Skip to Content

Cruising with a baby and toddler – the ultimate guide

Cruising with a baby and toddler – the ultimate guide

Sharing is caring!

When I originally published this post we were about to embark on our first ever family cruise onboard, Carnival Vista. To say I was excited was an understatement. We would also be cruising with a baby aged 13-months-old and cruising with a toddler aged three.

Cruising is something I’ve always wanted to do. The luxurious food, the West End-style entertainment and day after day of exploring remarkable destinations is my idea of heaven.

And Carnival Vista was just the most awesome ship (I’ve included a few pictures to make you dribble).

It’s all about family fun with the first IMAX at sea, an airborne bike ride, a waterpark, an ice cream bar and kids clubs. That’s not to mention the indulgent spa, numerous restaurants with sea view tables and a theatre come night club to keep mums and dads entertained.

However, cruising was not something I envisaged doing when our kids were so young (the Tin Box girls were three and one-years-old). Our eight day western Mediterranean cruise only came about thanks to the luck of a business card draw the year before.

Cue my squeals of disbelief and joy…swiftly followed by thoughts of ‘eek, are we ready to cruise with a baby and toddler?’. I rapidly started doing what any travelling mum would do: online fact-finding and asking my blogging friends for their expert advice.

Hot questions about cruising with a baby and a toddler

Here’s the best tips, advice and tricks I came across to help us plan for our big adventure cruising with a baby and toddler. I hope you find them useful too:

Are cruises really family-friendly?

If like me you are a little sceptical about whether a cruise is really the best type of holiday for young children then it’s worth checking out this post by Cathy at MummyTravels. She easily rolls off 5 reasons to take a Caribbean cruise with a child, including the numerous beaches, the family friendly service and the food. Reading this made me feel a lot less worried.

Carrie at Flying with a Baby also has some more handy tips for choosing the right family cruise.

What do I pack for a cruise?

We’re joining Carnival Vista in Barcelona, Spain, which means everything we take has to fly with us from the UK. With a baby and toddler also along for the ride we want to make sure that everything we pack is essential as we’ll have no hands free for ‘nice to have’ items.

So what do we need to take? Sarah at Extraordinary Chaos has a great packing list for first time cruisers. I love her tips about taking seasickness remedies for your kids and a separate shore bag so you can be ready to explore each day.

Another pro cruiser, Nadine at Juggle Mum, has the low down on the wardrobe requirements for day time and night time cruising. Oh, and the handy facilities on board for if you run out of clean outfits. It doesn’t matter what age your kids are and how much you pack, they’ll always run out of clean clothes!

What baby supplies should we take?

While we’re on the subject of essentials, let’s talk nappies. It’s a good idea to take a hefty supply with you.

This baby essentials packing list by David at Ports of Call is a must-read of you’re cruising with a child that drinks formula milk, is teething, or crawls a mile when they see a shower.

You may run short of things that you can usually pick up at the local supermarket while on holiday. For example, Carnival do not carry nappies or baby food, which could cause problems during sea days when cruising with an infant.

Are state rooms suitable for young children?

Family Harbor Balcony state room Carnival Vista - cruising with a baby and toddler

So you’re finally onboard. How are the sleeping arrangements going to work? And will the room be safe for kids?

Karen at Mini Travellers had similar concerns before going on her first voyage, but very quickly came round to the idea of family cruising.

Here’s her advice on state rooms: “Think about the age of your children and how happy you would be with a room with a view and the prospect of them getting out?

“In reality mine wouldn’t have been able to open the doors on our ship and I was happy with that, but if you are concerned then paying less and having an internal room may just be the way forward!”

When it comes to baby nap times travel cots are available onboard. Make sure you request one for your state room at the time of booking.

What do I need to know about our destinations?

Usually we visit one or two destinations during a holiday, not six or seven. That’s a lot of research to do before you set sail.

Lisa from Travel Loving Family explains why it’s so important to know your cruise destinations: “Even if you have have cruised before make sure you carefully check your cruise itinerary and know which cruise ship terminals you are going to be berthing at.

“Some ports have more than one cruise ship terminal and you do not want to be caught out thinking you are going to be within walking distance of a town if you are are not.”

Excursions – to book or not to book?

This is something that we have laboured over as our holiday budget hadn’t accounted for the expenses of foreign travel. However, when in (a port close to) Rome…

Lisa at Travel Loving Family is a bit of an expert on sightseeing from cruises having worked as Shore Excursions Manager for P&O Cruises.

Her advice is: “In my experience shore excursions offered by cruise lines are usually very well organised, they have been risk assessed and are therefore safe. In addition, as a passenger you have the reassurance that the cruise ship will not leave without you.

“However on the downside shore excursions can be expensive especially when travelling as a family. By researching your itinerary in advance you will know which ports you need to book shore excursions for and which ones you go off and explore independently.

“Alternatively you may wish to stay onboard the ship and make the most of the ship’s facilities whilst they are quieter.”

Sarah at Extraordinary Chaos is an advocate for shopping around for excursions and exploring solo: “My top tips for the first time cruiser are to do your research on ports before you go. You can sometimes save a considerable amount of money on excursions if you book it all yourself. And quite often get a much more personal service.

“For example a trip to Rome from Civitavecchia can be quite costly yet it is only a 10 minute walk to the train station which costs roughly 16€ for a family of four for the 40 minute trip into Rome.

“Of course you need to be organised and get an earlier train back just in case you miss your train. But we had a wonderful tour of Rome this way and visited all the things we wanted to in a day.”

Can our children use the kids clubs?

Camp Ocean on Carnival Vista = cruising with a baby and toddler

Something that piqued my interest early on when I was looking through the details of our Vista cruise was that there are kids clubs. Woohoo! Mr Tin Box and I are in for some adult time.

However, you need to be aware of age restrictions in cruise ship kids clubs if you are travelling with children under the age of two.

Lisa at Travelmamas explains some of the different cruise lines’ kids club options in her post about tips for cruising with kids.

If your children are over the age of two then the world is your oyster. Jennifer at Kid Friendly Europe 101 had a great experience with the kids clubs on her first cruise, enjoying adult meals and shore excursions safe in the knowledge that the children were also having a great time.

Unfortunately Tin Box Baby was too young to take part in a lot of the daytime kids club activities on our Carnival cruise, but she could nap down during the evening sessions.

Will my kids like the food?

I had two relatively unfussy eaters and Tin Box Baby was weaned on to solids when we sailed so I was not too worried about this. There was a great variety of restaurants on Vista, so I was sure we’d have no problem finding something to their tastes.

Having also read a post about cruising with a baby by Chris at New Dadio I knew that pureed baby food was available on some cruise ships too, even though they were in poor supply during his family’s trip.

I found this post about food and drinks on Carnival cruises by Stefanie at Mommy Musings really informative about the different dining options. Tin Box Tot appreciated her complementary milk and cookies at bedtime.

Can my baby go in the ship’s pools?

Water Works fun pool on Carnival Vista - cruising with a baby and toddler

My girls love a trip to the swimming pool and what better way to cool off after a day of sightseeing?

However, a bit of research on the web revealed that a lot of cruise ships do not allow babies in their pools unless they are potty trained.

Even swim nappies are a no-no. This is the case on Carnival cruise ships for public health reasons but some other cruise lines do offer splash pools for tiny tots.

Remember: every ship is different, so if you have a specific question about travelling with a baby and/or toddler then get in touch with your cruise line. Here’s a whole bunch of handy stuff about Carnival cruises with babies and toddlers.

Have you been on a cruise with a baby or toddler? What are your top tips? You can also read our tips for cruising with a baby based on our experience from our first and subsequent cruises.

If you’d like to see how our cruise panned out then have a read about the family-friendly Carnival Vista here.

More cruise reading

Here’s some more posts I’ve written about cruising:

Need more help planning your next cruise?

Disclosure: pictures courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines. I’ve not been asked to write this guide or been compensated for it – I’m just so blinking excited! This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.

I love hearing what people think about my blog so feel free to leave a comment below or browse around. You can also find me on Bloglovin’TwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestYoutube, and LinkedIn.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking A Moment with Franca
The List badge You Baby Me Mummy
Cool mum club badge Motherhood the Real Deal

Sharing is caring!

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Nanouk | Digital Nomad with Kids

Friday 25th of November 2016

Going on a cruise with kids is wonderful I think! I am hearing a lot more about families going on a cruise so it is gaining in popularity. The kids club sounds great for having a few hours of me time ;)

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Sunday 27th of November 2016

Absolutely! Holidays are for everyone to unwind and have fun :)

Adrienne @ Adrienne Away

Tuesday 18th of October 2016

Great and informative post. We're currently planning a Mediterranean cruise (my first cruise!) for 2017 and plan to take our 1.5 year old. Your post makes me feel like it is possible! ;)

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Tuesday 18th of October 2016

It must definitely is! You'll have a great time. Just relax bedtimes a bit, take advantage of the day time care were you can and keep your itinerary flexible. We loved our first cruise with two under four-year-olds.

Jo Addison

Sunday 22nd of May 2016

Fantastic article Claire - my blog is about holidays and days out for babies and toddlers so I have just shared it with my Facebook followers. Enjoy your cruise - you are going to have a great time, and I can't wait to hear how you get on!

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Sunday 22nd of May 2016

Thanks Jo, that's really kind of you! There will be plenty of cruise spam from mid-June, so watch this space!

Cathy (MummyTravels)

Saturday 21st of May 2016

Thanks for including my link - you are going to have such an amazing time! My daughter was about the same age as your youngest when we did our cruise and it was wonderful. I'd love to do another.. especially now she's old enough for the kids' clubs. You're tempting me...

Bridie By The Sea

Thursday 19th of May 2016

This sounds like a fab thing to do with your little ones, and something I hadn't thought of yet! Thanks for the inspiration, starting to think about summer holidays and always great to have ideas. #KCACOLS

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Thursday 19th of May 2016

Happy I could help. Have a great summer!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.