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Tips for sailing with small kids

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This will be our first cruise with our two kids ages 6 and 3. We sail at the end of February on the Harmony and I’m starting to get a little nervous. 

We’ve done vacations and we frequent Disney since we live so close but being on a ship is a different experience. Does anyone have any tips for sailing with small


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They will LOVE it.  Our first two daughters were 5 and 3 when we sailed with them.


They will tire out and get cranky.  Be prepared to give them nap time to get them in a better mood.


See if they will join in the Adventure Ocean program.  It will give mom and dad some time alone.  If they become comfortable with this, we often had them eat in the MDR with us and ask the servers to bring their food items quickly.  They often had a bowl of fruit and buns within a minute of sitting and then their entrees and dessert were served when the adults got their appetizers.  A quick run up to Adventure Ocean to drop the kids off and you can enjoy your entrees and dessert while the kids have fun in the kids program.


Our kids LOVED the shows.  See if your kids do.  They will often fall asleep in them.


Do the early dinner seating, or even better, select My Time Dining and make a standing reservation for the earliest time possible.  You get served quickly and it is much quieter in the dining room.  If you like your waiter, ask to have the same one for the remainder of the cruise.


Bring a stroller or be prepared to not walk far when ashore - they will get tired and cranky.


Take them to a beach with shade.  They will love it and it will make awesome memories.  Beware of the sun - kids tend to get burnt easy because they are out in the strong sun having fun - becomes a sunburn and then becomes no fun.


Take lots of photos.  You will cherish them when they go off to College and University.

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If you have some routines from home that can transfer to ship life try to keep to them, like bedtime rituals, cuddle toys, bring favourite pillow etc and make the in-cabin time as much like home as possible so that they don’t get overwhelmed with it all. 

I think in Adventure Ocean they would separate your kids based on their age groups but as long as there is room in the group they would let your older child go into the younger room if your two would do better together. The younger room might be a bit boring for your 6 yr old though. My son at 5, almost 6, wasn’t a huge fan of the younger room that he went into to hang out with one of our family friends travelling with us. I think a 6 year old girl would do better with it.  

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Cruising with children, especially younger children does mean accepting that you have to work around their schedules.  You know your kids and have routines at home.  If you try to deviate from those routines it may be a more difficult vacation.  If you can stick closer to your home routine it can be easier for everyone.   That may mean some compromises like not seeing the late night adult comedy show.  


If you plan to use Adventure Ocean take them on the first night.  Taking them later in the cruise can be like transferring into a school mid-year.  Groups have formed, new friends made on the first night.  A new kid coming in a few days later might not have the same experience and that can make them not enjoy Adventure Ocean as much.  On the first night it's new for all of them so they can be more open to other kids.


If you have a balcony you may need some rules like they are not allowed out there alone.  You know your kids.  My son was a climber so he wasn't allowed out there without one of us carefully watching him.  When we put them to bed we would close the curtains and escape to the balcony for some adult time where we could talk without disturbing their sleep.  


Few cabins have tubs so dealing with a shower can be a challenge for some kids.  I've heard of some people bringing a small inflatable pool and placing that in the shower to create a makeshift bathtub.  You might try getting them used to a shower at home well before the cruise to see if that works.  If you have a suite they may have tubs. 

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Our first cruise was when my boys were 3 and 7.  We brought tablets with movies downloaded, but then they never really touched them.  We also brought some small toys and crayons with books.  These came in handy when we wanted some down time in the room.  We brought sippy cups with a bottle brush and travel size container with dish soap.  A shoe organizer to place the crayons and other small items in.  Kid items at the bottom, adult items (sunscreen, bandaids, etc) at the top.


Bring any medication you may need as the on board prices are high.


If your youngest is a boy, bring a foldable step stool that you can place in your luggage.  Our youngest was on the small side and it was difficult for him to use the toilet and reach the sink to brush teeth.  Just make sure he knows that you are to be with him when he is on it.  While we never had major movements from the boat, I would just take caution to be right there in case there is some that causes balance issues on the stool.


While a lot of rooms don't have tubs, you can adjust most of the shower heads for them.


Our oldest loves kids club, while the younger one prefers to remain with us.  Even with that, we did make him attend kids club a couple times to give us some quiet time.


We typically stick to our home schedule to cut down on any meltdowns from being overly stimulated.  We still go to bed within the same time frame and on sea days we would take breaks in the room to have some quiet time in the middle of the day.  


Overall, I'm sure your kids will love it as much as ours did.  We have been fortunate enough to take them on two more cruises since that one, and as we leave each one they are asking when we will do another.

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Our boys (5 and 3) have been on Harmony several times and loved it.  The staff loved them and were very special with them.  They talk about Harmony all the time.  They did not want to try the kids club and we did not obligate them to so can't comment on that.  They are open to trying the kids club on our upcoming Symphony cruise so we will see how that goes.  We were just on Disney Dream and the 5 year old loved the kids club and the 3 year old hated it.  I think it was the large open format of Disney that he did not like because he would get "lost" from his brother.  Royal's kids club is much tighter and integrated so ironically I think they're going to like it more than Disney.  

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14 minutes ago, Tulsacoker said:

Dang thought this was another tipping thread...


Me: slowly backs out


Maybe you were thinking of the "Cruise Fare for a 10 month old" thread? Which somehow turned into a tipping thread, then was thankfully locked down after a few hundred posts were deleted from the past few days.


Anyway, getting back on topic, I don't have any tips other than please don't bring your children to Quest. They might be just a little too young to fully appreciate it.

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2 minutes ago, HBE4 said:


Maybe you were thinking of the "Cruise Fare for a 10 month old" thread?

Nah, I see the word Tip in any thread heading and my eyes go all pinwheel 

Edited by Tulsacoker

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We have sailed with our niece and her daughter on both the "Harmony" as well as the "Oasis". On the Harmonu she was just

11/2 years old. Had to spend a lot of time with a young as should be expected. Next time we cruised together she was 3 on th Oasis. She did a lot better. However she would not go into the kids club. She is around adults for a good portion of her week when at home and she is very close to her mother. So this time we all took turns keeping her busy.


When she cruises with us we bring a small bag of beach toys (bucket, shovel, rake. etc.... ) for her to play in the sand on the beach with. Bring lots of sun protection (you will be in the Caribbean) and just go with the flow. You will all have a great time together.

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My kids are now 13 and 16 and have been on 20-some cruises since they were 2 and 5. 


You've gotten a lot of good advice, so I won't repeat it except for the part about preparing yourself for them to not like the kids club. Many people have the opposite experience -- they have to pull their kids away, so everyone tends to expect they will have lots of kid-free time. I was disappointed to learn this was not the case for my kids. We didn't get much, if any, adult time for many years. 


Consider bringing swim goggles for the pool. Many pools are salt water and kids are surprised and uncomfortable. 


If you're going to do any excursions involving water, bring your own life jackets. They're fairly cheap, less than $30, and my kids were more comfortable wearing them for extended periods than ill fitting, yucky vendor-provided jackets. I also felt more comfortable knowing they were USCG approved and weren't old and falling apart.


Don't bring beach towels. We once brought my daughter's Little Mermaid towel and it got sandy and wet the first day and never completely dried. The ship provides fresh beach towels at the pool and to take off the ship at every port.


Have a great time! 

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