For health and safety reasons, most family friendly cruises require infants be at least 6 months of age at the time of sailing. With some specific itineraries, babies will need to be 1 year of age.
We highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that all passengers, including infants have valid U.S. passports. Passports for children are valid for 5 years.
Unlike many hotels and resorts, parents do have to pay for babies onboard cruise ships. Cruise fares are charged on a per person which includes children and infants. Cruise fares are per person which includes children and infants. When traveling with 2 full fare guests, additional guests in the same stateroom pay a discounted cruise fare. Gratuity requirements for infants will vary between cruise lines.
Most parents are familiar with the fact that all family friendly cruise lines offer complimentary child care in their kids camps. Parents need to know there is a minimum age for children to be allowed in these free child care programs. Generally the age is between 2-3 years old and most require all kids must be potty trained. Most ships will allow parents with infants and toddlers to visit the kids clubs and play during very limited hours. A parent or responsible adult MUST be present at all times during these playgroups.
Cruise ships that do offer baby care nurseries will charge for this service. Usually the cost is between $7-$12 per hour. It's important for parents to note that just because one ship has a nursery onboard, it does not mean every ship in the fleet offers the same services. Group baby-siting is offered in the evening at a similar charge if parents would like to enjoy a "night out". Evening program hours vary per ship and sailing. Cribs are available in these group babysitting areas for little ones with early bedtimes. In cabin baby-sitting is not offered on any of these cruise lines.
Parents also need to be aware that babies in swim diapers are not allowed in pools or hot tubs on board cruise ships.. Certain ships do offer splash pad zones for little ones. These areas can be drained and sanitized to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Our team has put together our Top 5 list of our favorite Cruise lines for babies:
1. Disney Cruise Line
Disney leads the world in family hospitality. It's important for parents to realize that Disney Cruise Line is a premium line and inherently costs more that others listed here. Little ones are entertained by beloved character meets, parties and all the magic Disney does so very well.
Amenities: Disney staterooms were specifically designed for families offering more useable space and bathtubs in all staterooms. (other lines only offer tubs in specific, upgraded cabin categories). In addition, Disney offers user friendly bathrooms split into two areas - shower/tub combo with a sink in one are and a separate divided toilet & sink in the second area.
Child Care: It's A Small World Nursery is available for children 6 months to age 3. It is open daily from approximately 9am until midnight. Disney maintains 1 staff member for every 3-4 infants so space can be limit, especially during busy holiday and school break weeks. We recommend parents reserve a spot in advance.
Gear: Complimentary pack & plays, strollers and wagons are available on board and on Disney's private Island Castaway Cay. Bottle sterilizers, warmers and diaper genies can be request for stateroom use. Disney does sell diapers, baby food, bottles and other baby care items in their gift shops. High chairs are available in all restaurants and food can be pureed upon request.
2. Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival offers some of the most affordable family cruise sailings. Carnival maintains a partnership with Dr. Suess and many of their children's activities are based around this theme like a "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast, parades and storytimes.
Amenities: Carnival is known for their "fun ships". A great choice for busy active families on the move. is a great option for larger families. Many of their staterooms are family of 5 friendly.
Child Care: While Carnival does not offer a specific baby nursery per se, what makes them notable is that their complimentary child care program, "Camp Ocean" will allow children into their program starting at age 2. In addition, staff members WILL change diapers so children do NOT have to be potty trained to participate. This program is open daily until 10pm.
"Evening Night Owl" group babysitting is available each night from 10pm until 1am at a cost of $6.75 USD per hour plus a 18% gratuity.
During Sea Days, There are limited times when Camp Ocean facilities available for children under the age of two only. During these times, parents have the option of leaving their child in the care of the Youth Staff (fees apply: $6.75 USD per hour plus a 18% gratuity, per child) – or - they can stay and use the camp facility at no charge. This time is designated for the use of 'Under 2’s' and their parents only. Check onboard for specific times offered. Hours may vary due to cruise itineraries.
Gear: Cribs are available upon request. There are a limited number of strollers offered for rent ($10/day or $40/week with a $75 deposit). High chairs are available but all baby food must be brought commercially prepared in unopened containers. Staff will not puree food. There is a very limited amount of baby products offered for sale in onboard gift shops. Parents should travel prepared to pack and bring diapers, wipes and formula with them.
3. Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean is synonymous with family friendly cruising. A bit more upscale as far as amenities and entertainment compared to Carnival but not as pricey as Disney. It's an all around great choice for families of all ages. It's very popular with family celebration vacation groups.
Amenities: Royal Caribbean is renown for its onboard entertainment but their Oasis class ships are particularly suited family fun. Where else can you take your little one on a merry go round ride at sea?
Child Care: Many (although not all ships) offer their Royal Tot's nursery program for children ages 6mo to 3 years of age. Costs range from $6 per hour/per child for daytime hours and $8 per hour/child for evening group babysitting until midnight. Age appropriate activities are divided into 2 groups. Royal Babies offers interactive play for infants ages 6-18 months. Royal tots older than 18 months can enjoy pretend play, dress up, art projects and more. Ratio of staff per child and hours of operation vary per ship. Onboard playgroup times are available on all ships. Specific times and locations of these 45 minute sessions are noted in daily shipboard activities. Parents must accompany children at all times while participating but it's a great opportunity to have fun playing with all the toys.
Gear: Cribs are available upon request. Strollers need to be brought from home. Royal offers an extremely limited stock of baby items in their gift shops. Parents can pre-order diapers, wipes and cream, and organic baby food and have it delivered right to your stateroom. This service is a bit pricey but certainly convenient.
4. MSC Cruise Line
New to many American families, MSC cruise line has been very popular and well known for many years in Europe. MSC is now offering itineraries and ships geared to please American.
Amenities: Savvy parents love a great deal and the fact that "kids sail FREE" on MSC. This offer is always available for children under the age of 2 and it's offered for up to 2 kids under the age of 11 on select sailings. For kids to sail free they must be accompanied by two full fare adults. ALL "free" children must still pay taxes, port fees, insurance, flights and transfers when applicable.
Child Care: MSC BabyCARE is a baby sitting drop off service available on certain ships for children ages 1-3 during the hours of 11am-1pm and again from 5pm-8pm while the ship is at sea. MSC BabyTIME is when the Babyclub opens it's doors and welcomes babies and a responsible adult to come and play together. Schedules may vary but generally it's open sea days: Morning: 8:00-10:00 am / Evening: 8:00-9:00 pm and during port days: Morning: 8:00-10:00 am / Afternoon: 4:00-6:00 pm / Evening: 8:00-9:00 pm
Gear: MSC has partnered with Chicco to provide baby products to used free of charge. Strollers, bouncers, and backpacks for shore excursions can all be booked at the Mini Club. Cribs and high chairs are available upon request. Parents should plan on bringing any formula or diapers with them onboard.
5. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian cruises are known for their "freestyle" cruising. This puts guests in control of what they want to do, when they want to do it. Any parent will recognize, babies and toddlers "freestyle" all the time. No wonder Norwegian's newest ships are built for freestyleMS family cruises.
Amenities: Norwegian is the latest family friendly cruise line to offer nurseries on board their ships. At the time of this writing only their two newest ships, the Norwegian Escape and the Norwegian Bliss offers baby care.
Child Care: The Guppies nursery is available for children ages 6mo to 3 years. Hours of operation for drop off babysitting vary per ship and sailing. Babysitting time is booked according to 1 hour and 50 minute increments at a cost of $20.00 USD per Time Block Session/first child and $16 per each additional sibling. When available, the guppies late night group babysitting program runs from 11:00 pm until 1:20 am at a cost of $24.00 USD per Time Block Session/first child, $20.00 USD per Time Block Session for each sibling. During port days, at least 1 responsible adult must remain on board if they want their child to participate in the nursery program.
Gear: Cribs are available upon request. High chairs are available but supplies are limited. Parents should be prepared to bring their own strollers, formula, diapers and baby food from home.