The truth about taking a baby and a toddler on a cruise – the ULTIMATE guide!

We are back from our amazing Norwegian Fjords cruise and whilst I was away I was INUNDATED with messages from people about it. They all centred around what it was really like to travel on a cruise with a toddler and a baby – questions included ‘Aren’t you scared they are going to fall off the side!’ to what our sleeping arrangement was. So I thought I’d write up one massive blog post, giving you the pros and cons of a cruise with little ones and answering all your questions. It might be quite a long one, but hopefully I’ll have you covered on all your questions if you are considering a similar cruise holiday like us.

If you haven’t followed us for long, we are a two-mum family and we have two little girls, Violet (who is 2) and Pearl (who is 11 months) so we really have our hands full with two so small! This was our first family holiday and first cruise, so we had absolutely no idea what to expect, but we loved it and had a great time, although I have to say a holiday with babies is never 100% relaxing.

We went on a Norwegian Fjords cruise with P&O – if you fancy a peek at what we got up to, I’ve made a vlog which is here. I’ve also got some child-friendly destination guides for some of the ports we went into coming up soon too.

But for now, let’s start off with the GOOD things about going a cruise with little ones…..

THE PROS

  • Easy Arrival – we arrived into Southampton and didn’t even have to park the car. We pulled up outside, they took the car away to park and our cases to our cabin. Within 15 minutes after a quick security check we were on board and the holiday had begun.
  • Packing: No luggage allowance or restrictions (within reason of dangerous items and alcohol). We were able to take clothes for ALL weather, our own baby formula, we even packed the Perfect Prep Machine! We had three HUGE cases and the buggy. You can take as much as you like although you do need to store it all in your room!
  • EVERYTHING is included – once you are onboard, there is nothing to worry about. You can eat 24/7 and it’s all included. Alcoholic/Fizzy drinks were extra and there were some restaurants with a cover charge but we didn’t spend much at all.
  • You are waited on hand and foot – a week of absolutely NO cooking, cleaning or having to prepare anything. It’s all right there, whenever you need it. You can even call room service for food 24/7 at no extra charge.
  • You can do as much or as little as you like! There is SO much to do each day – every evening a schedule was left in our room with activities from yoga lessons, photography courses, dancing, shows, live bands. It’s all at your finger tips, so if you fancy it, give it a go but don’t feel pressured, you can do absolutely NOTHING too if you want to.
  • It’s AMAZING for fussy eaters – we ate at the buffet every day which meant the girls could chose from a huge selection of food and try new things without worrying about paying for dishes they won’t actually eat. They hold a kids tea party every day with children’s food options like pizza, chips, vegetables etc. I took empty tupperware and filled them with cakes/fruits, snacks for the day.

  • Kids Club – is totally free and included, Violet went a couple of times and had a great time, they seemed very friendly and enthusiastic. Gave us a chance to have a cocktail and swim toddler free.
  • Night nursery – we didn’t use it but there is a night nursery too, where they will look after your little ones when they are sleeping. We didn’t use it as I didn’t think our girls would settle in a strange environment but I’m sure it’s handy if you’ve got a good sleeper!
  • Help is on hand – the staff were so helpful at carrying trays, helping get us a table etc. They even made Violet a special bowl of chips one day when it wasn’t on offer at the buffet.
  • Cabins – rooms are cleaned twice a day and any cots/beds set up whilst you are at dinner, so it’s all ready on your return. In your room you can request extras like a cot, steriliser, bottle warmer, bed rail, extra milk, even formula and baby food is included free of charge.
  • Laundrette – There was a free laundrette onboard. I did our washing halfway through the week and at the end so we came home without a washing pile! Great for babies as I washed clothes stained with food/nappy leaks straight away.
  • It’s Safe – although I didn’t take my eyes off them at any time, the decks are perfectly safe with glass or rails around the sides.
  • You can take your buggy – There are SO many lifts, so taking the buggy is easy, plus there is a ramp for getting on/off at ports too. The only downside is you need to store it in your room.

THE CONS

  • Cabins – we were all in one room, which was pretty tiny and we had no windows too! Fair enough, we didn’t pay to upgrade to a window/balcony but for a family it was quite cramped. Luckily beds were put away/reassembled for us daily which gave us some space!
  • Bunk beds were really high – for toddlers and children, bunk beds are provided. These are above the single beds in the room so are pretty high off the ground. Violet was too little to sleep up there safely so was in our beds or we slept on the bunks.
  • Other people (the passengers, not staff!) were mainly older people, although there were families too. We found the general cruise clientele quite unforgiving when we were taking extra time to get to places to get food, or needed to use the lift/pass with the buggy. But we may have been unlucky.
  • Children’s activities: There was lots to do every day, but a lot of it wasn’t geared towards toddlers. Things like treasure hunts and bingo were too grown up. It would have been nicer for some activities aimed at little ones too (separate to the kids club)
  • Excursions: Most of the excursions were not family friendly and are very expensive! They were at an extra cost, so we didn’t book any and just did our own thing strolling around at each port. This actually worked out better as we weren’t stuck to timings and we found certain things like the Flam Railway was half the price than if we booked it on the ship!
  • Missing Out: as with any holiday with a baby, you are always going to miss out on something! We missed out on most evenings after 7.30-8pm as we went back to the room to put the babies to bed. On the last day we put Pearl to bed in the buggy and went for a later dinner and wished we had done that from the start, but you learn! Violet enjoyed staying up late a few nights for the children’s disco.
  • Formal Nights: There were two formal black tie nights and by 6:30pm (when it starts) we were all too exhausted to dress up in our best clothes, especially putting the babies in dresses that late! So, we missed out on this and hid in the buffet restaurant. I did our laundry that night as the laundrette was empty!

YOUR QUESTIONS

To make sure I’ve answered everything you’ve been wondering about cruises with babies, I wrote down all your questions from Instagram and am going to answer them all below, so all the answers are in one place!

Q1: Can you feel the sea whilst onboard? (asked by @becsterdotcom)

A1: Yes, you can! Although I didn’t feel like this was a problem. It was a very gentle movement, rather than a swaying that makes you feel sick. There was about 1 hour when it did sway a bit (we were on the North Sea!) and I took a sea sickness tablet incase, but actually I probably didn’t need it. The babies were unaffected and if anything slept well with the movement. I get sea sickness since having the babies but didn’t find it an issue.

Q2: Are the rooms big enough for a family? (asked by @Elifkoseofficial)

A2: The rooms are pretty small but perfectly equipped to fit a family. If you pack and organise yourself well within the room it is absolutely fine. It’s also cleaned with beds put away/assembled twice a day too. Obviously rooms can vary and you can pay for more space or windows and balconies, but just a window was an extra ยฃ800 so we didn’t bother! We were out of the room all of the day anyway!

Q3: What are the cotbed mattresses like with P&O? (asked by @holliecollyer23)

A4: They were plastic, although they added a sheet to make it comfy. It wasn’t ideal as when Pearl moved it scrunched the sheet up. If we went again, I’d take my own mattress or fitted sheet.

Q4: Do they have in-cabin babysitting? (asked by @m1ssr1ss)

A4: They didn’t on our cruise. We went P&O so other liners might vary, but they provide a night nursery where you can put babies to sleep for the evening in a room of around 10 cots, which is monitored all the time. We didn’t use it as I thought my two would never settle but I saw it was popular!

Q5: Would you go again? (asked by @annafield1)

A5: Yes and no! We wouldn’t do this route again as I feel like we’ve seen the main ports, but I’d try another cruise again one day!

Q6: Were there any hidden charges you weren’t aware of? (asked by @katielshore)

A6: Nothing! When we got the bill it was 100% everything we knew about, just drinks and some currency we got changed onboard – our bill was tiny for a week holiday! So nice! Some cruise liners include a charge for tips, but P&O have removed this charge.

Q7: Did it make travelling with children easier and did you have enough time when you docked? (asked by @liannejhare)

A7: YES most definitely for an easier holiday. I think not having to fly helped so much with the ease of things. So much was done/catered for, it was ideal for that. There isn’t a HUGE amount of time at each port, just a day so it’s a bit of a whistlestop tour! I think if I was childfree it wouldn’t be enough time as I’d want to explore in depth, but with children it was fine as we did the most we could! The ports were all walking distance from attractions/towns/shops so there was always something to see even just going for a short stroll. I did get a bit of FOMO seeing people putting lifejackets on to go on Rib boat rides and kayaks through the fjords, but one day we will do that!

Q8: Were you stuck in your room when the kids went to sleep? (asked by @rachel_putland)

A8: Yes and no. Ultimately, yes. But a couple of nights we went up onto deck to watch the fjords/sunset separately. I also went swimming on my own a couple of times. We even ate dinner separately one night as we’d been out all day and we knew they wouldn’t sit through dinner. I didn’t mind too much, they are still SO little and I reckon by our next holiday they’ll be old enough to stay up a bit later, so thats just something you have to sacrifice with a baby, it’s not forever! We were pretty tired from busy days and early starts so I was fine to go to bed at 8pm and read my book! There is also the night nursery as an option if you chose to use it.

Q9: Was it REALLY expensive? (asked by @lesbemums)

A9: I don’t think so! Bearing in mind everything that was included it seemed reasonable, to me! I guess everyones interpretation of ‘expensive’ is different, but if you go on the P&O website, you can see the prices really easily and knowing everything is included from start to finish makes it a really relaxing money-worry free holiday.

Q10: Were you freaked out that the babies would fall off the side? (asked by @bex_m88)

A10: Before the cruise, yes! But when we got there we saw there are rails/glass around all the decks. We still always had then in the buggy/Ergobaby and Violet with reins at all times though.

Q11: What was the food like? (asked by @snuffy2004)

A11: It was pretty good! We ate in the buffet every day as it was the most child friendly and there was a good, diverse mixture of food, but like all buffet restaurants I wouldn’t say it was fancy! They had a children’s teaparty every day or children could eat during the normal sitting too. We are veggie and had quite a bit of choice in the buffet, but just one choice per night in the main restaurants. There is also daily Afternoon tea, plus a pizza bar, a grill that did burgers, chips etc and room service, so you don’t go hungry!

Wow, that was a lot of information, but I hope if you’ve been considering a cruise, you’ve found this post helpful! Thanks to everyone that got in touch via Instagram with a question!

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  • A great article and Iโ€™m glad that you enjoyed your cruise. I can see more and more families choosing to cruise in the future. It seemed we had quite a different experience on our last cruise though. Stuck the tots in the night nursery and partied till late most nights. Hopefully next time your little ones will settle and you can make the most of it all x