*This guide was updated on 30 June 2016 to recognise policy changes from numerous cruise lines.
In recent years, many of the biggest cruise lines in the world have gone to great lengths to improve their fleet’s facilities for toddlers and babies.
Helping parents and kids alike have a more relaxing and enjoyable holiday on the seas, ever-improving facilities have helped encourage increasing number of families to book a trip on a cruise.
Here we have a look at the child-friendly provisions supplied by different cruise lines, pick five of the best cruise ships for babies and toddlers, and offer up a few tips when booking with a young family.
Cruise Line Guides
The different cruise lines have all developed different strategies to make toddlers and babies’ stays on the seas more comfortable. Here we break down some of the most important baby-friendly criteria organised by the world’s best-loved cruise lines. All of the cruise lines reserve the right to change these policies without warning so check with your agent and cruise line when booking a holiday.
|Minimum Age||Day Care||Night Time Babysitting||Pushchairs||Cribs||Nappies||Formula Milk|
|Azamara Cruises||*6 Months||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Not Provided|
|Carnival Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||10pm-1am||Available for Rent||Upon Request||Available for Sale||Not Provided|
|Celebrity Cruises||*6 Months||In-Cabin Babysitter||In-Cabin Babysitter||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Baby Food|
|Cunard Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||Group Childcare||Pre-Order Rental||Upon Request||Not Provided||Baby Food|
|Disney Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||Group Childcare||Upon Request||Upon Request||Available for Sale||Available for Sale|
|Fred Olsen Cruises||6 Months||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided|
|Holland America||*6 Months||Age 3+||Age 3+||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Not Provided|
|MSC Cruises||No Limit||Group Childcare||Not Provided||Upon Request||Upon Request||Not Provided||Baby Menu|
|Norwegian Cruise Line||*6 Months||6 Months+ Group Care||6 Months+ Group Care||Not Provided||#Upon Request||Available for Sale||Not Provided|
|P&O Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||Group Childcare||Not Provided||Upon Request||Available for Sale||Upon Request|
|Princess Cruises||*6 Months||Age 3+ Group Care||Age 3+ Group Care||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Upon Request|
|Royal Caribbean||*6 Months||In-Cabin & Group Care||In-Cabin & Group Care||Not Provided||Playpens||For Pre-Order||For Pre-Order|
*12 Months on Selected Cruises #Available on Selected Ships
Five of the Best
At Cruise1st, we believe these are five of the best ships for babies and toddlers with exceptional facilities and services to keep the youngest members of the family happy.
Allure of the Seas
The largest ship on the seas (alongside sister ship, Oasis of the Seas) Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas is comprehensively packed with features and amenities for all members of the family. For babies and toddlers, the Allure of the Seas pioneered the Royal Babies and Tots programme offering childcare services for 6 to 18 month old babies and 18 to 36 month old tots. The programme was a central reason for American Baby magazine naming Royal Caribbean the Best Baby Getaway of 2012.
When launching the Breakaway Class of ships, Norwegian Cruise Line overhauled their kids clubs and childcare programmes. Launching a new childcare programme for babies and toddlers aged 6 months to 3 years, called Guppies, with dedicated play areas and learning facilities. The complimentary service includes visits from Nickelodeon characters, child-friendly workout sessions and arty and crafty games. Kids ages 3+ can also attend late-night babysitting groups for an additional fee.
Unsurprisingly, Disney Cruises focus heavily on keeping youngsters happy, comfortable and entertained at all times. The It’s a Small World nursery (nowhere near as irritating as the ride of the same name) provides care and entertainment for babies and toddlers from 6 months to 3 years old. Babysitting services continue throughout port days as well as days at sea, so parents can enjoy a little alone time during the excursions. The Disney Dream also includes a dedicated pool area for babies and toddlers to enjoy the water in water-proof nappies.
Whilst some members of the P&O fleet (Arcadia, Adonia and Oriana) are reserved for adults, the rest of the ships like to indulge babies and toddlers – in particular the P&O Ventura. There are a number of dedicated spaces for parents to play with their babies and toddlers throughout the day. At night, the ship provides Night Nursery – a free service where parents can leave their child between 6pm and 2am, giving you the chance to enjoy peaceful dinners and romantic strolls on the top deck.
Queen Mary 2
The daily Children’s Tea served in the Chef’s Galley is just one reason why your toddler will love cruising aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. With a menu packed full of kids’ favourites including pizza and baked beans as well as baby food upon request – getting the kids to finish their dinner won’t be a problem. The night time nursery is stocked with cribs and small beds for babies and toddlers to sleep in as their parents go for their dinner in one of the ship’s fantastic restaurants.
- Book dinner seatings well in advance so you don’t get stuck with the last sitting and cranky children.
- Book a balcony cabin so you can enjoy the sea air whilst keeping an eye on a sleepy baby in the cabin.
- Consider a ship with 24 hour buffet service – especially if you have fussy eater for a child (or a spouse!)
- Look for a ship with free laundry service, for obvious reasons.
- Have a look on TripAdvisor for fun kid-friendly activities in the port cities you’re planning on visiting.
- Bring the smallest pushchair which supports your children – this could save valuable cabin space.
- Pack a baby emergency kit – the ship’s shops may not sell the medicines your young ones require.
- Explore the ship for empty or quiet lounges so toddlers can stretch their legs and have a little explore and adventure.
- Try to avoid booking excursions which include long bus journeys – fellow travellers will thank you.
Images sourced via Royal Caribbean Press Center and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Sacha Fernandez