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Top Tips For Taking A Cruise With a Toddler

Read about What could have been better on our First family cruise

exploring the kids pools on our first family cruiseLike many parents with young kids we have become cruise-goers!

It’s one of the many things I thought I would never do–until I became a parent. Richard and I liked it much better than we thought we would, as evidenced by the great extent to which we prattled on about it to our friends afterward. And we liked that Tiny Traveler loved it.  As my sister says, when it comes to a vacation, you’re only as happy as your least happy kid. On this vacation, my two-and-a-half-year-old was very happy most of the time on the Norwegian Dawn from New York City to Bermuda.

Great for multi-generation vacations

Cruising is ideal for multi-generation vacations because there really is something for everyone. I took yoga classes, my husband went to cooking demonstrations, TT loved the kiddie pools and colorful stage shows (still talks about them a year after the trip). My mother-in-law lounged by the pool and ate more than I’ve ever seen her eat in her life at the buffets while my father-in-law won the ship poker tournament.

Taking teens vs. Taking tots

Cruises seem especially good for teens and tweens because they can be independent without getting into much trouble.

It’s an option for younger kids if they’re Okay with spending at least some time away from you in the ship’s “kid camp” program (and if their parents are Ok with it, too). The groups of kids with the youth counselors always seemed to be having a good time.

But if your youngster isn’t Okay with spending time among unfamiliar babysitters (albeit, friendly, enthusiastic ones) while you lounge by the pool, cruising can present some logistical challenges. Relaxing was way harder to do than on a beach vacation (more on that tomorrow).

The amazing staff made up for the small inconveniences. The waiters handled all my special toddler requests without batting an eye. They procured half-orders of pasta or off-menu plain chicken breasts, and brought TT’s dinner with our appetizers and ice cream with our meals. Several staffers went out of the way to say hello to TT every day.

Parent-friendly logistics

Being able to board the ship in our home city was staggeringly convenient, especially with kids. It was nice to throw the bags in the car, drive to the terminal, hand my bag to a handler and have it show up in my room a few hours later. I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to live in a port city, but were I to cruise again I would look first at other trips that leave from NYC.

Since we did live in town, we got to the ship at the tail end of the three-hour check-in time.  My in-laws, who were there when we arrived, told us that 20 minutes earlier the line had been snaking all over the place. By the time we rolled up there was no line and we breezed through check-in.

Of course those checked in as soon as they could had already logged several hours of pool and piña colada time when we were just rolling up the gangway.  But kids and lines don’t mix. Next time around I would time it the same way.

Single Destination

We loved that our cruise ship went to only 1 destination. I know it’s not the norm, but three nearly full days in Bermuda was fantastic, especially with a child. We could skip the overpriced land packages the cruise line offered and try out Bermuda’s easy and fun (if pricey) public transportation and free beaches. We took buses, a ferry and a high-speed ferry—all much to TT’s delight—to far flung beaches and towns. We discovered a small, little used cove on the last day, where TT splashed and looked for crabs and minnows while we took turns snorkeling. And became regulars at the dockside brewpub where happy hour coincided (happily) with our daily return from the beach.

I can see the appeal of visiting lots of places on a single trip, but we felt we got to know Bermuda a little bit, which was nice. And TT likes to play going to Bermuda, so its pink beaches and conch fritters clearly made an impression on her, too.

What more can you ask for?

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  1. Lisa Rusczyk
    December 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm — Reply

    We went to bermuda with a 10 month old. A trip we will never forgot. The hardest part is she did not sleep at night.

    • December 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm — Reply

      Sleeping away from home gets easier as they get older. But the more travel when they are little the more flexible they become. So good for you!

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