Showing posts with label Bringing Baby. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bringing Baby. Show all posts

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tips onThursday - Bringing Baby Along


As recent as just five years ago, the cruise industry varied greatly by line whether or not they would support people who wanted to bring their very young children along with them – including children as young as six months old.  The vast majority of cruise lines limited access for babies to at least a year old, but if you brought your infant along, you were pretty much on your own throughout your cruise vacation.  Beginning in 2010 though, the cruise industry began to standardize around a common set of recommendations from CLIA (the Cruise Line International
 Association) which not only encouraged the lines to allow children as young as six months old, but to also provide amenities such as high chairs, strollers, cribs, cots, and bottle warmers.  But it didn’t stop there either, as CLIA strongly recommended organized care programs for the children so that parents might be able to take a much-needed break from the constant care of their youngest children.  Certainly, all of the clines have had programs for older children, from three to 17 for many years now, some for decades, but not for the care of the youngest cruisers out there.  That was an industry revolution.

Today most of the major, mainstream cruise lines will provide for children as young as six months old.  These cruise lines include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruise Line. Furthermore, the Euro-centric MSC Cruises allows babies as young as just three months old.  However just because these cruise lines accommodate young children, do not assume that all cruise lines do, as many of the more “up-scale” or “luxury” lines do not, having no children’s programs on board any of their ships, and simply do not recommend bringing children of any age onboard.   

Truly the pioneer within the industry for accommodating children of all ages is Disney Cruise Line, being the first cruise line to be designed specifically for the entire family from the line’s introduction back in 1991.  From supervised children’s activities to Disney characters on board ship, to family-friendly dance parties and deck parties, and more, Disney just excels at making sure all ages in the family have a great time.  They’ll even cater specifically to the infant set, but delivering diapers and warm baby formula to the stateroom. 

So you might be asking, what is provided for these kids onboard?  Each line varies, and we’ll get into that below. 

All of the cruise lines above have a minimum age of six months for most cruises, but raise the limit to one year from the rare trans-oceanic cruises, trips to South America, and cruises to Hawaii.  While most do not sell diapers, a few of the lines have diapers available for sale in their onboard shops, including Holland America (must be pre-ordered), Norwegian, and Disney.  Baby formula is not available onboard, so you will need to bring your own. 

High Chairs, strollers, and cots are available at no extra cost on all the cruise lines mentioned above with the exception of Carnival which charges $6/day or $25/week for strollers and/or bouncy chairs.

Onboard activities and babysitting services are available on all of the lines mentioned above.  Most will provide organized group activities with a good number of trained and supervised caretakers. Generally, there is no charge for these group activities, you just need to go and check your child in. These services are offered during most days from breakfast through about noon. Often they take a break in the afternoon but re-open well before dinner, continuing to provide services throughout the dinner hour. After dinner parents have the option of taking advantage of organized babysitting services which have an added cost for most lines, except Disney, where it is included and available the vast majority of the day, even into the nighttime hours. 

Here’s a rundown of the latest offerings and charges, as of this post.  Know that the cruise lines reserve the right to change provided services and fees at any time.  So be sure to inquire about the current information when booking your next family cruise:

Carnival: Camp Carnival offers finger painting to cartoon time, arts and crafts to puppet shows. Toddlers do not have to be potty-trained. Group babysitting is offered from 10pm -3am - Charge: $6/hour.

Celebrity: Babies/tots have access to crafts, games & toys in the Fun Factory. Children under the age of 3 must be accompanied. Group Babysitting is available for $8 per hour, as well as private babysitting, also for $8/hour.

Cunard Line: Onboard nurseries are outfitted with Fisher-Price Little People as well as toys made by Little Tikes and Lamaze. The Queen Mary 2 liner has a "Minnows" pool for families, plus a splash pool for smaller children. Group babysitting is staffed by "British Nannies" and available from 6:00pm-midnight at no cost.

Disney:  Disney has a special area called "Flounder's Reef Nursery" which will accommodate babies as young as three months old (12 weeks). Within this area, they provide meals and cribs for nap-taking. The area is supervised by trained "nannies" so parents are free to go their own way. Parents are required to supply their own diapers and formula, but they can buy these onboard or have them delivered to their staterooms. Nannies will change the children.  The cost for the nursery is nominal, at just $6 per hour.  

Holland America Line: The line offers "Toddler Times" sessions for kids under the age of three to play in the children's facilities, but there are no trained caretakers so parents must stay with their children at all times. Babysitting is offered to children under three on a limited basis by voluntary staff - price negotiable.

MSC Cruises: One of only two lines to allow kids as young as just three months old onboard. However, there are no baby-sitting services, and any kids less than 36-months old must be accompanied by the parents when they are in the children's play area.

Norwegian Cruise Line: while this is one of the few cruise lines that sell diapers and baby wipe onboard, the line does not have any supervised activities for tots 36-months or younger nor does it offer any baby-sitting services.

Princess Cruises: children from six to 36 months are welcome in the youth playroom as long with supervision by a parent or guardian. Princess Youth counselors will not change diapers. Group babysitting is offered from 10 pm-1:00 am but only for kids three years or older. The charge is $5 per hour.

Royal Caribbean: the line offers 45-minute Interactive playgroup sessions developed by Fisher-Price, held in an onboard lounge. Moms can keep fit with the "Stroller Mates" workout sessions. Group babysitting is offered from 8 am to 2 am. The Charge is $10/hour. Private babysitting is also available.


While we all want to have a great time on our vacation, please do keep in mind that while some people will enjoy seeing your baby on board, not everyone appreciates loud kids or crying babies, especially in the dining rooms. So if you bring your youngest children, be aware of the close proximity of other cruisers and be prepared for the looks you’ll get from some passengers, and the comments you might receive from others. If you do not want to risk this particular social stigma it is best to stick to Disney Cruise Line, or the larger, newer ships from Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean.