*This guide was updated on 4 October 2017 to recognise policy changes from numerous cruise lines.
In recent years, many of the biggest cruise lines in the world have gone to great lengths to improve their fleet’s facilities for toddlers and babies.
Helping both parents and kids have a more relaxing and enjoyable holiday on the seas, ever-improving facilities have been instrumental in encouraging an increasing number of families to book a trip on a cruise.
Here we have a look at the child-friendly provisions supplied by different cruise lines, pick five of the best cruise ships for babies and toddlers, and offer up a few tips when booking with a young family.
Which Cruise Lines are Most Suitable for Young Children and Babies?
With their varying ways to make toddlers’ and babies’ stay at sea more comfortable, there’s plenty of kid-friendly cruises to choose from. Here we break down some of the most important baby-friendly criteria organised by the world’s best-loved cruise lines. All of the cruise lines reserve the right to change these policies without warning, so check with your agent and cruise line when booking a holiday.
|Minimum Age||Day Care||Night Time Babysitting||Pushchairs||Cribs||Nappies||Formula Milk|
|Azamara Cruises||*6 Months||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Not Provided|
|Carnival Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||10pm-1am||Available for Rent||Upon Request||Available for Sale||Not Provided|
|Celebrity Cruises||*6 Months||In-Cabin Babysitter||In-Cabin Babysitter||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Baby Food|
|Cunard Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||Group Childcare||Pre-Order Rental||Upon Request||Not Provided||Baby Food|
|Disney Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||Group Childcare||Upon Request||Upon Request||Available for Sale||Available for Sale|
|Fred Olsen Cruises||6 Months||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided||Not Provided|
|Holland America||*6 Months||Age 3+||Age 3+||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Not Provided|
|MSC Cruises||No Limit||Group Childcare||Not Provided||Upon Request||Upon Request||Not Provided||Baby Menu|
|Norwegian Cruise Line||*6 Months||6 Months+ Group Care||6 Months+ Group Care||Not Provided||#Upon Request||Available for Sale||Not Provided|
|P&O Cruises||*6 Months||Group Childcare||Group Childcare (6 months to 4 years)||Not Provided||Upon Request||Available for Sale||Upon Request|
|Princess Cruises||*6 Months||Age 3+ Group Care||Age 3+ Group Care||Not Provided||Upon Request||Not Provided||Upon Request|
|Royal Caribbean||*6 Months||In-Cabin & Group Care||In-Cabin & Group Care||Not Provided||Playpens||For Pre-Order||For Pre-Order|
*12 Months on Selected Cruises #Available on Selected Ships
Five of the Best
Still can’t decide? We’ve collected what we think are five of the best ships for babies and toddlers to stay on. With exceptional facilities and services to keep the youngest members of the family happy, we hope this quintet of cruise lines will help make your decisions a little bit easier.
Harmony of the Seas
With seven unique neighbourhoods to explore, including a fun seaside-styled area that mirrors their favourite fairground experiences, Harmony of the Seas has plenty of little comforts for the smallest members of the family. The Royal Babies and Tots nursery home lets children aged 6 months to 3 years play in a variety of soft play areas, while the ship’s small theatre plays their favourite films from DreamWorks, as well as fun puppet shows to keep them entertained. Looking to make mealtimes fun, too? Give the DreamWorks Character Breakfast a try – little ones get to start the day eating breakfast with the likes of Shrek, Puss in Boots and Princess Fiona!
Unsurprisingly, Disney Cruises focus heavily on keeping youngsters happy, comfortable and entertained at all times. Their It’s a Small World nursery (nowhere near as irritating as the namesake ride you’ll be glad to hear) provides care and entertainment for babies and toddlers from 6 months to 3 years old. Babysitting services continue throughout port days as well as days at sea, so parents can enjoy a little alone time during excursions. The Disney Dream also includes a dedicated pool area for babies and toddlers to enjoy the water in water-proof nappies.
Onboard P&O Britannia, keeping your young ones entertained is a breeze. The Reef, a programme made for kids aged 2 all the way up to 17, has a whole host of activities for them to do. In the 2-4 Splashers age range, they’ll have their own room filled with play areas, games, and bean bags to stay busy with, overseen by a staff of fully qualified youth workers. On the top deck, a shallow paddling area lets them find their sea legs, while the Night Nursery’s complimentary service lets children doze off in a safe, monitored environment while their parents enjoy some time alone.
Norwegian Epic’s Splash Academy places youngsters into four age groups. The 6 months to 3 years’ age range, the Guppies, have their own colourful playroom to have fun in, including sensory-based activities, games and toys based on that days’ theme and a quiet room for them to nap. An additional Port Play area lets parents explore the local area while the ship is in port, plus the late night fun zone keeps young ones entertained while you’re free to enjoy that romantic, candlelit dinner in peace.
Queen Mary 2
The daily Children’s Tea served in the Chef’s Galley is just one reason why your toddler will love cruising aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. With a menu packed full of kids’ favourites including pizza and baked beans as well as baby food upon request – getting the kids to finish their dinner won’t be a problem. The nighttime nursery is stocked with cribs and small beds for babies and toddlers to sleep in as their parents go for dinner in one of the ship’s many fantastic restaurants.
- Book your dinner sittings well in advance so you don’t get stuck with the late sitting and cranky children.
- Book a balcony cabin so you can enjoy the sea air whilst keeping an eye on a sleepy baby in the cabin.
- Consider a ship with 24-hour buffet service – especially if you have a fussy eater for a child (or a spouse!)
- Look for a ship with free laundry service, for obvious reasons.
- Have a look on TripAdvisor for fun kid-friendly activities in the port cities you’re planning on visiting.
- Bring the smallest pushchair which supports your children – this could save valuable cabin space.
- Pack a baby emergency kit – the ship’s shops may not sell the medicines your young ones require.
- Explore the ship for empty or quiet lounges so toddlers can stretch their legs and have a little adventure.
- Try to avoid booking excursions which include long bus journeys – fellow travellers will thank you.
Images sourced via Royal Caribbean Press Center and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Sacha Fernandez
Note: This post was updated in October 2017 for accuracy and timeliness.