Our guest writer, Melanie, gives valuable insight into taking a cruise with a baby! In this part one of a two part series she explains why a cruise was the perfect vacation for their family. She also explains how they managed that dreaded flying (it’s not always so bad). And finally, her list of pros and cons will be invaluable 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 cruise that hit our top location picks. It 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, or so we hoped. Cruising with a baby seemed like the perfect choice for multi-site visiting, 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.
Flying with a Baby
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.
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. This means that when 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 the flight fully equipped with an array of endless finger foods, favorite toys, books and most importantly, with the attitude that this could go terribly, terribly badly. We were pleasantly surprised. Despite our son’s constant need for activity, we were able to keep him somewhat entertained. 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 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 the hotel in Rome ensured a playpen in the room for 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 Baby
When we told our friends and family about our plan to cruise with our son, 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 a list of experience-based pros and cons from our trip:
- One room, unlimited stops: Unpacking once is a dream when diapers, bibs, play pens, and toys are involved. Any length of cruise and this is still a definite benefit.
- Kids Club play area: Most ships have a kids club that is a safe and colorful play place for children. It’s a great place to meet other parents as well.
- Stroller ease: All ships are equipped for wheelchairs so strollers are perfect to get around the ship.
- Cafeteria selection: Guaranteed you will find finger food options for your baby that will be different and delicious every day.
- The service, WOW: Cruises are notorious 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 baby is asleep for the night, why not sit on the balcony and enjoy a glass of wine as a couple? We would highly recommend splurging a bit and getting a balcony.
- Tight space: Our son could stand up in his play pen and touch our bed, this can be distracting for little ones seeing their parents in the middle of the night.
- Pool rules: Some ships do not allow babies in swim diapers in the pools, be sure to check before booking if this is a deal breaker.
- Showers only: Our son cried during “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 this experience as a couple, even though our baby’s bedtime stretched to 9pm.
- Early mornings: 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 gear required while traveling 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 “gear” when cruising with baby:
- Stroller: Those ships are HUGE and pushing baby to and fro is the way to go!
- Baby carrier: A travel necessity on and off the boat, 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.
- Sippy cups: In the stroller, carrier, backpack, most cruise destinations are hot and humid, right?
- Reusable placemat: Cafeteria and restaurant eating would be even messier without.
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 boat 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 son 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. Three twenty minute naps on Monday followed by one three hour nap on Tuesday is A-OK!
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