Bringing Baby on Your Cruise

| Monday, 15 Oct. 2012

Kids of all ages love to go cruising

Five years ago the cruise lines varied on whether they would support people who wanted to bring children as young as six months onboard. Most cruise lines limited access to babies at least one year old, and if you brought one you were on your own. But in 2010 the cruise industry standardized around a set of recommendations by CLIA (the Cruise Line International Association) to not only allow children as young as six months, but also to provide high chairs, strollers, cribs, cots, bottle warmers and most importantly - organized care programs so parents can take a much needed break from the constant need to care for their children. To be clear - all of these cruise lines have had programs for older kids, three to 17 years of age, for decades now. But extending these programs to infants and toddlers is a more recent development.

Today most of the major, mainstream cruise lines will provide for children as young as six months old; this includes Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, P & O and Princess Cruise Line. Furthermore, the Euro-centric MSC Cruises allows babies as young as just three months old.

To be clear, however, one should not assume that because these cruise lines accommodate young kids that all cruise lines do so. In fact, many of the "up-scale" and "luxury" lines have no children's programs at all and do not recommend bringing them on their cruise ships.

At the other end of the scale is Disney Cruise Line, which is by far the most accommodating line for kids of all ages. Disney will even deliver diapers and warm baby formula to the stateroom; more on that later.

Are you thinking about bringing your baby onboard? Tell us here: Family Cruising

What is Provided for These Kids?

All of the cruise lines above have a minimum age of six months for most cruises, but raise the limit to one year from the rare trans-oceanic cruises, trips to South America and cruises to Hawaii.

Diapers are on sale in the stores onboard for the following cruise lines: Holland America (as long as it is pre-ordered) and on P & O Cruises. P & O is the British counterpart to Princess Cruise Line and mostly sails out of the U.K. although their cruises are open to everyone.

The remaining cruise lines do not baby formula onboard, so you must bring your own. Norwegian does sell diapers onboard, but not baby formula.

High Chairs, strollers and cots are available at no extra cost on all the cruise lines mentioned above with the exception of Carnival which charges $6/day or $25/week for strollers and/or bouncy chairs.

Activities and Baby Sitting

While the children are onboard during the day the cruise lines mentioned above will provide organized group activities with a good number of trained and supervised caretakers. Generally, there is no charge for these group activities, you just need to go and check your child in. These services are offered during most days from breakfast through about noon. Often they take a break in the afternoon but re-open well before dinner and continue to provide services throughout the dinner hour. After dinner parent have the option of taking advantage of organized baby-sitting services which have an added cost.

In detail by cruise line:

Carnival: Camp Carnival offers finger painting to cartoon time, arts and crafts to puppet shows. Toddlers do not have to be potty-trained. Group babysitting is offered from 10pm -3am - Charge: $6/hour.

Celebrity Cruises: Babies/tots have access to crafts, games & toys in the Fun Factory. Children under the age of 3 must be accompanied. Group Babysitting is available for $8/hour, as well as private babysitting, also for $8/hour.

Costa Cruises: This line (surprisingly) has no free organized activities for children this young, and the only baby-sitting offered is available from 11:30 pm to 1:30 a.m. - although it comes at no cost.

Cunard Line: Onboard nurseries are outfitted with Fisher-Price Little People as well as toys made by Little Tikes and Lamaze. The Queen Mary 2 liner has a "Minnows" pool for families, plus a splash pool for smaller children. Group babysitting is staffed by "British Nannies" and available from 6:00pm-midnight at no cost.

Holland America Line: The line offers "Toddler Times" sessions for kids under the age of three to play in the children's facilities, but there are no trained caretakers so parents must stay with their children at all times. Babysitting is offered to children under three on a limited basis by on voluntary staff - price negotiable.

MSC Cruises: the only line to allow kids as young as just three-months old onboard. However there are no baby-sitting services and any kids of less than 36-months old must be accompanied by the parents when they are in the children's play area.

Norwegian Cruise Line: while this is one of the few cruise lines that sells diapers and baby wipes onboard, the line does not have any supervised activities for tots 36-months or younger nor does it offer any baby-sitting services.

P & O Cruises: this is one of the most accommodating cruise lines for infants and tots. The playrooms for slightly older kids are open to all. But any children under the age of two years must be accompanied by a parent. Free Group babysitting is also available from 6 pm to 2 am.

Princess Cruises: children from six to 36 months are welcome in the youth play room as long with supervision by a parent or guardian. Princess Youth counselors will not change diapers. Group babysitting is offered from 10 pm-1:00 am but only for kids three years or older. The charge is $5 per hour.

Royal Caribbean: the line offers 45-minute Interactive playgroup sessions developed by Fisher-Price, held in an onboard lounge. Moms can keep fit with the "Stroller Mates" workout sessions. Group babysitting is offered from 8 am to 2 am. The Charge is $10/hour. Private babysitting is also available.

Disney - The Kid's Cruise Line

Disney has a special area called "Flounder's Reef Nursery" which will accommodate babies as young as three months old (12 weeks). Within this area they provide meals and cribs for nap-taking. The area is supervised with trained "nannies" so parents are free to go their own way. Parents are required to supply their own diapers and formula, but they can buy these onboard or have them delivered to their staterooms. Nannies will change the children.

Baby on Board - in Summary

Before you go on any cruise you should double-check the policies outlined above since things can change at any time. It pays to be prepared.

Also keep in mind that while some people will enjoy seeing your baby on board, not everyone appreciates loud kids or crying babies, especially in the dining rooms. So if you bring baby, be aware of the close proximity of other cruisers. If you do not want to risk this particular social stigma it is best to stick to Disney if you can afford it or some of the larger and newer ships from Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean. Happy cruising!

Are you thinking about bringing your baby onboard? Tell us here: Family Cruising

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