Last month brought a travel first for me; a Mediterranean cruise with my partner and our 3 year old son. We enjoyed a 7 night cruise on board Regal Princess with Princess Cruises. Although this was my third cruise, it was the first one I had done with my partner and 3 year old son, and therefore was a completely different experience to the previous ones. We learnt a lot on this cruise - there are some things that worked perfectly, and other things that I would do differently next time, so I am putting together my 9 useful tips for cruising with kids. If you want to know how to plan a family cruise to perfection, read on.
This blog includes photos of Enchanted Princess and Regal Princess cruise ships and are a mix from all of my previous cruises
Past cruises with Princess Cruises have been part of press trips and paid content campaigns. However, this post is not sponsored and all views are my own.
9 very useful tips for cruising with kids
1.Choose an actively family-friendly cruise line
This one probably goes without saying, but some cruise lines are more family-friendly than others. Non-negotiables you should be looking out for include a brilliant kids club, babysitting services, a good range of informal dining options, onboard activities and child-friendly pools. Luckily, all of these things were available to us on board Regal Princess, however I know some ships can offer even more such as waterslides and splash pools.
2. Arrive at your embarkation port the day before your cruise
This was a top tip that I read in The Cruise Addict’s Planner by Cathy Rodgers, and I’m so glad I did! We flew in to Barcelona the day before our cruise and we had extensive delays with our flight and airport bus. If we’d have flown on the day of our cruise, we’d have missed cruise embarkation due to these delays. When cruising with kids, you especially want to make sure things go as smoothly as possible and arriving the day before will remove so much unnecessary stress.
3. Visit the kid’s club on day 1 of your cruise
Parents and children are encouraged to visit the kid’s club on embarkation day for a chance to meet the staff and have a tour of the facilities. Be sure to enrol your child to kids club at this time so that they are signed up from the off. You’ll likely be given a programme of events and activities which your child can opt in to.
The inclusive kid’s club onboard Regal Princess was called Camp Discovery and accepted children from the age of 3 to 17. The children are split up into three different age groups, each with a separate club space specifically designed to cater for each age group. There were 3 sessions per day of 3 hours each, and children could even be dropped off during an evening session til as late as 1am.
4. Think about what time of year you travel in
As a parent, you naturally want your child to be able to meet and play with other children during their cruise (especially if you’re child is an only one like ours). If you’re cruising with kids during the summer months, you’ll have no trouble finding other children on board. However, if you’re travelling during school term time, children are likely to be more scarce. Our cruise was in September and there was a total of only 10 children on board the whole cruise. This meant there was only a couple of children at the kids club at any one time. For our next cruise, we would be more likely travel at a peak season, even if this means a higher price tag.
5. Research the ports you’ll be stopping at and consider transfer times
This is a big one! It’s important to know that quite often, ports are located a fair distance from the city or town you are planning to explore. For example, it took us two hours to get from Livorno to Florence, where we planned to spend the day. A 4 hour round trip is not ideal for little ones, so be sure to look into transfer times from the port to the place you’re planning to visit with kids.
Alternatively, the kid’s club of your cruise ship may allow children to stay on board during port days whilst parents get off the ship for a day out. Princess Cruises do allow this which is a huge plus for parents with older kids who are happy to stay on board for the day.
6. Look at the food options on board your cruise ship
On previous cruises without my son, I indulged in long meals in the best fine dining and a la carte restaurants on the ship. When cruising with our 3 year old, suddenly the more informal dining options and the buffet became a lot more appealing. Kids don’t want to sit through a 3 course meal every night and that’s understandable. Make sure your cruise ship has plenty of easy and informal dining options, as it’s likely these will be the ones you eat at most frequently with kids.
We massively appreciated the Horizon Court buffet restaurant onboard Regal Princess as it had a huge variety of fresh, high quality dishes and the food changed every day. There were different themes and specials for every lunch and dinner. We also loved dining at Gigis’s pizzeria and the poolside grill as it was easy to just grab one course and the service was quick.
Also in the Concerto a la carte restaurant on board Regal Princess there was a brilliant kids menu with flexibility to choose meals with many different combinations of food. Fresh and steamed veggies were always available to add-on and our son was given a booster seat, crayons and an activity sheet every time we sat down.
7. Consider your room type
Choose a cabin or a suite with a build in room divider. It means that as parents, you can still enjoy an evening in the cabin by watching a film, ordering room service or simply staying up and reading with the lights on. We stayed in a mini suite on board Regal Princess which had a thick curtain room divider so that our son could sleep in darkness whilst we continued our evening. It’s a small design detail that really does make a huge difference.
8. Find ways to still enjoy the evenings onboard your cruise
One of the hardest things about cruising with young kids is not being able to enjoy all the evening activities such as having drinks in the bar, catching a late show in the theatre, visiting the casino or enjoying the live bands onboard. Our son was exhausted by early evening most nights, so at least one of us had to stay with him in the room.
Camp Discovery onboard Regal Princess offers late sessions, but our son wasn't ready for this. Instead of both being stuck in the cabin from 8pm, my partner and I decided to each have a ‘solo night out’ during our cruise where we both got chatting to other guests on board. I went to the best cocktail bar, ‘Good Spirits’ for the best margaritas on the ship and he went to the casino for a few games of blackjack. Of course, we’d rather have done these things together, but we both had great evenings and it felt like a nice compromise.
9. Read reviews from other cruising parents
If you’re reading this article, you’re already on the right track! Take your time to research different cruise lines, their ships and the facilities on board each one of them. Read honest reviews from fellow cruising parents, like me. Depending on your children’s age, some cruise lines will be more suitable than others. For example, look at what age they accept children for the kid’s club. Look at the babysitting services, look at the child-friendly facilities.
My blog post 14 fun, child-friendly things to do on Regal Princess cruise ship is a good place to head next! Or check out my other child-friendly cruise related blog posts;
- 9 Reasons to try cruising with kids
- Our Mediterranean cruise: 6 ports in 7 days
- The Ultimate Cruise Ship Guide to Enchanted Princess
Princess Cruises is running our same cruise itinerary on sister cruise ship Enchanted Princess in 2023, meaning you too can experience a 7 night Mediterranean cruise from £549 per adult.
Alternatively, if you fancy cruising on Regal Princess but on a different route, Regal Princess will be sailing from Southampton for the 2023 season with 8 night cruises from £649. If you’re based in the UK like me, this means you can enjoy this amazing cruise ship without taking a flight.
Did you find this blog post useful? What other tips for cruising with kids have I missed out? Ask me a question or leave a comment in the box below. Jess x
Watch my reel below for a tour of Camp Discovery kid's club on board Enchanted Princess
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