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Cruising with a Baby: A Complete Guide

You took a baby on a cruise!? Yep, and I'd do it again knowing what I know now. So, say goodbye to months of research - Everything you need to know is here!!

One of the biggest challenges of traveling with a baby is planning what you need to bring. I wanted to share what worked for us, and hopefully help others who are planning their cruise! Remember, babies can only cruise after their 6-month birthday on sailings from the U.S. If you are going transatlantic, or have more than three days out at sea, they must be 12 months old by the first day of your cruise.

Pre-Cruise 

We flew to the cruise port, and I couldn’t bring all the food and snacks I needed, so I placed an Instacart order for pick up near the port. I chose Publix in Cocoa Beach which is a few miles from Port Canaveral. I placed the order a few days before we left home, and set the pickup time to 11:00 a.m. I ordered formula, a box of diapers, swim diapers, bottle brush, dish soap, baby food, and baby snacks. I also brought formula and some diapers with me in my carry on. TSA opened the formula to check it, because it's a powdered substance. I printed an extra luggage tag at home to affix to my box of diapers. I bought a foldable, floating baby seat with a sun shade, a UV blocking, one piece swimsuit, and a sun hat for the beach. I also got disposable bibs and placemats from Amazon. Visit my other blog for a list of Cruise Must-Have Items.

Disposable placemats
Disposable bibs
Toddler float with a sunshade

There are a few ways to go about getting to the ship:

1. Rideshare - I scheduled an Uber ahead of time to match up with my grocery pick up time. You can schedule Uber or Lyft about 30 days ahead of time. You can check a car seat with the airline for free, to use in the Uber.

2.  Cruise shuttle-  We have used Go Port Canaveral and Royal Caribbeans motorcoach. You do not have to check a car seat for a motorcoach shuttle. You can't make any stops along the way. 

3. Rent a car - Most rental car companies can provide a car seat for you, which eliminates the need to check one. Going to a rental car counter takes extra time, and you must pay for parking. Port Canaveral has several rental car companies about a block away. You can make any stops you need to on the way to the ship. You can leave the car in the parking area while you cruise, or return it to one of the nearby locations. One Way rentals are more expensive than Roundtrip. 

4. Drive - If you’re driving to the port you can bring all your baby supplies with you from home! There are cruises departing from New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and more. 

Food and Supplies Available Onboard

On some ships, Royal Caribbean offers a service called Babies 2 Go, where you can pre-order Huggies, wipes, and organic baby food to be delivered to your stateroom when you arrive and throughout your cruise. If your ship offers this, it will be under cruise manager on the website.

Disney Cruise Line sells essentials onboard. Baby supplies are available for purchase such as diapers, training pants, rash cream, infant formula (ready to feed), bottles, pacifiers, food, shampoo, lotion and baby powder. It's much more expensive than bringing it from home but it's there in a pinch.

Water: Order a case or two of bottled water to be delivered to your room from the cruise line before you travel. These can sell out, so do this as soon as you see it available on the app or website. When we arrived at the cruise port, I put all the food and snacks I picked up into my checked luggage (I saved space for it in my bag) and gave it to the porters. I also put a luggage tag on my box of diapers and they delivered them to my room. 

Arrival 

Documents: You will need your baby’s original birth certificate or a passport. It cannot be a photocopy of the birth certificate. 

Embarkation: The embarkation process is much easier if you carry your baby through the security line. You must empty your stroller and send it through the metal detector, so don’t load it up with baby items just yet. If you need help with baggage, a porter can help you. Pack everything you’ll need for the baby in your day bag. Your luggage could take several hours to arrive at the room. You can combine your stuff into one bag. A backpack keeps your hands free. I brought diapers, wipes, swim diapers, outfits, snacks, bottle, bibs, a few toys, sun screen, sun hat, swimsuits and a waterproof phone case in mine. 

Onboard

Nursery: The FIRST thing I did when I got onboard was visit the nursery. You can take a tour of the nursery and book a few nursery reservations. These book up quickly, so it’s imperative to do this early. Parents love to use the nursery for dinner, spa treatments, theater shows, and even on port days. There is a small per-hour fee. We used it 4 times. We relaxed in the adults only jacuzzi while she played one evening as a trial run. It went great, so we used it for a couple of dinners, and for our port day in Nassau, Bahamas. We visited Blue Lagoon Island and did the dolphin swim excursion with our other kids. Be sure to let the nursery know if you’re going to be leaving the ship. Drop off nursery’s are available on Disney and Royal Caribbean, but some cruise lines such as Carnival do not offer this service.
Royal Tots & Babies Nursery
Cribs: Cruise lines make it easy by providing a crib or Pack N Play for your child at no extra charge. You should call the cruise line well in advance or have your travel agent request it for you (2+ weeks from your cruise date). You don’t have to bring your own, but if your prefer to, you can check one with a luggage tag. You should however bring a fitted crib sheet and blanket if that’s what they use at home.

Swimming: Babies in swim diapers cannot go in the ship’s pools or hot tubs. However, they can swim in the Oasis Lagoon pool (largest pool in the Bahamas!) if you visit Perfect Day Coco Cay. Many ships also have splash pads or water play areas where babies who are still in diapers can cool off. Most Royal ships have the Baby Splash Zone. Disney ships have Nemo or Dory's Reef. Carnival does not permit diapered children in any water activities. We let our daughter play at the beach and in the splash area on the ship. Have your travel agent confirm what is available on your ship for diapered children and what their policies are so you're prepared. I highly recommend choosing a ship that has water play for babies. (You get to cool off too!)
Playtime: You don’t need to bring many toys to keep your baby entertained on a cruise. We brought her a few familiar toys for the cabin and stroller. The music, people, sights and sounds were enough to keep her happy and entertained. A stroller ride through the colorfully lit Promenade was one of her favorite activities. We found unoccupied lounges and shady deck areas where she could crawl around and explore.
Sugar Beach Candy Shop
Strollers: I recommend you always bring your own stroller from home as the cruise lines only have a few for rent, and you will need it in port and for embarkation. We used the Kolcraft Cloud Plus. It was the lightest stroller I could find that also had cup holders, a sunshade, and a basket underneath. It's a step above an umbrella stroller but just as easy to store. Be sure your stroller folds up to fit in your stateroom. Test it out at home a few.times to be sure you're comfortable with it. When going to the beach, you’ll have to take the baby out of the stroller and carry it in the sand, or pull it backwards. Perfect Day at Coco Cay has beach strollers, but they are first come, first served. If your baby likes to be held a lot, consider bringing a wrap or baby carrier, and get them used to riding in it before you travel. I gate checked my stroller before boarding my plane, which is free. They give it back to you as soon as you get off your plane. 
Cabins: You will likely be spending more time than usual in your room. Between naps, outfit changes, and early bedtime, we went back to the room much more than we normally would. We booked two connecting inside staterooms. We have a family of 6 so it was necessary to get 2 rooms. It was so nice to have a separate room to watch TV or shower if the baby was asleep next door. I also booked an inside room to keep it dark and quiet. However, I think next time I will book at least one balcony room so that we have a place to hangout outside. Balconies are a place to escape to while the baby is sleeping, yet still be able to keep an eye on things. Balconies have a full sheet of tempered glass under the railing, which means there are no gaps a child could crawl through. Always keep your balcony door locked unless an adult is on it. I don't recommend using the balcony with baby as the doors can be heavy, especially in the wind. 

Outlets: We brought a multi outlet adapter. Most cabins only have one or two plugs. You can plug in a night light or a fan if needed. We brought a battery-operated LED night light, and a battery-operated sound machine with us to save the outlets. 

Bath Time: Each shower has a handheld sprayer you can use to hose down your baby. There’s no need to bring a bath chair or inflatable tub. I sat my baby on a hand towel in the shower and washed her with the sprayer. She really enjoyed it! This is one reason to wait until your baby can safely sit up on their own to cruise. Other reasons being sitting in highchairs and on the beach with you. You can always sponge bathe a baby who cannot sit up. Disney Cruise Line has small tubs in some of their cabins.

Dining

If your baby is eating solids, you’ll be able to find plenty of things for them to eat on the ship and not have to plan for meals as much. You can also ask your server to puree food for you. My baby was eating a little bit of pureed food and little finger foods too. We brought baby spoons to feed her with and washed them in the room. 

In the MDR: We love to experience the different menus and excellent service in the Main Dining Room. You will have the same server nightly who will learn what you need. Our server always had a highchair ready, and would take our stroller and park it somewhere nearby, but out of the way. A long meal was not great for our baby. I had already scheduled her to have nursery time from 6-7:30 on a few nights so that we could enjoy a quiet, relaxing dinner. One of us would take her to the nursery between courses. The nursery staff would feed her and let her play until we returned. 
Don't forget to stop and get photos taken!
Formal Night: Don’t forget to bring formal wear for the baby, even if just for the photos! It’s adorable to see the babies dressed up on formal night. My daughter and I wore matching Mommy and Me dresses. I saw a baby boy in a little tuxedo with a bow tie too!

Highchairs: They are available in dining areas, just like in a restaurant. They are the plastic type without a tray. If you don’t see one, simply ask the waitstaff for assistance. You may have to wait for one to become available in the buffet. On Royal Caribbean we ate in the Italian restaurant adjacent to the buffet, so we could easily find a table and highchair. The noise of the buffet was often too much stimulation for our baby. Just ask the wait staff if you can sit in a restaurant to eat your buffet breakfast and they will direct you. This isn’t an option for lunch or dinner as they take reservations in the restaurant. In the main dining room, your server will have a high chair ready for you each night. 
Having a quiet breakfast in Giovanni's Table
Other food options: There are plenty of places on cruise ships to eat that are less formal than the dining room, including Windjammers (the buffet) and Sorrento’s (pizza/deli) on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. You can also get room service delivered to your room for a small fee.

Port Days

Excursions: You must confirm with your cruise line or tour operator that your excursion can include infants. Many do not, but you can find ones that will accept all ages. You must pack everything you need plus extras for a day off the ship as you will not be able to find baby supplies out on a boat or a beach. It is very hot in the Caribbean and the sun is intense. You’ll need to also take into consideration when nap time is. Research your ports in advance for kid-friendly activities like playgrounds, parks, or kid friendly beaches. Things like animal parks, aquariums, and museums are great with babies who can ride in a stroller through the excursion. Taxis and rideshare drivers will most likely not have car seats. If you’re on a bus or ferry, you can hold the baby. If you want to be super prepared, consider looking up where medical clinics, pharmacies, and grocery stores are near the cruise port in case you need anything. You need to have your baby’s room key card with you when leaving and returning to the ship, so stick it in the lanyard with your own. Take a photo of her passport or birth certificate as well, just in case they get lost or damaged.

Perfect Day at CocoCay: visiting Royal Caribbean's private island with a baby was easy in my opinion. I took my toddler son to Disney's Castaway Cay and felt the same there, too! The ship is close by if you need anything, there are paved sidewalks around the island. Food, water, shade and restrooms are readily available. There is a first aid station at Chill Island.  Get aquainted with the CocoCay map and where facilities are located before you arrive. Babies can splash around in the water at Chill Island, swim at Oasis Lagoon, or sit on a floating mat with you at Harbor Beach. All these options are free! Lifejackets are provided for older babies and toddlers. You can come and go to the ship as needed for naps too. The ship and the island both provide dry beach towels. You can exchange wet towels for dry ones at the towel stations. There are free lockers around the island to store anything you need.
Relaxing in the shade at Chill Island

First Aid Station on CocoCay
Sunscreen: The reflection off the water and the few times she was in the sun were enough to give her cheeks some color, even with sunscreen, a hat, and a UV blocking swimsuit. It is almost unavoidable in the Caribbean. Don’t let that scare you from bringing your baby to the beach, just be extremely diligent on sun protection, and do not forget to reapply sunblock. I recommend bringing some aloe gel. It's much easier to dress the baby in a full body swimsuit and hat, rather than trying to reapply sunblock to their wet, sandy bodies. I brought a bottle of water from the ship to rinse the sand off of her. This is convenient for diaper changes when sand is EVERYWHERE! 
Sun hat and UV blocking swimsuit at CocoCay
There's a lot that goes into taking a baby on a cruise, but I think it’s worth it. I love our photos of the entire family, including the baby! No, she won’t remember it, but we have stories to tell her when she gets older about taking her to the Bahamas! I hope my tips and experiences will calm your fears about cruising with your little one!

If you still have questions or concerns, send me an email or your Kingdom Konsultant agent will be happy to help you plan the perfect cruise! 


Summer loves to cruise with her her family and has sailed on Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. She can help you experience a memorable and stress-free trip! Email her at Summer@kingdomkonsultant.com.

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