Our guest writer, Melanie, gives her valuable insight and tips for taking a cruise with a baby! She explains why a cruise was the perfect vacation for their family. She also explains how they managed their first flight with their baby to get to their embarkation port (it’s not always so bad). And finally, Melanie shares her list of pros and cons of cruising with a baby, a valuable resource to help prepare you for taking your baby on a cruise!
We took the plunge and decided to take our ten month old on a Mediterranean cruise this spring. Having chosen Italy and Greece as our desired destinations, it made sense to select a baby-friendly cruise that hit our top location picks.
Our first cruise with our baby was a plethora of “firsts”… first time traveling overseas with baby, first time cruising, and first time seeing the Mediterranean. It was bound to be the first of many cruises with our kids, or so we hoped.
Cruising with a baby seemed like the perfect choice for visiting multiple countries, mainly due to the convenience of unpacking just once. We chose the 11 night Eastern Mediterranean Cruise with Celebrity Cruises, embarking and disembarking in Rome, Italy.
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Flying with a Baby to your Embarkation Port
Overseas flights with babies are always challenging whether you have a cheerful, calm baby or a spirited, intense baby. We were blessed with a mixture between cheerful and spirited as a natural temperament for our son, so we expected the worst on the 9 hour flight from Calgary to Amsterdam.
When planning a long flight with a baby to get to your cruises embarkation port, we recommend you look for an airline which offers bassinets for infants. For example, we flew KLM, which we would recommend to any parent with a baby under 10KG for the simple fact that in the 30th row of economy class there is a bassinet, (yes a bassinet!), that can be secured to the wall in front of you.
Putting your baby in a bassinet during your long flight, means that when your baby falls asleep, you can slip him into the bassinet, secure the safety zip and rest your weary arms (and nerves) for a short duration. Heavenly!
We started off our overseas flight with a baby fully equipped with an array of endless finger foods, plenty of airplane activities for a baby (like toys and books) and most importantly, with the attitude that this could go terribly, terribly badly. We were pleasantly surprised!
Despite our baby’s constant need for activity, we were able to keep him somewhat entertained during the flight. It required some creativity such as coercing our seat neighbors into games of hide and seek, endless trips up and down the aisles, and sitting on the floor in front of our seat playing/eating/drinking and nursing. Thank God for nursing.
Our short layover in Amsterdam with a baby was spent mostly stretching ours and baby’s legs, then the flight to Rome was a sleep session for mom and baby alike (this time, no bassinet). An email to our baby-friendly Rome hotel ensured a playpen was in our room for the baby, already set up with its own linens and miniature pillow. A successful commute to the Mediterranean, check.
The Pros and Cons of Cruising with a Baby
When we told our friends and family about our plan to cruise with our baby, the reactions seemed to polarize. Some people thought it was an ideal way to see multiple places in the Mediterranean, while others looked at us with pity and genuine fear for our well being.
Here is our list of experience-based pros and cons from our cruise with a baby:
Pros of Cruising with a Baby
- One room, unlimited stops: To us, a huge benefit of taking a cruise with a baby is unpacking once, but still getting to see many places. Unpacking once is a dream for parents traveling with a baby, especially when diapers, bibs, play pens, and toys are involved. No matter the length of your family cruise, this is still a definite benefit.
- Kids Club play area: Most cruise ships have a kids club that is a safe and colorful play place for children. It’s a great place to meet other parents cruising with babies as well.
- Stroller ease: All cruise ships are equipped for wheelchairs so strollers are perfect to get your baby around the ship.
- Cafeteria selection: Guaranteed your cruise ship will offer finger food options for your baby that will be different and delicious every day.
- The service – WOW! Cruises are renowned for the quality of the service staff and on our cruise they did not disappoint. Special requests such as 2% milk brought daily to our room were seamless.
- Balcony “privacy”: When your baby is asleep for the night, why not sit on the balcony and enjoy a glass of wine as a couple? When cruising with a baby, we would highly recommend splurging a bit and getting a balcony.
Cons of Taking a Cruise with a Baby
- Tight space: Rooms on cruise ships are often very small. Our baby could stand up in his play pen and touch our bed, which can be distracting for little ones who are not used to seeing their parents in the middle of the night.
- Swimming pool rules: Some cruise ships do not allow babies in swim diapers in the swimming pools, be sure to check before booking if this is a deal breaker.
- Showers only: If you baby is used to a nightly bath at bedtime, they will be out of luck on a cruise ship. Our son cried during his shower (as he really wanted his bath time) for the first seven nights.
- Nightlife, or lack thereof: A big part of cruising is the nightlife, from shows to casinos to five course meals, all included in the price. We missed most of the amazing cruise ship nightlife as a couple, even though our baby’s bedtime stretched to 9 pm.
- Early mornings: Cruise ship excursions can start as early as 7am, and getting ready in the morning with a baby is a challenge even without an alarm clock.
Must-Have Baby Gear for Cruising
The shear amount of travel gear required while cruising with a baby is mind boggling. We thought we were bringing too much, but in the end we used every single piece multiple times a day. Here is a list of must-have baby travel gear when cruising with baby:
- Stroller: Those cruise ships are HUGE and pushing your baby to and fro in a travel stroller is the way to go!
- Baby carrier: A good baby carrier is a travel necessity on and off the cruise ship, for on-the-go naps, for those cobblestone cities that are not stroller friendly, or for those ports that require a shuttle boat to/from shore.
- Baby backpack carrier: For longer walking tours on uneven terrain or, in our case, two volcano hikes with baby a backpack carrier is more comfortable for both baby and parent.
- Sippy cups: Most cruise ship ports of call are hot and humid, so to help keep your baby hydrated bring a sippy cup. It’ll fit everywhere – in the stroller, carrier and baby backpack carrier.
- Reusable placemat: Cafeteria and restaurant eating would be even messier without this reusable placemat.
Top Tip for Taking a Baby on a Cruise
A sure thing about cruising with a baby is the requirement for on-the-go napping. If you’re taking full advantage of the cruise then you’re doing excursions, or at the very least, disembarking daily to check out your destinations. This means getting off the cruise ship after an early breakfast and returning mid-afternoon or early evening.
For newborn babies, on-the-go naps are easier, but for routine-driven babies this could prove to be a show stopper for some parents. I would really recommend trying on-the-go napping prior to cruising with baby to make sure that it is in fact a possibility for your little one.
Our baby napped everywhere from the carrier (climbing the stairs to the Parthenon), to the stroller (during the tour of the Vatican museum) to the baby backpack (walking the roads of the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey). We lucked out with our little on-the-go napper.
Another valuable tip would be to throw the routine down the drain for the duration of your cruise with a baby. Three twenty minute naps on Monday followed by one three hour nap on Tuesday is A-OK!