As you know I have recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise on board the Royal Caribbean, Independence of the Seas. We decided on a cruise after much deliberating. It was a big decision as we would be holidaying with a toddler and it was to be our first ever cruise.
We thoroughly enjoyed it, being able to set sail from Southampton made travelling really easy and stress free. We were able to explore some wonderful European cities, enjoy fabulous food and spend quality time with Rosalie.
I learnt a thing or two whilst on board, there are also a few things I didn't do which I wish I had so I thought I would make a list for those thinking of cruising with a toddler. Here are my tips on how to make cruising with your toddler a breeze...
WHAT TO PACK WHEN CRUISING WITH A TODDLER
I packed A LOT. As we boarded our boat at Southampton we had no luggage allowance. This meant we could take as many suitcases as we liked. I took full advantage of this, having all the toddler paraphernalia with us meant that our trip ran as smoothly as possible.
Here are the key items that I packed for our 14 day cruise that were really helpful:
1. Two outfits per cruise and a few dressier ones for formal nights. We didn’t take any posh outfits with us on our cruise but I wish we had so we could have taken full advantage of the formal nights. Your fellow guests really go all out, I’m talking Tux’s, full length gowns and sequins, and that's just the toddlers! :) It would have been lovely to have dressed up too, we don’t get much call for it day to day!
2. Three or four swim suits. I’d recommend taking at least one full length sun suit, with long sleeves and long trousers.
3. Shoes. I’d recommend taking at least one pair of trainers, evening shoes, day sandals and a pair of crocs. I took way more than this so I won’t judge…
4. Large and small zip-lock bags. You will use these for everything and anything. They are good for keeping all your bits and pieces organised.
5. A few carrier bags to store wet and dirty clothes in will be handy too.
6. One or two pillow cases for all your dirty laundry, or you can designate a dirty laundry suitcase. I did both and it made sorting out all of the washing so much easier on our return. If you don’t want to take dirty laundry home, use the onboard laundry service. Prices will be posted in your stateroom.
7. Medicines. I took a whole menagerie of lotions and potions for every medical emergency. I didn’t use any but it is good to have them there just in case. There is a doctor on board the boat if you need anything desperately.
8. Baby Shampoo, body wash, toddler tooth paste and toothbrush.
9. Snacks. I took raisins, crisps and fruit pouches away with us and these were great for taking out with us on our port days.
10. A small lunch box. There will be plenty of things for you to fill your toddlers lunch box with at breakfast such as fruit, yogurts, pastries. I used to make up a little ham and cheese roll for Rosalie to have on our day trips.
11. Bring an iPad and download your toddler’s favourite games or programs on to it. You cannot rely on Wi-Fi to stream YouTube. We recommend peppa’s paint box.
12. Toys. You want something for the beach and the pool, Rosalie loved her watering can and played with it for hours. Little toys that you can take to dinner are also useful. I packed pencils and colouring books and play dough for Rosalie to play with in the room.
13. Toddler bag. You will need something to carry all your toddlers bits around in when you go to dinner so I recommend taking your normal day to day toddler bag.
14. A pushchair or stroller. We took out city mini gt as its robust, comfortable and the large sun shade is perfect in hot weather.
15. A child carrier. We took our little life cross country child carrier and it was invaluable. I have posted a full review on it. I It was invaluable on our sightseeing port days, we took it to Barcelona and Rome. It was made walking over the cobbled streets really easy and ensured Rosalie was happy in the busy tourist areas.
16. A few sippy cups. Your toddler will need to have one for water and one for milk and I’d recommend another as a spare.
17. Toddler sized cutlery to use at meal times.
18. Washing up liquid. I recommend taking a small bottle of washing up liquid so you can wash out your toddler’s sippy cups (especially when they have had milk in!).
19. Water. As weight was no object for us we look a crate of bottled water in our luggage. These were handy to take out and about with us.
20. Washing liquid. I recommend taking some travel washing liquid so you can hand wash any soiled clothes as soon as possible. I also took some vanish spray so I could treat nasty stains straight away to ensure they wouldn’t ruin Rosalie’s clothes
WHERE CAN TODDLERS PLAY
There are activities for children of all ages on board the independence of the seas.
Royal tots offer interactive playgroup sessions for toddlers aged 18 – 36 months. They include music, toys and learning activities to keep your little one entertained, the best part of this is you can join in too! Rosalie doesn’t go to Nursery so I was so pleased to hear that they ran classes that we could go to with her.
They also run 2 hour open play sessions in the nursery room every day. We really enjoyed these as it meant we could go to a safe place where Rosalie could run around, play with toys and meet other toddlers. The toys would change every day to keep the toddlers interested and Rosalie loved discovering new toys to play with.
Rosalie made a little friend at these sessions, and we ended up spending quite a lot of time with each other over the cruise which was really lovely. Making friends was definitely a highlight of our holiday.
Rosalie seems to have come on so much socially since returning from our cruise and I think it is because we attended these sessions. Rosalie could interact with other children and play in a nursery environment but mummy and daddy were there with her the whole time.
If you fancy a bit of time to yourself, you can make use of the Royal Babies & Tots Nursery. Babies and toddlers (aged 6-36 months) are cared for by trained professionals, while enjoying specially designed programs. Daytime and evening drop-off is offered. This is not something we took advantage of as Rosalie doesn’t go to Nursery at home so I think it would have been a shock to the system if we had sent her whilst on holiday.
GET INTO A ROUTINE
If possible try and get into a routine similar to the one that you have at home. Fairly quickly we got into a routine on our sailing days.
We would have breakfast around 9am, lunch between 1 and 2pm and dinner at 6.15pm. I would take Rosalie back to our room for a nap every day at 3pm. I would stay in the room with Rosalie whilst Nick would go to the gym. As Rosalie was going to bed at around 9pm every night she needed these naps and it also meant that mummy could start to get ready in peace!
We opted for my time dining on board the Independence of the seas and this meant that we could choose our own dinner time each night. We usually pre booked dinner for 6.15pm each night. However, if you can’t keep the time or your plans change you can always call and reschedule on the day or just head up to the wind jammer café for the buffet. This flexibility meant we could work in a nice family dinner, it really is the best part, around Rosalie's routine.
Royal Caribbean is a great choice for families cruising with a toddler. There is plenty for your child to do and great family adventures to be had on your port days. A little bit of preparation before you go will make the world of difference whilst away and will ensure that you ALL have a wonderful cruise holiday. Happy Sailing!
I filmed a video of my tips for cruising with a toddler which you can find over on my youtube channel.