3 easy steps to enjoying a cruise with toddlers
Recently, I wrote a post about the best Christmas to give your kids. This year we decided that though ‘Santa’ would still come to our house, the gift we would give our kids would be memories. They are only 4, 2, and 9 months so I doubt they will remember anything BUT we will. We will remember their faces the first time they saw our destination. We will remember the sheer joy when they were told dessert had no end. We will also never forget their little voices saying “Excuse me, pardon me” as they darted up and down the walk ways. Sure, some would say, ‘Why waste money on a vacation they won’t remember?’ But we say, ‘Why not spend money on memories with our kids for ourselves too?”
So this year for Christmas we opted for a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. If you are familiar with our site, you know we had a wonderful experience aboard the Allure of the Seas pre-kids. What an amazing vacation that was! This time we knew we would be in for a different version of the cruise life, but we were excited to give it a go.
Here are our 3 takeaways for how to enjoy a cruise with kids (and still feel like you got a vacation too!)
- Utilize Help
We were blessed to have my mom come along on our trip with us and man oh man was that extra set of hands SO HELPFUL! It was so nice to have someone willing to relax in the room while baby sister slept. Or to stay back with the kids and order in room service so Michael and I could have a dinner ALONE. Just having one extra person made it incredibly easier. We would all tag team when needed and it worked out perfectly. I stayed back with the kids while my mom and Michael zip lined in Honduras. (I was oh so quick to volunteer to stay back on that one!) Michael took an evening with the kids so my mom and I could go to dinner and shop a bit and my mom- well she was so great at being ‘on call’ the whole trip. If the boys needed to run energy out she would take them exploring, to the arcade, even riding the elevator up and down got their wiggles out at times.
If it doesn’t work for you to have someone come with you, Royal Caribbean has an amazing child care team. They have it broken down by ages: Royal Babies (6-18 months), Royal Tots (18-36 months), Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years), Voyagers (9-11 years), and plenty of activities for teens. We were impressed by the facilities and my kids ran right in to check it all out. We never ended up leaving them but I think they would have had a blast if they would have stayed.The phrase, ‘it takes a village’ most definitely applies on vacation too! 😉
- Separate Rooms
This would be our #1 tip for how to enjoy a cruise vacation with kids without exhausting yourself. A rested family is a happy family! In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how much money is saved by squeezing the whole fam bam into one stateroom- it WILL NOT be worth it, especially on a full 7 night cruise. Even if you have to forego a suite or balcony and go for interior rooms to make it more affordable, just trust me and do it. It is so nice to be able to put the kids in bed then close the adjoining door and have a room to yourself. By doing so, you don’t have to go bed at 7 pm when the kids are ready to crash, you don’t have to tip toe around a dark room and you have the freedom to stay up and watch a movie or whatever floats your boat. Ha, see what I did there?! 😉 The pic below isn’t very good quality but do you see my exhausted babies tucked away for a night of peaceful sleep? Stella slept in a pack and play beside their bed. We would lay the boys down and then walk in a few moments later and lay Stella down. They knew they could not wake her so in their stillness they ended up crashing fast.
We booked 3 rooms side by side and 2 of them had adjoining doors. This was the best arrangement and I am so glad we went this route. We had a room to ourselves with the kids in the adjoining room. My mom was next to the kids. I was terrified of a balcony because one of my kiddos is a bit curious and too adventurous for my liking… so we went for the promenade window rooms. (See below) This was GREAT! The kids enjoyed people watching just as much as we did! It gave the the kids something to do while they waited for us to get ready and we got to see 2 or 3 couples get engaged (our rooms were directly above the Christmas tree). Having my mom 2 rooms down was great because the kids could just run over to visit her. Each morning she would have a little gift in her room that related to what the day would hold (ex: snow hats for ice skating, paw patrol boats for our catamaran excursion, etc.) They also LOVED the phones in the room and would call her to chat every time we were in the room. Our poor kids know nothing about ‘home’ phones so they were amazed by this simple amenity. So there are definitely perks to staying close!
- Prep Your Mindset
Okay- cruising with kids is WORK. Especially if you don’t plan to utilize the kids drop off much. In order to enjoy vacation with kids in tow I believe a lot of it comes to our mindset. So much of life in general is about perspective, vacationing with kids included! We went in with a pre-kids cruise experience, and we knew it would be very different this time. We set our expectations really, really low. That way, anything extra was a plus. And it worked! We didn’t plan on getting to go to the sit down dinner every night but by golly we got to! We didn’t plan on making any shows but we made it to the ice show (YOU HAVE GOT TO SEE IT!) and we didn’t plan on getting to be on the go all day, we assumed we would be room bound due to naps, but it ended up working out great. If you just expect that it will indeed be work then it will be great. And two little off the wall takeaways here- 1) Anything worth having doesn’t come easy and 2) Kids are humans too. They will have off days, or need a day to adjust. They will be exhausted, hungry, overwhelmed. But guess what? We do too… let’s keep that in mind!We will leave you with a few pictures of our memories that we will deeply cherish forever!We dined early so that the kids were still somewhat flexible. One night poor Tripp slept on the floor under our table! For the most part though, they would sit down and put their napkin right in their lap before ordering a glass of chocolate milk to ‘cheers’ to.
See? Not everyone was a peach at all hours but PERSPECTIVE 🙂 We made it to dinner, dressed and tear free! Even if some of us had to wear shorts into the formal dining room because, well, life happens.
Look at that family! We had spent all day on the ocean on a catamaran snorkeling and exploring beaches and still had energy to shop after. We found the easiest way to do the stroller thing with our kiddos ages was to leave the double at home and go for a stroller that would easily store under the bed in our stateroom. Our Britax lays back enough where the boys could share it and we just wore Stella. It worked perfectly!
Royal Caribbean was so kind to give us their complimentary internet, VROOM while we were at sea as well as some on board spending credit, so THANK YOU Royal Caribbean for being so good to us! We also want to give a shoutout to Dwight, our room attendant as well- he was AMAZING. Oh so amazing! He knew our whole family by name within minutes of being in our room. He was such a hit with the kids too. We still talk to Stella in his accent, “Steeellllllaaaa, you have the pipe (her thumb) in!” We hope your families takes the chance to escape onto Royal Caribbeans amazing ship, Liberty of the Seas. You will leave with nothing but memories and happiness!
We have attached a little video to capture our memories from our trip below. Click to watch!