Cruising for Families - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Cruising for Families

Cruising can be a great vacation for families, but be sure to choose the right ship for your needs.

More than two million under-18s went on a cruise in 2014 - a figures that reflects just how well cruising suits children. Cruise ships provide a virtually crime-free, safe, contained environment, which is great for families. For younger kids, there are so many fun things to keep them entertained, while for the older ones, there’s lots to do, plus they can enjoy a certain level of independence - something that always goes down well with teens. Meanwhile, parents can enjoy vacationing together as a family as well as taking some time out. With everything - dining, entertainment, wellness facilities, etc. - being on tap and hugely accessible, it makes it so much easier to combine those things with parenting. And if the children are old enough to attend children’s clubs, that really means the parents can enjoy some ‘me time’. Planning family vacations can be complicated, with so many things to think about. Here are the key things you need to know.

It goes without saying that you need to choose a family-friendly ship. Generally speaking, the newest large resort ships have numerous dedicated spaces for children of all ages, as well as water parks and lots of neat things for active kids. Some cruise lines employ whole teams of counselors who run special programs off-limits to adults; others may only have token family programs, with limited activities and only a couple of general staff allocated to look after children. Some ships provide children’s programs and youth counselors only during the summer holidays, Christmas, New Year, and Easter. Check whether the cruise line offers the right facilities for your needs at other times. Also note that although many ships have full programs for children during days at sea, these may be limited when the ship is in port. If the ship has a playroom, find out if it is open and supervised on all days of the cruise.


Teaching kids how to draw Disney characters.


Cruise companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International provide pagers for parents; others provide them only for special needs children. In-cabin telephones aboard some ships can be set to ‘in-cabin listening,’ allowing parents to call their cabin from any of the ships’ telephones, and eavesdrop.

Most cruise lines give children colored bracelets, to be worn at all times. These identify which muster station they belong to in the event of an emergency, as well as showing which children are enrolled in which activity programs.

Some youth programs allow older children (usually 10 and older, but it varies by cruise line) to sign themselves out of youth centers, if authorized to do so by a parent. This makes it easy for children to meet family members somewhere else - by the pool or casual restaurant, for example - or go back to the cabin. If authorization isn’t granted, only designated adults can sign them out of programs, typically by showing some ID or by providing a password created at the beginning of the cruise.


Mini golf on Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Note that cruise lines expect parents to watch over their children when using a ship’s swimming pools. Lifeguards are not generally provided, but Disney Cruise Line started providing trained lifeguards (not babysitters) at the family pool aboard its four ships during pool opening hours in 2013; perhaps other lines will follow.

Bear in mind that a ship’s medical department isn’t set up for pediatric services: cruise ship doctors are generalists.

If you book a cruise aboard one of the ships catering to more international passengers, such as Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, or Star Cruises, your youngsters may find themselves surrounded by children speaking other languages. This could cause a degree of confusion, but in most cases it will prove to be an adventure in learning and communication that adds to their vacation.

Age groups

Cruise lines generally divide young cruisers into distinct age groups. We put them into four groups: infants (3 months-3 years); children (3-10); pre-teens (11-12); teens: 13-17.

Cruising with babies and infants

Many new or recent parents will, of course, want to take their babies with them when they cruise. Check the minimum age requirements for your chosen cruise line and itinerary; they vary according to the cruise, length and region. The biggest attractions of this type of vacation for new parents include only having to pack and unpack the baby things only once, plus the convenience of having everything (food, entertainment, activities, etc.) absolutely on hand. There may also be a crèche/nursery (see below), plus there’s always room service, if you prefer to dine in your cabin.

Check the ship’s itinerary to see whether a ship docks alongside in each port. This is easier than being at anchor, when shore tenders must be used - these may require you to go down a rigged ladder to a small boat waiting to take you ashore, which is not easy with an infant in tow.

Check with the cruise line or your travel agent before you book as to what equipment is available, and whether it must be pre-booked. Some cruise ships will lend you cribs, strollers (some charge a rental fee), bouncy seats, books, toys, cots, and bed guards.

An inexpensive umbrella-type stroller will prove invaluable in airports, aboard ship (Carnival Cruise Lines is one of the few operators to offer them for rent aboard ship), and ashore. Small is better because it takes up less space in cabins, elevators, and self-serve buffet areas. It will be easier to maneuver at the cruise terminal, and for negotiating open deck areas aboard ship.

Consider taking a car seat for flights, buses and taxis, and a sling-style baby carrier for hands-free baby carrying when negotiating stairways, and for shore outings.

Request a crib as soon as possible (and book as early as you can), as ships carry only a limited number. However, while it’s fine to order cribs and camp beds, you’ll soon find there’s little room to move about, so go for as large a cabin as your budget allows. If you have a non-walker, consider a cabin with a balcony, as this will give more breathing space - you can relax on the balcony while your infant has a nap in the cabin.

Disposable diapers (nappies), wipes, and sterilizing fluid can be purchased aboard most family-friendly ships, but they are expensive, so it’s wise to bring your own supplies. You may be able to pre-order diapers for delivery to your cabin before you embark - at a cost.

As far as laundry is concerned, be prepared to use the self-service launderette, if your ship has one (not all do, so this is another thing to check out before booking). Pack all-detergent sheets, as they are easier to transport than liquid detergent. Some ships have laundry ‘bundles’ (either all-you-can-bundle, or a set number of items, depending on the cruise line, into a provided laundry sack) for a special price (typically around $25).

You’ll need to look after your child the whole time, unless you choose one of the few ships that have a proper nursery and qualified staff to look after infants. Ships with a nursery for ages six months to 36 months are: Allure of the Seas, Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, and Oasis of the Seas.

Children under three years old need to be potty-trained to take part in any group activities. Check with the cruise line whether babies and infants are allowed in paddling and swimming pools, and whether they must wear swim diapers.

Bear in mind that you may have to bathe infants/small children in a small shower enclosure with a fixed-head shower. Some ships (e.g. those of Costa Cruises) do, however, have baby baths available. And always make sure you have adequate medical insurance, and take your infant’s medical information in case of an emergency.

Minimum age accepted

It’s important to check the minimum age requirements for your chosen cruise line and itinerary, because they can vary according to the cruise, length and region. Here’s our list of 12 principal cruise lines and the minimum age allowed for sailing (correct at time of going to press).

Carnival Cruise Lines

Minimum sailing age: 6 months (12 months on transatlantic, Hawaii, and South America cruises).

Celebrity Cruises

Minimum sailing age: 6 months (12 months for transatlantic and transpacific and some South American cruises).

Costa Cruises

Minimum sailing age: 6 months.

Cunard Line

Minimum sailing age: 6 months (some sailings); 12 months for transatlantic and transpacific crossings, world cruise segments, and Hawaii cruises.

Disney Cruise Line

Minimum sailing age: 3 months.

Holland America Line

Minimum sailing age: 12 months.

MSC Cruises

Minimum sailing age: 3 months.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Minimum sailing age: 6 months.

P&O Cruises

Minimum sailing age: 6 months (12 months for transatlantic cruises) aboard the family-friendly ships Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceania, and Ventura.

Princess Cruises:

Minimum sailing age: 6 months.

Royal Caribbean International:

Minimum sailing age: 6 months for many itineraries; 12 months for any cruises with three or more sea days, and for all transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii and South Pacific cruises.

Star Cruises

Minimum sailing age: 6 months (note: any child whose travel document is attached to the parent’s passport must travel with the accompanying parent).

Suggested packing lists for infants

Travelling by plane? Suggested items for your carry-on bag.

Diapers (or Pull-Ups), and changing pad

Antibacterial wipes (take plenty)


Drinks (small)

Small toys and books to keep your infant happy

Pacifiers and bibs (if your munchkin still uses one)

A camera (or smart phone)

Suggested items for your checked luggage

Diapers/Pull-Ups and wipes, if your infant is not potty-trained. Night-time diapers if your infant is potty-trained.

Any toiletries your infant may need, including special baby soap and shampoo (these are not provided by cruise lines), lotions, sunscreen, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Outlet plugs for childproofing.


Bibs and pacifiers

Utensils and sip-cups

First-aid kit and any medication such as pain relievers, fever reducers, and the name and contact details of your infant’s pediatrician (for comfort).

Plastic bags for any snacks for shore excursions.

Ziplock bags - useful for soiled clothing.

Portable potty seat (if your infant is potty-trained).

Disposable diapers, deodorized disposal bags, and wipes. Swim diapers: for health reasons, regular diapers are not allowed in the pools (exception: Disney Cruise Line ships, due to a special filtration system designed into Mickey’s face and ears on the bottom of its paddling pools).

Swim vest: make sure it’s of an approved type.

Sunglasses and sun hat (if your cruise is in or to a warm weather area).

Bottles and sip cups: cruise lines don’t provide these. They can be washed in your cabin, so a little dish detergent and bottle brush could be useful.

Formula: ready-to-feed variety is convenient but bulky. Or, bring powder and buy bottled mineral water from the ship’s bar (a more expensive option).

Medication, such as pain relievers and fever reducers for babies, and the name and contact details of your child’s pediatrician - just in case.

Inflatable toys such as beach balls and zoo animals are inexpensive and easy to pack (you won’t be able to borrow toys from the ship’s playroom).

Picture books to keep baby amused.


If you do take baby (or babies) along, and you want some time to yourself, you’ll need the services of a babysitter. Some, but not all, ships have babysitting services; some have restricted hours (meaning you’ll need to be back by midnight like a grown-up Cinderella); and some have group babysitting, not in-cabin care. In some ships, stewards, stewardesses, and other staff may be available as private babysitters for an hourly charge. For example, Queen Mary 2 has children’s nurses and English nannies. Aurora, Azura, Oceana, and Ventura have a ‘night nursery’ for two- to five-year-olds.

Feeding infants under three

Selected baby foods are stocked by ships catering to infants, but ask your booking agent to get confirmation in writing that they’ll be provided. Some cruise lines may even mash food up for your child, if you ask. If you need a special brand of baby food, advise your booking agent well in advance, or bring your own. Parents providing organic baby foods, such as those obtained from health food stores, should be aware that cruise lines buy their supplies from major general food suppliers and not from the smaller specialized food houses. You may need to check whether the ship has whole or soy milk available, for example.

Cruising with children ages 3-10

Assuming they don’t get seasick, children of this age should love cruising. They love to get involved right from the planning stages, learning how big the ship is, what facilities it has on board, etc. All very exciting.

One thing to note, if your budget allows, and you think your young children will be happy at sea for this long, is that it’s best to avoid cruises of fewer than seven days, because they tend to attract the party-going types out for a good time.

Once on board, go to the children’s clubs and sign in your youngsters - you need to give their name, cabin number, and details of allergies to any foods or materials (this typically applies up to an age according to cruise line). You’ll probably be given a pager in case you need instant contact. Children’s activities are mostly about team participation events, so they may seem highly programmed to some youngsters used to getting their own way.

In addition to the clubs, there are plenty of other facilities on deck that will appeal to children of this age, from aqua parks to chill-out rooms to sports activities such as rope courses. Most large resort ships close their pools at 6pm, although those of MSC Cruises are exceptions to this - aboard MSC Preziosa, for example, a large, covered family pool is open until 9pm.

Barbie steps aboard

Mattel and Royal Caribbean International offer free Barbie-related activities in the Adventure Ocean youth club (ages four to 11 are the main consumers). There’s also a Barbie Premium Experience ($349 per child), complete with special pink cabin decor and a free Barbie doll blanket, tote bag and toothbrush, a special tea with pink cupcakes and dainty dishes, and a mermaid dance class featuring dances from the movie Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2; plus other perks.

Dr. Seuss, steps aboard, too

Not to be outdone - and a better bet for boys - Carnival Cruise Lines’ ‘Seuss at Sea’ program has a veritable array of immersive onboard youth, family, dining, and entertainment experiences featuring the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss. The main dining room aboard each ship features ‘The Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast’ with the Cat in the Hat and Friends. Children (parents can go too) get to eat the playful foods from Dr. Seuss’s imagination, notably green eggs and ham, moose juice and goose juice, fruit and pancake stacks, funky French toast, and more. (Note that traditional breakfast favorites are also available.) The dining room staff wear Dr. Seuss-inspired uniforms, and Dr. Seuss characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and Sam join families at their tables for fun interaction and photo opportunities. This takes place on the first sea day of each cruise, and costs $5 per person.

In addition, there are Dr. Seuss-themed toys, games, and arts and crafts activities on board. Some ships have a Dr. Seuss Bookville Seuss-themed play space with iconic decor, colors, shapes, and funky furniture, where families get to relax. And movies such as The Cat in the Hat and Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas are shown outdoors on Lido Deck Seaside Theater screens.

Carnival also introduced ‘Seuss-a-palooza Story Time,’ an interactive reading event that brings the colorful world and characters of Dr. Seuss to life for kids of all ages. It usually takes place inside a tent on the main showlounge stage on a sea day each cruise.

There’s also a Character Parade and a swirly conga line that includes Dr. Seuss characters along the Promenade. Naturally, Dr. Seuss-themed retail items are also available on board.

Disney goes cruising

In 1998, Disney Cruise Line introduced the first of two large resort ships to cater for families with children, with cruises of three, four, and seven days. Disney Magic and Disney Wonder were joined by Disney Dream in 2011 and by Disney Fantasy in 2012. The casino-free ships have ambitious entertainment programs, with everything centered around Disney and its superb stable of famous characters. Disney has its own Art Deco passenger terminal at Port Canaveral, Florida, plus a fleet of special motorcoaches.

Each ship carries over 40 children’s and youth counselors, plus lifeguards at the family pool. Families preparing to sail with children under three years of age have access to an online service that allows them to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their cabin. The service, exclusive to Disney Cruise Line passengers, is provided by Babies Travel Lite, an online retailer offering more than 1,000 brand-name baby products including diapers, baby food, infant formula, and specialty travel items. On, you can access a section of the Babies Travel Lite website, where you can create orders for familiar brands in quantities customized to the length of your cruise.

One ship sails in the Mediterranean in summer from Barcelona, and another sails in Alaska in summer. Disney calls at its own 1,000-acre (400-hectare) private island on three-, four-, and seven-day Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. About 50 miles (80km) north of Nassau in the Bahamas it’s called Castaway Cay - Disney’s own private country, with its own ship docking pier. (Locals say it had a military landing strip that was once used by drug runners.) Beaches are divided into family-friendly and adults-only ‘quiet’ sections.

Cruising with older children (pre-teens 11-12)

Some cruise lines provide extra attention for the ‘Tweens.’ Supervised group activities and activity/play centers mean that parents won’t have to be concerned, and will be able to enjoy themselves, knowing that their children are in good hands, enrolled in special programs. Activities typically include make-up and cookery classes, arts and crafts projects, group games, interactive computer programs, character parades and scavenger hunts, and watching movies and video wall programming. Then there are the outdoor activities such as water slides, miniature golf, and swimming and other sports events for the pre-teens.

Cruising with teenagers (13-17)

Teens love cruising, too, and many large resort ships have dedicated ‘no adults allowed’ zones and chill-out rooms. Teens-only activities include deck parties, pool parties, sports tournaments, poolside games, karaoke, discos, dances, computer games, video arcades, activity clubs, and talent shows. Some ships provide musical instruments for jam sessions (Royal Caribbean International, for example). Sports activities include rock-climbing, rollerblading, basketball, and riding the wave surfer.

With some cruise lines the fun can extend ashore, with beach barbecues. There’s usually almost unlimited food, too, although some of it may not be very nutritious.

Why teens love cruising

After talking to many teenagers and younger children aboard various cruise ships, I decided it was time to include a couple of quotes about how they enjoy cruising and their experiences.

Jens S. (in his early teens, Jens has sailed for more than 200 cruise days aboard some very nice ships), from Copenhagen, Denmark, says: ‘I really like cruise vacations, because they are a lot more fun than staying at a hotel. You get to see several places and nice beaches, and the staff are always kind and smiling.’

‘It’s exciting to sail, especially when you see dolphins and whales. And in the restaurants you can get all your favorite meals, and desserts, and even extra portions if you want (my favorite dessert is Chocolate Fondant). If you want popcorn or a hamburger - or almost anything - you just order it from room service and it comes free!’

‘I have been lucky enough to be invited to the bridge several times - some captains let me sound the horn. Now I have started a collection of plaques from the ships I sail with. My favorite ship is Silver Wind, because it sails to so many nice areas of the world, and the captain and I have become good friends. But I also like SeaDreamI. But my favorite trip of all is a transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2. My ultimate Christmas present, however, is going to be a cruise aboard Europa 2. Please, dad…’

Alexandra T.C., from Brighton, Colorado, US, who was sailing aboard Celebrity Reflection (on her third cruise), says: ‘I like this ship because the crew is so accommodating, the ship has so many different aspects and interesting rooms, and for the fresh new experiences I get every day, whether on my own or with other teenagers.’

‘The ship is big, with lots of people, but I never feel it’s crowded, because there are so many different areas, and I like the cabanas on the lawn. I also like all the different shore excursions available - there’s so much choice I absolutely never feel bored.’

‘I also like the many different choices and types of food, the service (you can’t get this kind of service on land today), and the social interaction with other teenagers in such a comfortable environment. Also, we teenagers really appreciate having our own ‘get away-from-parents’ chill-out room with nobody to keep bothering us.’

Choosing the right cabin

Cruise lines know that ‘families who play together want to stay together.’ Although connecting cabins and Pullman beds are nothing new on family-friendly ships, brands such as Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean International have taken group-friendly accommodations more seriously than some others.

Families cruising together often find that sharing a confined space causes the most distress. It’s best to choose the largest accommodation option you can afford. Before booking, check the size of the cabin and pace it out at home, remembering that the size quoted on ship deck plans includes the bathroom. If you have a large or extended family, cabins with interconnecting doors may be more practical.

Certain ships may work best for certain age groups. For example, multigenerational groups might consider large resort ships such as Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas or Oasis of the Seas because of their wide range of facilities and eateries.

If you are a large family, some ships (such as those of Norwegian Cruise Line) have three-bedroom suites that can sleep up to 14. Larger cabins or suites simply have more space than standard cabins, and may include sofa beds. Several cruise lines have special family cabins that can accommodate two adults and several junior cruisers.

If you are travelling with teens, consider booking them an adjoining cabinet or one across the hallway from yours. You get your own space, and your teens will have their own bathroom and privacy. You give them freedom, but at arm’s length. If your children are younger, perhaps a cabin with an interconnecting door would make more sense. Many ships have cabins with two lower beds and one or two upper berths. In some cabins, the two lower beds can’t be pushed together to form a queen-size bed for parents. This means mom and dad and one or two children all have separate beds. Some ships, such as Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, and Norwegian Epic, have cabins with two bathrooms, as well as privacy curtain to screen off your youngsters.

Dependent on how young your children are (and how safe you feel this would be), you might like to opt for a cabin with a balcony. An interior (no-view) cabin may be adequate for a short cruise, but could be claustrophobic on a longer one. To get access to fresh air without a balcony, you’d have to keep trudging up to the open deck, carrying towels and other paraphernalia. On the other hand, if you don’t anticipate spending much time in your cabin, an interior (no-view) cabin is cheaper, but the storage space limitations will probably prove really frustrating.

Try to book an assigned cabin rather than a guaranteed cabin; the latter means that only the space within a specific category is guaranteed for you - the room and bed configuration may not be the one you want.

Children’s fares

Children under two travel free on most cruise lines and airlines (aboard MSC Cruises, kids under 12 sail free, paying only port taxes). If they’re older, however, you have to pay. Most cruise lines offer special rates for children sharing their parents’ cabin. The cost is often lower than third and fourth person share rates.

Although many adult cruise rates include airfare, most children’s rates don’t. Also, although some lines say children sail ‘free,’ they must pay port taxes as well as airfare. The cruise line should be able to get the airfare at the best rate.

Dining with children

Flexibility is the key. Coaxing children out of a pool, getting them dressed and ready to sit quietly through a four-course dinner every night can be tough. Work out a compromise by eating dinner together occasionally at the buffet. Most ships offer a tempting menu of children’s favorites, and some ships have special mealtimes for children.

Children with special needs

If a child has special needs, advise the cruise line before you book. Children needing one-to-one care or assistance must be accompanied by a parent or guardian when in the children’s play center.

Safety tips at sea

In case children get lost or separated from their parents, most cruise lines provide them with colored wristbands, which must be worn at all times. Disney Cruise Line has ‘Mickey Bands’ - magic bracelets that use radio tracking to locate the exact whereabouts of children at any time.

Young children love to climb, so don’t ever leave them on a balcony alone. On the open decks, ships have railings - these are either horizontal bars through which children cannot get their heads, or they are covered in glass/plexiglass under a thick wooden top rail.

While children find their way around easily, walk with them between the playroom/activity and your cabin, so that all of you get to know the way.

Discuss safety issues with them, and, with children old enough to read, warn them not to walk into ‘Crew Only’ areas at any time.

Children’s lifejackets are available aboard most cruise ships that carry children. However, check your cabin as soon as you embark. If no child’s or infant’s life vests are provided, see your steward right away.

Practical matters: passports

Note that separate passports are required for all children traveling internationally. If you have an adopted child, you may need not only a passport, but Adoption Placement Papers, as well as the child’s Birth Certificate.

Confirming a guardian’s identity

A Parent and Guardian Consent Form (PGCSA) will be needed at or before embarkation, if you are a grandparent, parent, or guardian with a passport surname different from that of any child traveling with you. Without this form, which includes passport information of the child’s legal parent, you will be denied boarding. Check with your cruise provider if you are unclear.

Single parents

A few cruise lines have introduced their versions of the ‘Single Parent Plan’ (e.g., Disney Cruise Line, P&O Cruises). This offers an economical way for single parents to take their children on a cruise, with parent and one child, sharing a two-berth cabin, or parent with more children, sharing a three- or four-berth cabin. Reduced rates may apply to children of single parents in the same cabin.

As a single parent with just one child, you may have to pay for two adults (double occupancy), so it’s important to check the pricing policy of each cruise line you’re interested in. It may also be better to take an adult friend and share the cost (in some cases, your child could travel free).


Basketball on a Carnival ship.


Family reunions and birthdays

A cruise can provide the ideal place for a family get-together, with or without children. Let your travel agent make the arrangements, and ask for a group discount if there are more than 15 of you.

With pricing that includes accommodations, meals, entertainment, use of most of the ship’s recreational facilities, and travel from destination to destination, any cruise represents excellent value for money. Cruise lines also make special offers to groups.

Family groups may have the option to ensure even greater value by purchasing everything in advance, from cruise fares to shore excursions, drinks packages, spa packages, and even pre-paid gratuities. Additional savings can be realized through reduced fares for third and fourth passengers in each cabin, and some cruise lines offer ‘kids sail free’ programs.


On the look-out for icebergs.

Crystal Cruises

Formal nights

Some ships have nights when traditional ‘formal attire’ is the required dress code. If you don’t want your children to dress formally (although some children really enjoy getting dressed up - it’s a bit like going to a prom night), you can opt out of the festivities, and simply head for one of the casual dining options. Or your kids may prefer to opt out and go to the children’s clubs or teen rooms and hang out while you go to the captain’s cocktail party.


Even upscale ships such as Europa cater for kids.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Tips for cruising with children

Take wet wipes for those inevitable clothes stains, and anti-bacterial hand wipes and face wipes to keep you cool when it’s hot outside.

Take a highlighter pen - good for marking the daily program and shore excursion literature, so you can focus on what’s important to you and the children.

Take an extension cord or power strip (although note that not all cruise lines allow them), because there will be plenty of things to plug in (chargers for games consoles, mobile phone, and iPod/iPad, etc.). Most cabins provide only one electrical outlet.

Use plastic compression bags for packing clothes (squeezing or vacuuming the air out). They help keep clothes fresh, and make it easier to sort out when you return home

Wide-mouth water bottles (empty until you are on board ship) are useful for shore excursions, beach days, and other outings.

A pop-up laundry basket could prove useful for keeping everyone’s dirty laundry separate from clean items (really useful in small cabins).

Take lots of high-factor sunscreen (SPF50 or above).

A set of walkie-talkie radios can prove useful for keeping track of everyone’s whereabouts - if everyone remembers to turn them on!

Glow sticks - kids love them - for use as night lights (they are cheap and come in different colors - one for each night).

Shore excursions

When going ashore, remember that if you want to take your children swimming or to the beach, it is wise to telephone ahead to a local hotel with a beach or pool. Many hotels will be happy to show off their property to you, hoping to gain your future business.

Some cruise ships in the Caribbean have the use of a ‘private’ island for a day, including waterpark areas for children and adults. A lifeguard will be on duty, and there will be water-sports and snorkeling equipment you can rent. Operators take advantage of the captive market, so rental of beach and water-sports items can be very expensive.

It’s best not to book a long shore excursion if you have a infant, unless you know he/she can handle it. Diaper-changing facilities are likely to be limited (and non-existent on buses).


Junior chefs of Princess Cruises.

Princess Cruises

Ships that cater well to infants and children

Disney Cruise Line: Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder

P&O Cruises: Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceana, Ventura

Royal Caribbean International: Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas

Star Cruises: SuperStar Virgo

These ships have been selected for the quality of their children’s programs and facilities:

Aida Cruises: AIDAbella, AIDAblu, AIDAluna, AIDAmar, AIDAprima, AIDAsol, AIDAstella

Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic, Carnival Pride, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Summit

Costa Cruises: Costa Atlantica, Costa Deliziosa, Costa Diadema, Costa Fascinosa, Costa Favolosa, Costa Fortuna, Costa Luminosa, Costa Magica, Costa Mediterranea, Costa Pacifica, Costa Serena

Cunard Line: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria

Disney Cruise Line: Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder

MSC Cruises: MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Star

P&O Cruises: Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceana, Ventura

Princess Cruises: Crown Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Golden Princess, Grand Princess, Regal Princess, Royal Princess, Ruby Princess, Sapphire Princess, Star Princess

Royal Caribbean International: Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas

Star Cruises: SuperStar Virgo

TUI Cruises: Mein Schiff 1, Mein Schiff 2, Mein Schiff 3, Mein Schiff 4

Cruising when pregnant

In 2010, a 30-year-old passenger on a four-night Baja cruise aboard Carnival Paradise gave birth on board to a premature baby. Both mother and baby were transported from the ship to a local hospital near San Diego, and the ship continued to its home port of Long Beach, California.

It can happen. Nevertheless, if your pregnancy is routine and healthy, there’s no reason not to go on a cruise, assuming you are within the normal travel limits for pregnant women. Indeed, a cruise could be a great getaway before you deal with the things associated with an upcoming childbirth. First, ask about any restrictions imposed by your chosen cruise line. Some cruise lines may let you sail even in your 27th week of pregnancy, most will not accept you if you have entered your 24th week. You may be required to produce a doctor’s note. (You may wish to check with your doctor or midwife that you are safe to travel, prior to sailing, anyway.)

Be sure to purchase travel insurance that will cover you for last-minute cancellation and medical treatment due to pregnancy complications, both on board and in ports of call.

How grandparents can bridge the generation gap

Many children love to go cruising with grandparents, perhaps because they anticipate fewer restrictions than they have at home. And busy parents like the idea, too, particularly if the grandparents make a contribution to the cost.

Having enrolled their grandchildren in age-related groups for daytime activities aboard ship (note the limitations on activities for children under three, as mentioned above), grandparents will be able to enjoy the adults-only facilities, such as the wellness and spa treatments. Not surprisingly, it’s the large resort ships that provide the widest choice of facilities for both age groups. For those not averse to ubiquitous cartoon characters, Disney Cruise Line provides some facilities for adults and children in separate areas, but also allows them to mix in others.

Before you leave home

Grandparents should remember that, in addition to their grandchildren’s passports, they should also bring along a letter signed by the parent authorizing any necessary medical attention.

Ground rules should be established with a child’s parent(s) present to avoid potential problems. An important issue is whether a child will be allowed to roam the ship unsupervised, given that some cruise lines allow children as young as eight to sign themselves out of supervised programs. Walkie-talkies are a good solution to this issue. They work well aboard ships, and allow adults and children to stay in constant touch.

On board

Most cruise lines offer scheduled activities from 9am to noon, 2-5pm, and 7-10pm. This means you can drop your grandchild off after breakfast, relax by the pool, go to a lecture, or take part in other activities, and pick them up for lunch. After a couple of hours together, they can rejoin their friends while you enjoy an afternoon movie or siesta.


A family goes snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean International

Shore excursions

Consider your grandchild’s interests before booking expensive shore excursions (example: flightseeing in Alaska). It’s also best to avoid long bus rides, shopping trips, and scenic tours, and better to choose excursions that feature water and/or animals. Examples include snorkeling, aquariums, or nature walks. Remember to pack snacks. In some ports, it may be better to explore on your own. If your grandchildren are really young, full-day shore excursions are a probably bad idea.


Ropes course on Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Cruise Line