We just returned from our second cruise with our toddler daughter and thus this has been top in my mind. Cruises are great cost effective holidays but what is there available on a family cruise when cruising with toddlers to do and how do you keep them occupied for a week or longer? These are the 10 tips for cruising with toddlers that we discovered and used.
Some are better than others at catering to the needs of your whole family. Our last 3 cruises have been with Carnival Australia Cruises on the Carnival Spirit from Sydney, and they are just brilliant for the littlest members of your family. Do your research first to check they have great options for your toddler.
#2 Utilise Kids Club.
Cruise lines that cater for children generally have a Kids club option included. Although your child can cruise international waters from 12 months old, the kids club will not take them until 2 years of age. We still found plenty to keep our daughter amused when we married on a cruise just before she was 14 months old. Check the details of what they allow with their Kids club (do they change nappies, provide meals/snacks, only open certain times at sea and at port?). Carnival Spirit was a good fit for us with a 2-year-old (approaching 3). We just provided nappies and wipes for any changes needed during her time there. We had an old-fashioned mobile to carry with us so we could be contacted if she needed us.
#3 Set dinner time in the dining room.
If you are able to get a set dinner time where you go to the same table each night for dinner it so much easier with toddlers. Even if you end up with the late seating as we did (which was a struggle when cruising with a toddler, but we made it work with late rising), a permanent seating is so much easier as the waiters get to know you and the kids by name. They miss their own families from being at sea for 8 months, so will do their best to help entertain or distract upset toddlers, or even take them on a walk around the dining room so parents and other family members can eat dinner without running around the whole time. On our first cruise with her, she got cheap plastic kids sunglasses to wear at meals from the Maitre d’. This time she was into colouring, so got about one menu/colouring book a day, plus two rubber ducks and flower lei. And lots of photo opportunities with staff who just adored her being around.
There are usually several different types of eating places on board. Buffet style, sit down restaurant, café, fancy high priced restaurant. And all had things that fussy toddlers will eat. And are willing to get different dishes if something is not liked. On one occasion when Miss 2 wasn’t in the mood for eating when her meal came out, they even got a fresh one brought out when she started to get hungry again.
#4 Stairs are your friend.
Believe me, there are SO many stairs on a cruise ship, and your toddler will love to go up and down them all multiple times. Even if the ship is being a bit rocky. Of course, this is much easier with toddlers that have been walking for a while. I personally tripled my usual step count every day on the cruise just by following her around. And you get the added benefit of burning off those 3-course meals too! There are lots of levels to explore and take a long walk if that’s what’s needed to burn off some excess energy.
The productions shows that are for general viewing are enthralling for toddlers with the lights, music, and dancing. Our little darling even clued into the fact that shows happened after dinner, and where they happened, so would try to sneak out early from the restaurant and start heading that way seeing they were both on the same level.
#6 Shore tours
Little kids enjoy tours at ports of call just as much as adults. A lot of the bus tours through Carnival take under 3 for free if sitting on a parent’s lap. And baby carriers are so useful for walking around and exploring the surrounds as a family. (I may have even jerry-rigged a sarong as a wrap to carry a tired toddler when I left my carrier onboard for one port).
#7 Elegant night
Toddlers can get dressed up fancy too! It is something a little bit special that they probably don’t get to do too often. Be sure to pack a bib or similar that will cover their outfit for if they decide ‘that spaghetti bolognese is life’ like our toddler did. And they will be so cute you will want to take heaps of photos, which leads me to #8.
#8 Photo opportunities
Cruise ships ALWAYS have photographers snapping shots at different moments on board. From coming onboard, to dinners, to ports of call to elegant/formal nights. So many opportunities to buy some great formal shots or just take your own candid ones. Most toddlers love to see photos, even if they won’t cooperate for all snaps.
#9 Free movies screening
Toddlers really seem to love anything on the big screen! And you can easily whisk them away if they start to get bored, unlike your usual movie theatre. In-room channels usually offer movies on rotation too. ABDKIDS was even shown on Carnival Spirit when the satellite was cooperative and in range.
#10 Opportunity to meet other little travellers
If you are on a family friendly ship, you are very likely to meet other families with little ones too. Our toddler made friends with a couple of boys a bit older than her seated a couple of tables away at dinner. It was such a delight to see them play around in between dinner course and chat with others from their family. Our little extrovert was not at all shy about telling everyone about her day and showing off her latest outfit.
As you can see, although toddlers can prove challenging at times, you can still find plenty of things to keep them amused on a cruise. Please come back and let me know of any other cruising with toddlers activities to do on board!