Babies & Toddlers
Disney offers care for babies as young as 12 weeks old in their nurseries (the cut-off for most lines is six months old – or 12 months for Transatlantic, Transpacific, Hawaiian, some South America and other select cruises).
Passengers on Disney, Holland America and Royal Caribbean can order baby supplies in advance and have them delivered to their staterooms. Disney guests can request all kinds of equipment, including strollers; Carnival also has strollers, for a modest fee. Disney cabins have bathtubs, on other lines, only the pricier cabins have bathtubs.
Royal Caribbean’s Fisher-Price Toy Lending Program allows parents of tots to borrow and exchange toys from an onboard treasure chest.
Tots in swim diapers are generally not allowed in swimming pools. However, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have the Mickey Splash Zone, where toddlers can play. Similarly Royal Caribbean offers a Baby Splash Zone on Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas.
Both Carnival and Norwegian offer a kids’ camp for children 2 to 5 years old. Celebrity has a Toddler Time program for children under the age of 3.
When parents want a night out, Celebrity, HAL, and RCCL allow parents to hire in-cabin sitters. On other lines, babysitting is done in a designated facility.
Self-service laundry facilities on Carnival, Disney and Princess provide a major convenience.
All the family-friendly lines mentioned have supervised children’s programs, grouped by age. Some lines offer unique options. Norwegian has Nickelodeon at Sea and character breakfasts with Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer. Princess’s “Science on the Seas” partnership with the California Science Center allows kids to meet Park Service rangers in Glacier Bay, study coral reefs, go star-gazing and build roller coasters. Cunard also offers science-themed activities. Princess and Holland America have culinary arts programs with kids’ components.
On Royal Caribbean’s newer ships, sports are in a category of their own and include everything from ice-skating and zip lines to rock-climbing and surf simulators. On some ships, kids can dance with characters from DreamWorks Animation. Carnival has gone all out to create spectacular water features for the entire family.
Some cruise lines offer separate spaces and activities for ‘tweens and teens. Carnival’s teen program includes “nightclubs” and shore excursions that feature horseback riding, kayaking and snorkeling. Oasis, the outdoor teen hideaway on some Holland America ships is accessed by a secret passage from the teen Loft. Princess hosts teen dinners in the main dining room. And Royal Caribbean offers Improv Games, the Scratch DJ Academy, teens-only ice-skating and a Meet the Stars backstage tour. Disney, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian and Holland America own private islands that provide water activities and safe environments for exploration. However, ships can only dock (as opposed to using tenders) at Disney’s Castaway Cay and Royal Caribbean’s Labadee - making these more convenient for tots in strollers.
Families with young kids might appreciate the 24-hour availability of pizza and soft-serve ice cream on Carnival; the Johnny Rockets diner of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager and Oasis-class ships or the multiple family-friendly dining venues on Disney, Norwegian and Princess. Celebrity has a Nerdel wellness program that uses puppets and cooking classes to focus on healthy eating habits. Disney and Royal Caribbean offer expedited meal service, where staff members pick up children toward the end of meals, allowing parents time to relax and linger.
Carnival’s standard cabins are large enough for five people; Disney’s standard inside cabins can accommodate three or four and have a bathtub and shower. Standard cabins on Royal Caribbean’s older ships are on the small side for a family of four, but the family staterooms can accommodate up to six people, and the multi-room family suites sleep eight. Balconies are a worthwhile luxury, as they can give parents a private place to relax at the end of the day.