I did a ton of research and googling prior to our November Caribbean cruise. We are seasoned cruisers, but this time was different, this time we had a nine month old with us. I scoured cruise critic and looked for blogs but I didn’t find much advice for a baby under one and so hopefully my experiences will help someone else in the same boat (literally) as we were.
To give you some specs, we sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas out of Port Canaveral for a 7 day sailing. We were staying in an interior stateroom on the 10th floor, aft.
Apologies in advance, this is going to be a long one, but a fun one….
Tip #1 Overpack
We did not go through everything but it was a relief to know we had extras and we did go through plenty thanks to spit up, runny noses, and excessive drooling. And that was just Thomas. I kid! I kid! 🙂 They do have laundry on the cruise that you can send out for. We never had to use it, but we did run through our pajamas pretty quickly and had to do some tub washin’. So doing this again I would bring extra pj’s and less every day clothes as she was able to rewear a lot of it. Speaking of tub washing….
Tip #2 Location, Location, Location
We cheated a little bit, we traveled with my parents and grandparents who are stylin’ and profilin’ and had a Jr Suite and Balcony respectively which we were able to live in vicariously. If we ever cruised alone with Evie I would not hesitate to get a balcony. We watched a lot more tv than I’d have liked being in an interior (although RC has a Dreamworks channel, brilliant!). If we’d had a balcony we could have been using it to sit, drink wine, and read while she slept inside. It would have been worth the extra expense knowing we’d be in the room more often than usual. The balcony was great for setting down blankets and allowing Evie to play and be outside. Do put down blankets though! They clean out there but they can’t get everything. I caught Evie trying to play with a toenail that did NOT belong to anyone in our group, ewwwww!
The Jr Suites had a bathtub which was great, and our ship (Freedom of the Seas) had a baby splash pool which was also great. However, if your room/ship lacks those amenities, you can bring an inflatable tub. It’s easy to pack and allows you give your baby a bath or her own private balcony pool. This is a must have, the showers on board have amazing water pressure which is great for adults with sore muscles, not so enjoyed by tiny babies with delicate skin.
If you have an Interior you will be fine provided your baby does not mind if there is noise/light while sleeping as ours does not. Otherwise you’ll be stuck sitting in a dark room at 8pm whispering to your spouse or to yourself after your spouse escapes to get a beer on the promenade. We were provided a pack n play that was easy to set up. Bring your own fitted sheet and I recommend a pad like this in case of leaks. We had plenty of room (it’s all relative) once we got ourselves configured. Use the space under the bed for suitcase storage, lay the stroller along the side the bed and put your coffee table in the closet when the crib is set up. Or travel with family that have a bigger room than you and use their space for your stuff!
The beds are also big enough for family naps. I came back from the gym one morning to this precious scene.
Tip #3 Supplies plus some
Stuff, babies have it. And your options for restocking on a cruise are LIMITED so make sure you have enough of everything. My grandparents live in Florida so they were able to make a Target run for us, however we always fly in the day before (do this!) so we would have had time to do one of our own. We made sure to have enough formula for the week plus a couple days just in case. You can order baby supplies through the ship but it was less expensive to purchase our own jarred baby food. You can get cheerios on the ship and Evie was able to sample a lot of our food at dinner (soup, mashed potatoes etc). We brought on some diapers and had Royal Caribbean deliver us some to our cabin as well. A little pricy but it included extra wipes, diaper cream and a handy tote bag. Don’t forget the baby Tylenol, oragel, vicks, first aid kit just in case. It will make your life so much easier to have these items. And less is more in some cases, bring an umbrella stroller and baby carrier of some kind. A smaller stroller will be easier to maneuver around the ship and store in your stateroom. You don’t need to bring a car seat unless you plan to rent a car or utilize taxis in port.
As for things you can never have enough of:
Pacifiers – We had 6, we left with 1. No idea how! Have EXTRA or make sure you have a pacifier clip….or three.
Wipes — Not just for butts, you’ll use them noses, furniture your baby is trying to lick, sticky hands, grubby faces
Diapers – You just don’t want to run out. Also bring a changing pad, the restroom do not have a changing table.
We also brought a case of water on board packed in a collapsible bag so we would have ready access to pure water for bottles. We washed all of the bottles in the sink which was kind of a pain, but when isn’t doing dishes kind of a pain? My grandma provided us with two of these awesome bins –
We used it as a dish pan, filled it with water and dish soap and then laid all the bottles to dry on towel on the vanity. Also necessary — these. We have tommee tippee bottles and these are perfect for measuring formula and being ready to go for a bottle. We kept one on the nightstand so when she woke for her 5am feeding we could have a bottle together in .2 seconds ensuring no hungry wailing for our neighbors to endure.
We used the other bin to store the toys we brought which brings me to…
Tip #4 Babies Just Wanna Have Fun
We kept our toy packing to a minimum, just what we might need on the plane or in port for distraction. We brought a teddy bear, teething beads, rattle, wooden teether and a book. Plus we were on a ship with the Royal Babies program.
This was awesome. We were able to check out a bag of toys from the nursery that we could switch out whenever we wanted. The first bag was really great and was dino themed. The second was farm themed and not as great, plus there was a cheetah toy so I don’t know what kind of farm they thought we were running. Through a partnership with Fisher Price they also turned one of the teen clubs into a playroom during the day stocked with lots of fun toys. Evie was a bit overwhelmed, but had a great time. (And bonus we scored the great playhouse for $4.50 at a thrift store the weekend after we got home knowing she liked it!) On sea days the room is staffed and there is a dedicated baby playgroup and both times we went we met a really nice family from Norway with a two year and a one year old. It was kind of funny hearing the infant babble. Right now he and Evie speak the same language, but in six months they won’t!
I also mentioned earlier our ship had a baby pool, not all ships do. This one was specifically for babes still in diapers. Evie hates cold water, but this pool was very warm and she had a blast splashing around.
She also enjoyed the structured activities. She cooeh and cahed her way through the ice show in total amazement. The lights and activity were far enough away so as not to be overwhelming.
The parade was a little more intense and up close and personal. But she was fascinated at least, if not slightly alarmed.
Our ship had a Dreamworks tie in which meant plenty of chances to meet characters and even have a special character breakfast. I was disappointed not to see any Madagascar penguins 🙁 Evie was not thrilled with Alex the lion, but she LOVED Gloria. She even got excited when she saw a photo of Gloria later in the day. It was so cute to see her reaction.
Tip #5 Schedules? We don’t need no stinkin’ schedules
These do not exist on vacation. You may live something close to it, but nothing compared to what you are used to at home. Take what you can when you can. If the baby is sleeping, let them sleep! If she’s crying and nothing is helping, toys, location change, pacifier etc, she may need to eat. Not eating time you say? Trust me, a 4 oz bottle goes a long way. You eat more on vacation, why shouldn’t baby?
Tip #6 Easier not Easy
Cruising with a baby in terms of vacation isn’t easy, but it is easier. There is food available 24/7, there is always something going on so even if you miss one activity there will be another right behind it and with the exception of ports, you’re already there! If the baby gets fussy you can be back in your room in a flash. I will note that we are fortunate to have a fairly easy baby who puts up very well with schedule disruptions and sleeps through the night. The nice part about Royal Caribbean is that it is kid friendly but caters to adults so I think it’s probably a bit better-rounded than a Disney cruise. I highly recommend traveling with relatives who are willing to take the baby for a night or watch them for a couple hours so mom and dad can grab a drink together, make it a true family vacation. And if that’s not possible get a balcony or sail a ship with a nursery so you can catch a show and have an adult dinner.
I will further note that we sailed Royal Caribbean which we always do and we always have an amazing experience with wonderful staff. It was even more so this time, they loooooved Evie. Keep in mind that a lot of the staff has families and small children of their own and they will be thrilled to see your little one since it reminds them of home, especially if she smiles at everyone like Evie. They really went above and beyond for us Our room attendant was quick to open my stateroom door for me if he saw me in the hall with the baby, our waiters remembered her name and greeted her every day and brought her a high chair. The attendant in the play room saw that she was teething and got her a brand new out of the package teething ring.
My favorite story is that while playing trivia I jokingly reminded Evie, “Now don’t yell out the answers ok?” And she said, “okay!” She’d never said that or really anything before that wasn’t syllables mama, dada, baba etc. Well, Lee, part of the cruise director staff, thought that was great and announced it to everyone at every other trivia game. He was also in the parade on stilts and saw us, came over, bent down and pointing to Evie said “okay!”.
It was a truly amazing trip, and while not as relaxing as I’d hoped, it was a lot of fun. I loved having every day to spend with Evie and even a night or two to have a glass of wine with my husband. And it was great being in a central location with people dedicated to making sure we all had a great time. And that was just on the ship! I’ll get into more detail about the ports in a separate post. So how about it, do you hear the sea calling yet?