What and What Not to Take Onboard a Cruise Ship for Babies
As any parent knows, babies need a lot of attention and supplies in their day to day lives. However travelling abroad including travelling on a cruise, needs some more thought and preparation. So, what baby supplies are on a cruise, and what do parents need to take onboard to provide for their babies?
Cruises provide high chairs, and cribs for babies, but some cruise lines supply more items. Cruise guests will need to take the majority of items including basics like nappies, wipes and baby food. However most cruise companies allow parents to place an order before boarding so supplies are delivered to the ship.
Baby Supplies Provided on a Cruise
Some cruises are more baby and kid friendly that others. At a bare minimum, you can expect all cruises will have high chairs, cribs or cots available for your baby.
Some others provide more things like booster seats and strollers. However they may have a fixed amount of these items onboard. Hence if you intend to use them you may need to let the cruise line know in advance so they can set any supplies aside for you.
Baby Supplies to Take With You Onboard a Cruise
Before I get straight into the checklist, you also need to take your babies passport with you. It sounds obvious, but I once forgot to pack my own passport! Additionally you should take your own baby bottles, sterilisers, pacifiers, beaker (sippy cup), blankets, toys and hygienic product like baby wash.
Now, let me delve right into the checklist with notes on each item.
1. Nappies, Wipes and Formula
Some cruise lines provide baby supplies onboard, but others do not. The ones that do are:
- Holland America
- Royal Caribbean
It is important to note that the cruise lines that provide baby supplies will need to know well in advance. For example Holland America will need to know 90 days in advance before you board. This is because staff members need to make an order to have the supplies you need for your baby. Otherwise you may not have enough to cover the trip.
However these cruise lines may not provide the specific type of formula you give to your baby. So you will need to check beforehand. Some cruise lines go the extra length to puree the fresh food available onboard for your baby. They are:
This is always a preferable option in my book, as you can give your baby the most wholesome and nutritious food available. One the other hand some cruises supply baby food free of charge. They are:
When you ask cruise lines to cater for supplies it avoids having to worry about whether or not you packed enough baby supplies for the cruise.
However in our experience buying baby supplies on a cruise is more expensive than what you generally pay for at your local pharmacy. So, personally, I would suggest to take all the supplies you need yourself, plus a little extra just in case.
2. Swimming Nappies and Swimwear
Onboard cruise ships you will find swimming pools or you may travel to destination where you can swim at sea. If you are travelling during the summer months then swimming nappies are a must to take onboard.
As with regular nappies you could buy swimming nappies like Little Swimmers from Amazon and take them onboard. However it is best to take your own with you, plus a couple extra just in case. You should note that some cruises will not let children that are not toilet-trained in the water. Others will allow babies to swim with swimming nappies. So it is important to check the cruise policy beforehand on what is, and is not allowed.
3. Hat and Sunscreen
If you are going to go out on excursions or staying outside on the cruise ship you will need to pack a hat and sunscreen. This is one of the most essential baby supplies on a cruise you will need. Like this your baby will be protected from the sun especially in hot weather.
4. Extra Clothing
Many accidents happen with babies, and a parent cannot bring too many changes of clothes. While there is the option of onboard laundry, it is important to over-prepare instead of under-prepare, just in case the laundry options are full or out of use. Additionally laundry service comes at an extra charge.
Canival, Cunard, Disney, Holland America and Princess have self-service laundry rooms you can use of. On the other hand MSC has a baby laundry service which is separate from the regular laundry service. They use delicate baby detergents and wash items in specialised washing machines on low temperatures.
5. Smart Clothing
Some cruises have functions where you want to make sure you and your baby are dressed the part. Like for example captains night or theme nights.
On the other hand some cruise lines like Celebrity enforce a chic dress code. In fact on Celebrity t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, swimwear, robes and tank tops are not allowed in the main restaurant area and also in speciality restaurants. Cunard in particular have balls and galas on some days in the evening.
Before you go on your cruise you would need to check the dress code of the cruise line / ship. Moreover some cruises may require more elegant attire on specific days to go along with the events they have organised. So once you find out what you need to wear be sure to sort out some things for baby.
Whether at home or at a restaurant locally, you want to avoid extra spills while eating. So a bib is a must for your baby, especially if baby tends to make a mess. This also allows parents to confidently feed their children without having to worry about their children getting messy.
If you are going out on excursions or need a stroller onboard you will most likely need to get one onboard with you. Carnival and MSC are the only ones that have strollers onboard for babies that you can request or rent.
On all the other cruise lines you will need to bring you own stroller. However there are some things you need to be aware of.
Ideally you should opt for an umbrella stroller because they are more compact. Like for example this compact umbrella stoller on Amazon is perfect. This is because it takes up less space, is easier to navigate onboard and on land and provides baby with some shade.
However in some cases it is best not to bring a stroller at all. Firstly, this is because if you have an inside cabin or a small cabin you will not have space where to place your stroller. You will have enough to sort out and negotiate in the limited cabin space already. Hence a stroller is the last thing you need.
Secondly, some destinations are not stroller friendly. This is either because roads and pavements have cobble stones, potholes or the pavements are narrow. This means you will need to research each location if you intent to use a stroller.
8. Baby Carrier
Provided your baby is still young and not too heavy, a baby carrier is usually better than a stroller. Babies love baby carriers because they enjoy your body warmth and have a better view to enjoy what is around them. In fact they usually stay quiet unless they have something that is bothering them. Like when they need a nappy change or are hungry.
My sister preferred a baby carrier as opposed to a stroller when we went on a cruise together with family. It also saved her researching whether a stroller is worthwhile taking.
There are many good baby carries where baby faces forward. Here is a good and inexpensive baby carrier you can get from Amazon. It has padded wide straps to make it more comfortable to carry the weight of your baby on your shoulders. Additionally the front part can be folded down so that it is out of baby’s face so she can enjoy the view.
9. Inflatable Mattress
Most cruise liners supply portable cribs or cots for babies and tots. However, as a family, we have found the bedding may not be that robust and easily cave in with a little pressure.
Babies sleep whenever and wherever they need, so they should not be too fussed. However parents my want a bed with some more support. In this case what we have done is gotten an inflatable mattress like this one on Amazon for better support. Then you can either place the mattress in the cot or discard asking for the cot altogether.
10. Baby Bath
If you do not book a more expensive cabin that comes with a bath you might want to consider getting a baby bath.
Guests with babies staying in inner cabins have gone under the shower while holding their baby to bath them with no issue. However showers onboard cruise ships are small and some babies do not like showers!
In this case you may want to consider buying a cute whale inflatable baby bath.
11. Medicines and First Aid Kit
Mainstream cruise lines come equipped with with at least one doctor and a couple of nurses on call 24/7. This is just in case anyone onboard needs medical help over and above the standard ailments.
However parents should pack some basics for their babies and babies have their own dedicated first aid kit. This ensures that if any minor accident happens, parents are able to provide their babies. Cruise companies suggest that parents not only include band-aids in their first aid kit but also include any medicine the baby could need, a thermometer, and nappy rash cream.
Best Cruises Companies When Traveling with a Baby
Some cruise lines offer better amenities and activities for families with babies than others. Here I’m going to go through the mainstream cruise liners to give you a better idea of what to expect. However you should make sure to coordinate with the cruise company well in advance before boarding.
For older tots you may want to check out The Most Kid Friendly Cruise Ships For Your Perfect Holiday.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line has many nice amenities and policies in place for families traveling with toddlers and babies.
They do not provide baby food but allow unopened formula and baby food on the cruise. The ship does have distilled water available to guests that they can order ahead of time or on board for formula. Guests who need to bring or store breast milk are allowed to do so. It is recommended that they bring a cooler and alert the ship in advance.
Nursing mothers are allowed to nurse in public. Highchairs, booster seats, cribs, and strollers are available on board when requested or rented. The big downsides are that there are no nappy or general baby supplies on board. They also do not provide babysitting of any kind for children under 2 years old. Overall, it is clear that Carnival Cruise Lines has options for babies but is certainly not the best option available.
Celebrity Cruises has a few more options for families with babies. They do offer babysitting and programs for children over 6 months old all the way to 12 years old. They also offer afternoon and evening babysitting. You can also get baby food at no extra charge.
However, from the suggested packing list, it is clear that most things will not be offered. Celebrity cruises have many options for toddlers and young children, but lack supplies for babies.
Babies on Costa have some play areas and programs for toddlers as well. For babies over 6 months old, they do have some supplies that you can request prior to boarding.
Some of these items include cradles, cots, areas to prepare food, bottle warmers, and high chairs in restaurants. They do not provide baby food or nappies on board, so parents need to be aware and pack most of the items they usually need.
Cunard Cruise Line
The Cunard Line has some babysitting options for children between 6 months and 23 months old that aren’t available on other cruise lines. This is offered between 6 pm-11 pm. Due to this, the cruise has a limit on how many children can board a cruise.
This cruise line also doesn’t offer baby food unless you pre-order it ahead or brings it on board. It is probably not the most baby-inclusive line, as the parents must pack nearly all necessities.
Disney Cruise Line
The Disney Cruise Line is pretty good at accommodating babies and small children. They have many shops on board that provide a variety of supplies including nappies of many styles (pull-up, disposable, and swim), training pants, bottles, baby food, baby formula, pacifiers, nappy rash cream, baby shampoo, baby lotion, and baby conditioner.
It is unheard of for a cruise line to offer so many things on board. This is helpful if an emergency happens or the parents do not pack enough nappies or food for the trip. They offer group babysitting on board for children under the age of 3. However, this option is on a first come first serve basis. In fact is recommended that guests reserve slots before boarding.
Disney Cruise Lines also offer cribs at no additional cost. Once again, this is available on a first come first serve basis. This line has the most options for babies. It is unsurprising that the Disney Cruise Line is built for a family holiday.
Holland America Line
Holland America is not the cruise line to bring babies onto. Babies over 6 months old are allowed onboard. However, there are no programs or activities available for them until they are at least 3 years old.
They do offer baby food, highchairs, and booster seats upon request, but that is pretty much it. In comparison to other lines, Holland America is the least attractive for cruising with a baby.
The MSC Cruises are similar to the Disney Cruise Line. Both are well equipped for having babies and small children on board. They have a variety of programs and options for babies, including the Baby Club, which helps provide activities that can include little ones. They also offer engaging toys developed by the Baby Research Center.
This cruise line has great baby amenities. The restaurants and room service are available to help feed hungry children at all hours. They have a laundry facility specifically for babies and their seemingly constant need to have laundry done.
These ships also offer a baby care service so parents can spend time together without worrying about their children. Parents can even leave their children with the Mini Club while they debark for an excursion as long as the staff knows a day in advance.
This cruise line has a supply of nearly everything a parent needs on board. However, it is limited, so it is important to act quickly and request items in advance. They have bottle warmers, strollers, cribs, and cots. They even have nappies and other baby products available in store for purchase.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The Norwegian Cruise Line offers some activities for children. They have youth programs that are built to be attended by small babies as young as 6 months old. However these programs require that at least one parent is attending with the child.
These programs are not offered on the Norwegian Spirit cruise ships. The cruise line does not offer much when it comes to baby supplies or equipment.
Princess Cruises is decently prepared to have baby voyagers. They have program options that children 6 months to 2 years old can attend with a parent. They offer complimentary jarred baby food. Alternatively, they also offer pureed fresh foods at the restaurants on board. Ships also have bins that can be used in showers to wash small babies and full-sized tubs as well. They also have cribs, highchairs, and booster seats that you can reserve.
However, they do not provide all the necessary baby supplies. Princess Cruises is not the least baby-friendly cruise line, but it is certainly not the best option either.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International has programs built for 6 months-36 months old children. This program is unique as parents are allowed to drop off their children and do not have to accompany them. This is unlike the other cruise lines available.
It seems like a cheap addition to a cruise purchase, which could be a good option for young families. The only downside is that this program is not available on all the cruises they offer.