Tips from our 12/21/01 Carnival Spirit cruise with
We sailed on the 8 day 12/21/01 Carnival Spirit Christmas cruise with our 11 month old daughter. I'll attempt to remember all things infant related to try to help you.
Very important - arrange your own air or pay the deviation to have some input on the cruise line's air arrangements. Inconvenient flight times, connections, etc. can only exacerbate the possible problems with flying with an infant. Airplane necessities - a bottle for each leg of the flight, small new toys with complicated parts to keep their attention (at least for a minute or two every now and then) and cheerios and more cheerios. Getting to the gate early will increase your chances of getting one of the coveted bulk head seats.
Our ship was new and the crib and infant life vest provided were in perfect shape. The crib is the size of a pack 'n play but was a regular crib design with metal tubular bars. I brought my own crib sheets but didn't end up using them as the tucked in regular sheets provided by the steward were tight and worked well. The infant life vest seemed extremely adequate and was brand new. You will be given a wrist/ankle tag with your muster station on it to be worn by your baby (supposedly at all times) but I think most people only put it on their children when they were in the kids club alone in the event there was a crisis so the staff would know where to bring the baby.
The highchairs were large plastic things that had a tray. They were the perfect height to pull up to the table in the dining room and the tables in the lido deck without the tray. We never used the tray and pulled her directly up to the table. Once you eat in the dining room the first evening, the highchair will be awaiting you at your table from then on. Whenever we ate on the lido deck, we simply asked a staff member for a highchair and it was brought over immediately.
We purchased a Graco city light stroller especially for the cruise. It is light and compact, yet has a full roof and reclines. Do not bring a large bulky stroller. An umbrella stroller is ideal but we wanted the reclining ability as we had visions of her falling asleep in it and allowing us to continue on throughout our day with sleeping baby in tow. This worked out well and she took many of her naps in the stroller and we continued on throughout the ship and were not confined to the cabin.
A balcony cabin is a good thing as you will be spending more time in your cabin then you are used to. Sitting on the balcony while baby sleeps is beneficial.
Bring cool weather clothes. While we were in port or on deck during the day, we dressed her in summer clothes. But we used leggings and long sleeved things MANY times throughout the cruise as the public areas are highly air conditioned and sometimes can be quite cold.
If your bfing, then you're all set. If you're formula feeding, I would recommend bringing ready to feed formula in 8 oz cans. We used ready to feed before the cruise and I thought about switching back to powder for the cruise. But then I realized that bringing enough bottled water to mix it with would not ease the weight and cumbersomeness of the ready to feed. Even though I sometimes drink the water on a cruise ship, I did not want to use it to mix her formula with. Even though we had a refrigerator in our room, I did not want to think about heating up bottles so I changed brands (from good start to enfamil) a few weeks before the cruise so I could bring 8 oz cans of ready to feed. Enfamil was the only brand I could find that made these. It worked out beautifully. No fuss no muss, a bottle was ready, sterile, the right temp at the drop of a hat. For a younger infant, I may be hesitant to change formula brands, but with our daughter it was no problem. We did switch over two weeks before we left just to make sure she did not have any "issues" with the different brand. Make sure to bring a small bottle of antibacterial dish washing liquid to wash your bottles.
I brought an inflatable baby bath tub with visions of blowing it up and splashing happily on the bathroom floor, but never opened it up. The newer ships all have hand held shower heads and this worked perfectly. One of us got in the shower with her, sat on the floor and the hand held shower head reached down just fine. We sat in there, soaped up and rinsed off. It was fun and she loved it. Don't forget the baby soap.
We used the pools a lot and our daughter really enjoyed it. The ledge around each pool provides the perfect baby play area with just a few inches of water for them to crawl and splash in. We used swim diapers and they were great. Remember that the pools are filled with salt water and the baby will be quite surprised if they get a bit in their mouth. Also, our daughter's eyes were a little irritated a couple of times when she would touch/rub her eye while in the pool. The saltwater turned her eyes really red quickly when she rubbed them. This went away almost immediately and can be avoided if you are quick to move their hand away from their face while in the pool. We did apply baby sunscreen but erred on the side of not keeping her in the direct sun much at all. Our pool play was frequent but short. We had a hat that had a flap that hung down over the back of her neck and shoulders which worked great and allowed me not to put too much sunscreen on her face. Melting/rubbed sunscreen in the eyes is a terrible thing.
While we are heavily into solid food, our daughter has a discriminating pallet. The breakfast buffet has a nice selection of dry cereal and yogurt every day. We helped ourselves to several boxes of cheerios everyday and kept them with us always. We also kept yogurt in our refrigerator. We ordered cheese sandwiches from the room service menu often and a piece of cheese and a slice of wheat bread were a great snack for her. The dining room will work with you to have unadorned steamed vegetables every night. Just ask your waiter for a plate of them to be brought to you each evening. We did find that the chef's idea of steamed did not cook the veges to the level of softness for someone with no back teeth. She ended up not eating much of this each night, but it was there for her to pick at/play with. She did seem to enjoy the wide variety of soups and pasta each night and I felt that she was getting something to eat. She had an egg and cheese omelet or our own oatmeal (bring your own as the cruise ship's idea of oatmeal resembles wall paper paste) each morning. Lunch and dinner were a variety of cheese, bread, yogurt, fruit, veges and pasta. We did not have a hard time finding suitable food for her. Baby oatmeal and formula were the only food I brought from home.
Bring little disposable deodorized plastic bags for the diapers. You and your room steward will appreciate these. They can be bought at any baby store.
I kept a small bag in our stroller at all times that had a few diapers, wipes, disposable bibs, bottle and unopened can of formula, cheerios, hat, sunscreen, change of clothes and sweater. This allowed us to be up and out of the cabin at the drop of a hat knowing that we would have whatever we needed to handle any crisis/mood change.
The kid's area did not accept her unaccompanied by a parent. There were family playtimes in the kid's room each at sea day where we could take her there and play with her. It was a lot of fun and she really enjoyed all of the new toys she had never experienced before. We also met other parents with babies during these times which gave us someone to talk to about baby things and cruising issues. They did offer group babysitting starting at 10:00 pm but we never used this service. She was asleep each evening well before 10:00 pm and I did not think waking her, walking to the kids room, and trying to get her to go back to sleep a good thing. Much less going back to get her and waking her again. I did talk to some parents who did this and they said they carried the sleeping baby up there, put them down in the crib and then carried their sleeping baby back to their room at 1:00 am and put them back to sleep. We were fortunate enough to not have to attempt this as we had our 14 year old son with us. While it took a bit of cajoling to get him to forgo his evening's "activities" to take his turn, he quickly learned to accept this (for all of the other positives he was getting) and it worked out fine.
The crew and other passengers will pay so much attention to you that sometimes, you'll steer clear of people. I really thought that most of these people acted like they had never seen a baby before by all of the attention that she received. Of course, I like to think she is the cutest baby in the world, but sometimes, it was a little erie.
Be prepared to spend more money than it would cost to set up your own photo studio on the ship's pictures. With a new baby all dressed up in their dinner finery each evening, it is almost impossible not to buy the pictures each day. My only advice would be to not have them taken. They are impossible to pass up.
All in all, we were very pleased with the cruise line's treatment of us and our infant. We were not made to feel uncomfortable by anyone for having her along. Ignore all the threads you read by people questioning why in the world would you bring a baby. She did nothing but enhance our trip and allowed us to experience cruising in a whole different light. Of course, we were not dancing the night away until 2:00 am each evening, but the positives she did bring to the experience FAR outweighed the inconveniences. Bring your baby, bring your toddler, bring your older children, everyone will have a wonderful time and you will have a terrific family vacation experience to look back upon.
Thanks for all the wonderful baby cruising tips! I'm the family cruise editor and I plan to write an article for the family site here at CruiseMates.com on cruising with infants. Input from other parents like yourself is wonderful.
My eight year old daughter has been on nine cruises and we love family cruising. We will be bringing our four month old son on a Disney Cruise soon and we look forward to the experience! FYI...Disney is one of the few cruise lines offering a nursery program for babies and toddlers starting at age 6 weeks old. You may want to check out Disney for your next cruise if you'd like a little bit of baby-sitting so that you can go out at night with your spouse or relax pool side by day.
Luisa Frey Gaynor
I'm the family cruise editor for CruiseMates.com. We took my daughter on an Alaska cruise when she was four years old and she loved it. Make sure you bring a pair of kiddie binoculars for your son so he can stand on deck and try to spot hawks, eagles, whales, etc. My daughter got really good at identifying hawks during the cruise! Also, make sure he has good sneakers or hiking boots -- my daughter loved the short walks/hikes we took her on
In Juneau, don't miss the cable car ride to the top of Mt. Roberts tramway. We had a great time taking photos at the top as well as walking/hiking on the trails. We went in June and my daughter got such a kick out of the few mounds of snow we came across up there. (Snow ball fights in June are quite a novelty to a kid!)
Skagway has a good little Junior Ranger program in the Klondike Gold Rush Nat'l Historical Park building that my daughter enjoyed. (There are a few activities that you do on your own with your child and come back and the rangers give your little one a badge.)
In Ketchikan we took my daughter on an excursion sold through the cruise line which featured Native American dancers which she loved. In the afternoon we walked independently to the Deer Mt. Hatchery and Eagle Center which is home to a salmon hatchery and bald eagles.
I don't advise taking too many shore excursions with your four year old because they tend to be long and expensive. There's plenty to do on your own. You can either query me for additional independent shore excursion ideas or purchase the book "Cruise Vacations with Kids" (By Candyce Stapen, Prima Publishing) for ideas on what to do with a child in all the major Alaskan ports.
Luisa Frey Gaynor
Family Cruise Editor