Tips for cruising with kids by experienced cruisers

I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure how it happened…  One minute I was booking a family camping trip to Devon and before I knew it I had booked our first family cruise!  We have been tempted by a cruise holiday for years.  My husband and I met whilst working onboard P&O Cruises in 2005.  Three incredible years later, after working in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltics and circumnavigating the world on a three-month world cruise, (not on the same ship unfortunately, we were literally ships passing in the night!) we left our life at sea to set up home together in the UK.

Our boys are now old enough to share our love of exploring new places, to sit (fairly!) quietly in restaurants and attend the onboard kids’ clubs.  We therefore decided that a cruise would be the perfect holiday to enjoy some quality family time.

We were of course keen to sail with P&O Cruises.  When we called reservations the only four-berth cabin they had over the dates we wished to sail was onboard the Ventura.  Neither of us know much about this particular ship as it came into service after we left P&O.  We were delighted to find after booking, that Ventura has been named by Fodor as one of the Best Cruise Ships for Kids!  According to Fodor, Ventura has been built with families very much in mind and has the biggest kids’ club of any ship in the P&O Cruises fleet.  I know my boys are going to love the age specific clubs, exclusive family pools and the family friendly shore excursions!

I am very aware that cruising with our boys is going to be slightly (ahem!) different to when we used to work onboard.  In preparation for our family cruise, we introduced our boys to cruising a few weeks ago by visiting friends onboard P&O Cruises Britannia.  Both Charlie and Harry absolutely loved exploring the ship and checking out the kids facilities.

Tips for cruising with kids - onboard P&O Cruises Britannia

To ensure we make the most of our time onboard I have gathered together tips from some of my fellow travel bloggers who have experienced cruising with their kids.  If you are considering booking a family cruise you may also find these tips very handy…

Tips for cruising with kids by experienced cruisers

Claire from Tin Box Traveller enjoyed her first family cruise this year onboard the Carnival Vista (another ship which was included in Fodor’s list).  As a mum of two girls, aged 3 & 1, she recommends being flexible about bedtimes to fully take advantage of the onboard evening entertainment –

“We’re fairly regimented when it comes to bed times at home. Bath time, pyjamas, warm milk and bed for 6/7pm.  However, on our cruise we quickly realised we’d have to vary this a bit. Tin Box Tot was keen to go to the evening parties at the kids club and her sister was too young to be allowed to join her. Rather than sit in our cabin with a sleeping one-year-old while the Tot enjoyed the onboard nightlife, we popped Tin Box Baby into her PJs and pushchair and took her to dinner with us. More often than not she drifted off to sleep while we enjoyed our date nights. We also often got to lay in the morning after!”

Claire also recommends taking port days at a slower pace.  (I have to admit, from my experience of managing the shore excursions department it is going to be very difficult not to sign us up for full day excursions in every port!)

“When each day brings a new port and potential adventure it can be tempting to throw yourself into non-stop sightseeing. My advice when cruising with young children is to pace yourself, especially when visiting hot countries. Most days we opted for a morning of exploring, leaving us the afternoon to recharge by the pool back onboard. This made for fewer toddler and baby burn out moments and meant we all still had energy to enjoy the evening entertainment.”

Claire’s full review of the Carnival Vista can be found here – 11 reasons Carnival Vista is a family friendly cruise ship 

Tips for cruising with kids by experienced mums

Photo credit – Tin Box Traveller

Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos first booked a family cruise seven years ago and has been addicted to holidays at sea ever since!  She recently returned from a cruise with Royal Caribbean International with her husband and two active boys ages 10 & 15.  Sarah recommends that we take full advantage of the onboard kids clubs

“Don’t rule out the kids club, before cruising we were not a fan of clubs and never put the boys in them. But after a particularly grumpy day half way through our first cruise we gave it a try. We have never looked back, the kids’ clubs are so much fun. We have to beg the boys to stay out now to spend time with us.”

Sarah also advises not to stress out about my two picky eaters…

“Don’t worry about fussy eaters, cruise restaurants are so accommodating, I remember one cruise when Jack was little, he would only eat plain pasta, rice, vegetables and apples. The waiters were wonderful. Every night they made exactly what he wanted and even carved him an apple swan to make him smile.  It made out holiday so much less stressful, we still got to fine dine and Jack was happy.”

Sarah’s review of her family cruise can be found here Why your family will love cruising with Royal Caribbean

Tips for cruising with kids

Photo credit – Extraordinary Chaos

Christine from Tapped out Travellers has cruised twice, the first time with Disney Cruises and then onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 with her 2.5 year old.  Christine also has some great advice about dining onboard with young children

“With young kids, take the 1st sitting for dinner.  Older families or childless couples tend to take the 2nd.  This is both courteous and practical – no child will stay calm at 9pm waiting for a fancy dinner they probably won’t eat. Munchkin went to the buffet upstairs for his dinner at 5, we snacked. We brought him back to day care for 6pm every other night, then mummy and daddy had a nice quiet date night. But boy do little monsters look adorable in 3-piece suits!  After 2 or 3 nights we figured out what he liked on the menu so he ordered the same thing each time he had dinner in the main dining hall.”

Christine also has some great tips regarding packing for a cruise with kids…

“Pack your bags wisely. If your checked luggage gets lost, who knows when it will meet you. A friend lost hers on the way to a Mediterranean cruise; the luggage followed her from port to port, just missing her, until it was “misplaced” along the way.  So don’t pack all your clothes in a single bag. Try to spread everyone’s items over all the bags, that way not everything is misplaced if a bag does go missing. This means essential items will need to be on your person; documents, medication, money, jewellery, good shoes, and toiletries.  When packing for baby take into consideration that most ships have a shop which sells limited baby items although they are not cheap.”

Christine’s review of her time onboard the QM2 can be found here – Planning a 7 day cruise onboard Cunard

Cathy from Mummy Travels cruised with her baby onboard a Carnival ship in 2013.  She has some great advice about booking the right cabin.  

“It’s tempting to save the pennies and go for an indoor stateroom if you know you’re only going to be sleeping and showering there.  But if you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, it can be worth upgrading – more space to fit a cot, more space for them to play safely, and a balcony where you can relax by the sea while they nap, rather than cowering quietly in a dark corner.”

Fortunately, we are travelling as a multi generational family with my parents-in-law who have booked a deluxe balcony cabin.  They are most excited about the extra spacious cabin, the bathtub and the cocktails/canapés they will have delivered to the cabin on formal nights… I however have spotted that their cabin comes with a sofa bed!  This is going to come in very handy for when my husband and I fancy a child-free evening and leisurely morning!

Cathy shares more of her tips here – Child friendly cruising: Need to know

Tips for cruising with kids by Mummy Travels

Photo credit – Mummy Travels

If this article has inspired you to book a family cruise you may find these cruise reviews by more of my favourite family travel bloggers useful.

Nichola at Global Mouse has reviewed her family cruise with P&O Cruises – Two-week family cruise onboard P&O Cruise Azura

Gretta from Mums Do Travel enjoyed her first cruise with her daughter onboard the MSC Preziosa – Cruising for beginners

Monika at Mum on the Brink shares her tips from cruising with Royal Caribbean – 12 things to expect on the Oasis of the Seas

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders shares her review of cruising with Princess Cruises – Review of the Emerald Princess.

If you are apprehensive about leaving your kids with the onboard child care staff this interview by Penny over at Space in Your Case will put your mind at ease – Childcare on holiday: Ask the experts – Princess Cruises

Zena at Zena’s Suitcase shares her advice from cruising with NCL – Things to do for kids onboard NCL – Norwegian Epic

And finally, if you are looking for advice on what to pack for a cruise, check out my guides – What to pack for a cruise by an experienced cruiser and Essential packing list for cruising with kids.

I will be sharing more tips for cruising with kids when I return from our cruise onboard P&O Cruises Ventura, so keep checking back over the next few months!

Copyright – Article images as credited above.  Featured image of Ventura on home page copyright P&O Cruises. 

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Tips for cruising with kids by experienced cruisers



  1. John
    24th May 2017 / 3:22 pm

    Very informative indeed! This is super timely for me! We are planning to go on a cruise as a family next year! I will definitely bookmark this for later!

  2. 3rd January 2017 / 11:47 pm

    We had a great time on our first family cruise this summer. We took a Disney cruise from Port Canaveral to the eastern Caribbean. I was a little concerned, having been on cruises before, that the kids would be bored. Boy, was I mistaken! There were so many things for them to do. I would recommend taking remeasured laundry detergent with you. This time I packed pods in a small tupperware container. This way they would not pop and it was super simple to get a little laundry done. We are huge believers in packing light so laundry of some sort is always on my agenda!! I usually do laundry in the sink, but nothing dried in the small cabin bathroom.

    • 6th January 2017 / 10:34 am

      I would love to cruise with Disney! I have several friends who worked onboard Disney Cruise ships and they fully recommend it too;) Great tip re: laundry detergent. Really good idea

  3. 29th October 2016 / 10:11 am

    Gone cruising once. Not my cup of tea… Great way of getting between otherwise difficult places to move to and from. #mondayescapes
    beatravelling recently posted…Shopping with a PurposeMy Profile

  4. 20th October 2016 / 10:24 am

    Cruises have never been my thing, but this post has definitely out a different spin on it #mondayescapes

  5. 19th October 2016 / 4:02 am

    How timely! I’ve booked a cruise for next Summer with my two boys. I’ve pinned this up to re-read again and to check out all the links just before my trip to remind me of all these pointers. Fingers crossed it will be a smooth trip! #MondayEscapes
    Bumble Bee Mum recently posted…Marriott’s Mai Khao Beach Resort (Phuket, Thailand)My Profile

  6. 18th October 2016 / 1:41 pm

    I still have yet to do a cruise but this post and others (I remember reading Tin Box Travelers post) are starting to convince me! They really do seem to have all the bells and whistles these days and great entertainment for the kids. #mondayescapes
    Corey with fifi + hop recently posted…Maine’s City by the Sea: PortlandMy Profile

  7. 18th October 2016 / 3:40 am

    We’ve never taken the boys on a cruise, but it sounds as if everyone had had such good experiences that we should reconsider! #mondayescapes

  8. 18th October 2016 / 1:29 am

    So many great tips! I think cruises are a relaxing way to explore lots of places (you only unpack and pack once). Cruises should be a paradise for kids. With the ample array of activities, there is plenty of opportunities to have fun. Plus, like you mentioned, staff is very accommodating (my uncle and aunt board cruises all the time with my young cousin who is autistic, they all enjoy the trips).
    Ruth recently posted…Eastern Sierra: Bishop CreekMy Profile

  9. 17th October 2016 / 7:46 pm

    We haven’t been on a cruise with our kids, but I would really like to. The thought of seeing loads of places without having to transport the kids and all the luggage around is really appealing! I am looking forward to hearing how you get on on the Ventura. #mondayescapes

  10. 17th October 2016 / 7:26 pm

    We’re going on our first cruise with our two kids in February. We’re very excited. These are great tips that I will keep in mind while preparing. #mondayescapes
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  11. 17th October 2016 / 7:09 pm

    Our neighbours (in their 20s) are cruise addicts but I’m still to be convinced! We managed an overnight Brittany Ferries trip this summer, which I know bears no resemblance to cruising (!) but I prefer my feet on dry land 🙂 Although I think my teen daughter would love it! #Mondayescapes
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  12. 17th October 2016 / 4:20 pm

    Not even a beautifully crafted post like this could ever persuade me to go on a cruise with my family ;o) But thanks for trying anyway, and for the great #MondayEscapes linkup.
    Jonny (Daisy the bus) recently posted…Two paths in the PyreneesMy Profile

    • 27th October 2016 / 7:41 pm

      LOL why Jonny?! We have just returned from 11 nights onboard the Ventura. We had a fabulous time and definitely plan to cruise as a family again:)

  13. 17th October 2016 / 1:47 pm

    This is full of great advice and detail. We have never been on a cruise but have often been tempted. Maybe I need to plan a camping trip and end up booking one that way haha. I particularly like the advice on food and bedtime flexibility – two things that could really limit your enjoyment.
    David – Potty Adventures

  14. 17th October 2016 / 1:14 pm

    I’d never even considered a cruise with children but this post has opened my mind a bit – thank you!
    Loads of really useful information and lovely pictures too!

    • 27th October 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Lots more cruising articles coming up Trish! We disembarked the Ventura this morning. We had a fabulous 11 night cruise and would definitely do it again with our boys:)

  15. 17th October 2016 / 10:40 am

    We have never gone on a cruise holiday as a family, everyone who does though seems to really rate it as a family holiday. Enjoyed reading the post -gives me some food for thought!
    Coral -Way too much luggage recently posted…Edinburgh’s famous fiveMy Profile

  16. 17th October 2016 / 10:15 am

    Lovely to land on your blog after chatting on IG! We were Carnival’s funnest family a couple of years ago and it completely converted us to the idea of floating hotels! Mine begged to go to the kids’ club – has never been like that anywhere else, they just loved it and it gave us loads of couple time. Maybe you will get to recall those pre child cruise days after all! #mondayescapes

  17. 17th October 2016 / 10:06 am

    I never really had any desire to go on a cruise until I started seeing bloggers going and now I really want to, they look amazing x
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  18. 17th October 2016 / 9:49 am

    Great tips. We are experienced cruisers but will do our first as a family in a week or so. Very excited and tips will be useful #mondayescapes

    • 27th October 2016 / 7:51 pm

      I hope you have a fabulous time! I look forward to reading all about it. We returned this morning, sad to leave the Ventura behind and definitely plan to book another family cruise:)

  19. 17th October 2016 / 8:40 am

    I’m going to completely come back to this post one day. I’d love to go on a cruise but have never considered it to be as family friendly as they evidently are. One day!! 🙂 #mondayescapes
    Notmyyearoff recently posted…My Year 1 boyMy Profile

  20. 17th October 2016 / 7:15 am

    Thanks so much for these really detailed tips. We so very nearly did a Caribbean cruise out of Miami last year but chickened out due to the absorbent cost – mostly because they wanted us to have a suite because there were 5 of us and they were going to charge us for all 5 heads even though one was a breast feeding baby!! I’d love to hear more tips from larger families, which are the best value cruises from an accom point of view and where we can get kids into a kids club together – next time we will look into this they’ll be 3, 5 & 7. Thanks experts!!! #mondayescapes

    • 27th October 2016 / 7:55 pm

      I would love to know more about kids clubs which allow kids to be together too Keri. My boys (2.5 & 5.5) were in separate clubs which to be honest they absolutely loved. Although my youngest went to evening nursery and slept from 7pm whereas my eldest was up watching movies until we picked him up at 11pm so our mornings were a little messed up as they were waking up at very different times! We travelled with my parents in law who had a deluxe balcony cabin with sofa bed and bunk bed which worked quite well for us as our eldest slept there on a couple of occasions so that he could have a lay in without being disturbed by his brother:) Perhaps you need to consider travelling with your in laws so that you can book a four berth and three berth which are much easier to find!

  21. 17th October 2016 / 6:27 am

    Great tips and insight into cruise holidays. I’ve never been on a cruise myself but it’s something I would like to experience one day. Have a wonderful time and I can’t wait to hear all about it! #citytripping

  22. 17th October 2016 / 6:21 am

    Last summer we had our first experience on a P&O cruise ferry – on a weekend trip to Brussels via the Netherlands from Hull. Such an adventure and definitely something I would like to do again!
    Elizabeth recently posted…A Walk to Burra Ness BrochMy Profile

  23. 15th October 2016 / 7:46 pm

    I think cruising suits families down to the ground. The food is amazing and they do always cater to your every need and there is always so much to do. It’s the best kind of holiday in my book
    Zena’s Suitcase recently posted…Why Join Slimming World & Tips For SuccessMy Profile

  24. 14th October 2016 / 2:54 pm

    Although I don’t have children, I’ve been on a few cruises and have always been impressed with the amount of activities they’ve had to offer kids and how accommodating they have been for picky eaters.

  25. 13th October 2016 / 12:48 pm

    We are new to cruising and fell in love with it this year. The one thing that surprised me was the gratuities – it was a lot more than I was expecting
    Kara Guppy recently posted…A Visit to the Tower of LondonMy Profile

    • 13th October 2016 / 6:21 pm

      Yes gratuities can add up especially when you pay per adult per day Kara. They are usually discretionary though. I personally really enjoy tipping people who make a difference to my holiday rather than it just coming out of my account automatically. I will therefore ask for the automatic tips to be removed at the front desk so that I can personally tip the waiters, bar staff, child care staff who make a difference to our family cruise:) (I know P&O Cruises definitely allow passengers to do this, I’m not sure whether other cruise companies do).

  26. Alex
    13th October 2016 / 11:41 am

    When I was a kid my parents organized a cruise at the Black sea. I remember myself running all over the ship with a big happy smile on my face. It was such a great idea.

    • 13th October 2016 / 6:21 pm

      Ah sounds like a great family holiday Alex!

  27. 13th October 2016 / 7:42 am

    This is amazing! The idea of a cruise with children has always been quite daunting. But this has inspired me to take the plunge 💕.

    • 13th October 2016 / 6:22 pm

      Hurrah! Pleased to hear it Emma:)

  28. Alan Port
    12th October 2016 / 8:47 pm

    Hi Tin Box Grandpa here. You’ll have a great time on Ventura. We’ve cruised on Azura, her sister ship several times and the children all have a really good time. So did we come to that!

    • 13th October 2016 / 6:24 pm

      I have heard great things about the Azura too Alan! Glad to hear you had a memorable cruise with P&O:)

  29. 12th October 2016 / 8:10 pm

    What a great resource for cruise tips! We are cruise newbies but would love to take the boys so will be having a good read of these posts! x

    • 13th October 2016 / 6:26 pm

      Thanks Louise, I’m pleased the article is of use to you! It’s always good to hear from mums in the know. Brochures are great but they do not give the tips that parents benefit from knowing before travelling with children;)

  30. 12th October 2016 / 8:06 pm

    I agree with Claire, if you chill with bedtime routines the kids seem to relax more, thanks so much for featuring me x

    • 13th October 2016 / 6:27 pm

      We were pleasantly surprised on holiday in May when we stayed with Mark Warner. Our boys were going to bed much later than normal due to going to the evening kids clubs but they just slept until later the next day! Somehow this never seems to happen at home Sarah, even when they go to bed late they are still up at the crack of dawn!

  31. 12th October 2016 / 9:24 am

    How exciting! I’m sure that you’ll all have a wonderful time – and thank you for including my post.

    • 12th October 2016 / 10:12 am

      You are so very welcome Gretta. I look forward to catching up with you at WTM!

    • 12th October 2016 / 10:13 am

      Ah thanks Claire:) My boys are very excited. I just need to contain their excitement as they have a while to wait yet!

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