When it comes to family cruising, there are so many things to research and discover about what the different cruise lines offer to parents wanting to vacation with their little ones. This post should help parents determine which cruise line meets their needs and will be the best fit, especially parents of smaller children – where the options/rules are more limited.
In this post, we will focus on three of the biggest cruise lines out there for family vacationing: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Lines.
How old does your child have to be to travel with you aboard the three different lines?
Carnival and Royal Caribbean have the same policy regarding bringing baby on board: the baby must be at least six months old for most itineraries. If your particular ship will spend three or more consecutive days at sea (Trans-Atlantic or some South American tours), the baby must be at least a year old. Parents are suggested to provide birth certificates to prove the babies age. On Disney, you can bring a baby as young as twelve weeks old, though the restriction for three consecutive sea-days is the same.
Are infants cheaper than older children?
On most cruises, children are the same price as adults. A few (awesome!) cruise lines offer discounts for children under two. These include Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises. The price varies by itinerary but for those with babies, but these lines are a great place to start your search.
What child-friendly activities does each line offer?
For children age 2-5, your little ones will enjoy many of Camp Carnival’s activities, from finger painting to cartoon time, arts and crafts to puppet shows. Of important note: toddlers are NOT required to be potty-trained to attend Camp Carnival and the staff will change diapers. Children under two are not allowed in Camp Carnival during activity times, without exception.
Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab on the Disney Magic and the Disney Dream are themed play spaces designed for children 3 to 10 years of age. On the Disney Wonder, both clubs are designed for children ages 3-12 years of age. Additionally, Ocean Quest on the Disney Magic is available for kids 11-13. While some activities are recommended for certain ages, participation is based on a child’s interest level and maturity—not age. As a result of this, siblings and friends can play in Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab without restriction. Disney DOES NOT change diapers for children in the youth programs.
Royal Caribbean offers a variety of different programs for kids of all ages. Royal Babies and Royal Tots, ages 0-3, will enjoy activities designed to foster parent/child bonding and development. All Royal Caribbean ships offer the Royal Babies and Royal Tots programs – but require that parents stay with their children. Aquanauts, 3-5, will have fun becoming certified Jr. Adventure Scientists, while Explorers, 6-8, celebrate in themed parties just for them. Voyagers, 9-11, enjoy the tween-scene and older kids are free to be themselves in Teen Only venues like Fuel Night Club and the Living Room. They’ll love it so much the only thing you might wish for is a little more time with your kids.
What baby sitting services are available?
Carnival does not offer in-room day-care. They do have group day-care from 10pm – 3am for children from six months to eight years old. It is set-up slumber party style with movies and sleeping bags, or cribs for younger children. For kids 9-11 years old, there is a separate activity area from 10-12pm with karaoke, board games, and video games. At midnight the older kids can join the movie-watching group. The cost is $6/hour for one child and $4/hour for each additional kiddo.
Group babysitting is available for children 12 weeks to 3 years old at Flounder’s Reef Nursery on the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, and at It’s a Small World Nursery aboard the Disney Dream. Guests may book babysitting times online in advance of embarkation or may sign up their children on embarkation day. In the nurseries, staff will change diapers for your child, though you provide all of the supplies.
On the newest Oasis Class ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has begun offering babysitting services for children as young as six-months old while on the other classes, children must be one year old. In the nursery, there are 2 age groups: Babies (6-17 months) and Tots (18-36 months). The charge is $8 per hour, per child – pretty reasonable for a six-month baby! Private in-room babysitting is available from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and costs around $19 for up to three children. At least 24-hours notice is required, and a two-hour minimum is required for private babysitting. Requests can be made through Guest Services. Group babysitting is available after the daily kids activities end for children ages 3-12 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily at a cost of $5 an hour per child.
Staterooms – things to consider:
Though many Carnival ships offer 3-4 passenger rooms, be sure to inquire about the location of the Pullman beds – they are sometimes located just above the adult beds below which can be awkward. On Carnival’s Dream ship, the Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom offers space for five passengers with two bathrooms – one of which includes a junior tub, perfect for bathing baby.
Disney is one of the only cruise lines to offer bathtubs in every stateroom. This is worth considering when you have to bathe a rambunctious tike.
Disney’s staterooms are 25 percent larger than the industry average. Deluxe inside and outside staterooms are 214 square feet and include a privacy curtain that separates the two sleeping areas, allowing you to switch on a light without waking the children.
Aboard the newest Oasis Class ships, there are now even more staterooms to choose from – including five balcony categories that can offer you a view of Central Park, the Boardwalk, or breathtaking Ocean Views. If your budget allows a booking in the Aqua Theater suites, you will not be disappointed. While you have to be more careful with a child in a balcony room, these view points give you the ability to enjoy a glass of wine and people watch or enjoy a live Aqua Theater show from the privacy of your balcony, while your little one naps inside.
Numerous Royal Caribbean ships offer 265- to 338-square-foot Family Oceanview Staterooms that can accommodate up to six guests. The staterooms include two twin beds (which can convert into a queen-size bed), bunk beds in a separate enclosed area, sitting area with sofa bed and mini bar.
Baby Basics – what’s available?
Single or double strollers are available for rent ($25 per week or $6 per day on 3- and 4-night voyages), as are bouncy chairs. Cribs are provided gratis for in-stateroom use. Shipboard shops sell diapers, wipes and ointments. Bring baby food; mashing is not available on Carnival ships.
You can find the following in gift shops: Huggies disposable diapers, two brands of formulas, bottle liners, diaper cream and baby sunblock. The kitchen can prepare pureed fruits and vegetables upon request. A limited number of strollers, bottle warmers and bottle sterilizers are available for use through guest services. In 2009, Disney introduced an online service that allows passengers to pre-order baby supplies and have them delivered to their stateroom (provided by Babies Travel Lite). There are over 1,000 brand-name baby products to choose from, including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items.
Complimentary Pack and Plays are available for in-cabin use; cribs are no longer provided. High chairs are available on request. Bring your stroller and your own baby items. Ship stores do not sell diapers and other necessities. However, parents can pre-order diapers, wipes and cream through the Babies on the Go program, a partnership with Huggies. The baby essentials will be delivered to your cabin on embarkation day.
There’s no wrong way to cruise with the kids!
So, those are the basics! With this information, every parent can be an informed consumer when shopping for their next cruise. Or! Let me do the work for you. For more information about booking your next family vacation, visit my website or feel free to contact me!