Best Cruise Toddler Guide to Keep Little Ones Entertained

How do you keep a toddler entertained on a cruise ship? Best cruise toddler cruise lines provide great activities to keep energetic little ones happy.

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Are you planning on booking a family cruise? What if your family includes a toddler with endless amounts of energy? Some people may shy away from going on a family cruise because they feel too much of their time would be consumed with caring for their child.

However, there are cruise lines – including Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International – geared toward keeping toddlers entertained so you can relax during your family vacation.

Over the years, cabins have evolved. Long ago, parents with toddlers or small kids had to contend with cabins that were too small to fit either cribs or play yards.

There were areas that were off limits to children that were not potty trained just yet, in addition to activities geared toward kids over three.

Thankfully, the offerings and times for a family cruise have changed. Disney altered things by catering its Disney magic-filled cruises to younger passengers, offering a larger standard cabin that contains dividing curtains, enough room for larger baby items, nursery areas, stores onboard that contain items for babies, and activities geared for every age group.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean followed suit with larger family cabins, toddler playgroups, and expansive play areas. MSC Cruise Line raised the bar by offering the best kids club, which is called “Doremi Land,” in addition to cabins geared toward families.

These are the best cruise lines for both parents and toddlers alike. They offer activities that the entire family can enjoy, as well as permit some alone time for parents.

MSC Cruises

Minimum Sailing Age: There is no minimum age established by MSC Cruises. However, those under 12 may need a fit-to-travel notice from their physician.

Fun for the Whole Family

There is a Duplo area for children under five. Older children may enjoy the Lego partnership, which offers a huge selection of equipment and bricks. These are found in the Mini and Juniors Clubs, which are designated areas for 3-11-year-old children.

Each cruise journey has a Lego Experience event that dedicates the entire day to Lego. There is also a “Meet the Sailor Mascot” where branded products can be purchased on board.

MSC Cruises
MSC Seaside, Junior Club Lego

Programs include cinema, coloring, books, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, sports, musical chairs, and organized games for your toddler’s enjoyment. Children need to be potty-trained to go into the club, though.

Additionally, there is a Baby Chef activity for toddlers where they prepare dishes like pizza under the supervision of a chef. There are also family tours available.

Babysitting Services

Baby Club is designed for children 0-35 months old. Parents can book free babysitting between 1:00-2:00 p.m. and 6:00-7:00 p.m. Times are subject to availability.

There is also a for-fee babysitting service in a group known as “Kids Around the Clock.” Parents can book this during the evening. Children can watch movies or play in the kids’ area. It is open between 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Cabins

Family-friendly cabins can be booked in balcony/suite categories and oceanview, while some contain bunk beds with additional storage space. Most cabins have sofa beds or pull-outs for older toddlers.

MSC Virtuosa Stateroom
Photo Copyright: Emrys Thakkar

Three intersecting cabins can be joined to accommodate 10 passengers. These are perfect for large families. They contain bunk beds, two-plus bathrooms, and two balconies.

Food and Gear

Strollers and baby/toddler carriers are available. There is also a child laundry service that launders toddler clothes separately from other laundry. It uses a specialized machine with baby-friendly detergents and lower temperatures There are also children’s menus on board for kids.

Carnival Cruise Line

Minimum Sailing Age: Six months. With trans-ocean crossings accompanied by remote itineraries and over two consecutive days at sea, the minimum age is raised to one year.

Fun for the Whole Family

When it comes to family fun, children under two can play with toys at designated times of the day when accompanied by a parent. The time is generally between 8:00-10:00 a.m., although the time may vary.

Carnival Cruise Ship in Miami
Photo Credit: NAN728 / Shutterstock.com

Water-play areas, pools, splash areas, and spray parks are available for toddlers that are potty-trained. No swim diapers or diapers are permitted.

Carnival also partnered with Dr. Seuss to offer Seuss-themed events, which include Green Eggs and Ham breakfasts, storytime, and Seuss-a-Palooza.

Babysitting Services

Carnival’s kids club, Camp Ocean, welcomes kids two and over for its Penguin group. This group is dedicated specifically to those between the ages of two to five. Children do not need to be toilet-trained, but parents must supply wipes and diapers. The youth staff is equipped to change any soiled diapers so parents can focus on relaxing.

Worth Reading: 8 Fun and Modern Trends in Family Cruises

Penguin group has scheduled programming between the hours of 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and from 7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. While in the clubs, toddlers can create sculptures using Play-Doh, listen to stories, participate in face painting, and take part in other fun activities.

While on the cruise, parents of children under three receive cell phones/pagers in case the staff needs to contact them. There is no babysitting available in-cabin.

Carnival Cruise Line Camp Ocean
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

If you want to go out for some late-night entertainment, you can bring children from six months to 11 years old to Night Owls. This group will babysit the children from 10:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m., allowing toddlers and older children to watch movies or sleep.

Pack ‘n Plays are there for young children who want to sleep. There is a cost per child along with a gratuity. The daytime clubs are free.

Cabins

Carnival’s standard cabins are large enough to accommodate any extras parents need to bring along. So, if you require additional space, they have you covered.

Carnival Cruise Line Cabins
Photo By: Russell Otway (For Cruise Hive Only)

There are some that can accommodate up to five individuals and feature two twin beds, bunk beds that hang from walls, plus sofa beds. In addition, some cabins have two bathrooms.

Balcony cabins are also ideal because they have areas to talk, sit, and leave on a light while young ones are asleep.

Food and Gear

Strollers are available for rental, but supplies are limited. Dining areas provide activity sheets with crayons. Boosters are also available for families. Whole milk and kids’ menus are provided.

Disney Cruise Line

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be over six months old. For the Transatlantic, Hawaii, and Panama Canal itineraries, the minimum age is one year.

Fun for the Whole Family

Characters meet and interact with guests. There are deck parties, movies, and family-friendly music shows to keep small children entertained on any of the family cruises Disney offers, including the Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, and Disney Fantasy.

Disney Cruise Line Funnel
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com

When going into pools, diapers are not permitted, but swim diapers are allowed in designated areas like Nemo’s Reef, Nephews’ Splash Zone, and Mickey’s Splash Zone on various cruise ships.

Babysitting Services

For toddlers, there is the Small World nursery. It contains play areas accompanied by nap/quiet time locations. Spaces fill up quickly. Nursery time may need to be pre-booked 10-25 hours in advance, depending on the duration of the cruise. Families can register for additional hours if they are available once they are on board.

There are no maximum childcare hours per family, but there is a charge per half hour. Each additional child is at a reduced rate and the minimum time is one hour.

Disney Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Maria Maarbes / Shutterstock.com

Playrooms contain equipment and toys like toddler-sized tables and chairs, toys, arts and crafts, board books, and a one-way viewing window reserved for parents. Large flat-screen television sets show Disney movies.

If any toys go into a child’s mouth, they are thrown into a “yuck bin” for sterilization before becoming available to another child.

Cabins

Play yards and Diaper Genies are available for free. Cabins on this cruise ship are larger than the industry average because they cater to families. Some contain privacy curtains separating sleep areas, outdoor spaces, and accommodations that sleep up to five people.

Disney Wonder Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: A-photographyy / Shutterstock.com

Sofas easily convert into twin beds. Pulldown beds above each sofa provide a bunk bed, allowing for easy naptimes. Cabins have bathtubs and offer split-bath designs. Disney Channel is always available in staterooms for children’s entertainment.

Food and Gear

Gift shops have swim diapers, pull-ups, and everything your toddler would need while on the cruise ship. Strollers are also available along with wagons. There are kids menus, Disney activity sheets, and waiters that will help children cut up their food.

Cunard Line

Minimum Sailing Age: Children must be over six months old. If you are crossing the ocean, kids need to be over one year to sail.

Fun for the Whole Family

Cunard has an excellent play zone containing children’s books for a variety of age groups. Books can be checked out so they can be read in the cabin, and the ship also sells children’s literature.

Onboard, there are splash pools called “Minnows” on the Queen Mary 2. All children must be toilet trained.

Babysitting Services

All of Cunard’s three cruise ships provide night nurseries. Nannies care for children from six months to 23 months for free. Nurseries are open between 6:00-11:00 p.m. For older toddlers, cots are laid out with the lights dimmed for sleeping.

Cunard Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: Jane Rix / Shutterstock.com

The caveat is that parents must bring children who are sleepy or already asleep upon arrival. Milk can be brought but food is discouraged. Parents will have pagers in case the child wakes.

The Play Zone is where toddlers can be dropped off during the day for supervised activities. Hours of operation are 9:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. on sea days. Closures are during lunch and dinner times. For port days, times can vary.

Activities include crafts, art, songs, stories, and outdoor play. There are themed days like Under the Sea Day, Wild West, and Sports Day to keep young children entertained.

Cabins

Only the Queen Mary 2 contains staterooms that interconnect for larger families. Extra berths can accommodate pull-down ceiling beds or sofa beds. Guests should inquire about this when booking. Suites offer the most space.

Food and Gear

Booster seats are not available for families, so you will need to bring your own. Stores have a limited supply of diapers if needed, but availability isn’t guaranteed.

Photo Credit: Irina Wilhauk / Shutterstock

Restaurants offer kids menus. There is also a Children’s Tea available, which provides a light supper that is served in the Lido buffet (Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth) or the Chef’s Galley on the Queen Mary 2. The buffet is nutritious and contains children’s favorite meals.

Read Also: 10 Popular Cruise Activities for Kids of All Ages

When booking the best cruise toddler, there are a variety of options available. Some cruises are more dedicated to this age group than others, but they still offer exciting activities geared toward this age group.

Activities ranging from babysitting services to Dr. Seuss-related activities to Lego will keep toddlers entertained for hours. There are also activities that the entire family can enjoy along with cabins that have room to accommodate everyone.

toddler cruise

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Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.

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