Are you planning your first cruise with a toddler and don’t know where to start? We’ve done it and it’s so much fun! Keep scrolling to check out my ultimate guide to cruising with toddlers so you’ll feel like a pro!
This ultimate guide to cruising with toddlers was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Thinking about planning a cruise with a toddler? We’ve done it and we have a LOT of opinions about it!
Keep scrolling to hear about our first cruise with toddlers, shore excursions, cruise ship dining, sea days, and more!
Our Royal Caribbean Cruise with a Toddler
We were invited to a family wedding in Tuscany last summer and we decided to do some cruise travel before the wedding.
This was our first time taking our toddler to Europe so we really thought about where we’d like to go and how cumbersome it might be.
The kicker is that the destination wedding was black-tie and involved several events where we’d need nice clean clothes, so we had to bring more than usual.
Cruising with a toddler seemed like the easiest way to experience Europe with our luggage.
Why Did We Pick This Cruise Ship?
When we started researching, we were overwhelmed with the number of cruise ships we could pick from.
Most cruise ships offered kids clubs, kids menu items in the main dining room, complimentary pack n plays, and even baby food!
After much contemplation, we opted to do a Greek Isles cruise on Royal Caribbean. I had never been on a cruise before (I assumed they were just for old people) and I had always said that I’d rather spend more time at the destination rather than getting there.
I was completely mistaken!
Our First Cruise Ship Experience with Kids
Our cruise was the perfect fit for our 20-month-old! For one thing, the service on board was absolutely outstanding!
Maybe it’s because our past experiences have made our standards so low that we feel like we have to apologize when we bring our son out and about, but I almost cried several times because we were treated so nicely!
They actually begged us to bring our son to the main dining room each night, where he had about 15 servers calling him nicknames and bringing him bread and special treats!
Young Child Activities
They also had a fantastic onboard babies and toddlers program. It was open in the mornings for parents to come to play with their kids for free. They had movies running in the background and several large toys.
This was nice to meet other parents of toddlers and to get our toddler used to the space.
In the afternoons, it became a drop-off zone for just $6/hour. In the evenings it was just $8/hour and they ordered our son dinner.
He loved it so much that he didn’t want to leave when we picked him up! They gave us a pager in case there were any problems. They also gave us a bag of toys that we were able to borrow for the duration of the cruise.
Toddler-Friendly Shore Excursions
The excursions were also the right fit for our family. First of all, toddlers are free (but we could have left him in the kids club.) The buses were air-conditioned, which was a nice contrast to the August heat in Greece.
We brought a backpack with snacks, lots of water, extra clothes, sunscreen, teething medications, and a camera. We also brought sun hats for everyone and our Boba carrier.
The one downside to the excursions (besides the cost) is that most came with a tour guide and you had to wear little earpieces that are very tempting for toddlers to yank out of your ear over and over again.
We found that was less stressful to take off the earpiece and just walk around the sites and read about them in our guidebooks. This gave our toddler more of an opportunity to walk around and explore.
While we could have done the excursions for cheaper on our own, the ease of just showing up and not worrying about missing the boat (literally) was worth the extra cost with a toddler.
Now that we have a family cruise under our belt, we might opt for just one or two excursions in the future and do something more laid back the rest of the days.
Our Chats with Other Parents Cruising with a Toddler
We chatted with other parents of small children on board and one of them mentioned that kids have to be at least 6 years old to be in one of those flip-down beds.
The parents ended up having to book adjoining cabins so their toddlers could be in regular beds. That was really good to know! It was a tight squeeze with the crib in our cabin and it would be impossible to cram 2 in there.
Another parent said her daughter preferred to play in the kids club rather than do excursions, so they put her in the kids club and they’d go off the boat to explore the port.
We saw a lot of parents and toddlers doing laps on the deck to get some wiggles out.
We also saw parents struggling with their strollers on the cobblestones at the ports. Having been to Europe before, we knew it would be tricky and chose not to bring our stroller. We don’t regret that decision.
What Cruising with Toddlers Mistakes Did We Make?
We brought along a bunch of swim diapers without realizing there was a minimum age to use the pool. Oops!
We also used our car seat on the airplane (which was great) but it meant that we had to store the clunky car seat in our small stateroom for the whole trip. In hindsight, we should have found a place to store it either at the airport or near the cruise ship terminal.
We did most of our meals in the main dining rooms, but we should have taken advantage of room service when our toddler was tired or cranky. It would have alleviated a ton of stress.
Would We Do It Again?
All in all, Royal Caribbean was a fantastic choice for our family! When the cruise ended, we were really sad to say goodbye to everyone (and to say goodbye to really good service!) We will definitely be cruising as a family again!
Is it Worth Taking a 2-Year-Old on a Cruise?
Whether it is worth taking a 2-year-old on a cruise depends on your personal preferences and your toddler’s personality and needs.
Cruising with toddlers can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but it can also present some challenges.
If your toddler is generally adaptable and enjoys new experiences, they may be more likely to enjoy cruising. However, if your toddler is easily overwhelmed by new environments and routines, a cruise may not be the best option.
Consider your own preferences and how they align with cruising with a toddler. Do you enjoy spending time with your toddler and engaging in family-friendly activities? Or do you prefer more adult-oriented activities and time to relax?
Overall, whether it is worth taking a 2-year-old on a cruise depends on your individual circumstances.
If you enjoy spending time with your toddler and the cruise ship offers amenities and activities that are appropriate for their age, cruising with toddlers can be a fun and memorable experience.
How can I keep my toddler entertained on the ship?
Keeping a toddler entertained on a cruise ship can be challenging, but there are many activities and strategies you can use to keep them engaged and happy. Here are some ideas:
Take advantage of the ship’s amenities
Most cruise ships have pools, water parks, and other fun amenities that toddlers will love. Spend time playing with your toddler in the pool or taking them down the waterslide.
Attend family-friendly shows
Many cruise ships offer family-friendly shows and performances that are appropriate for toddlers. Check the ship’s entertainment schedule and attend shows that your toddler might enjoy.
Visit the kids’ club
Many cruise ships have kids’ clubs that are specifically designed for toddlers. These clubs offer age-appropriate activities and toys that will keep your toddler entertained.
Participate in onboard activities
Many cruise ships offer onboard kid-friendly activities that are suitable for toddlers, such as arts and crafts, storytime, and sing-alongs. Check the ship’s daily schedule and participate in activities that your toddler might enjoy.
Bring toys and games
Bring your toddler’s favorite toys and games from home to keep them entertained while on the ship. Consider bringing small, portable age appropriate toys that your toddler can play with in your stateroom or on-the-go.
Explore the ship
Take your toddler on a tour of the ship and explore different areas, such as the library, arcade, or outdoor decks. This can be a fun and interactive way to keep your toddler entertained and engaged.
Take shore excursions
Many shore excursions are suitable for toddlers, such as beach trips or animal encounters. Check with the cruise line to see which excursions are appropriate for toddlers.
Remember to be flexible and take breaks as needed to ensure your toddler doesn’t get overtired or overwhelmed. With a little planning and creativity, you can keep your toddler entertained and happy on the cruise ship.
10 Tips for Cruising with a Toddler
Here are some tips to help you have a successful cruise with a toddler:
Choose the right cruise line
Not all cruise lines are equally equipped to accommodate toddlers. Look for a cruise line that offers amenities such as nurseries, kids’ clubs, and child-friendly activities. Disney Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises are great options.
Stick to your routine
Try to maintain your toddler’s routine as much as possible, including nap times and mealtimes.
Use the nursery or kids’ club
Many cruise lines offer nurseries or kids’ clubs where you can drop off your toddler for supervised playtime. This can give you some time to relax or participate in other ship activities.
Plan age-appropriate activities
Look for activities that are appropriate for your toddler’s age, such as splash pads or toddler play areas.
Be prepared for motion sickness
Toddlers are more prone to motion sickness than adults. Bring along remedies such as ginger chews or over-the-counter medications to help alleviate symptoms.
Be sure to pack all the necessary items your toddler will need, including clothing, sunscreen, diapers, snacks, and toys. It’s also a good idea to pack a first-aid kit with medications and basic medical supplies.
Practice good hygiene
Toddlers can be prone to illness, so be sure to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, and encourage your toddler to do the same.
Be mindful of safety
Be mindful of your toddler’s safety on the ship. Keep a close eye on your child at all times, and make sure they wear appropriate safety gear when participating in activities.
Traveling with a toddler can be unpredictable. Be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary and go with the flow.
Enjoy the experience
Cruising with a toddler can be a fun and rewarding experience. Take plenty of photos and enjoy making memories as a family.
What are the Best Cruise Ships for Toddlers
There are several cruise ships that are well-suited for toddlers and offer a range of amenities and activities for young children. Here are a few that I recommend for families.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney is known for its family-friendly cruises and offers a range of activities and amenities for toddlers. The Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic, and Disney Wonder all have nurseries for infants and toddlers, as well as kids’ clubs for children ages 3-12.
We went on the Disney Fantasy when our kids were a little older and it was really fun to be on a ship packed with families!
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean offers a variety of family-friendly activities and amenities, including water parks, rock climbing walls, and mini-golf courses.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, including the Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas, have dedicated kids’ areas and activities for toddlers.
We had SUCH a fun time on Royal Caribbean and would embark on another adventure with them anytime!
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival offers a range of family-friendly activities, including water parks, mini-golf, and kids’ clubs for children ages 2-17. The Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon both have family-friendly staterooms and a range of activities and amenities for toddlers.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian offers a variety of activities and amenities for families, including water parks, mini-golf, and kids’ clubs for children ages 3-12. The Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, and Norwegian Breakaway all have dedicated kids’ areas and activities for toddlers.
It’s important to note that the best cruise ship for toddlers will depend on your family’s preferences and needs. When choosing a cruise ship, consider factors such as the availability of nurseries, kids’ clubs, family-friendly staterooms, and activities for young children.
What’s the Best Type of Stateroom for Your Family?
The best type of stateroom for your family will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a stateroom:
If you’re traveling with young children, you may want to consider a larger stateroom to give your family more space to move around.
Some cruise lines offer family-sized staterooms or suites that have separate sleeping areas and additional amenities.
The location of your stateroom can also be important. If you have young children, you may want to choose a stateroom that is close to the ship’s amenities and activities, such as the pool or kids’ club.
Additionally, you may want to consider a stateroom that is not near a noisy area or a popular gathering spot on the ship.
If you enjoy spending time outdoors, you may want to consider a stateroom with a balcony. This can be a great way to enjoy the views and fresh air while your children nap or play in the room.
Honestly, if you can afford it, it can make SUCH a difference!
Some cruise lines offer connecting staterooms, which can be a good option for families who want more space and privacy. This allows parents to have their own room while still being close to their children.
Staterooms can vary in price, so it’s important to consider your budget when choosing a room. Keep in mind that larger rooms and suites will generally cost more than standard staterooms.
Overall, the best type of stateroom for your family will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
It’s important to research your options and choose a stateroom that will provide the space, amenities, and location that your family needs to have a comfortable and enjoyable cruise experience.
Toddler Cruise Packing List
Here are some items to consider including on a toddler cruise packing list:
Pack plenty of comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing, including shorts, T-shirts, swimsuits, sandals, and a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings.
Diapers and wipes
Even if your toddler is potty trained, it’s a good idea to bring along extra diapers and wipes for emergencies.
Be sure to pack a high SPF sunscreen to protect your toddler’s skin from the sun.
Hats and sunglasses
Pack a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your toddler’s eyes and face from the sun.
If your toddler will be using the ship’s swimming pools, be sure to pack plenty of swim diapers.
Bring any necessary medications, such as pain relievers, fever reducers, and allergy medications.
Stroller or baby carrier
A stroller or baby carrier can be helpful for getting around the ship and on excursions.
Pack plenty of your toddler’s favorite snacks to keep them fueled and happy throughout the cruise.
Toys and books
Bring along a few of your toddler’s favorite toys and books to keep them entertained during downtime.
Bring along bath essentials like shampoo, soap, and towels.
It’s important to pack as lightly as possible while still bringing along everything your toddler needs. Remember that many items can be purchased onboard the ship or at ports of call if you forget something
Toddler Cruising FAQs
Are toddlers allowed in cruise ship swimming pools?
It depends on the cruise line and the specific ship. Some cruise lines allow toddlers in their cruise ship pools, while others have age restrictions. In general, most cruise lines require that children who are not toilet-trained wear swim diapers in the swimming pool.
It’s important to note that even if a cruise line allows toddlers in their pools, parents should always supervise their children closely while they are in the water. Additionally, some cruise ships may have designated children’s pools or splash areas that are more appropriate for young children.
Which cruise lines allow 2-year-olds in the kids’ clubs?
Some cruise lines allow 2-year-olds to participate in their kids’ clubs, while others require children to be at least 3 years old and toilet-trained.
Here are some examples of cruise lines that allow 2-year-olds in their kids’ clubs:
Disney Cruise Line – Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab accept children ages 3 and under, as long as they are fully potty-trained.
Royal Caribbean International – Royal Caribbean’s Royal Babies and Tots Nursery accepts children as young as 6 months old, while their Adventure Ocean Youth Program accepts children ages 3-17.
Norwegian Cruise Line – Norwegian’s Splash Academy accepts children ages 3-12, but they offer a limited number of spaces for 2-year-olds on a first-come, first-served basis.
It’s important to note that policies and age requirements can change, so it’s always best to check with the specific cruise line before booking your trip to confirm their current policies.
Do cruise ships offer babysitting for toddlers?
Yes, many cruise ships offer babysitting services for toddlers and younger children. These services are typically provided by trained staff members who are responsible for supervising and entertaining the children while their parents enjoy other activities onboard.
Most cruise lines offer in-room babysitting services for an additional fee. This can be a convenient option for parents who want to enjoy some time alone in the evenings or participate in adult-only activities.
Is cruising with toddlers safe?
Cruising with toddlers can be safe if proper precautions are taken and parents closely supervise their children. Toddlers can be curious and adventurous, so it’s important to keep an eye on them at all times, especially around water or other potential hazards.
Make sure your child has the appropriate safety gear, such as a life jacket or swim diapers, and that they are wearing it properly.
Follow all safety rules and guidelines on the ship, including those related to the pool area and other potential hazards.
Toddlers can be more susceptible to germs and illness, so it’s important to practice good hygiene and frequently sanitize your hands and surfaces.
Where do toddlers sleep on cruise ships?
The sleeping arrangements for toddlers on cruise ships can vary depending on the cruise line and the specific ship.
Most cruise lines provide cribs or Pack ‘n Plays for toddlers to sleep in. These are typically available upon request and may be subject to availability.
Some cruise lines offer staterooms with a pull-out sofa or bunk beds, which can be a convenient option for families with multiple children.
Some cruise lines offer family staterooms or suites that are specifically designed for families with young children. These may have additional amenities such as a bathtub, extra storage space, or separate sleeping areas.
Some cruise lines offer a limited number of connecting staterooms, which can be a good option for families who want more space and privacy.
Cruise with a Toddler Wrap Up
Most cruise ships are really welcoming for families with toddlers and young kids. If you can afford a balcony cabin, do it! Otherwise, grab your umbrella stroller and get some fresh air on the deck.
Cruises can be the perfect family vacation because parents can enjoy a quiet sit down meal while their child hangs out in the baby club or with a babysitter. And you can leave your baby gear in the cabin while you do shore excursions.