Cruising with Infants
As more and more families discover the pleasure of cruising for a family vacation, the cruise lines are becoming ever more accommodating to children of all ages. We found cruising with our five-month-old infant was actually easier than taking along a toddler who runs around constantly. The secret to a fun cruise with your infant is really good planning and finding out what's available aboard ship before sailing. Here are some tips based on our experiences.
Ship Selection -- Check with the Cruises For Families to determine your ship's policy regarding infants on board. Some do not want infants at all, while with some there's a minimum age of 6 or 12 months. Disney Cruise Line will accept infants as young as 12 weeks with baby-sitting service in their nursery available. Carnival's policy is four months. In general the newer, larger ships tend to have better family friendly facilities and programs for children, including infants.
Cribs -- Ask Cruises For Families to confirm the availability of cribs aboard the ship of your choice and request the crib ahead of time. You may also want to bring your own crib sheets with you as some of the lines starch the sheets and this may irritate your baby's skin.
Cabin Selection -- Carnival and Disney ships have the largest cabins that are most family friendly, particularly if you need a crib set up. Aboard other ships, however, where staterooms are not spacious to begin with, a crib may make for tight quarters. Consider spending a bit extra for one of Royal Caribbean's family cabins. If your infant isn't mobile and you don't bring older children, it's safe to book a balcony cabin. We always found it easier getting the baby to sleep during nap time if we could leave the room and sit on the balcony reading while the baby fell asleep.
Baby-sitting -- Unless you're traveling with grandparents, a nanny or other family members who are willing to baby-sit for you, you'll want to check with the cruise line to see what type of in-cabin or group baby-sitting is available, the cost and what the qualifications of the sitters are, particularly in the evenings so you can take in some of the shows. While baby-sitting is normally available for children aged three and above, ask your agent to inquire about this service for infants as well. Typically this service is group baby-sitting -- i.e., in a daycare setting for kids three and under. Be sure to ask your agent to check the specifics with the cruise line of your choice.
Diapers, formula, food -- If there's anything specific your baby needs, make sure you bring plenty of it with you. You won't easily find disposable diapers or formula onboard all ships and those that do carry these items may not stock the specific brand of formula or diaper or size that you prefer. You may find waiters that will gladly have the chef puree vegetables or fruit for your baby, but I'd still bring plenty of diapers, wipes, formula and baby food with you.
Stroller & Car Seat -- Some of the cruise lines have strollers available, however, it's best to bring your own lightweight umbrella stroller since the cruise line's may be just for sand and not ship corridors. You'll really appreciate having it at the airport as well.
Sun protection -- Waterbabies SPF 45 has worked well on our fair skinned redhead in the tropics. Also, buy a flap happy hat with the flaps that keep the sun off your baby's neck.
Flying -- Make sure you give the baby a bottle or pacifier when the plane is landing so his ears don't bother him. If your baby is at all congested before you leave, call your doctor who can prescribe some nose drops to administer before flying to help prevent painful decompressions.
Going Ashore -- While you can always head for a beach, consider spending the day at a local family-friendly resort, where food and bathrooms are readily available. Ask the purser's office for recommendations of local hotels which allow guests to visit for the day.
Overall, sailing with an infant can be a wonderful experience!