aqua Babies must be accompanied during all activity sessions.

Other cruise lines with great facilities are P&O, and Carnival. Both tend to have more toddler-focused activities but they do allow playtime for babies, with Camp Carnival offering set times for children under two to play, and P&O's Ventura with their very own babies' playroom, Tumblers. This does require supervision by parents, but is full of toys, soft play, and great fun for the infants.

Alongside daytime entertainment, you may want to have a night or two to yourself, to enjoy the shows, casino or to sit under the stars with a cocktail. Babysitting services are available on most cruise lines; Royal Caribbean offer in cabin baby-sitting for over 1's, there is an hourly rate of $10, it is vital to book ahead.

P&O Cruises have night nurseries onboard, where parents can put their little ones to sleep; this service is available between 6pm and 2am. There is a beeper given to parents in case of an emergency, or even when the infants are playing up. This is a very popular service, and is normally offered on a first come, first serve basis.

It really depends on what sort of cruise you are looking for, some parents will enjoy the time to themselves, whereas others may want to take their infants with them to the shows, and spend time together in the evenings. Some parents take it in turn to do things onboard, giving them both a chance to see the ship.

When it comes to dining onboard, you are able to request highchairs in the restaurants; your waiter will be more than happy to help. Most families tend to go for first seating, which is normally at 6pm; you can even choose to sit just with your family if you prefer to be together.

With freestyle cruises offering flexible dining arrangements, you can choose your dining times and where you want to eat depending on what you prefer, this may suit those who have young infants and babies.

If you like nothing, more than a dip in the pool, you have to be aware of where your baby can swim. If they are not potty trained (this would apply to most children under two), due to United States Public Health (USPH) Regulations, children are unable to go in the main swimming pools with nappies on. Disney Cruise Line is an exception to this as they have separate areas, which are filtered differently, allowing babies with swim nappies on to use the pool. You may find the shallow, or splash pools allow infants in nappies, but you cannot guarantee this, and you should check before going for a swim.

In regards to nappies, wet wipes and formula it is normally recommended to take your own, the shops onboard will have limited stock, although they can be expensive. One of the best tips I have come across, is to take all your babies things onboard in a box, this can then be disposed of at the end of the holiday, and means more suitcase space for yourselves.

If you are worried about having to take tonnes of clothes, there are public laundries on Disney, Princess and QM2. You can however take detergent and wash any extra bits in the cabin, to ensure you have clean bibs, without having to take huge amounts with you.

In keeping your luggage down, you can hire push chairs onboard Carnival and Disney, Disney do not charge, but you do need to put a $200 deposit down, and Carnival charge $25 per week, and $6 per day. Bouncy seats and travel swings are available for rent as well.
You will be able to head off the ship when you are in port, seeing the sights with your baby experiencing new places, you may prefer to make you own plans at each place, shore excursions are an option, I would go through these beforehand and make sure they are appropriate for you and the family.

The best thing you can do is to think ahead, and try to work out exactly what you will need. Your cruise is about all of you enjoying yourself, and taking a baby onboard does not have to have restrictions. Simply planning your cruise, means as a family you can enjoy your time away from home.

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