Updated: Mar 14
I was lucky enough to go on my first cruise with my parents and younger sister at the age of 11. 18 years and many cruises later, it was time to take my daughter on her first cruise in June 2022 when she was only 8 months old.
I hope once you have read this you will feel confident that a cruise is a great way to vacation with a baby.
Cruising can be great value for families with small children as children under two tend to sail for free or for a nominal cost. On our first cruise, our daughter actually sailed for free.
However, it is also important to check the minimum age limit for cruisers. Many cruise lines do not allow babies under 6 months of age (12 months for transatlantic cruises) so be should to double check before you book.
When booking, it is worth doing your research on what you would like out of the cruise as there are so many different options and benefits to each boat and cruise line. For baby friendly cruise lines, you have many options. I personally can recommend MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Carnival, Costa Cruises, Cunard, and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Our First Experience Cruising with Baby
For our first cruise, we booked a 7-night cruise leaving from Southampton, UK (our nearest port) on MSC Virtuosa cruising to France and Spain.
We booked a balcony cabin because these are often slightly larger than an inside or outside cabin. On most cruise lines most cabins below a ‘Suite’ grade only have showers and not a bath. I managed to give Lily a bath in the sink, but you may need to take a portable bath for larger babies or toddlers.
Sleep wise, in the cabin that the cruise provided a Chicco pack and play with a thin baby duvet cover and pillow. During the day, while out on deck, we used our pram/bassinet. The sea air and gentle rocking of the ship sent Lily to sleep in no time!
Medical care on cruise lines has vastly improved but it is still small and limited to what they can treat, especially on a sea day when there is no quick access to a hospital. Make sure to have all medication that you may need on your trip. Some over the counter medicines are available to purchase onboard.
If baby has any special medical needs check with your doctor before booking.
Lily started weaning at 6 months so trying to figure out what to take was tricky as we were still new to it all.
I took 7 jars of food - please note, you cannot take homemade food onboard - with the hope that there would be plenty of food options to try onboard and there was! I also took plenty of snacks which turned out to be key.
There was so much food on board and it was great for Lily to try so many new things as it is all included in the fare. MSC even had a baby menu in the restaurant. Other lines will puree food if asked or warm up jars of food in the restaurant if needed.
For dinner, most cruise lines offer either ‘freedom dining’ or allocated sittings in the main complimentary dining rooms. We went for the early sitting (6:15pm) because we thought this would be better for Lily.
The benefit of a set time dining is that you will have the same table and waiters every night, and the highchair is already set up. With this option, the waiters also get to know your needs and they were brilliant with Lily!
The benefit of Freedom is you are not tied to a sitting time. Which with a baby can be difficult and we were often running to our early sitting!
You will also usually have speciality dining venues which come with a cover charge and a 24-hour buffet, for more informal dining. Alternatively there is room service if you want a more relaxed evening in the cabin.
Breakfast and lunch we ate in the buffet, and luckily there was plenty of choice for Lily. She loved the pancakes, scrambled egg and yogurt and fruit. The baby food jars and snacks came in handy when we were ashore or if she just fancied giving her some food on the balcony rather than heading out of the cabin.
Highchairs are provided in all the restaurants, but I packed a fold up pocket highchair which was great for sitting in different areas of the ship and for out and about in port.
Lily still has 3 formula bottles a day. Because of this I packed washing up liquid, sponge, and kitchen roll for cleaning the bottles. I also brought cold water sterilising tablets and a large tupperware box (I marked the line of amount of water needed on the container, so I didn’t need to take a measuring jug) to sterilise the bottles in.
There usually is a kettle in the room to boil the water (at least in European Cruises). If not, ask for one or ask the cabin steward for boiling water or use the tea/coffee making facilities in the buffet for hot water. The cabin stewards are always on hand to help.
All cabins will also have a fridge to store the bottles. You usually can ask the cabin steward to remove the mini bar items if you don’t plan to use it them.
Tip: On the day you board the ship make sure you have enough milk/formula for the rest of the day in your hand luggage as sometimes your main luggage won’t get to your room until the evening.
I would recommend taking some of baby's favourites in addition to some brand-new ones to give to them on the cruise. I found the new toys kept Lily far more entertained. Thankfully she also enjoyed watching everything that was going on so she actually didn’t need too many toys.
Pack layers! Even on a hot weather cruise it can become a bit cooler in the sea breeze in the evening so remember colder weather items as well.
Some cruise lines to do not allow swim nappies/diapers in the main pools but many of the newer large ships have splash areas for very young children which will allow babies. Definitely something worth checking!
For my full packing list, you can find that here.
Getting around the ship
For our cruise, we purchased the Ergobaby Metro stroller (code TWB10 will get you 10% off) which is narrower and folds down much smaller than your regular pram/travel system. It fit through the door of the cabin and stored away under the bed which was great when you have limited space.
We love exploring when we board the ship as there is so much to see! Along with her stroller we also took this Osprey carrier and she loved it! With a carrier, you can freely walk around the ship without having to worry about elevators or squeezing past any awkward spaces with a stroller.
There were plenty of public toilets on the ship with changing facilities and you are never too far away from your cabin if you want to pop back.
Tip: You cannot buy baby items onboard most ships, however those with nursery/baby clubs usually have a stash of diapers/wipes, but this not openly advertised so be prepared!
Many cruises are now offering kids clubs on board, a place to drop off your children to be looked after during the day. If you plan to use this service, I would recommend checking this out as soon as you get onboard so you can register your child’s place as there may be limited spaces.
On some cruise lines such as P&O there is even a night nursery onboard where you can drop baby off whilst you head out for the night. You will be given a pager to be contacted on if baby wakes.
Overall cruising with Lily was a fantastic experience and it was everything I was hoping for and more. Being able to visit a different city or country each day is a wonder experience for anyone, but especially children! They never get bored!
Cruising has come a long way with family friendliness over the years and there is so much variety on offer, no cruise line is the same so do your research before you book, but if you are well prepared then you should have a fantastic time on most ships!
Cruising is not for the oldies anymore!
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