cruising with young children. lessons learned.

We have been on ten cruises, one of those we only had one child who happened to be only one year old at the time and then the tenth cruise we had a six year old, a four year old and a twenty-two month old. Let's just say cruising with kids is a totally different animal. 

Nine of our cruises have been with Carnival and one with Celebrity, just as an fyi.
Cruising with kids has always made me nervous. I was terrified of them falling overboard or if something happened to the ship and me not knowing where they were or if they made it to the life boat, those kind of sane and irrational thoughts. And being outnumbered the worries have just multiplied. Before we left on this most recent of cruises I spent a ton of time researching different policies and tips from every site I could get my fingers on. I wanted to be prepared. And in hindsight, I feel like I was more than that. So I thought I would share my lessons learned when cruising with young kids.

If you have an interior room (or exterior with curtains pulled) the room can be pitch black. I brought multiple night lights for the kids but they were not necessary unless you're a conservationist and have an issue with leaving the bathroom light on all night. That gave us just enough light to navigate. Plus the rooms are super small so it's enough for the kids. And electrical outlets are hard to come by.

iPads, small cars or trains, crayons, play packs and stickers were our saving grace at meal time. That and small boxes of CTC. And lots of rounds of I Spy.
Speaking of CTC, grab the day's snacks at breakfast. While food is aplenty all day there's nothing like whipping out a prepackaged box of Cheerios when in need. 

Let's talk about our balcony. The original reservation had us in an indoor room. On the third day of the cruise we all decided to see if we could get an upgrade since so many people had cancelled on the cruise when it headed north instead of south.  We were all given new rooms and all were hastily moving our stuff after dinner one night. All very exciting. But the balcony! It gave me great fear late at night. What if the kids somehow got past me and opened it? What if they then moved a chair to the edge? What if they then fell over? Serious thoughts for sure. Well, now a few points. The kids could also just as easily have walked out into the halls as outside to the balcony. The hall door deadbolts but once you open the door from the inside the deadbolt opens automatically. The balcony door has a lock that does not do that. The kids would have to fiddle with the lock prior to opening. Let's say they do that? Well Letty could BARELY open it during the day. Like took all her strength and she moaned and groaned while trying. So that all helped ease some fears. We also moved a small end table in front of the door as further hindrance during the night once we were done out there. See also that even though the bathroom light provided enough light deeming a nightlight unnecessary it also did not even light up the room enough for a child to navigate much further than bathroom and back. See also also for months prior to cruising I continually barraged my children with what do we do on cruises? Not climb furniture. Where do we keep our feet? On the ground. Do we go on a balcony alone? Only with an adult. And so on and so forth. 

So why a balcony? Well well. No internet? No books? The horror! But I have not read a book on vacation since I had children. Literally not a page. But without internet and all being in the same room a book would have saved me with the kids early bed times. Rookie mistake on my end. Instead I found myself staring at a useless phone for two hours or Kung Fu Panda or whatever kids movie was on. Having the balcony allowed us not only more stateroom space and a view but also a place to go once we got the kids settled and asleep. Even though it was cold it was nice to sneak out there for a few minutes and have a conversation. With the door open mind you so we could keep an ear out. The kids loved having a balcony and watching all the comings and goings from out there.
We brought a laptop full of movies but between Camp Carnival and just otherwise being busy we weren't in the cabin that much. They changed the kid's movie daily so that was a huge help. It ended up not being necessary. 

Speaking of Camp Carnival I cannot rave about this enough! The kids were separated by age but all in one giant room. We had a phone so they could reach us or us them anytime. They had bands and name tags with muster stations on them. They had excellent security check-in and check-out strategies. And oh yeah the stuff for kids to do was crazy!  Face painting and games and crafts and and and the list goes on and on. They could not wait to go to camp. And I just pretended they were with a loving family member rather than strangers. 
You have to be two years old to go to Camp Carnival though. And they won't soothe your child much. So if your kid starts to cry and ask for mom they will be like sure! Yes! Let me get her on the phone. Which is nice, I personally think. Speaking of young kids, it didn't matter on this chilly cruise but if you have any unpotty trained little ones they aren't allowed in the pools or the water park area. It's a public safety thing, those diapers in those pools. Another lesson learned? You don't need to bring any flotation devices. They have plenty of life jackets in plenty of sizes. The Puddle Jumper was not needed.
I swore I would never attempt formal dining again on a cruise after we did it with just Letty but I was over ruled by the majority. It actually wasn't so bad. See aforementioned iPad and play pack paragraph. That and a nightly game of I Spy with Nonna got us through these meals. The staff in our experiences have always been fantastic, especially with children. They go above and beyond to make sure they have the stuff they like to eat and as quickly as they like to eat it.
Random Other Items to Pack:
- Power strip. There are only a few outlets in the rooms and when you have sound machines and night lights, camera batteries, the like, you'll be thankful.
- Blow-up pool. If you have a kid who hates showers you can fill this up in the shower and they can have a tiny little tubby. You can also use this if you have a balcony so the little ones can splash around out there. If your cruise heads somewhere warm.
- Umbrella stroller. Space is of the essence so the smaller the better. Ours fit real nicely into the closet. Right next to our dress clothes.
- Dish soap to wash out the sippy cups at the end of the day.
- Clothespins. They have a wire in the shower to dry wet suits but if there are five of you.... well it is just not large enough.

You can see the post I wrote after our last cruise when we just had Letty here.

Now after typing this all up I really want to go on another vacation! Right?