Cruising with small kids

We recently returned from our first cruise trip, and going into it I had no idea what to expect, and honestly, very low expectations. I imagined all sorts of crazy scenarios like sick kids on the cruise, to the kids waking us up at the butt crack of dawn. My husband plans all of the vacations and honestly I was so busy working that I paid very little attention to what he was planning, or what the itinerary would be. The most I did to prepare was to block off my calendar and let families know I would be out of town.

Now that we are back, I can say that it was one of our favorite family trips yet! We also learned a lot on how to better prepare next time around, but even with little preparation, we had a great time!

So why was it so great?

One word: Disconnecting.

I don’t think I have ever in my adult life fully disconnected from a cell phone/ the internet for more than a few hours. When we planned this trip, we very consciously decided we would not be buying any of the internet packages, and that we would fully unplug. After all, it seemed wrong to pay a good amount of money daily, just to have internet on vacation.

It was fantastic. If only for that, I would go on this cruise over and over again.

Other really great things: 

  • Kid’s club is included starting at age 3 – Alessa really enjoyed going to play there for a few hours every day
  • We got to practice fine dining with the kids every evening in a low pressure situation. I practiced some manners with Alessa and Nico… well he liked eating fruit from his fancy silver platter. Besides that he was very poorly behaved at dinner ha! But really, it was fun to dress up and give them exposure to more formal dining settings. Alessa did great!
  • We didn’t have to go on an airplane!! This is an awesome one. The day of the cruise, we just drove an hour to Baltimore, and hopped on the boat. Now we did have an extended waiting time because we had to wait for covid test results for the kids, but it was much less time than what we spend at an airport going anywhere. On the tail end, when we got home, we just disembarked at our set time, grabbed our bags and were home super fast! Honestly the travel day hassles of airplane or road trips take so much energy out of you, you don’t really notice until you don’t have to do it and you realize how much more rested you are.
  • We went to Bermuda, Bahamas, and CocoCay (Royal Caribbean private Island) and it was such a simple way to travel to many new places. Cococay was fantastic because it was like Disneyworld for the beach setting. They had everything you could want or need for kids, it truly was a “perfect day at coco cay” as they say.

 

Things that were not so child friendly/ could improve:

  • If your child isn’t potty trained, they can’t go in the pool. Obviously this is for sanitary reasons, but that means younger kids only have a little splash pad to play in and cool off. Luckily Nico isn’t far from potty training (he will go pee on the toilet if prompted, and only poops under tables), so we felt really confident having him swim without a diaper. I felt bad for families of younger kids especially on 2 days that the splash pad wasn’t working. I wondered how they kept their littles entertained.

 

  • The dinners lasted 2 + hours. While Alessa handled this well, Nico would go bonkers. You certainly didn’t have to go to the formal dinner if you didn’t want to, there were other serve yourself dining options, but I wish this dinner could have been max 90 minutes. It became so tiring with Nico that we did skip it on the last night, went to the buffet instead, and then hit the pool in the evening as the sun went down. It was way more relaxing.

 

  • The shows on this cruise (Royal Caribbean: Enchantment of the Seas) were pretty lame. There was only one show that was really enjoyable, but at the same time this was kind of a good thing because Nico would not sit still and we always had to leave, so I guess if all of the shows had been spectacular we would have had a lot of FOMO for not being able to see them.

 

  • The Nursery for 0-36 months was more geared towards the one and under crowd. We never left Nico in the childcare area because it was pretty lame, he would have been bored. I would love to do this cruise again once he is 3 so we can leave both kids together at the kids club and have some mom and dad quality time.

 

How was sleep on the cruise?

It went so well! We all shared one of those tiny cruise cabins, Alessa slept on a loveseat that was slightly bigger than her, and we brought the pack and play for Nico. We weren’t often in the room so I didn’t feel squished, and both kids slept through the night every night.

  • Nico would usually wake up before Alessa, so we kept the sound machine on, but set him up with some pre dowloaded ipad shows he could watch while Alessa slept or one of us took him out of the room.
  • The sound machine is a MUST to drown out all the ship noises of other doors closing and other passengers. DO NOT forget. We took the hussh sound machine which can go pretty loud and it was perfect.
  • Bring small books so that you can keep your bedtime routine like home

 

We went off schedule with Nico ALOT starting from day 1 when we didn’t get our room until 2pm. He napped until 4pm that day on the bed because they hadn’t brought up his pack and play yet. Some days he napped on the beach (I had to rub his back), other days he would be asking to nap at 10am. We basically just rolled with it, and tried to give him extra sleep after a day that he had a later night or shorter nap. Now that we are back home I will be focusing on earlier bedtimes for both so that we can transition into a more appropriate school schedule.

I have to say this is one of the more relaxing vacations we have ever taken with the kids. I usually come back feeling tired from trips, but not this time. The memories we made were fantastic, and the kids can’t stop talking about the boat they went on!

If you have any questions about cruising with littles, please feel free to reach out.

Love,

Steph