I have to start this post by clarifying a few things.
First, I am in no way an expert when it comes to cruising with kids. I simply picked up a few tips along the way, that I thought would be nice to share (particularly for those who are thinking of taking a cruise with kids in the near future!)
Second – I am sure that some of these tips may not work for you. This is simply a collection of what things worked for us (and what things didn’t!). I am acutely aware that every family is unique, with different needs and routines.
Third – This was our first big holiday with two kids, with C being almost 4, and J having just turned 1. I am certain that our experience would have been completely different if the kids were older.
But now, let’s get to it!
1. Establish a Holiday Routine
“What?” I hear you say. Routine, with kids, on a holiday??
Yes this routine-loving gal made sure to try and keep both kids on a pretty regular routine (albeit a holiday-relaxed routine) even though we were in a new environment. I felt as if it provided some structure to our day, and the girls knew what to expect next.
J still required two naps per day, and although they were not taken in their usual cot, we made sure to give her plenty of opportunity to get the rest she needed. Most of the time she took a nap in the pram, and sometimes in the Ergo, but we kept her nap times pretty much to schedule.
Generally our days went something like this: Up, breakfast, nap for Josie, gym, kids club & play (or Island adventure), lunch, nap for Josie, pool & play (or Island adventure), baths, dinner, bed for the kids.
We took the early dinner time-slot (5.45pm), meaning that both girls could be tucked up in bed not long after 7pm each night.
On that note – don’t forget to pack your little one’s favourite teddy! I think having “Scout” and “Teddy” along with us assisted with the change in environment, and also made for smoother bedtimes as both girls had their bed buddies.
2. Take enough nappies to cover the whole cruise
J is obviously still in nappies, and we made sure to take enough nappies and wipes to cover the whole holiday. Yes, it took up a tonne of room in our suitcase – but it meant that we didn’t have to go searching for spares (and pay, what I expect, would have been top dollar) if we ran out.
We also took a tonne of swim nappies, however once on board we realised that that non-toilet trained kids were not allowed in the pool (even with a swim nappy on). So we probably could have saved some suitcase space by leaving those at home.
3. Don’t forget the other ‘regular’ items
For us, a few things spring to mind as having been invaluable.
I made sure to pack a muslin cloth that we could cover the pram with to help J fall asleep. Without it she would fight her nap, but with it, she would generally fall asleep within minutes.
Ahem, well most of the time…..
We also packed our baby monitor which worked a treat in the evenings. We would put the girls to bed in our room, then hang out in our family’s adjoining room – with the monitor easily reaching between the two.
And, if your kids are anything like mine, one (or both) of them will inevitably get sick. We didn’t face anything too major whilst away, but J did have a never-ending runny nose and spiked a couple fevers. Thankfully we had brought an ’emergency medical kit’ with us – including panadol, baby nurofen, bandaids, stingose and the thermometer.
4. Food, food and more food
I don’t know about you, but our kids love to snack.
On board, there was a lot of food available at the scheduled meal times – but in between the offerings were quite slim (and mainly consisted of hot chips, ice-cream and pizza).
So I brought some ziplock bags with me – and at breakfast each morning I made a couple extra sandwiches to ‘take away’. I also grabbed some fruit and yoghurt to keep in the fridge in our room. That way, the girls could snack on some healthier options throughout their day (although they did still have their fair share of hot chips and ice-cream too!).
5. Pack the pram and carrier
We took a small pram on the ship, that folded up easily and was not heavy at all. Not only was it great for moving a non-walker from place to place throughout the day, it was a useful ‘nap’ option as mentioned above.
I also took the Ergo carrier which was perfect for our shore excursions – and when the pram was not going to be convenient.
On that note, it pays to properly understand the shore excursions beforehand. We did have one incident where we thought we could take the pram – however we realised at the last minute that the ‘train’ was too small and we had to wake up a sleeping J and dash back to the ship to swap the pram for the carrier.
6. Call ahead for a cot
I was advised that the ship only has a limited number of cots, so I made sure to call well in advance to secure one. In truth, I was fretting about the logistics of getting two kids, two massive suitcases, two backpacks and the pram from the train to the ship (and then on-board!) so not having to worry about finding an extra arm to carry a portacot too was a relief!
7. Take your bottle to dinner and have the waiters fill it with warm milk
J has a bottle of warm cows milk each evening before bed. The only problem was – how to get heated milk?
Our dinner waiters were more than happy to oblige our request to fill the bottle with warm milk each evening after we finished our meal, which I then took back to our cabin. Brilliant!
8. Use the laundry service
I was on holiday and therefore had no desire to spend a day washing, drying and ironing clothes. The laundry service was a perfect alternative – with a 24 hour turnaround and reasonable fees.
And, as you know, adventurous kids go through a lot of clothes!
9. Split the kids up at dinner
Ok this was possible as we were cruising with 6 other people, so I appreciate that it might not work for everyone.
Basically, our kids are pretty ‘new’ to formal dining environments (probably because we don’t, in all reality, go out to restaurants all that often).
Well, the first dinner was rather horrible. J didn’t want to sit still and kept throwing things on the floor and trying to get out of the high-chair. C, being her usual energetic self, didn’t want to sit still long enough to eat her dinner (she is pretty picky these days).
The combination of the two kids together + 2 nagging parents alongside = not a fun night at all.
So, the next night we decided to change tactics. We positioned the kids at opposite ends of the table – with Mr BBB and I alternating which child we sat next to each evening (and the our other family members playing musical chairs in between).
We found this really improved the situation, and let us both have some one on one time with the girls. Add in the understanding waiters (and their dance and origami skills) and well dinner times became a lot more fun!
Tips for new cruisers – In addition to the regular dinner menu, there was also special kids menu which included all the usual suspects – burgers, fish, pasta etc. We would usually order one meal for the girls to share, with a plate of vegetables on the side, and C generally ordered jelly for dessert.
10. Make use of the Kids Club
Where do I begin?
C absolutely LOVED kids club – particularly as it meant she could escape from the adults and hang out with kids her own age for a few hours.
Similar to the brochure outlining all the on-board activities, there was a full schedule of kids activities for the various age-groups on board.
We registered both girls for Kids Club on the day we boarded, and they were given a wrist band to wear for the remainder of the cruise. We were also allocated a mobile phone that the Club staff could call us on if they needed too.
C was in the 2 to 5 years program, which had activities running from 10am to 1am on sea days (yes you read that right, 1am?!), and 7:45am to 1am on Island days. The club closed for a couple hours before dinner, and did not supply lunch.
There were far more limited hours that J, being under 2, could use the Club. A few hours in the morning before the older kids arrived, and some hours later in the day (again when the bigger kids were away). We therefore didn’t use it a lot for her, just a few times while we were at the gym. Actually, the whole cruise was probably the most frustrating for J as she is not yet walking – and couldn’t just roam free like she would around the house. But we made use of our balcony and the quieter parts of the upper decks that were a little quieter so that she could crawl around and burn off some energy!
Tips for new cruisers: We expected that there might be a nanny or baby sitting service on board, however that was not the case. Kids Club stayed open quite late, but there was no option to have a baby-sitter watch the kids in your room or separately.
So there you have it…..cruising with kids, in a nutshell. We found it challenging at times, but mostly rewarding, and I felt like our little family adapted really well to our time on the sea.
It was a great opportunity to spend some quality time together, with the added bonus of having to only unpack once!
I hope you enjoyed this little series about our cruising adventure. I’ll be back to regular food and fitness blogging soon, but in case you missed the other posts in the series, here are the links:
What about you? Do you have any tips for cruising with kids?