Q: I have a two-year-old and we will be using our car seat in the airplane en route to our cruise. Do you have any suggestions on carrying the seat around the airport and storing it on the cruise ship?
A: Although it is a hassle to carry a car seat around an airport, using it on the plane is the safest and most comfortable way to go with a young child. (For more details on flying with a car seat, go to: www.cpsafety.com/articles/airplanetravel.aspx.) If your child is old enough to walk a bit, then you might want to perch the car seat on the stroller you're taking and hold your child's hand in the airport. If not, then one parent needs to carry the car seat while the other pushes the carriage. You can purchase a large bag with a shoulder strap to help carry your car seat from One Step Ahead (
www.onestepahead (obsolete url).
Another option is the Sit N Stroll stroller, also from One Step Ahead, which is a combination car seat and stroller and thus eliminates the above. However, it is a rather bulky stroller that will be hard to store in your cruise ship cabin. I have found it best to use my child's regular car seat in the airplane, and then ask the cabin steward to store it for me during the cruise. We use an umbrella stroller with a shade awning throughout the cruise since it folds up nicely for storage in our cabin.
Q: Can I use my child's car seat when we go on a shore excursion?
A: This is a difficult situation since most buses at home and abroad do not have belts to buckle in a car seat. And throughout the Caribbean, we have rarely found taxis equipped with seat belts. If you do find a vehicle that allows you to belt in the car seat, then keep in mind that you have to carry the car seat with you. There is no easy solution: Either you have to forego excursions until your child is old enough to travel by land without a car seat, or you have to forego safety by holding an infant/toddler on your lap. It's your choice!
Q: We are cruising with two pre-teen girls. I want to give them some freedom. However, there will be more than 2,000 strangers aboard the ship. Will walkie-talkies work?
A: I find walkie-talkies are the perfect solution when I cruise with my 10-year-old daughter. The walkie-talkies give her freedom on the ship while allowing her to contact me when necessary. Make sure you buy units that have at least a two-mile radius and many channels. I found a decent pair for $30 at Kids R Us and they worked well on the Brilliance of the Seas. While Carnival Cruise Lines rents them out, I feel it's worth purchasing your own pair prior to the cruise so you can use them in the future. You'll need to bring plenty of batteries or a battery re-charger. Some CruiseMates.com readers, however, have reported that walkie-talkies don't always work well on extremely big ships, especially if you are on lower levels of the ship due to the metal infrastructure.
Q: While it varies by cruise line, I know some lines let kids as young as eight years old sign themselves out of the youth program. If I don't want to use a walkie-talkie, what other options do I have for keeping tabs on my kids while at sea?
A: When my daughter was 8-1/2 years old she began signing herself out. We always set up meeting times and locations whenever she goes to the youth room, and I make sure she is wearing a watch. I impressed upon her that if she uses her freedom responsibly, she'll get more freedom. If not, then she has to tag along with mom and dad all through the cruise! Two years and about four cruises later, she has handled the responsibility beautifully.
We have also had discussions about what to do if she's in an elevator with a person who makes her feel uncomfortable, and other safety issues. Also keep in mind that most new ships have public phones on each deck, so your child/teen can reach you if you're in your cabin. Since we live outside a big city, my daughter certainly gets more freedom than she would at home - so far, so good!CABIN FEATURES FOR FAMILIES
Q: We are a family of five. What options do we have for accommodations?
A: You have a few options. Some newer ships feature family staterooms that accommodate five. These include Royal Caribbean's Voyager and Radiance class ships; Princess' Grand class ships; Carnival's Destiny and Conquest class ships (but not Spirit class); and Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Star and Dawn. Since this type of cabin category has limited availability, book your reservation early for a five-berth unit, or "quint."
Another option is to book a mini-suite, which will often accommodate five people. (Verify this with the cruise line prior to booking.) Some families prefer connecting staterooms so they'll have two bathrooms and televisions, and twice the storage space. Yet another idea is to book an outside cabin for yourself, your spouse and any younger children, and a less expensive inside cabin across the hall for teenagers. This gives teens some freedom, but they are still so close that you could even put a baby monitor in their room to make sure they are safe and sound!
Q: What can you tell me about the types of cribs used on ships?
A: First of all, make sure you reserve a crib when you book your cruise. And have your travel agent verify with the line's reservation staff that there will indeed be room in your cabin to set up a crib. We were once in a stateroom where there was no space to open up the crib we had reserved. Some of the cribs are "Pack n Play" types, which are like playpens, while others are the small metal cribs one often finds in hotels. One CruiseMates.com reader said the cribs on Celebrity measured 24x36 inches; keep that in mind when you order a crib, since a toddler might not fit in it very well. Some other options: turning an upholstered chair or small couch around to face the wall to create an instant crib for an infant (for safety reasons, I wouldn't recommend this for babies who can turn over and in so doing, possibly move the chair away from the wall), or having a toddler sleep in one of the beds and bringing your own collapsible bed rail.
Q: We booked a veranda cabin but are a bit concerned that our toddler will open the glass doors to the balcony on his own. Any suggestions?
A: All veranda doors have locks. Also, most are extremely heavy; I often have trouble opening them up myself!