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.