Mom of two wonderful boys. Travelling the world since 2012. Cruise lover. MSC fan.
7 Tips for Cruising with a Baby
Our first family cruise was when our eldest was only 11 months old, on MSC Seaview. It was a very different experience to travelling as a couple or group of parents, but in my opinion it was also the most relaxing way to travel with a baby. There are certaintly some things you can do to prepare and make the experience go smoothly. In this article I'll share with you 7 tips for cruising with a baby and how to make it a relaxing and enjoyable experience for the whole family.
Tip 1 - Make Sure The Cruise Line's Policy Allows Your Baby's Age Group
This might be intuitive. When you go through the booking system, you'll probably get a notification telling you if your baby can travel or not (as they do ask for the baby's age).
But just in case, let's talk the specifics. Most cruise lines will not accept bookings for children under 6 months old and, in some cases, especially on longer cruises with more days at sea, the minimum age is one year old. MSC is known to be one of the most accommodating cruise lines for travelling with young children, that's why we chose it as our first family cruise.
To check the minimum age for children, do a quick search on the cruise line's website or give them a call.
Tip 2 - Bring Earmuffs
I credit the earmuffs with most of the ease we felt on the cruise. We were able to do all our activities (including listening to music in the evening) whilst baby relaxed in the pram (or baby wrap on me).
Without these I think we would have been much more confined to our cabin, but I can honestly say that earmuffs helped us to move around as usual and keep baby asleep.
This is particularly good for a baby under 1 because they can't easily take them off and they forget about them easily.
Picture yourself sipping a refreshing drink whilst listening to music, at 10pm, and baby is sleeping peacefully, earmuffs on, pram cover down, blanket on, everyone relaxed and happy.
You get to the cabin, transfer baby to bed or cot, and everyone can get a good night's rest.
We used the Banz Baby Hearing Protection Earmuffs. They came recommended from a friend that used them successfully for a toddler on a long haul flight. I am very happy we went with these because we didn't have one problem. They are affordable and do the job. I think there's definitely a price-quality correlation. They are not extra comfortable or flexible, but for the short periods of use I found them to be a perfect fit for the job and they are still in one piece and we are currently using them for our second baby.
Here are some examples of how we used our baby ear muffs on the cruise to keep both baby and us comfortable:
- Dinner time (it can get quite noisy and oftentimes baby fell asleep after his meal) - the ear muffs helped with that
- For evening walks around the cruise - baby will be on us on the baby carrier or in his pram, wearing the ear muffs when it was close to his bedtime to help him fall asleep regardless of the noise around (in the evening there's music everywhere)
- For afternoon naps when baby was asleep in pram and we were walking around the ship
- Evening music lounges and bars - this is the biggest one - without the ear muffs and a pram with a cover I don't think we would have been able to enjoy the lounges and music in the evening.
Tip 3 - Bring a Travel System - Pram, Baby Sling Wrap
This was then part we debated most - bring a pram. We already had planned to bring a baby sling wrap. But we doubted if the pram will take too much space and be uncomfortable to move around the cruise.
I can now say that bringing both the baby wrap and pram were the best decisions we've made. The pram was key to moments like dinner time and evenings in the bars, as that's when we kept baby comfy in the pram, with a light blanket (and usually light clothing as we found the cruise to be quite warm) and the pram hood down.
That meant baby was not overstimulated by lights or noise and could nap easily whilst we enjoyed the activities.
I also really enjoyed having the pram to feed the baby. I didn't have to worry about high chairs at the restaurants and buffets.
The baby sling was a great choice for walking around the baby wanting a cuddle and then fell asleep on me. We often had both the pram and sling om us and used interchangeably.
Tip 4 - Consider the cabin size
We stayed on a cruise balcony cabin on MSC Seaview. We love balconies and because baby wasn't very mobile (walking a bit and cruising on furniture) we didn't worry much about the balcony door.
But I do have to share the experience about the cabin size and the baby cot, because that was uncomfortable.
The balcony cabin on MSC Seaview has a bed and a sofa and it's approximately 17 sqm.
We asked for a baby cot from MSC and they brought a travel cot which was a good size (the smaller ones). I must admit that I didn't love, it was quite worn down and a bit dirty. I did clean it quite a bit in order to feel comfortable to put baby in it.
But that wasn't the biggest issue. Space was. In the balcony cabin the travel cot fit between the sofa and the table without any space to walk in between. So for when we stayed inside and had to get ready, it was very uncomfortable.
We managed it, but if you like to spend more time in the cabin and have ease of movement, be aware of this.
For the pram, our solution was to always leave it at the door.
There's no way around this, a balcony cabin (MSC size) with a sofa and a bed and a travel cot and a pram is not a big enough size. We managed and overall I think the savings (compared to a suite) was in a way worth it, but going in with the right expectation will help to plan and organise better.
Tip 5 - Consider Baby Food Options
This might seem like a strange tip since cruise ships are never short of food, but depending on baby's age and feeding style, this is important to prepare in advance.
This was our set up:
- baby was breastfed so I didn't travel with any bottles or equipment
- we brought a large supply of pureed baby food bottles (Ella brand in the UK, which we used before at home)
- at restaurants and buffets we always asked for fruits and veggies in their skin like bananas, mangos, avocados - which made us feel very comfortable about how the food was handled
- We also gave baby things like the inside of a croissant and bread bun
We didn't find the children menu's accommodating for our baby's age. It was aimed more at toddlers. That's why the options above worked best for us, specifically because our baby ate best pureed and textured food with some harder bits. Every baby is different, so that might not be an issue for you.
We did have an incident though when I asked for a baked apple from the children's menu and I was given a cold frozen baked apple! I was so glad I had all the other back up options.
Again, whilst you will never be short of food on a cruise ship and there are many ways to use the food as it's served or repurpose it for the baby, depending on the baby's age and how you are feeding baby and what you're comfortable, I recommend planning a bit this part so when you are on board you don't feel limited.
For us, when we felt the food was too salty or the options weren't something baby will eat, it was so easy to always have a few packed baby food pouches under the pram which I also paired with breastfeeding.
But the great thing on cruises compared to restaurants in hotels is that if baby doesn't like the food, you can easily try other things without having to pay extra.
If you've eaten out a lot with babies and toddlers, you'll know the struggle :)
Another small tip here: If you have a drink package you'll also find this part easy - having bottled water unlimited so you can easily give baby, wash baby.
You do have a kettle in the room (should have on all cruise lines) if you want to boil the water. For us we were okay to give the bottle water, and we always had a small bottle or room temperature water ready for baby.
Tip 6 - Use the Baby Clubs and Play Areas on Board
My favourite thing about cruising with a baby was how easy it was to access amazing baby facilities. MSC Seaview had the most amazing baby play areas. I believe they also had areas where you could leave baby to be supervised by the crew.
We opted for their facilities where we could stay with baby.
- the pool in the Forest Aquaventure Park, which was heated and full of fun (remember to pack swimming nappies),
- the Baby Club, which is full of toys
- the play area in the Forest Aquaventure Park which has amazing built in structures the little ones can climb over and under. This was a favourite for us.
Some of these have limited opening hours so do check that beforehand to plan it in.
Tip 7 - Prepare for Boarding and Disembarking
Travelling to the cruise, boarding and disembarking is probably the most tiring part of the cruise. Here are a few tips from what we did to make the journey comfortable:
- If you have to fly to the cruise, or travel a long distance, book a hotel stay for the night before boarding. It will make sure everyone is rested and ready for the potential big cues at boarding. We had to fly from UK to France and stayed a night in a hotel (which was across the street from the cruise port, really helped us)
- Stay in a hotel the day you disembark if you can - I always find the day of disembarking very tiring and having to go through the disembarking process as well as travelling to an airport and doing that entire travel process with a baby seemed too tiring for us. We stayed in a hotel after the cruise, also across the cruise port, and that made life easier.
- To avoid the extra costs, if possible, travel from your own country. We found cruises from Southampton (as we are in the UK) were the most comfortable, as we just had to drive, embark, disembark and drive back. Not to mention the luggage - how much more you can take and with how much ease
Enjoy The Cruise with the Baby
Cruising with a baby might not be as easy as cruising as a couple, as you are still in charge of all the parenting bits, but it can be a very lovely experience. If you love cruising and come prepared, it can be the most relaxing holiday you've ever taken. It certainly was for us.
Have the best time and if you have any questions, leave a comment below.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Georgiana