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BEFORE YOU CRUISE

7 Best Cruise Lines for Babies and Toddlers

Nancy Schretter

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For parents wondering whether you can take a baby or toddler on a cruise, the answer is yes. Taking a baby on a cruise ship is possible on most lines when little ones are at least 6 months of age, but some cruise lines are more baby-friendly than others.

While certain kid-friendly cruise lines cater primarily to families with kids 3 and older, others pamper their tiniest guests with a wealth of programs and amenities.

Special cruise ship features and services for families with babies and toddlers include nurseries and playgroups, complimentary cribs and strollers, fun family activities, baby-friendly Splash Zone areas, and more.

If you’re thinking about taking your baby or toddler on a cruise, here are the seven best cruise lines for families with babies and toddlers.

1. Carnival Cruise Line

carnival cruise line kids camp ocean

(Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be least 6 months old at the time of embarkation for most Carnival Cruise Line sailings or 1 year old at time of embarkation for transoceanic crossings and remote itineraries with more than two consecutive sea days.

Amenities Available: Cribs are offered and should be reserved when booking. High chairs and booster seats are available in shipboard dining rooms and restaurants. Single strollers can be rented on Carnival ships, subject to availability. Diapers, baby supplies, baby food, and formula are not offered on board. Some Carnival ships feature non-stocked mini bar units. Parents can ask the ship staff to refrigerate medicine and formula upon request if needed.

Tots and Family Programs: Carnival’s Camp Ocean features a free Penguins children’s program providing a full schedule of daily fun activities for kids ages 2-5. Children don’t need to be potty-trained to participate, but parents must supply diapers and toiletries. Camp Ocean also offers special play times for “Under 2’s.” Parents/guardians can leave their child in the care of the Camp Ocean Youth Staff for a fee during these play times, or stay and play with their little ones free of charge.

Carnival offers a number of family programs for guests with tots on every cruise including its popular fleetwide Seuss at Sea activities. Select ships, including Carnival Cruise Line’s new Mardi Gras set to debut next year, also feature Dr. Seuss Bookville, a family reading venue.

Babysitting for Babies & Toddlers: Camp Ocean’s Night Owls program is offered each evening for kids ages 6 months to 11 years of age. Fees apply. Children don’t need to be potty-trained, but parents must supply diapers and toiletries. In-stateroom babysitting is not available on Carnival ships.

2. Celebrity Cruises

celebrity cruises kids club

(Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be at least 6 months old at the time of embarkation on most Celebrity Cruises sailings. They need to be 1 year old for transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, certain South America cruises, and other selected cruises and cruise tours including voyages with 3 or more consecutive days at sea.

Amenities Available: Playpens are available if reserved in advance and high chairs can be obtained upon request. Baby food can be supplied upon request up to 30 days before embarkation. Strollers, formula, diapers, and other baby supplies are not available. Families can use the in-room mini-bar for storage, but guests should check to ensure that it reaches a safe temperature for formula, food, and other perishable items.

Tots and Family Programs: Children under 3 can participate in Celebrity’s free daily Toddler Time activities accompanied by a parent or guardian. Parents of little ones can spend the afternoon with their tykes playing with toys and having fun with other children.

Kids don’t need to be potty-trained to participate in Toddler Time, and lavatory-based changing tables and baby wipes are provided. While Celebrity’s Camp at Sea staff are present, children must be supervised by a parent or guardian during Toddler Time. Celebrity Cruises also offers a Fat Brain Toy Lending Program, and toys and books can be checked out from Camp at Sea.

Babysitting for Babies & Toddlers: Private, in-suite babysitting services are offered for Celebrity’s suite guests only, subject to availability. Fees apply and requests must be made at least 24 hours in advance. Up to three children who are at least 1 year old may participate per family. One parent/legal guardian must be on board the ship while children are being supervised by a babysitter on port days. No other in-stateroom or group babysitting services are offered for children under 3 years of age. This babysitting service is available during normal sailings, but has been discontinued until further notice due the current health crisis. Guests should check for future availability.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Lines For a Family Reunion Cruise

3. Cunard Line

cunard night nursery

Night Nursery (Photo courtesy of Christopher Ison/Cunard)

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be older than six months of age at the time of embarkation on most Cunard Line sailings and over 1 year old on Full World Cruises, Exotic Cruises, or Transatlantic Crossings.

Amenities Available: Cribs, cots, and high chairs are available. Loaner baby baths can also be provided upon request. Strollers, diapers, and baby supplies are not available onboard. Cunard Line’s ships can provide baby food, and bottle warmers and sterilizers are available upon request. All Cunard staterooms feature small refrigerators.

Tots and Family Programs: Cunard’s free Night Nursery is available from 6-11 p.m. for children ages 6 months up to 2 years of age. Parents receive a pager in case their child wakes. Children ages 2-7 years can enjoy Cunard’s complimentary Play Zone supervised by Youth Staff. The Play Zone area offers books, toys, and a variety of activities.

Babysitting for Babies & Toddlers: Cunard’s Night Nursery group sitting is available. No in-stateroom babysitting is offered.

4. Disney Cruise Line

disney cruise line minnie

Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line)

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be at least 6 months of age at time of embarkation for most Disney Cruise Line sailings or 1 year old at time of embarkation for transatlantic and Panama Canal itineraries.

Amenities Available: Disney Cruise Line ships provide complimentary cribs and playpens upon request, subject to availability. High chairs and a limited number of complimentary strollers are also available. Diapers, ready to feed infant formula, bottles, baby food, and baby supplies can be purchased onboard all ships.

Bathtubs and in-room refrigerators are offered, and bottle warmers and bottle sterilizers can be supplied as well. Staff in the main dining rooms can prepare fresh pureed vegetables and these can also be ordered through room service.

Tots and Family Programs: Disney Cruise Line’s “it’s a small world” nursery childcare center is available for children ages 6 months up to 3 years on most itineraries, and for kids ages 1 to 3 years old on transatlantic and Panama Canal sailings. An onboard mobile phone service allows counselors and parents to stay in touch. Counselors will feed and change little ones, but parents must provide supplies. Advance reservations are required for this fee-based nursery program, and can be made online.

“Toddler Time” hosted play times for parents and tots are also offered during the cruise. In addition, kids under 3 can visit Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab with parents during Open House hours.

Families with tots can enjoy a number of fun family-focused activities as well. All Disney Cruise Line ships feature water play areas for little ones under 3 where swim diapers are allowed.

Babysitting for Babies & Toddlers: See above for information on Disney Cruise Line’s nursery program. In-stateroom babysitting services are not available.

READ MORE: Which Cruise Lines Let Kids Sail Free?

5. MSC Cruises

msc cruises kids junior club

(Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Minimum Sailing Age: There is no minimum age to sail with MSC Cruises.

Amenities Available: High chairs and strollers are available on ships, and cribs are provided upon request. MSC Cruises guests have access to free bottle warmers, baby carriers, backpacks, and bouncy chairs through MSC’s partnership with Chicco, a global baby brand. Baby food and formula are not offered onboard. In-room refrigerators are available.

Tots and Family Programs: Kids under 3 can get together and play with the latest Chicco toys during MSC Baby Time sessions when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

MSC Seaside’s Baby Club for tots under 3 years of age is the largest on any MSC cruise ship. MSC provides fun programs with Chicco toys for babies and toddlers including Rhythm and Music, Mini Olympic Games, Let’s Speak English, and more. MSC Cruises also offers a number of family activities for guests sailing with little ones to participate in together.

Babysitting for Babies & Toddlers: MSC Babycare Service provides free babysitting by dedicated staff for kids from 12 months to under 3 years old. This drop-off service is offered during limited hours while ships are sailing and when parents disembark for a shore excursion. This service must be booked at least one day in advance and availability is limited. No in-stateroom babysitting is offered.

6. Norwegian Cruise Line

norwegian cruise line guppies nursery babies kids

(Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be at least 6 months of age at time of embarkation to sail with Norwegian Cruise Line or at least 1 year old at time of sailing for voyages with 3 or more consecutive days at sea.

Amenities Available: Portable playpens/foldable sleepers are supplied on request. High chairs are provided and booster seats are also offered on some ships. Diapers and wipes can be pre-purchased. Strollers, baby food, and formula are not available. In-room refrigerators are provided in staterooms accommodating two or more guests.

Tots and Family Programs: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Splash Academy youth program features a Guppies area for kids from 6 months up to age 3, providing sensory play activities and games for parents and kids to enjoy together. A parent or guardian must remain with their child during these hosted activity sessions. Open play times in the Guppies room are offered as well. Tots in swim diapers can enjoy special Splash Zone areas featured on some Norwegian Cruise Line ships.

Babysitting for Babies and Toddlers: Norwegian Escape’s fee-based Guppies Nursery provides care for kids from 6 months to under 3 years of age. Parents are given a handy phone to stay in touch onboard the ship.

Advance reservations must be made with the Nursery Attendant. The Guppies Nursery staff will change children’s diapers, but parents must provide all supplies. No other Norwegian Cruise Line ships offer private or group babysitting services for children under 3 years of age.

7. Royal Caribbean International

royal caribbean sugar beach kids baby toddler

(Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be at least 6 months of age at the time of embarkation to sail with Royal Caribbean or at least 1 year old at time of embarkation for transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, and certain South American voyages, among others.

Amenities Available: Royal Caribbean provides baby cribs upon request and a limited number of high chairs and booster seats are available on each ship. Baby diapers and some baby supplies can be purchased and delivered to guests’ staterooms. Strollers are not available on Royal Caribbean ships. There are a limited number of in-room refrigerators available, so make reservations in advance.

Tots and Family Programs: Babies and toddlers can enjoy educational, fun activities on Royal Caribbean ships at Adventure Ocean’s complimentary Royal Babies (ages 6-18 months) and Royal Tots (ages 18-36 months) interactive playgroups hosted by trained youth staff. A parent or guardian must be present during these free activity sessions.

Program hours vary by ship and itinerary. Some open play sessions may be available as well. Family activities are also offered onboard. Little tots in swim diapers can play in specially designed Royal Caribbean Baby Splash Zone areas available on some ships.

Babysitting for Babies & Toddlers: Royal Caribbean’s fee-based Royal Babies and Tots Nursery provides babysitting for children in two age groups: babies from 6 months to under 18 months and toddlers from 18 to 36 months of age. Reservations are required and the number of available time slots varies, so reserve these in advance.

The ratio of nursery staff to children is 1:4 and staff will change diapers as needed, but parents must provide supplies. Day and evening drop-off times are available.

All Royal Caribbean ships feature a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery with the exception of Adventure of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas. No in-stateroom babysitting services are currently being offered on Royal Caribbean ships.

Families interested in taking a European river cruise or canal barge sailing with babies and toddlers should check out CroisiEurope Cruises.

There is no minimum age to sail with CroisiEurope, but certain departures or rivers may be more family-friendly. Cribs can be provided on most ships when reserved at the time of booking to ensure availability.

MORE: Which River Cruise Lines Are Best for Kids?

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Nancy Schretter has been a leader in family and multigenerational travel for more than 20 years, covering these topics for her own publications as well as for leading magazines, newspapers, television and radio programs, and online travel sites. She is also a consultant and frequent speaker at travel industry conferences and events.

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