Taking a Royal Caribbean cruise is a great family vacation for all ages, including infants. The key to a successful cruise with an infant is to be prepared and find the right sailing for your family.
How old does my infant need to be to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise?
Royal Caribbean requires infants be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise to be able to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
For transatlantic, transpacific, Hawaii, select South American and other selected cruises, your infant must be at least 12 months old as of the first day of the cruise.
In addition, any cruise that has 3 or more days consecutive at sea will require infants to be 12 months old on the first day of the cruise.
Any children younger than the infant policy will be denied boarding.
Does Royal Caribbean charge infants a cruise fare?
Yes, infants are charged a cruise fare, just like everyone else onboard.
If your infant is the third or fourth passenger, they will usually pay a reduced rate.
Does my infant need a passport?
Ideally you will travel with a passport for your infant because it greatly simplifies the process of traveling by airplane, should an unexpected event occur that causes your family to miss the cruise ship.
United States citizens can travel with a birth certificate in lieu of a passport, but having a passport has tremendous benefits and most travel professionals advise investing in a passport when traveling overseas.
For non-United States residents, you will need a valid passport and in some cases, a visa.
What to look for in a ship
Royal Caribbean has 23 ships in its fleet and each ship offers something different, so it is important to research what each ship has in terms of facilities for your infant and which facilities you absolutely need and which you do not.
Select Royal Caribbean ships have an infant pool known as the Baby Splash Zone, where children who wear a swim diaper can go into. Ordinarily, children that wear diapers are prohibited from going into pools onboard the ship, but some of the newer cruise ships now offer an infant pool.
If your cruise has a few sea days, having access to an infant pool can be important, whereas if you are taking a port intensive itinerary, it may not be a factor.
There are Baby Splash Zones on Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.
On many Royal Caribbean ships is the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, where parents can drop off infants and toddlers who are too young for the Adventure Ocean program.
The Royal Babies and Tots Nursery is for children between the age of 6 and 36 months old. For a small charge per hour ($8 per hour at the time of this blog post), your child will be supervised by trained professionals.
Keep in mind that the nursery has limited space, so you will want to go there on your first day to reserve times.
Most Royal Caribbean ships now offer a nursery but you should verify the ship you are sailing on does in fact have one.
Picking the perfect stateroom is always a big part of the decision to book a cruise, but when you add an infant into the mix, it adds another layer of complexity.
Royal Caribbean will provide a crib for your child to sleep free of charge, but you will want to also consider the stateroom size and how much space the crib will take up as well as there being enough space for your child to crawl around in.
Keep in mind most staterooms that are not suites will not have a bath tub, so when it comes to bath time, your child will either have to be okay with a shower or you should consider packing an inflatable tub.
You should also look for staterooms that have a room-dividing curtain or wall so that when your infant is sleeping, you can still have the lights on or watch television or read.
Select Royal Caribbean ships offer the DreamWorks Experience, where there are DreamWorks characters to meet, such as Shrek, Alex the lion, the penguins, Fiona and more.
There are also DreamWorks activities onboard, such as DreamWorks character breakfast, parades, movies in your stateroom and more.
Bring plenty of supplies
One important aspect of planning for a cruise with an infant is having plenty of everything.
Infants can go through wipes, diapers, formula and even clothing faster than you can anticipate, so it is important to have as much extra as possible, especially since you cannot go to the store to get more supplies on a cruise ship.
Estimate how much supplies your infant will go through for the duration of your cruise and then pad that number by 25% to give yourself some cushion.
A good tip is to purchase the supplies close to the port instead of paying the airlines for extra baggage or cramming more stuff in your car for the ride to the port. If you rent a car, stop by a pharmacy near the port. If you are taking a taxi, negotiate a stop into the fare.
Royal Caribbean does offer a program called Babies On The Go, which is a partnership with Huggies and Gerber to provide supplies on your ship. If transporting a lot of diapers, baby food and other supplies is not feasible, consider ordering supplies in advance that will be delivered to your stateroom upon your arrival.
Stroller or no stroller?
Yes, you should bring a stroller but leave the jogging stroller at home because it will just take up too much space in your stateroom.
Consider bringing instead an umbrella stroller or even just a baby carrier. They may not be that useful onboard the ship but when you go to ports, having a means of transporting your infant other than you carrying them will be quite helpful.
If your Royal Caribbean ship does not have a nursery or your child does not want to go, there is in-room babysitting as another option.
Babysitting will cost you more than the nursery ($19 per hour, last we checked) but it allows your child to remain in your stateroom while being supervised by Royal Caribbean crew members.
The key to getting a babysitter is you need to speak with Guest Services about getting one. At that point, they will ask what day and time you would like the babysitter and then Guest Services will see if there are any crew members willing to assist.
In-room babysitting is not a regular service, so what happens is crew members volunteer to take a shift if they have time and are willing.
I've had good luck with getting a baby sitter but keep in mind it's on a first-come, first served basis and there are limited baby sitters.
Can I get milk for my infant?
There will always be somewhere onboard to get milk during your Royal Caribbean cruise. During meal hours, the Windjammer is often the simplest way to get a carton or two of milk.
There is almost always whole milk available, as well as low fat (2%) milk.
When all else fails, room service can provide milk and deliver it to your stateroom 24 hours a day. Keep in mind that a late night service charge of $3.95 applies if you order very late.
You can also "stock pile" milk in your stateroom mini-fridge. Ask your stateroom attendant to empty the mini-fridge and then you can always grab extra cartons of milk to store in there for later.
You are more than welcome to bring your infant to the main dining room for dinner each evening.
Royal Caribbean will provide high chairs for infants and there is even a special kids menu, if your child is old enough to eat solid foods.
How do I wash bottles and clothing?
You should be able to wash bottles in the stateroom bathroom sink. Be sure to bring the proper supplies to clean bottles.
For cleaning your infants clothing, you have two options. First, you can use the sink to wash clothing. You can bring onboard single use detergent powder packets that you can hand wash in the sink and then air dry in your shower or balcony.
If you need to clean a lot of clothes, Royal Caribbean offers dry cleaning services for a fee per item. For a better value, look for the "fill a bag" laundry deal that is often available for a flat fee.
Don't ignore naps
This probably falls under basic parenting, but just because you are on a cruise does not mean you should forget about nap time.
In my experience, the closer you can keep kids to their nap schedule, the better time overall everyone will have. The nurseries have cribs for napping but often going back to your stateroom is the best idea for a nap.
On embarkation day, your stateroom may not be ready until later in the day (usually around 1pm), so be prepared how to handle a nap if your room is not available. Some good ideas are to delay arrival to the ship until the afternoon or try for a nap in the stroller.
Have you taken an infant on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Share your tips in the comments below!