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Best Age for Kid’s First Cruise


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What age did everyone take their kids on their first cruises? I’m highly considering booking a trip for child’s third birthday as I figure my third birthday was my first real memory.

 

That said, their sibling would be about 19 months (yes we had them close) and I don’t know whether it would be fun for the younger one. Seems like those toddler months would be pretty rough on a cruise ship. What has everyone else’s experience been?

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I didn’t start cruising until 2008 and we took our kids for the first time at 14-dd and 10-ds. They didn’t go to any kids clubs but just hung out with us or my mom and brother. It was a 7 day on the Glory and it was a nice time. 
 

would you keep your toddler with you or kids clubs from time to time? Of course timing naps would be important so they won’t burn out to much. Maybe show them some videos of the water play areas and kids club to see their reactions.

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My son sailed for the first time when he was 12 months old and my daughter when she was 15 months old. They are now 8 and 10 years old and have sailed 10 times across 5 different cruise lines.

 

Yes, they were too young to remember those first cruises, but those were not about them creating memories. They were about US as parents creating memories. Keep that in mind any time someone says that your kids will be too young to remember their first cruise. They may not remember, but you will. 
 

I do recommend that you keep it simple for your first cruise with small kids. It’s a completely different ball game and you definitely want to test the waters (pun intended) to see how they and you handle it. We chose an easy 5 night cruise from a drive to port to the Bahamas and Key West for our son’s first and I’m glad about that decision. We learned a lot from that first experience which carved the way going forward.
 

Needless to say, they were too young for the kids club on the first few cruises but we planned accordingly. From how to keep them entertained, to what to do ashore, to what to expect on formal nights, etc.

 

We’ve become more adventurous as they get older and they have now sailed from Alaska, to Cuba, to the Mediterranean, and places in between. The Panama Canal is next on our bucket list. Once you get them hooked, there’s no turning back! 
 

 

Edited by Tapi
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We started taking all of our’s on “real vacations” once they turn 4. Both our daughters really enjoyed camp and the activities... the older one (6) more so than the 4 year old. We took our son to Disney when he turned 4 and he’ll (hopefully) be a blue card in 2021. He’s excited to go to the beach and eat all the ice cream his sisters told him about. Both girls are ready to see what activities they can do onboard the next time! 

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We did an 11 night cruise last year when our son was only 13 months. We all had a great time! We utilized the nursery a little and brought his grandparents and aunts along to help. As others have said, it’s a different experience though. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Our kids were older, they were 10 and 6.  We waited until they were both old enough to use the kids club and stay up later.  We did other vacations instead.   We didn’t want to be stuck in a small cabin at bedtime not being able to go out and do things together.  At those ages my kids were not really flexible on bedtimes.  Personally I’d wait,  but it’s personal decision 

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On 9/10/2020 at 5:44 AM, linz98144 said:

6 months. Family vacations are about making memories. Cruising with a toddler was a little more difficult, but the toddler years were more difficult in general...

 6 months is generally the minimum age a cruise line will accept a booked passenger,  many cruise lines increase this minimum to 12 months for Transatlantic crossings and cruises where  2 or more consecutive  sea days are scheduled on the itinerary.  A good thing to look for in my opinion is the minimum age you may leave a child without the parents remaining to supervise at the children's club.  Most lines seem to say 3 years minimum and a few accept 2 year olds.  Then "Do they have a Night Nursery?  P&O (UK) have a Night Nursery for 2 to 5 year olds which runs from 10pm to a staggering 2am. This type of information helps the parents who have not brought grandma etc.

 

Regards John

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2 years for our kids.  I'm not sure how much my kids remember versus how much they remember the pictures (they went to Norway and Cartagena so there are lots of amazing photos of them when they were little).  It depends on your kids - mine liked to explore so it was easier at a younger age.  If your kid prefers a routine, you might want to wait longer.

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My younger kid was 3 and older one was 7. We jumped in with both feet and their first cruise was a 12 nighter.  If they hated it, we were stuck. Lol.  Luckily, they both loved it!
The 3 year old was already potty trained, so he got to stay in the kids club with his brother.  Since there were only about 15 under 16 kids on the whole ship, they pretty much had the entire kids club to themselves most of the time and hated when they couldn’t play there.  They both still talk about their time on the big blue boat (we were on Celebrity) and can’t wait to be back on another one (especially since our cruise this past summer was cancelled). 

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We took our son when he was three and potty-trained so he could enjoy the kids club.  He loved cruising and we were taking a cruise-a-year up until Covid shut things down.  Also, we opted to take one of the smaller, older ships and then stepped up to bigger ships as he got older and could enjoy more of the activities.  It worked well for us.  

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I took my kids on their first cruise when they were 22 months and 10 months old. We booked a suite on a 5 day cruise. It was fun overall, especially since my 10 month old wasn't walking yet so was easy to carry her around. We had a great room steward, (which I found helps tremendously when traveling with kids) who was able to help with diaper disposal, etc. My kids have been on three cruises and looking back, it was fun but with diapers, running around, naps, annoyed looks from other passengers and being too young for kids club, it's not something I would have done if I could do over. 

 

If you are going to go when kids are young, I would suggest having other family members who are willing to help out and watch the kids while you have some quiet/alone time. 

Edited by akeasley
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Mine were 3 and 7.  So, I can't speak about everything with younger kids.  However, for me, vacations are about family time.  I know some parents enjoy sending their kids to the clubs in order to have some quiet time.  It is nice.  But, I don't get upset when my youngest would rather stay with us than go.  If I want quiet time, I will schedule a vacation for just my husband and I.  Or, get a babysitter for a night.  If I take the kids on vacation, I plan on being with them throughout the vacation.

 

Choose a ship with a toddler waterplay area.  Also, probably mini golf.  Some ships offer toy bags that you can pick up from the kid centers to take to your room.  That way you don't have to pack as many toys for in room entertainment.  I'm not sure if this will continue with COVID, but it might.  You might enjoy the Oasis class ships with Royal Caribbean.  They also have the boardwalk area with carousel.

 

Overall, I am saying go for it.  Our children have always enjoyed cruises.  We spend a lot of time on ship at the pools, mini golf and arcade areas.  We always maintain a similar schedule for sleeping as we do at home, to help cut down on any crankiness from being over stimulated or tired.  We scheduled beach days at the ports until they were old enough to enjoy some other experiences.  Even though we could do a weekend trip to a beach at home, we have seen some amazing places, learned about some other cultures, and truly enjoyed our cruise times.  We have found at least one beach club that we will always return to on one island.  Staff on cruises generally always seem to love seeing the kids.  They have always been amazing with ours, whether out walking around, in the dining room, or in the kids clubs.

 

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I was 5 when I took my first cruise on the S.S Meridian, my sister was 9 at the time (and this was also her first cruise).

 

Years later, we took my niece last year on her first cruise...she was 7 when we went on Norwegian Bliss.  She just found out she's going on her second cruise with us in the Fall of 2021...when she'll be 9 years old! 

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There is no one answer that covers all children and all families.  Sometimes you don't have that many opportunities, and you just have to jump when one comes up.

Our son's first cruise was when he was 16 months old, and it was easier in some ways than when he was 3 years old.  

The most important thing we did was gear excursions to him.  That sometimes took a bit of research, but it made the cruise much more memorable.

 

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Posted (edited)

imho, 3. We went on a couple of cruises without our kiddo, leaving him with the grandparents. He was 9 months old and 2 yo at the time. He started cruising with us at 3, when he was potty trained. He had separation anxiety when he was younger, so kid's club was never a go - but we knew that in advance. He is 10 now and still does not want to do the kid's club. And that's totally fine with us - a cruise for us personally is a family vacation.

That said, when the kid is a mobile infant or a young toddler - for me personally it wouldn't be much of a vacation per se. Not very relaxing at all.

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy
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Took my son at 2 and 8 months.   He had a great time.   We had a great time.   

 

 

But I should have waited 4 damn months for some adult time for him to go to kids club.    Fair warning 🙂

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