We had officially lost our minds. We decided to take our baby girl who was almost nine months old on our Alaskan cruise. Sure she has been on over thirty flights, ten states, and a foreign country, but a cruise was a whole new ballgame. We were excited, nervous and full of questions. Unfortunately the Internet did not have many answers. Because of this, I want to share all the insights and tips we learned that made cruising with a young baby not only tolerable but enjoyable.
We had the best possible experience on our cruise. We were on the Celebrity Mercury of Celebrity Cruise lines and loved it. The crew took such good care of us. They were in love with our baby, she really was a little celebrity onboard. Unfortunately she was too young for all the youth programs (starting at age 3 and up) and even too young for the in-room babysitting that took place at night for three hours with an additional fee (starts at a year), but still it wasn’t too big of a hassle, it just meant that we would split up for shows some nights.
Before the cruise: First off packing makes all the difference. Taking a baby on a cruise means you need to bring everything that they will possibly need for a week. Sounds like a headache right? It’s really not that bad with the proper planning. Make sure to bring all the essentials, enough diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, bottles, baby spoons, diaper rash, clothes, bibs, favorite toys because honestly the cruise lines do not carry much. Depending on your cruise you may be able to find some convenient stores at ports that have what you need. One tip I have that can make packing a little less cumbersome is packing all of baby’s disposable items (food, diapers, wipes, formula) in a box and checking it. That way you can just dump the box on your cruise and not have to worry about it!
Also, make sure to reserve a crib ahead of time. For most cruise lines the cribs are a pack-n-play type crib. This is what we had on our Celebrity cruise, and it worked out great. One tip would be to splurge for a larger stateroom so the crib actually fits and it’s not too cramped. It helps if the baby has room to crawl.
While on the cruise: My best advice to those traveling with babies or small children would be to play things by ear and to go on the cruise with low expectations. Most babies nap or sleep most of the day, so expect to spend a considerable amount of time in your cabin. We had a balcony, which made all the difference. While baby was sleeping we could be outside enjoying the scenery or reading a book. Know that some port days may be difficult and you probably won’t be able to do a lot of the shore excursions due to the restrictions of having a baby with you. Plan for naps, meals or opt to split up and meet later to walk around the city. Also, while our baby was too young for many of the youth programs our Celebrity ship offered Toddler Time where we could bring the baby into the youth area and she could play with toys, crawl around, and get a break, we just had to stay there with her. She loved all the “new” toys and fun activities.
Bringing baby into the dining room: I have to admit this was the aspect of the cruise, after sleeping arrangements, I was most apprehensive about. However, I should have had more faith in my baby because she did great! We got comments all the time about how well behaved she was. The waiters got to know her and what she wanted and helped create distractions. Every time we came to our assigned dining time there would be a high chair waiting for her, a plain yogurt, and a napkin folded into a different animal. We would also bring small toys for her to play with when she got bored. As for food for the baby, we were informed on the first day by our maitre d’ that they had all kinds of baby food available and they could also puree anything we wanted for her. I wish I had known that or else I would have packed less food! We opted for some plain yogurt and would mix in some baby food fruit.
My last advice is relax and enjoy the cruise with your baby! Make memories as a family and if possible go with other family or friends so they can take a shift watching the baby so you can get some alone time and get out of your stateroom!
Hilarye Fuller is editor of the popular travel blog DottingTheMap.com. She lives in Salt Lake City with her three children and her husband.