When it comes to family vacations, boarding a cruise ship for an exotic destination is a great way to go. With everything cruise ships offer now-a-days, there are tons of activities for kids and adults. Of course, with so much to know, do and explore boarding a cruise ship with kids can be a bit frustrating. Take a look at these cruising do’s and don’ts with kids before you go and start your cruise off stress free!
Check for childcare services
If you’re looking for time alone and away from the kids, check and make sure there is a kids area or baby sitting service on board that is geared towards the ages of your children. On Royal Caribbean’s Navigator Of The Seas they offered complimentary areas for kids; Royal Babies & Royal Tots for 6 – 36 months, the Aquanauts for 3-5 years old, Explorer’s Program for 6-8 years old and Voyagers for 9-11 years old. They also offered tween and teen areas for the older kids. Navigator Of The Seas also offered a Sitters At Sea option which was a paid, in room baby sitting service for kids 1 and older. Just FYI – none of the private areas for kids allow photography of the area’s so you don’t have to worry about weirdos video taping your kids. It’s also why I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the inside of the clubs.
Pre-register for programs and boarding
If you plan on checking your kids into a youth program, check and see if you need to pre-register them before you sail or if you can do so on the ship. These programs can fill up fast and most of them only allow a certain amount of kids in them at a time as to not overwhelm the care givers so be sure to book your kids in advance. You can also fill out pre-board info and documents which will be a big time saver.
Take time into consideration when dining
If you’re looking at booking a dinner with the family, be sure you look and see which restaurants on board are family friendly and book it early in the evening. My husband and I attended a dinner in the gorgeous Sapphire Dining Room on the Navigator Of The Seas but I would not want to have my littles there. Although we did see some older kids, it took a while for our dinner to get to us ( the whole dinner took about 2 hrs) and I don’t see little ones being able to handle this time frame in a “peaceful” manner.
Don’t forget passports/ID’s
DO NOT forget to bring your child’s form of identification!! Either a passport or CERTIFIED copy of their birth certificate will work if they don’t have a state ID yet. Even if you’re not traveling out of the country you will need this verification for your kids upon check in.
Don’t over pack
Try as hard as you can to go with as little large luggage as possible. Cruise ship rooms, unless you’re shelling out the BIG bucks for a giant stateroom tend to be VERY compact. I suggest sticking to one large suitcase and backpacks for the kids since those can be easily condensed once they are emptied. You will have a closet in the room but it’s also kind of small and you really don’t want to be using up the walking space you have to store your suitcases.
Check In Do’s
AGAIN! Double check that you have either a passport, ID or CERTIFIED birth certificate for your kids. You will NOT be allowed to board without these documents.
This one I can’t stress enough, especially if you have kids in the 2-6 stage. Mine were 3 and 4 and we got to the ship around 1:30 pm which was 3 hours before it was set to depart. We first had to park our car which was in a lot a good ways from the ship. They do offer shuttles to take you to the terminal so be sure to hop on one. Going through security is no where near as stressful as it is at the airport which was nice BUT we then encountered the line to check into the ship. GOOD GOD was it long. Like I said we arrived at 1:30 but didn’t get on the ship till about 3:20. My kids were FREAKING out. Combine crazy amounts of excitement with needing a nap and being hungry and you will not have a pleasant line waiting experience.
Everyone needs to check in
Make sure your family is with you when you check in. For Royal Caribbean Navigator Of The Seas, they needed to take pictures of each passenger including the kids.
Check In Don’ts
Don’t forget travel documents
Don’t forget to have your tickets, sailing documents and ID’s for everyone traveling.
Don’t forget a valid credit card
Do not forget that you will need a valid credit card for check in. The cruise line will add this credit card to your room cards so that you can charge things to your room. If you do not want it added to certain people’s cards, tell your attendant at check in.
On Board Do’s
Drop off luggage and check announcements
Head straight to your room and drop off any bags and luggage before exploring the ship. Boarding is always a giant traffic jam and you will most likely have a wait for any elevators. So this is where getting there early really helps as well. Once your settled in your room, check the room for a pamphlets that talks about the ships programs and where they are. This is a great way to make sure you head the right direction when looking for the youth programs, pools and restaurants. They also tend to have the hours that everything on board is open to.
Get ready to muster: emergency procedures
Look on your room key or listen to the cruise info on the TV in your room to find what and where your muster station is. A muster station is the emergency group you are in if a emergency happens on board. There will normally be a number reference, a floor and area you are meant to meet at. Our muster station was D22 and we were directed to meet on the 4th floor in the Sapphire Dinning Room of Navigator Of The Seas. You will ALWAYS be asked to participate in a mandatory safety drill before the ships departs. This means heading down to your muster station, checking in with the crew there and waiting until the captain has declared the drill over. This normally takes about 30-45 min.
Child life vests must be asked for
Ask for child life vests. In the case that there is an emergency, life jackets are normally stored for all guests in the closets however child sized life vests must be requested.
Designate meeting spots and times
Set a meeting point and times. Once you head out into international waters you’ll soon realize that your cell phones will be going all sorts of wacky. Mine was telling me the time was 12:43am at 5:43pm. This also means that your text messaging and calling won’t work. Setting a meeting point and specific times is a great way to make sure your easily able to find each other through out your cruise.
On Board Don’ts
Don’t forget to say who can pick up the kids
Don’t forget to sign the names of the people authorized to pick up your children from their youth programs. If you are with your spouse, be sure to list both of you so that you can avoid not being able to check them out.
Don’t forget diapers
Don’t forget to supply diapers (if needed) for your child’s caregiver.
Don’t forget passport and cruise cards in port
When heading out in a port, make sure you don’t forget your passports or Sea Pass cards! This is how you will be allowed back on board the ship. No ID’s means no admittance and you don’t want to get left behind.
Top Cruising Tip
HAVE FUN!!! Above all don’t forget you are on vacation. Royal Caribbean Navigator Of The Seas did an AMAZING job at keeping our kids safe and entertained while we were able to have fun by ourselves as well as giving us the chance to do fun things as a family.
If you are looking to go on a cruise for a family vacation I highly recommend taking a look at Royal Caribbean and the ships they offer. We had a wonderful time on board Royal Caribbean Navigator Of The Seas and the kids LOVED their youth programs, not to mention every staff member we encountered was incredible nice and willing to help with anything.
Rebecca fry says
Thanks!! Hopefully I’ll get to use them some day 😀
Shannon Schmid says
Great list, bookmarking it!
These are really great tips. We will be cruising this Aug for the first time with my two kids.
Jen - Life With Levi says
I’m going to disagree a little bit on your don’t. When I brought my 3 year old on a cruise, I was happy I over packed because once you’re on the ship, you can’t just run to the store like you would at home.
Link Fairy says
Jen, you are very right when it comes to little kids, over packing a bit can be a lifesaver! I also have a 3 year old and he went through every outfit we brought for him 🙂 I should have clarified what I meant by over packing. I suggest trying to stick to as little luggage as possible, just because, in our experience there wasn’t much room to store it and it took up valuable walking space in our cabin. However this totally depends on the size of cabin the family is able to purchase. 🙂
Cruises are the BEST for kids! Charlotte loves all the kid areas. Going on a cruise is her favorite vacation. We have been on 3!
Jennifer H says
Wonderful tips! We haven’t been cruising with both boys before so these may come in handy when we do.
Great tips! Sharing with my husband because he thinks a cruise isn’t possible with our kids!
Liz Mays says
That’s a great tip to look for the muster station. I didn’t know about that!
Dee @ Cocktails with Mom says
We are hoping to plan a cruise for our family soon. When we had the opportunity to step foot on a docked ship for a day the boys were beyond estatic. Can’t wait to take them on day!
We’re planning on taking a cruise next year with the kids, great tips!
These are great tips. I love the pre-registration tip.
Great tips! We are planning to take our kids on a cruise in the next couple years so I am going to keep these in mind!
Kimberly Grabinski says
Great tips! I was on their Liberty of the Seas recently and it was amazing. I didn’t have my kids with though so these are great tips for when we go back!
Thanks for such a great list! We’ve never cruised before.
Shell Feis says
Wow thank you for this list! It will be a few years before we go on a cruise, but when we do we’ll have two kids with us so this is perfect.
What a gorgeous ship! We have been on the Freedom and its just as amazing
What a great and extensive list for parents! I’ve never been on a cruise before, but hope to in the near future and this will surely help. Bookmarked!
theresa m. says
Best tip is that you have to ask for child size life jackets!! I would have never crossed my mind! Thank you!
Megan C says
Thanks so much for this! Hopefully my husband and I will have a great cruise in the future when the children get a little bit older!
Melissa George says
thanks for such amazing cruize ideas which i was clueless about. we too love boarding the cruises when there are some great deals but i dint know one should be well known about the cruises dos and donts.
We’d love to take a cruise but hold off with kids. Hopefully we can book one now. These tips will come in very handy!
Diana Scholz says
All VERY good advice. Luckily my first time cruising with my son he was 8 and everything went SO smoothely!
Michael Lambert says
My wife and I went on our first cruise about a month ago and we kept saying I don’t know how people do it with kids. Maybe when they are older but my 3 year old would be a handful.
MaryJo Tsitouris says
I love cruises and once my son gets a little bit older, I want to take him on one. Cruises are amazing!
Joanne Gregory says
We cruise a lot and I just want to add that be sure the cruise you book AND the cruise line are ones on which you can expect to find children. All ships have child care personnel but if all you have is one three year old and one 8 year old on board, there is not much for them to do. On our last cruise, a very long one, there was not one child on board for the whole time.
Christina Strapp Lambert says
I think when my daughter gets older, taking her on a cruise could be fun. We are thinking of doing a Disney Cruise. These are some great tips.
Sandy rypma says
Sandy rypma says
We have taken 3 Disney cruises and they were outstanding. We have de iced to go on another cruise line this time and I am alittle apprehensive because our experience on Disney was so fantastic. Everything on Disney was so family oriented but my family wanted to try something different this time!
Joanne Gregory says
We are taking out grandson on a Disney cruise in a year or so. These tips will really come in handy!
jen st pierre says
Great tips hubs & I are cruising for our 1st time soon and sometime hopefully able to take the kids too.
Deanna Adkins says
Great Information. Never been able to take a cruise! Love the pictures too!
Love all of the amazing information, i have been wanting to take a cruise but with 4 kids thought it would be hard. I never knew that some of the cruises had babysitting, which is awesome seeing as sometimes i need a minute to just breath. Thanks for all the info, will be looking into it.
Susan Bode says
I would absolutely LOVE to take a cruise with my kiddo! Would be soooo much fun!!
We are planning on going with our kids – 5 and 3. Just worried they will feel sick on the boat? Did anyone’s little ones get sick on Navigator of the Seas in the stateroom or at the Kid’s Club?
Nancy Reid says
Royal is my fave cruise line for family cruising. They make it so easy with child care options and entertainment for the kids.
denise low says
Thank you for the information. I wish I could take my grandkids on a cruise. Looks like a lot of fun
Cami Valenzuela says
We are planning on a cruise in the next few years. Awsome tips. Thanks so much. I had no idea about the child’s life vest.
These tips are very helpful. You have to plan with detail when you’re taking your kids.