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The essential guide to first time cruising with children, with tips to help you enjoy your time on the water with your kids! How to pick the perfect cruise with kids and tips for making it the best possible experience for the whole family.
Tips For First Time Cruising With Children
If you ever thought planning a cruise was a challenge, try planning a cruise with kids! Cruising with children adds new challenges to your planning since there are a lot of extra things you will need to keep in mind.
That being said, if you follow the simple steps in this guide before and during the cruise, both you and your children will have a lot of fun with your cruising adventure.
To help you out a bit, here are a few tips on what to do in order to make the entire cruise a more pleasurable experience. So, let’s not waste any more time – read on if you want to plan your first time cruising with kids!
1. Pick the Right Cruise
The first thing you want to do is to pick the right cruise and the right cruise ship. With private cruises, you got little to worry about, because your needs will be taken care of. But when it comes to large cruise ships, no two are alike.
Even when you’re cruising with kids, you don’t need to make the trip all about the kids – it’s enough that there are amenities that suit the children, and things for them to do while they’re aboard.
It’s no secret that kids get bored easily, so the more things they have to do, the better. It is important to also make sure are considering cruises that are family-friendly since there are many options that are not suited to children at all.
Cruise ships such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have incredible entertainment for all ages, from ropes courses to mini-golf, dance classes and zip line courses. It’s amazing what they can do on a ship!
Insider Tip: While you’re doing your research let your kids in on the fun! Show them pictures of the various cruises you’re considering, as well as the destinations you’ll be visiting. This is a great way for them to feel included in the organisation and planning from day one and they will also be able to pick and choose things they’d like to do too.
2. Know What Facilities Are Available
If you are looking forward to some couple time minus the kids during your cruise, make sure you know if that is an option by researching the available kids club, teen club or youth program and babysitting facilities offered.
Some cruises offer these things as part of the included cruise package, while others may charge extra.
There are also age minimums, just as there are at family resorts, that may impact whether or not your child is able to attend kids club.
Some clubs only take unsupervised kids over the age of 4 or 5, so make sure you know what will be available once you are on board.
If your cruise does not have a kid zone, find out what entertainment they do offer for kids and if those options are minimal, take this into consideration when packing.
Insider Tip: You can easily put together your own travel activity pack to keep kids entertained between excursions and onboard activities and bring some travel toys for quiet play time!
3. Give Yourself Time On Either Side
If you are starting a cruise from a port that is not near home, it helps to give yourself an extra day on either side of your cruise to arrive and get home. The last thing you want is extra stress over delayed flights or transfers.
Travel with kids is always made easier when you can avoid rushing and minimise as much stress as possible. This will help both you and your kids to enjoy your travel time more together.
This is especially the case if you are flying between time zones and want to avoid jet lag by having a couple of days to adjust to the different time zone before you kick off your cruise.
4. Get a Large Enough Stateroom
The one thing that family-oriented cruises will offer (along with some others) is the opportunity to get a large enough stateroom. You should have a room that’s going to allow for family time, but also enough room for every individual.
Extra bathrooms are a good idea, too, because there’s a massive difference between two people sharing a bathroom, compared to a family of four to five sharing.
An alternative for a cruise that might not offer a single room that could accommodate everyone is to get connecting rooms. This is ideal if you’re cruising with older teens – it gets them the privacy they need while giving them the opportunity to still be in the nearby vicinity.
Alternatively, split the kids between the two rooms with one parent in each to supervise and the ability to move between the two rooms easily.
And if you’re on a ship that offers kids-specific entertainment, they will likely also offer family-sized rooms that are closer to the entertainment area. This is great because you won’t have your kids complaining they have to walk halfway across the ship just to have some fun.
5. Opt for Family-Friendly Shore Excursions
One of the best things about a cruise is the shore excursions. This is especially true if you’re cruising exotic locations that truly have a lot to offer, like Cambodia, Indonesia or somewhere like Halong Bay in Vietnam.
But those shore excursions are not always kid-friendly, which is why you want to be careful which ones you’re booking when travelling.
This should be a part of your research because most of your excursions will be booked in advance before you even head out on the cruise. While your kids could very likely be physically ready for a small, relaxed hike, they will likely enjoy visiting a nature reserve with exotic animals a bit more.
And as we mentioned earlier, actually including the kids when you’re planning these activities goes a long way toward picking ones they’ll love and enjoy doing.
6. Pack The Right Gear
One of the best parts of cruise holidays with kids is that you don’t need to take a lot of stuff with you. Usually, all your meals and most of your entertainment are included with the price of your cruise, along with accommodation, linen and basic toiletries.
However, you still want to be comfortable on your cruise so make sure to pack the right clothing for the climate and time of year. These beach essentials will help get you started.
It can be colder out on the ocean compared to land-based vacations. You will also need to have comfortable clothing to suit the type of shore excursions and activities you plan to do.
Your time might not be all flip flops and swimsuits, so don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes and outdoor gear or the cold weather jacket!
7. Prepare for Motion Sickness
Motion sickness is a lot more of an issue with younger kids than it is with adolescents or teens, but in any case, having some over-the-counter age-appropriate motion sickness medication is a great way to be able to deal with it in case it does happen.
Sure, most cruise ships are going to be prepared for this and will offer medicine. They oftentimes even have an infirmary that you can head to. But why not be prepared yourself?
And trust us, we have been there and experienced the worst of the worst with a sick toddler while cruising and it was nothing short of horrific!
8. Dining Schedule
Kids are hungry when kids are hungry and this isn’t always ideal when travelling, especially if you are on a set dining schedule as is often the case with cruises.
Know the dining options and times available for meals so that you can plan around this with your children. If you are travelling on a large cruise liner, they may have 2 or more dining sessions per meal. If possible, book the earlier session so your kids aren’t waiting as long for dinner time.
You also want to know what snacks are available between meals and if there is the option to purchase extra food on board.
It is always helpful to pack a few favourite snacks from home into your luggage anyway, as having something familiar can help kids feel more relaxed in unfamiliar settings.
9. Safety First
Make sure your kids are aware of cruise rules, especially safety ones and introduce them to the onboard behaviour guidelines.
While older kids are usually more aware of what behaviours are safe and what ones are not, it is still important to have this conversation with your child to let them know what is and is not okay while on board.
For younger children, being on a boat may be a new experience for them so making it very clear for them that they should not climb on rails or venture away from you is essential.
10. Set Reasonable Expectations
Last but certainly not least, the most important thing you should note when you’re heading out cruising with children for the first time is to have reasonable expectations, both on your end, and theirs.
You will probably have more issues with younger kids who are trying to earn their freedom, but even with older kids, you should absolutely make sure they know what you expect of them.
Do you want your family members to have dinner together? Make sure you communicate that before you head out on a cruise. Kids shouldn’t head to the entertainment areas by themselves? Make sure they know that.
And especially when cruising with younger children or babies, you will need to allow for more downtime between activities because over-stimulated kids are cranky kids.
Insider Tip: Don't pack your agenda full to the brim. Sometimes a rest in the room is exactly what everyone needs.
At the end of the day, both you and your kids are out on that cruise with the same goal – relax, explore the destinations you’re visiting, and have fun. Setting reasonable expectations will ensure that you don’t have any arguments on board, and everybody is relaxed and having fun.
These first time cruising with children tips will help you plan an incredible family vacation out on the water, discovering new destinations and creating wonderful memories together. Cruising with kids should be a great experience for the whole family and these cruise tips will get you on your way to a fun new adventure!
For more family vacation planning tips:
- Complete guide to planning your first overseas trip with kids
- Family travel guide
- Before you travel guide
- Beach packing list for families
This article is in collaboration with Aqua Expeditions.