We are going on our first cruise ever (RCI Explorer 4/29) and I am so excited. Our three year old will come along and hopefully enjoy some time in the adventure ocean program while we get some time to ourselves as well. I would really appreciate some advice. We are not sure if it is worth it to take our bulky car seat along just for the shuttle rides (airport, hotel, ship). Of course, her safety is of the utmost importance to us; however, carrying a bulky car seat and not knowing whether or not the shuttles/taxis will be equiped to buckle them in is no fun. We are also wondering if we should take her portable crib with us. She is still in her crib at home but the portacrib is a bit small for her already. Our balcony room features a pull-out sofa. Should the cruise be her first experience in a "real" bed? That makes me nervous. Finally, the ports of call are Labadee and Ochos Rios. I think to go on our own to the beach on Labadee is no problem. However, Jamaica is another story as I read a lot of scarry things about that port. Should we do a RCI organized short (3.5 hours) beach excursion or go on our own? Any additional suggestions or advice regarding cruising with a toddler would be highly appreciated as well. Thanks so much.
I've taken two cruises both pre-baby, and I am planning a cruise with my two year old dd, so I've been researching some of the same topics. As far as bringing the car seat, from both my own experience and from what I've read, most shuttles and taxis either don't have seatbelts or keep them stashed under the seat where they're out-of-reach, so you likely wouldn't be able to secure the car seat.
As to bringing a portacrib, RCI's site states:
Q: Can cribs/rollaways be provided in my stateroom?
A: Royal Caribbean provides Pack and Play's for use onboard. Pack and Play's are similar to a playpen. Cribs are no longer provided.
Pack and Play's specifics:
For use by children unable to climb out, less than 24" tall, and less than 30 lbs. Mesh on four sides Sets up in less than one minute Strong and stable, yet lightweight Approx. dimensions 28"W x 38 7/8"L x 31-1/4"H Mattress/pad is 1" thick Sheets are provided Folds for storage and includes carrying bag with handle
Pack and Play's should be reserved in advance so that we are sure we have enough onboard.
-------It sounds like your daughter will likely have outgrown this option. If this will be her first experience in a real bed, you may want to consider bringing a fold-up bedrail which doesn't take up much space in a suitcase. I know that Safety 1st makes one which runs around $20.
Have a great cruise.
You can get a pack & play on the ship as previously mentioned, so definitely don't bring the porta crib. If your cabin is a triple you will have two lower beds that can be pushed together to make a queen/king bed.So the three of you could most likely all fit down there worst case scenario. If you don't want to use their pack & play. There will be a third, and perhaps fourth bunk that folds out from the wall /ceiling. I believe that they will hold up to 250 pounds. (my 6 foot d/h fits up there fine) so that if little knees and elbows get to be too much, one of you grownups can sleep up there. So you have some flexibility with your sleeping arrangements. On our last cruise, d/s created a fort beneath the two lower beds and slept on a pallet under our bed (yes weirdness runs in our family).
Do bring an umbrella stroller, as those little legs get tired of so much walking and it will easily stow in the closet or under the bed.
With regard to carseats, we travel a lot with our two children and what we do is bring one or two of the giant XXXL ziplock bags and attach lugage tags to the handle. When we get to the airport we stuff our two backless booster seats in the giant ziplock and check it with our bagage. Then when we get in the cab/van, we simply take them out of the giant bag and use them, when we arrive, put them back in the giant bag, hand them to the porter and they are delivered to our cabin. It makes it very simple. These backless boosters are not as safe as the ones with backs, but they are much safer than nothing, and prevent the child from submarining beneath the seatbelt and flying all over the interior of the vehicle in the event of an accident. There's little you can do if they don't have seat belts available. But I would have them with me just in case.
If you are just planning on doing the beach at Labadee I don't think you'll be getting in a vehicle, will you? I don't know if I would be brave enough to take my kids off in Jamaica either. However I might if it was a ships tour, especially if it was a short ship sponsored tour, like the one you are referring to. I have never had any issues with leaving my children on board the ship while d/h and I went on a tour though. They are in very good hands. One thing you probably know, but make sure your kiddo is potty trained to participate in the kids club. RCCL does not change diapers/pants.
Lastly, a suggestion to you regarding late night babysitting in the kids club from 10 p.m. on, I do not think this is a great thing for young children. It was my experience that the kids were encouraged to stay up until all hours and PARTY!, when on other cruise lines normally treat this time as a slumber party. My kids normal bedtime is 7:30 p.m. and they are not capable of staying up beyond 10:30 at night without major meltdowns when we are on holidays. What we did instead was sign up for in cabin sitting. This was the schizzy whizzy. We had a lovely young lady from Poland named Justina that came to the cabin and we put the kids in their jammies and put them in bed. Justina would show up and they watched TV, she'd read them stories (bring some books if your kiddo likes to be read to) and it somewhat preserved our routines and sanity. Meanwhile Dad & I went out and caught a show and had a cocktail and in general enjoyed a guilt free time, while our little ones slumbered. It was the very best. You can request in cabin sitting at the pursers desk and if you like your sitter, you can request them as we did.
Those are all great suggestions--Thanks a lot. I think she may be too little for a booster seat; however, it would certainly be better than nothing should we decide to bring a car seat. We are definitely not renting a car anywhere outside of the US. I am too scared to leave her on the ship while we leave--I have nightmares of the boat leaving without me and my child being on board. Yikes!
The fold-up bedrail sounds great.
Great advice everyone! Seems like most of your questions have been answered.
My two cents: In Jamaica, go on a shore excursion through the cruise line. I usually prefer to explore independently, but in Jamaica it reduces the hassle factor if you go with a group tour. The beaches that the cruise line bring you to have security guards, etc. Jamaica is a beautiful island and most of the people are friendly -- just too friendly sometimes!
Luisa Frey Gaynor
Family Cruise Editor
P.s. I suggest you bring your car seat for the plane and have your room steward store it for your during the cruise.