A Very Useful Guide to Cruise Holidays with Young Children and Babies

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*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.

Allure-11

Norwegian Breakaway

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.

 

Disney Dream

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.

 

P&O Ventura

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.

Queen Mary 2 cruise ship in Sydney. Sourced from Flickr creative commons, credit: Sacha Fernandez

Tips

  • 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.

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 Images sourced via Royal Caribbean Press Center and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Sacha Fernandez

Summary
Guide to Cruise Holidays with Young Children and Babies
Article Name
Guide to Cruise Holidays with Young Children and Babies
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A comprehensive round-up of the baby and infant policies found aboard the major cruise lines.
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About Author

Belinda Goodman

Cruise 1st veteran Belinda has a passion for travel, especially cruising. She has worked in the travel industry for over 20 years, including a 3-year stint working on cruise ships as a croupier. Belinda regularly writes for the Cruise 1st blog, with a focus on company news and advice for first-time cruise travellers.

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