Today I am going to be talking about one of my favorite things to do: TAKING A VACATION! Everyone loves a good family vacation. I also love to travel and have always loved cruising because it is so easy! We get to visit multiple ports of call, sometimes even in different countries, all while remaining on a cruise with all the amenities we could ever need! Me and Zac love cruising as a couple, but the thought of bringing our toddler on a cruise gave me a little more anxiety than I would like. Ha! So this post is all about how to cruise with a toddler!
We recently braved the elements and took our 22-month-old with us on a Carnival Cruise. I researched for months (I’m sure the other moms out there understand what I mean!) and only found bits and pieces of information about cruising with toddlers and younger children. A lot of information was geared towards older children which were fine, but we all know toddlers are a different kind of child. I was begging for any information related strictly to toddlers. I knew we were in for tantrums and tears if our toddler wasn’t constantly entertained and the thought of a tantruming toddler is a complete nightmare. Especially, when your around hundreds of other people.
I’m going to share my best tips from experience about how to Cruise with a toddler in tow. Hopefully, this will help some of the other toddler mamas out there who are thinking of taking their toddler on a cruise!
How To Cruise With A Toddler
1. Book a balcony room or higher
We booked a balcony room for this vacation and it was the first-ever balcony room we had ever had. It was fabulous! We’ve never liked the idea of paying hundreds of dollars extra for a balcony when you normally aren’t in the cabin that much at all on a cruise ship. I must say that with a toddler that can change pretty quickly! Liam definitely liked his time in the room. He loved to eat his snacks and watch his tablet in the peace and quiet of our room. We also spent a lot of time out on the balcony as a family. He loved to sit outside with us and watch the ocean. We even had seagulls fly up to our balcony! We even got to see some seagulls up close!
I think it was a great investment for us to splurge on the balcony room this time. Otherwise, we would have been sitting in a room without access to the outside world (no internet: we don’t pay for the wifi on the ship) and that can make anyone a little crazy. It was also great for nap times! Liam could take a quick nap while we sat on our balcony and enjoyed a drink. I would recommend booking a balcony room or higher if you can afford it. It will make your time in the room feel much more like a vacation!
2. Bring an umbrella stroller
We weren’t too keen on bringing an umbrella stroller since Liam can walk extremely well and usually likes to be independent. But, it was a great thing to have to get on the ship and walking around the ports. We did not use it a lot on the ship since he wanted to use his leash backpack and walk around himself. But, it was great for one of the ports we went too. A lot of ports have long walks to your location or to get a taxi and it is very easy to lose a toddler who likes to run by themselves in a sea of people. We got a cheap umbrella stroller from Target. It was around $30 and it worked perfectly for us. You can purchase that stroller here.
3. Call and request a crib
A good tip is that you can call ahead of time and request a crib for your room (Carnival) This way you don’t have to lug along a mini crib or pack and play with your luggage. Once we got to our room our room steward actually asked us if we would like the crib or let Liam sleep on the pull out bed on the couch, which we agreed on the couch since he is pretty large for his age and we thought he would be more comfortable in the large bed.
We used the couch pillows as a buffer to keep him from falling out of the bed on the sides. It worked perfectly! He got to sleep in a big boy bed and was pretty excited. We really did not have any trouble at all with him falling asleep. I think we got very lucky in that department! You can see in the picture below he loved to have a snack plate and watch his cartoons on his tablet in his bed.
4. Call and request dietary needs
One thing I found out before we left on our cruise is that you can call and request special dietary needs before you board the ship. Liam does not eat or drink any dairy products due to an allergy so we called and requested almond milk before we boarded. They said it would be available on the ship, but we did have a little trouble finding it. They did offer other types of non-dairy milk to us, which worked. We did not eat in the main dining room with Liam so that could have been why we could not find the almond milk we had requested. Either way, I have heard great things about them being very accomodating to your dietary needs. Make sure to call ahead if you have any special requests for your little ones!
5. Pack extra diapers
If your child isn’t potty trained yet, make sure to pack diapers and pack extra! As far as I could tell, there was not anywhere to purchase diapers on board the ship and I was not about to search around a port in a foreign country looking for diapers. I made sure to pack as many as possible, just in case of an emergency. You never know. I am definitely an over-packer in all situations! Better to be safe than sorry!
6. Research excursions
There are a ton of different excursions that cater to all kinds of families! You have to really research the excursions to make sure that they are going to be beneficial for your specific family, especially with younger aged children. I found that many excursions are geared towards couples and all-inclusive alcohol programs, which don’t get me wrong, those are great! But, when you have your 1-2-year-old child with you it’s not really what you are looking for in terms of family fun. Ha! We found a perfect kid-friendly excursion in Cozumel that is called Playa Mia. It was fabulous and we totally recommend it! The toddler splash pad area was awesome. It had tons of different slides and water sprinklers. You can book an excursion online or at the location once you get to Cozumel!
7. Plan your activities around nap times
The main thing we tried to do was plan our activities around Liam’s nap times! If you are a parent, then you know that nap time is something that cannot be skipped! If it is, you will surely pay for it later. We tried so hard to work around Liam’s nap schedule but at some points, it was not possible. You can see below, we had to make a makeshift bed at Playa Mia while Liam napped. We spent most of our day here from 9 am – 2 pm so he was completely worn out by the end of the day! Luckily, the staff at Playa Mia were extremely nice and let him take a nap on one of the lounge chairs under a canopy and out of the sun!
8. Check out the Fun Times before boarding
I looked at the Fun Times online before boarding to see how many kid-friendly activities they offered. It’s great to go through and check out all the activities and try to plan for those times. There is really not a ton of activities for younger children unless it is in Camp Ocean. We actually had fun just letting Liam walk around the ship and look at all the lights and people. He particularly loved the arcade. He got to play some of the games and had a great time!
9. Sign up for Anytime Dining
I loved having the option of any time dining in the main dining room! It can be very hard to gauge if your two-year-old is even going to sit through an hour-long dinner without having a full-on meltdown so this saved us almost every night on the cruise. There’s no way we would’ve made it to a certain time for dining every night. We spent most of our nights at the buffet so we could easily get up and leave if needed.
10. BE REALISTIC (insert upside-down smiley face emoji here)
We really tried to have no expectations for this vacation. Normally, I like to plan the activities and things to do while on vacation but this time I decided we were probably not going to be able to do that. You can only bring a toddler-aged child to so many activities on a cruise ship. We obviously encountered many many meltdowns and had to skip a lot of the stuff we thought we might be able to do. We skipped most of the dinners in the main dining room (except for the one night we had the grandparents watch Liam while we had dinner) and we did not get the relaxing time outside by the pool since Liam was constantly on the go and not allowed in the pools on the ship.
It was not anything like our regular cruise vacations before Liam, but we still had a good time. You really can not have any expectations when you board a ship with a toddler with hundreds of other people. We just tried to keep him entertained and happy and tried to make the most of our time onboard and in ports.
11. Book the Dr. Suess brunch
The Dr. Suess brunch was totally worth it to us! It’s only $6 per person and it includes a Dr. Suess themed brunch with the characters as well. They play music, sing songs, and dance around the tables. It was a really great experience especially if you have younger children. Liam was absolutely terrified of the characters, which was actually pretty funny. Lol, But, towards the end, he got used to them and we got to take a few pictures with them! The food was actually pretty tasty too. I thought they did a great job making all the children feel welcome!
12. Use the kids club (Camp Ocean) when possible
We actually really enjoyed Camp Ocean and Liam absolutely LOVED it. He wanted to go play with the other kids and use all of the toys that were available at the camp. The instructors in the classrooms were super nice and personable. We did not feel weird dropping him off (he does go to daycare at home though) and he really loved it. The only downside was that Liam was not 2 yet, and Carnival’s Under 2 Program only allowed children under 2 in Camp Ocean during specific times.
A lot of these times were only for an hour or two at a time and some of them were even canceled due to other activities going on for the older children. We knew this going in that he was not old enough for the actual Camp Ocean programs, so I think when we go on our next cruise that we will utilize the Camp Ocean services a lot more since Liam really enjoyed it! They had a great number of learning activities as well. It really impressed us!
Well, those are my tips on how to cruise with a toddler! Have you ever taken a cruise with small children or toddlers? I can say that we enjoyed our time with Liam, but if this tells you anything we have booked another cruise for just me and my husband later on in the year. That way, we can get in our relaxation and casino time. I think once Liam turns 2-3 and can actually participate in the all-day kid’s programs on Carnival and Royal Caribbean, then we will definitely be bringing him with us!
If you have any specific questions for me, leave me a comment below or send me a quick email! I would love to help anyone who is thinking about how to cruise with their toddler!
Thanks for reading,