When my first child was born, I insisted that I wasn’t going to let a baby take over my life. Unhappy about images of a house taken over by toys and baby-proofed with all sorts of locks and padded corners, I naively set out to keep all of this in check. I kept driving my convertible, with her car seat safely secured in the back. And of course, we continued to travel.
By the time she took her first cruise (at age 4 months), she had already been to Disney World and a plane trip to Vermont and Montreal to see fall foliage. She obviously doesn’t remember any of it, and it was clearly more for us than for her, but it’s just a note to all parents that just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you have to stay home! With some advance planning and knowledge of what to expect, it’s entirely possible to have a very nice family vacation with a baby.
Here are what I consider to be the top 5 points to consider before you cruise with a baby:
How important is babysitting?
If getting some mom-and-dad alone time is important to you, you’ll need to know if your cruise will offer any kind of babysitting for little ones and what the extent of it might be. Only a handful of cruises offer an actual nursery where you can leave your baby in good hands while you have a quiet meal or take part in other shipboard activities (this is a separate charge from your cruise fare, and space may be limited) . While some ships offer in-room private babysitting, they generally require children to be at least 1 year old.
If you don’t need a babysitter, keep in mind that most ships will allow you to accompany your baby into the children’s facilities to play or borrow toys (although they may not always be suitable for infants); you just can’t leave your little one there while you head out for a spa treatment. Also, some cruise lines offer parent/child playgroups for babies and organized morning stroller walks, which is a nice way to socialize with other parents onboard.
Where do you want to go on your cruise?
If you just want to sail to the Caribbean or the Bahamas, then there shouldn’t be any problems, as long as everyone in the family has proper travel documents (such as a passport). Some lines allow babies as young as 12 weeks to sail. But if you want to go somewhere more far-flung, like Hawaii, South America, or a Transatlantic crossing, babies will generally need to be at least 12 months old.
Does your baby like to swim?
Keep in mind that public health regulations prohibit babies in diapers (any kind, including swim diapers and pullups) from using the pools onboard. However, there are some ships that have specially-designated water play areas just for babies. If your baby loves the water, you may want to consider one of the ships that will accommodate your little one. And please, whatever you do, do not think that is ok for your baby to swim in the regular pools just by removing their diaper!
What is your budget?
Your budget for the trip will determine what kind of room you will reserve. Most cabins can accommodate a baby as a 3rd guest in a room, and cribs or pack-n-plays are generally available. It is important to note that you will have the pay the going rate for a 3rd guest in a room, even though your tiny traveling companion won’t be eating or taking up much space in your room.
Many families that travel with a baby prefer to choose a room with a balcony. This way, when the baby naps or goes to bed early at night, mom and dad can relax on the balcony without having to whisper in the dark. Sometimes, it can even be beneficial to opt for a mini-suite or a suite: not only do they come with extra pampering perks for mom and dad, but also the rooms are larger and they generally have a bathtub (instead of a small shower that is standard in most cruise cabins).
Do you think your baby will be happy?
An old adage in the life of a parent goes something like, “Happy Baby, Happy Parents”. Obviously, your baby isn’t going to have any idea that they are on vacation on this fabulous cruise ship. But around the age of 4-6 months, babies tend to fall into a regular routine, and with some luck, they might even be sleeping through the night. If you think you’ll be able to stick (somewhat) to your baby’s regular naptimes and feeding times, there’s no reason why you can’t take a cruise. Your baby will be coddled by all the staff on board, and will love getting rocked to sleep by the ocean waves. And best of all, you’ll be able to spend family time together, without the intrusion of having to do laundry, cook meals, and other household chores!
There are several factors involved with planning a cruise with a baby – these are just a few. Contact Sunshine Travel today so we can help you get started!