Every year, my husband and I set sail and take a Carnival Cruise. We escape from the world for a week long and explore the World while eating delicious foods, sipping cocktails and having the time of our lives. Last year was the first year that we had to skip our cruise because I was very pregnant the first half of the year then I had a sweet little newborn that kept me very busy the rest of the year.
Once Bryce turned 7 months, Quinn and I started talking about taking another cruise. We were ready to get away and we knew that we wanted to take our baby with us. After mentioning to multiple people that we would be taking an 11 month old on a cruise with us, we got many opinions. Most people looked at us like we were crazy, some were supportive and others kept their mouth shut. I didn’t let them scare me, I had my mind set and knew I wanted to take Bryce. We made a vow when having a baby that we would continue our travels and wouldn’t let having a baby stop of from doing the things that we love.
We decided on an 8 day cruise out of Miami to take at the beginning of the year. We knew there would be some hurdles to overcome but it would all be worth it. While on our cruise, there were some things that we learned about taking a one year old that were worth sharing.
Arrive to your port city one day early
Since we are in Dallas, the closest port is Galveston which means we have to plan in an extra day for travel. Many times we cruise out of Miami which means we have a 3 hour flight there not including any travel time to and from the airport or time that it takes to load and unload all the luggage. Our best plan of attack is to always fly in one day early. We get to the city and don’t have to feel rushed. The next day when we set sail, we are able to casually go to the port and not feel like we’re constantly on the go. The last thing we wanted was Bryce to be so exhausted on our sail day that he would too sleepy to enjoy the day or to let us enjoy the day. Arriving the day before allows us to all get a good night’s rest and to be ready for the cruise.
Pack plenty of diapers and formula
Once you’re on the cruise ship, there will be limited resources for you to buy any diapers or formula. You might get lucky if you stop on an island that has a convenient store but I wouldn’t risk it. Bring enough for your trip plus a few extra days. I can’t tell you how many places I stash diapers, because of this, I have diapers every where and it always seems like I’m running out. You have to plan for any mishaps on the way, if your baby happens to get sick while on the ship, will you have enough diapers? Will you have enough formula or if your baby decides that the week you’re on a cruise he will go through a growth spurt?
If you’re flying into your port city and you have a baby, buy your diapers and formula once you arrive in the port city. For example, we didn’t bring any formula or diapers except what was needed until we arrived in Miami. This allowed for lots of extra room in our luggage and helped us stay under the 50 lb bag limit that airlines enforce.
Purchase an inflatable bath tub
If you have ever cruised, you know that there is only a shower available in your rooms. I have no issues with the showers, but when you have an 11 month old who loves his bath time it can make things complicated. I tried to shower with Bryce and if I’m completely honest, it was one big slippery mess. I bought an inflatable rubber ducky bath tub on Amazon that fit perfectly into the shower. I would fill the water up and let him play in it before bed time and he absolutely loved it.
Call your cruise line before boarding
This isn’t a requirement when traveling with a baby but it is recommended. I called Carnival a couple weeks in advance. I let them know I was traveling with a baby and wanted to make sure there would be a crib available to use. I also had minor questions about seating arrangements because a high chair was needed and I had no idea how that worked. Not only did I feel a little more confident after talking to them, they gave me tidbits of advice that helped with my trip.
Visit your ship’s daycare
We cruised on the Carnival Vista and one of the first things we did was visited the day care. The daycare was for children 2 and up but they had special hours that they would watch younger babies and on certain days they had free time. During this free time, we were able to take Bryce into the daycare and play with him and the toys for a couple hours. We tried to go to every play time so Bryce could get as much play time as possible.
Another activity that saved us was the Dr. Suess library on the Carnival Vista. This library was open anytime that the daycare was open (so pretty much all day and night). It was a large room decorated from ceiling to floor with Dr Suess. There was an abundance of books and tons of space to play. The daycare staff filled the room with toys that were age appropriate for kids under 2 years of age. We had a lot of sea days, so I would take Bryce to this room for 30 minutes to an hour to let him get some energy out. Not to mention, Bryce took his first steps on his first cruise! It was a very fun moment and it only happened because there was an area for us to play.
Bring a stroller
This might be an unpopular opinion because every where I read says to not bring one or to bring just an umbrella stroller. Bringing a full size stroller saved us. Bryce would fall asleep at night and we could put him in the stroller and hang out on the ship til however late we wanted to. He loved to be able to recline back in his stroller while we would walk around. It was also great because strollers have so much storage available underneath, I was able to put anything and everything we needed in the stroller and didn’t have to worry about carrying anything. If we had brought an umbrella stroller, we would have been stuck in our room early sitting around doing nothing because Bryce would be asleep. There is no way he would have been able to sleep. We all know that a well rested baby makes momma happy.
If you don’t want to bring your stroller, Carnival has the option to rent a stroller so you don’t have to bring your own. It’s a great option to check out before sailing.
Get to your know waiter
We chose flexible dining even though we ended up dining at the same time every night. I love Carnival cruises because all of the staff is so helpful. Since Bryce was usually starving by the time we ate dinner, our waiter offered to bring out his food before the table even ordered. Every night when we arrived, our waiter would put in an order for mashed potatoes, spinach, mac and cheese or whatever delicious side they had available that night. Within minutes, Bryce would be served his food and we would be able to enjoy our meal. We always had the option to order him more food, if needed but having food readily available upon sitting helped tremendously.
Check for special events
Carnival partners with Dr. Suess so there were lots of great activities that we were able to participate in. We paid an extra $5 for a Dr Suess Brunch on one of the sea days which was filled with all sorts of fun food, decorations and Dr Suess guests. Another event that we loved was a celebration of Dr. Suess’ birthday in the main foyer. Cat and the Hat made an appearance and Carnival provided an incredible spread of food for everybody to enjoy. The kids had a blast dancing around and eating all sweet treats.
Research each port before your trip
I am not a planner but I learned quickly that I have to have all my ducks in a row when traveling with a baby. I did a lot of research on line for each port to see what exactly we could do with a baby. We did bring our car seat on the boat but didn’t end up taking it out because it wasn’t needed. We primarily used our stroller for all transportation and skipped out on using any cars the whole trip which was a nice change of pace.
Bring extra crib sheets
While your cruise line will provide you with a crib and bed sheets, I always like to bring my own. One night Bryce got sick to his stomach and threw up all over his bed sheets. While it’s so easy to pick up the phone and give your cabin steward a call, I loved that I already had my own sheets from home to quickly change out the sheets. We all know, dealing with a sick baby makes it hard to worry about anything else so having a change of sheets handy worked out well. If you don’t want to bring your own, ask your cabin steward to bring you an extra sheet so you will have it readily available.
Bring a baby carrier
I have never been big on wearing Bryce. Not that I don’t mind it, I just never got into the habit of wearing him around. I brought our Baby Bjorn with us since I knew we’d be doing a lot of walking and I wasn’t one hundred percent sure how the stroller was going to work out. Thankfully, Bryce loved the baby carrier. He faced out so he was able to see everything and he enjoyed looking at all the bright lights and screaming at people along the way. The one downsize to taking the stroller with you on the cruise is that you have to use the elevators with the stroller. At times, there can be a 5-10 minute wait so plan accordingly. If you are just going to run to the sweet shop or want to grab an ice cream cone, it might be easier to just put your baby in a carrier and head out then to mess with a stroller.
Ask for help from employees
I’m the worst at this but I learned quickly that when I asked for help from Carnival employees, they made my life so much easier. One of the most helpful things they were able to do was find us a high chair when dining in the buffet area. Since that area is open seating, people grab high chairs and take them to their tables. When they are finished eating, the Carnival employees move the high chairs to open more seating up. Since they are the ones who move the high chairs, they are able to find them in an instant. Once we got in line to eat, either my husband or I would find a seat and ask an employee for a high chair. Within seconds, a high chair would be delivered to our table.
Bring disposable bibs and place mats
I can’t tell you how important this is. Disposable bibs and place mats are serious life savers. At any given point, I will probably have 4 in my purse at once because I’m always throwing them in there. I never want to be without them so I stash them. I love that once we are done eating, we can throw away the bib and not have to wash them. Since Bryce is at a point where he self feeds himself, being able to set food on the place mat and know that it is clean made things so easy. We would place all his food on there and he was able to feed himself while we ate our meal. These are the disposable bibs and the place mats that we took with us.
Download the Carnival Hub
If you’re cruising Carnival, download the free app. If you download it before your cruise, it will give you a countdown to your cruise which I enjoyed looking at everyday. It got me more and more excited to get sailing. Once on board, the app will activate and you will be able to see the itinerary for the day on your phone. You don’t have to purchase wifi to use the app which is great. We paid an additional $5 for messaging services. It’s worth the cost! Having a little one on board, there was many times that one of us had to run to the room to grab something or to change Bryce, since there is no phone connection it was hard to figure out where to meet everybody. Searching for your family and friends on the ship isn’t fun so the Carnival Hub app made it possible for everybody to chat and stay connected.
Bring a sample size of dish washing soap and laundry detergent
The water inside your cabin gets extremely hot which I love. It’s not only great for rinsing off after being at the beach all day but I found that it worked perfectly to clean bottles. I brought a sample size of dish washing soap and I was able to clean out Bryce’s bottles or let them soak to ensure they were very clean for his next feeding. This travel hack worked great and I would highly suggest it since there is no other place to clean the bottles.
I brought a sample of laundry soap too. This was perfect for cleaning up any nasty clothes from the day or when Bryce got sick one night on us. Thankfully it didn’t last long but having cribs sheets with throw up on it is not great. I was able to wash them off with laundry soap before sending them to the laundry.