Travel With a High Chair on the High Seas
If your baby loves sleeping in a moving car, imagine how peacefully she'll sleep on a rocking ship. Infants are not only allowed to go on cruises, they often make the perfect travelers for this type of vacation. Each cruise line has its own rules and regulations, though, so don't start dreaming about baby's first buffet binge until you've checked all the relevant policies.
Are Babies Allowed on Cruises?
Every cruise line sets its own policy about infants. A few smaller lines, primarily those that operate in Europe and other international areas, don't allow young children onboard. However, the majority of cruise lines—including all the major lines operating out of the U.S.—allow infants to cruise.
Each line does have a minimum age for babies, however. Most lines allow only infants 6 months or older to board. For long cruises that involve a lot of time at sea, specifically Transatlantic and Hawaiian cruises, the minimum age is often 12 months. Check your line's policies, and calculate how old your baby will be on the day that you set sail.
But Is This a Good Vacation Idea?
Taking a cruise may be the perfect vacation option for parents who have their hands full. Once you get on the ship, you can unpack once and set off to explore with your stroller. Everything's accessible; there's no need to maneuver a car seat in and out of taxis, and many ships even often baby-sitting services to allow parents some adults-only time. And because the ship is never closed, you can get up at 3 a.m. and safely wander the hallways with your cranky baby if necessary. Heck, you may even find some ice cream while you're out and about.
Cruising does have its downsides, though, and they're important to consider. Your ship should have an infirmary with a doctor on staff, but if your baby has any medical issues that could require hospitalization or specialists, a cruise is probably not a safe option for your family.
If your itinerary requires you to have a passport, your baby will need one too. Check with the cruise line if you're not sure.
How Do I Choose a Cruise?
For your first cruise with your baby, you might want to pick an itinerary that lasts just three or four nights, in case it proves to be too challenging. Most of the major cruise lines have programs and areas designed just for young children, so take a look at those when weighing your options. Check out the availability of amenities like in-room babysitting, as well as the minimum age requirements for these services. Also note that different ships have different amenities, even within the same company.
Unsurprisingly, Disney Cruise Lines is probably the line that's most accommodating for families traveling with babies. The company's ships are set up to handle infants' needs. Stateroom staff will even take down and set up your pack 'n play each day, and ship restaurants are prepared to serve freshly pureed vegetables. If you sail to Disney's private island in the Bahamas, you can even borrow a free wagon to transport your baby across the beach.
What Should I Pack?
You should be able to rent or borrow a pack 'n play and high chair on your ship. You may or may not be able to rent or borrow a stroller.
Unless you sail with Disney (whose onboard stores are stocked with baby supplies), you'll probably need to pack all the supplies that you and your baby will need for the entire cruise. That means diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, bottles, baby shampoo, breast pump, bibs and etc. If you're flying to the port, consider stocking up once you arrive in the port city so you don't have to haul all that stuff with you—but only if you plan to arrive well in advance of departure time. If your flight is delayed, you might end up racing to the dock without enough time for a shopping trip.
Royal Caribbean does have a service that allows you to order baby supplies in advance and have them delivered to your stateroom when you board.
Check the laundry costs of your ship when packing clothing. You may decide to bring enough onesies, warm layers and burp cloths to last the whole trip, or opt to spend the money to have them laundered. Bring a sun hat and sunglasses to keep your little one safe out on the open deck.