How to Cruise with Kids (Part 3): Choosing Your Excursions

how to cruise with kids part 3

How to Cruise with Kids

If you’re just finding this guide on How To Cruise With Kids, please check out the previous posts:

  1. Choosing Your Cruise
  2. All About the Kids Club

Choosing Your Excursions:

The great part about cruising is that your ship will stop at multiple ports during your cruise vacation. You have the option to simply debark and explore the area on your own or book an excursion. Excursions are organized group tours and experiences.

My number one tip for cruise excursions (whether you go as a family, couple or even solo) is:


Some sites I look to for info:

If you simply google cruise excursions + destination, you’ll find tons of resources to help you plan your trip. You’ll find reviews, ideas and even private tour operator websites.

You basically have 3 excursion-booking options:

  1. Through the cruise ship (beforehand or while on board)
  2. Independently with an excursion company beforehand
  3. Directly with an independent tour company once you’ve debarked at the port

Here’s where you can find the excursions for each destination on a few of the major cruise lines: 

Just navigate to your ports to see the list of available excursions available there as well as any age requirements, price and a brief description of what is included.

A few tips and things to note:

Excursions purchased through your ship are pricier (sometimes more than double) the cost of purchasing independently. The benefit is that you’re guaranteed not to be stranded if something unfortunate happens and you’re late returning to the ship. The con (outside of possible cost) is that it’s often more crowded.

So far, we’ve done excursions booked independently and have never had a problem getting back to the port on time. On our past 2 cruises we took excursions through the cruise lines (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) and had an enjoyable time on both.

We have yet to visit a port that doesn’t have independent tour operators, taxis, excursion companies etc right at the pier just waiting for all the cruise ship passengers who don’t yet have plans. If you choose not to plan beforehand, you’re not out of luck.

Traveling with a family, I would recommend booking ahead of time, whether independently or via the cruise line’s website just so you are certain there is something to accommodate your group.

Four things to consider with cruise excursions as a family:

1.  Consider your children’s age/temperament

Your children’s ages determines a lot of what you can do at each port.  Does your child require a stroller? What can and can’t your child do? Are there any fears to be concerned with? Will they need a nap? Can they handle long bus rides? Keep the needs of the children in your group top of mind when choosing excursions. When you look through the excursion descriptions they will let you know if it is completely unsuitable for children. (ie: cave tubing in Belize)

atlantis dig

2.  Consider breaking into groups

If your group is split on what to do, try splitting up to satisfy everyone. Yes the trip is about togetherness, but doing separate activities allows you to have fun stories to tell when you’re enjoying quality time together back on board the ship. This works well if your family has a mix of risk-taking adventurers and those with more tame sensibilities. Also it’s a great option if there’s a large mix of ages. (I secretly look forward to the day my daughter enjoys shopping and spa days so we can do that while the boys go off gallivanting.)
3. Consider staying on board

At each port most people (I’m talking 90% or more!) get off the ship to explore the destination. If you’re at a port you have visited several times, or have no interest in…or just want the ship to yourself, you may want to consider staying on board. You and your family will be able to enjoy all the ship has to offer with no lines, no waiting, and no drama. I first stayed on board on our Bahamas cruise last year and we tried again a few months ago with the kids in St. Thomas. Felt luxurious having an empty ship and no wait for anything.

4.  Consider your budget

Paying for a group excursion is a lot pricier than paying for a party of two. If budget factors into your vacation plans then choose an option where kids under a certain age are free or at a very reduced rate. You may also want to consider chartering your own excursion if your group is 6-8 passengers or more. It may turn out to be more economical. Some vendors will even work with you on the price and you have the bonus on being able to tailor your experience to exactly what your family wants to do.

Remember: There is no need to purchase an excursion at all. You can stay on board, or just walk around the port.

Stay tuned for How to Cruise with Kids (Part 4):

Life On Board Your Cruise Ship


How to Cruise with Kids (Part 2): All About The Kids Club

how to cruise with kids part 2

(Click Here for: How to Cruise With Kids Part 1)

Cruising is the perfect vacation option for families. You are able to have time together as a family, explore different countries, eat great food, have tons of fun together and separately. Parents can have together time (or solo time) away from kids thanks to the awesome kids programs.

I’ve been asked so many questions about the kids programs on Royal and Norwegian so here are my answers, info and tips. But first, our experience:

We have only used the children’s facilities on two ships: Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas and Norwegian Escape. On Royal, Rohan was 11 months old and we made use of the Royal Babies program. On Norwegian, we used the Norwegian Splash Academy for Rohan (age 3) and the Guppies program for Kaya (age 2). On the first day of our cruise I was sure to visit with the staff for all age groups, and tour the facility so I could better answer questions in the future. We have yet to try Carnival and other cruise lines, but when we do I’ll update this to include them.

Is my baby too young/old?

Babies can cruise starting at 6 months of age. Up until recent years, the only option for children under 3 were in-room babysitting services. Now, babies 6 months through 2 years old have programs on board just for them. On Royal there is the Royal Babies & Tots program, and on Norwegian it was the Guppies program.

From age 3 – 17 your children can participate in the main “kids club” offerings. They are grouped by age and have activities catered to their level.

Is it expensive?

Age 3+ is free!

On Royal, it was $8/hour for the Royal Babies program. On Norwegian we paid $20 per session for Kaya. The session is just under 2 hours. So at night we put her in from 7pm-8:50 session and she stayed for the 9pm -10:50 session, but we picked her up at 10:30 when we picked up Ro.

After 10:30pm the Splash Academy for 3 years and up charges a fee. I didn’t ask what that price was, though.

What kind of activities do they have?

For Rohan in Royal Babies they had tons of Fisher Price toys, and would read to the babies, and sing songs. For Rohan there wasn’t much of a “curriculum” just lots of free play with heavy interaction from the staff. So few children were in the program that it was 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of staff to kids.

The Guppies (0-2) program on Norwegian had so much planned for the kids each session. We dropped Kaya only at night from 7pm to 10:30pm. During that time she did active games, singing, storytime, arts & crafts, had snacks and free play with the blocks/puzzles (her fave). We received a printout each time we picked her up which logged her diaper changes, feeding, activities down to her mood during each activity! (ie: loved 3 little pigs story, was excited for puzzles, disengaged during beauty and the beast storytime, focused during painting, two wet diapers, not hungry…) We got beautiful art each night from Kaya’s program as well:

artwork2     artwork

The Splash Academy Turtles (3-5 years) did lots of active games, songs, building, toy time, got face painted, had story time and always had a fun theme that ran through the day. On fairy tale day and pirate day the kids paraded through the ship (indoors, not near the exterior of the ship) for us parents and other passengers to ooh ahh and aww over them.

Older kids played age appropriate games, have video game time, and “chill out” style areas to enjoy each others company and feel “cool” and less like they’re being babysat. 🙂 The oldest group (14-17 I believe) can check themselves in and out of the program, come and go as they please, and had a teen club all to themselves.

What if my kid doesn’t like it?

It’s not a mandatory program. If your child doesn’t like it, they do not have to go. Additionally, if you’re nervous about their experience you can request a beeper (no matter your child’s age) and have the staff beep you if your child is crying, or acting up, or asks to go back to their parents.

Is there video or a way to keep tabs on the children?

The beeper mentioned above is the only way for the staff to contact you. You can always call and check in on how your child is doing, or go by the kids club and spy out like I did. 🙂 There is no video of the kids club area for parents to monitor their child. Be sure you let the staff know what part of the ship you’ll be, so if they do need to reach you, they can.

Is it safe?

Yes. The baby areas on both Royal and Norwegian were locked up and had 2 barriers to entry for folks who weren’t the child’s parents. The kiddie area itself is on the inside of the ship, so unruly sprinting kids cant go running/climbing/falling anywhere but inside the designated child areas.


 What is the staff like?

On the two ships we’ve used the children’s facilities on, the staff has been awesome. The Royal Nursery staff were so sweet and gentle, and had such a calming vibe to them. The Norwegian Guppies staff seemed to really love babies, and had lots of tricks up their sleeves to quickly calm fussy kids.

The kids club staff had energy for days…no…weeks. They had that fun/gentle leadership quality that was able to hype the kids up for their activities, and also guide them and be obeyed. We went to visit the Splash Academy on Norwegian Escape before we registered ro, I went to the bathroom and came back and Ro was pushing one of the staff, Curly, around in his stroller and they were both laughing hysterically. They were a well oiled machine and a fun group, just perfect for kids.

Did your kids like it?

Yes, they loved it. We didn’t use the kids club all day. We used them only in the evening after we fed the kids dinner. I think if we tried to send Rohan to all the sessions (On Norwegian it’s 10am-12pm, 3pm-5pm, and 7pm-10:30pm +late night sessions $$) he may have pushed back, plus…we wanted to spend the days with the kids.

There was only one night where Ro said he didn’t want to go, and that was the day after he had a crash into another boy and hit his head. When we asked why he didn’t want to go, he said it was because he didn’t want to bump his head again. So, other than that night, they went and loved it. Kaya was really into the art work, and Rohan loved the parades, face painting and active play.


Can they watch the kids while we are on an excursion?

That wasn’t something we were interested in so I didn’t ask when we were on board, but I did just find out that they do offer that service on Norwegian. You do have to pay for the hours that the child would be in their care outside of their normal hours mentioned above. They will feed the kids and everything for you while you’re out enjoying your excursion. I didn’t ask about the service on Royal.

Do they have in-room babysitting options? 

On Norwegian they don’t offer it, which was a major bummer for us. On Royal Caribbean they offer it for (i think) $8 or $10/hour. We will make use of this service on our next Royal Caribbean cruise for sure. You just have to reserve in advance so they can figure out scheduling.

Do they feed / change / soothe the children?

In the Splash Academy for older kids they do not feed the kids. And you children have to be potty trained 3 year olds in order to attend. They do soothe them, like when Ro and the other kid crashed into each other. Both cried and both were soothed. In the Guppy program they will feed per your directions, change diapers and soothe and even rock your child to sleep.

Will they let my children stay together if in different age groups?

I’ve heard of this….but it wasn’t allowed for us on Norwegian Escape. (I asked just in hopes, even though Kai isn’t fully potty trained and couldn’t stay with her brother even if they made the age exception.) I can’t speak for Royal or other lines. I have only heard stories from other cruisers on cruisecritic saying that their children of various ages were able to stay together in one of the age groups.


a separate little free-play area for young kids near the kids club and baby club

What do they provide?

The Splash Academy provides everything. One day, they did tell us to bring Rohan dressed in pjs for the pajama party and parade. Other than that, we never had to supply a thing. They weren’t allowed to give him juice or snacks though. Only water. So if he was hungry he would’ve had to wait for pickup or have us found. Kids were encouraged to come with no toys, etc. (They did allow Rohan to bring in his Elmo lovey though.  PS: There was a staff member on board named Elmo too)

The Guppies provided everything for activities, but we had to bring Kai’s sippy cups, diapers (they had wipes), snacks, lovey.

On Royal they have a great program where you can get a big bag of toys for your children to use in the stateroom and while on board. It’s free, and you can swap out the toys for a different bag if your child gets bored. You just return it on the last night. (You can ask for cleaning wipes – if you didn’t pack your own- when you pick up the bag so you can wipe down the toys… if you’re a weirdo like me)

Any tips?

  • Register your children for the kids club on day one even if you dont think you’ll use it
  • Always bring your kid to the club well fed, hydrated and freshly pottied
  • Visit the baby/kids area with your children and stay and play a bit to get them used to the area and staff (especially if they are not in day care)
  • Make use of the ‘free play’ areas when kids club is not in session for age appropriate baby playtime
  • Be honest, upfront, and vocal about what you do and don’t want your children exposed to/doing/sleeping/eating etc. They will cater to your requests.
  • Trust the staff and treat them kindly. They’re really good with children (and parents).
  • Pick up a bit earlier than the closing time to avoid a long line of parents waiting for pickup
  • Have a fun activity waiting for your child to entice them to leave because they won’t want to.

Any other kids club questions send em my way!

Cruising With Kids on Norwegian Escape – Cruise Recap

how to cruise with kids cruise recap

We love to cruise. This was John and my 6th cruise together, Rohan’s second, and Kaya’s first. Our very first cruise as a family of four! This sailing was a bit of a last minute surprise (scary for an planner like myself) and it turned out to be absolutely perfect. (Oh, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in our How to Cruise with Kids series)

Here’s our Norwegian Escape Cruise Recap.

We sailed out of Miami on the Norwegian Escape for a 7 day eastern caribbean itinerary. We had 3 days at sea, and 3 ports: St. Thomas USVI, Tortola British VI, and Nassau, Bahamas.

family in tortola 2

We drove to the pier and used Safe Cruise Parking to keep our car for the week (totally recommend them, btw. Last place took forever to take us to pier and never came and picked us up after the cruise, we had to taxi back to the parking lot!) A short drive from the lot to the pier, and 20 minutes after that we were getting on board. The embarkation process was super quick and easy. (We arrived at the pier around 1 btw)

boarding ship

Our cabin was 10800 a mini-suite with balcony and it was juuuuust a hair bigger than the balconies we normally get on Royal Caribbean. The bathroom was cuter though. This was the first time we had a room that accommodated 4 and the kids LOVED the murphy bed thingy that came down from the ceiling.

cruise cabin

Kai slept on bottom bunk, and Ro slept up top. John and I shared the king bed (not pictured). Everything I (over)packed fit nicely in the closets and drawers and our empty suitcases fit under the bed easily…with space left over for the kids to play under there as well. The balcony was standard/small with 2 chairs and a mini table just big enough for a couple cups of coffee and maybe a bowl of fruit.

kids on cruise ship balcony

The ship was big and beautiful!  It was sparkley! The Escape is the newest ship in the Norwegian fleet and has so much to offer for any style of cruiser. I met a lot of solo travelers on board. NCL has studio cabins to accommodate 1 person traveling alone. We loved all the random places to just chill out and hang as a family or solo. The coffee (and cupcake) shoppe saw us a few times a day. There was a mall on board for anything you want, and a great photo gallery to check out all the shots taken of you while on board. I loved how grand some of the touches were.

norwegian escape

As a family with two little littles we were excited to see all the family focused events. We took part in the family dinner which had face painting, build your own cupcakes, balloon animals, and hoola hooping. We didn’t attend the shows but we heard there were lots of clean comedians and shows. (There are adult-only options as well.) We made use of the gym, gym classes, mini golf, ropes course, all the slides, the pool, and the kids water park area.

gym class ncl escape

Though poorly attended, the total body conditioning class was great (and instructor was a hottie) and had me sore the next day. The gym facilities were sparkling clean, smelled great (not sweaty), and was a hair cooler than other indoor spaces on the ship. It was large enough to accommodate several cruisers at once, but I never saw it even 1/2 full on the times I went to work out.

norwegian escape mini golf   family dinner party norwegian escape

The kids loved the ropes course more than I expected. Kaya was the smallest one to do it, and she wasn’t afraid after her first few steps. She and Ro even ziplined like pros. Unfortunately, John and I didn’t make it on the adult ropes course. But next time….

norwegian escape kids ropes course

Some disappointments outside of service, were the library. We are used to grabbing a book at random, and on our last cruise with Ro we got a little pile of books to read to him during the week. This library was all locked up with random open hours for taking books out. We didn’t make use of the adult-only zone Spice H20 but I visited and it was lovely…though only a hair quieter than the main pool area…which was SUPER loud at all times and always had a million towels on chairs and nowhere to sit. The itinerary dragged a bit as well, but that’s not a big deal. We’ll choose a different itinerary layout in the future.

on board norwegian escape

We enjoyed most of the meals we ate. There are 4 restaurants and the buffet included in your cruise price, and then there are a la carte restaurants and cover charge restaurants. We mostly took the kids to dinner at the buffet, then dropped them to the kids club, then we had a grown up dinner at one of the included restaurants. We tried one a la carte: Pinchos Tapas restaurant (so good!) and Moderno Churrascarria because: meat. (Also really delicious) If you’re not familiar, Churrascaria is that Brazialian style of restaurant where you have your apps at a deliicous buffet, and then you start getting bombarded with various grilled meats brought over in never ending succession and carved at your table until you tell them to stop. (John’s heaven.) Service was a mixed bag. Some folks were great and some looked like they’d rather be anywhere but here.


Roey’s Buffet Plate

20160509_204513 20160509_203838 20160509_205909

Our ports of call were St Thomas, Nassau and Tortola. In St. Thomas we stayed on board and enjoyed having the ship all to ourselves. We used the empty pool and play ground without fighting for a sunbed, we enjoyed the restaurants with no wait and the buffet with no lines. (We stayed on board the Majesty of the Seas when it was in the private island last year, it was the best decision ever.)

st thomas from balcony

In Tortola we took an excursion through Norwegian. We booked a tour that took us through the mountains of Tortola and to the 2nd highest point on the island. We then took the winding tour back down the mountains and to the beautiful Cane Bay beach.

dani tortola

It was informative and fun thanks to our tour guide, Henry. I’m surprised at how well the kids did on the jitney tour. Only one meltdown to speak of:

kaya cry

In Nassau we spent the day at Atlantis thanks to some blogger perks. I have a full recap/review coming, but I gotta tell you, I LOVED that place and so did the kids. John even said he wants to come back to spend a few days there. Atlantis just had so much to do for kids and adults and it was gorgeous!

atlantis dig atlantis with kids

We found ourselves doing a lot of comparing to Royal Caribbean as it’s what we’ve cruised together on 4 out of 5 times before this one. A few things were better on Norwegian, some weren’t and a few were equal. Overall we had an amazing time. All four of us! We are already talking about when we’ll be able to fit in our “annual family cruise” in next year’s travel calendar.

family silly kids

Any questions about the ship or cruising in general, please send em my way! I could talk about cruising all day long.

The “How to Cruise with Kids” series continues next with “All About the Kids Clubs”



How to Cruise With Kids (Part 1): Choosing the Right Cruise

How to cruise with kids (part 1) - Choosing the right cruise - Picking a cruise can be stressful at times. We want to have a perfect family vacation. The cruise planning tips in this post will help you pick the right cruise for your family.

As you’re reading this our little family just got off the Norwegian Escape for our first cruise as a family of four! John and I have taken several cruises before this, and Ro had his first back in 2013 just before he turned one. It was time to break Kaya in. (FYI your child only has to be 6 months to cruise!)

I’m often fielding questions from other busy moms about cruising (with and without kids) and want to share my tips and our experiences with you.

Most of what I’m sharing refers to sailings out of the U.S. going to the caribbean, as that is what I have the most personal experience with. But you can sail out of many other countries to other destinations on the same lines. (PS Did I ever tell you I used to be a travel agent back in the day?)

I’ve written before on how to choose a cruise and my tips for getting a great deal…But specifically when dealing with cruising as a family (in our case a rowdy toddler and a preschooler) lots of new things come into play:


One of the arguments against cruising that I hear most often is: “They’re too expensive.” It’s true, they can be, if you let it. Outside of the cruise price there are lots of other places you’ll have to spend money: tips, drinks and other on-board purchases, excursions, taxis, unexpected purchases, etc.

Here are a couple tips to make it easier to afford:

  • Save up/Budget for it – I can’t tell you how to live your financial life, but trust me, it’s much better to enjoy a cruise when you can truly afford it and not have to pinch pennies everywhere and feel as if you’re missing out.
  • Use a points/miles card – Once you’ve saved up, buy with the best rewards credit card you have and pay it off immediately. You don’t need thousands of bucks hanging around on your next bill and you want the best reward you can get for a nice chunk of payment.
  • Plan for the future – To make affording the trip easier, choose a cruise well in the future so the monthly (or per-paycheck) savings isn’t such a big sting. (We have “travel” as a “bill” in our monthly budget so we pay into it every month)
  • Catch a sale/promotion – One of the reasons John picked the sailing we recently took was because there was a sale for the 3rd and 4th passenger in the room. Rohan and Kaya each only cost about $120 in taxes/fees. I’ve only seen that particular sale on Norwegian, but Royal Caribbean often has BOGO 50% sales, and discounts on their sailings as well (lots of sites like crucon and travelzoo can get you a good promo price as well)
  • Research – I personally love this, but I know it can be tedious and annoying for some folks. Researching the lines, sailings, following pricing etc is really key in catching a great deal without a promotion. Also using (as I mentioned here) and a travel agent you trust and can be candid with.
  • Keep Checking Prices – after you book your sailing be sure to keep watching the price so when it dips you can call and get the new lower price! It’s worth it. I’ve gotten my price lowered several times for many sailings.

Note: I understand finances are personal and different people prioritize their funds differently. These tips are for the folks for whom cost does matter, and who don’t want to incur un-needed consumer debt.


There are so many cruise lines. From the major lines we see commercials for on TV, to small yacht and river cruises, luxury lines and discount lines. Picking the right cruise line can make a big difference in your enjoyment of the cruising experience. If you’re used to all luxed out everything at all times, then Regent may be a better choice than Celebration Paradise. And if you’re used to casual life and don’t like fancy shmancy, then a standard line may be a better option.

Luxury Lines: Regent, Cunard, Oceana, Crystal, Silversea

“Standard” Lines: Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, Disney, Celebrity, Holland America, Costa, MSC

Least Expensive Lines (often great as a first cruise to see if cruising is for you): Celebration, Carnival

Note: The lines above are just a few of the many, and have sailings from the US. Additionally, many lines have 3 and 4 day cruises for you to get your feet wet if you’re unsure if you’ll enjoy the cruise experience.

Here’s a list of all cruise lines.

Tips for choosing the right line for you:

  • Know Thyself  – Who are you? What is your lifestyle? What is your travel style? What is your goal for the trip? Relaxation? Partying/Celebration? Family time? Different lines are known for different attributes, however  most of the main lines have enough on each ship to satisfy different members of your family.
  • Research – Yeah…this research thing again. It really helps to know the vibe of each line so you can make a more educated decision. Besides the cruise line’s website, you can check sites like: Cruisecritic and Cruiseaddicts
  • Ask Around – Reviews are great and I personally devour them before any trip, but ask people similar to you or with children the same ages as yours whose opinions you trust which lines they have sailed and enjoyed.
  • Include your family – If your children are old enough, let them voice their opinions as well. They may have different desires for their cruise experience than you expect and you can choose the line accordingly. (ex: Your 14 year old may not care about meeting other teens at the kids club, and may want to just chill out by the pool and play game boy -or whatever the newest handheld video game is, I dunno my kids are babies lol)

Note: You can get luxxed out on any of the major cruise lines as well. Royal Caribbean has butler cabins and concierge services and Norwegian has the “haven” with amazing spa suites, and a private cruise within the cruise experience.

how to cruise with kids on board norwegian escape


Once you’ve chosen the line you now have to select a ship that will suit your needs. This may be even more important than choosing the line. You will want a ship that satisfies all the people in your family on some level.

Things to consider when choosing the ship:

  • Child-friendly options – From the kids club to the restaurants, the entertainment to the activities…what is offered that is family friendly. Are the comedians clean? Are there activities specifically for families with children of all ages? Does the kids club cater to children your age? Is there a nursery or program for babies too young for kids club? Are the pools/water area child-friendly? etc.
  • Your family’s personality – Will you want to chill out together and read in the sun or will you want to jam pack your day with every sport and activity on the roster? This will help you determine what size of ship will suit your needs for your sailing. The great part of cruising is that you can do as much or as little as you like.
  • Adult only areas – You may want to get away from the squeals of joy and peals of laughter and just enjoy some solitude for a while. Many lines now have adult only areas, (usually 16 or 18+) where you can have peace and quiet. Some areas have their own restaurant and pool, or just lounges and blissful silence. We enjoyed the adults only solarium on our Royal Caribbean sailings.


Now is where we get specific. You can have a great ship on the best cruise line for your family and have it be less than stellar due to picking the wrong sailing. These points below are all out the window if your travel is limited by work or specific vacation dates.

  • Is school in session? Some families are fine with taking their children out for family vacations and some aren’t. Just know, if it’s May through August, you’re likely to have many more children on your sailing than September through April.
  • What’s the itinerary? There are itineraries known for being older, with less children on board (Alaska, Bermuda).  There are itineraries with stops that don’t have many family friendly activities. You can find out what excursions are offered at your sailing’s port of call (as well as how many other ships will be docked in the same port along with yours) online. Check your cruise line website for excursions and also check places like,, and simply by googling: cruise excursions in “insert destination here.” When we first sailed with Rohan as a baby we picked an older, smaller ship sailing to Bermuda because we knew there would be very few rowdy partiers, and bad-ass kids on board.
  • Is it a holiday cruise? More importantly, will it be a holiday in the countries you’re visiting? Is it spring break? Holiday cruises have more families/children on board, Spring break (and shorter cruises) have more drunken young people. Also holiday cruises have a bump up in pricing.
  • Is it hurricane/wet season? This can impact your sailing experience (rocky seas), activities (cancelled for rain on the deck) and experience on the island (no beach days, cancelled excursions, etc.) We tend to roll with the punches and the cruise lines are great at moving some outdoor activities indoors when it rains, but it is certainly something to consider. (Prices drop in late september when hurricane season rolls around)
  • How long is the sailing? Shorter sailings attract younger, more party focused crowds and more couples. Sailings longer than a week, and repositioning cruises tend to attract the retired folks who can spend 20 days on a ship! 🙂

kids on cruise ship balcony


To me, this is the least important of all. We have yet to travel in a grand suite on a sailing, but we’ve done everything from an interior to a mini-suite and we have a great time no matter what. The cabins go from interior (no window), to oceanview (window ranging from porthole to large picture window), balcony, mini (or jr) suite, suites. There are a variety of different suite categories on each line.

 A few things to consider when booking your cabin:

  • The price goes up as the size increases – Obvi. So if you have no need for a family oceanview suite with concierge, lucky you, you’ll spend a great deal less. We took an interior when we sailed with Rohan as a baby and it was fine. (It’s not my first choice though and in the future I believe an oceanview room is the lowest we’d go)
  • Mid-ship cabins feel less movement – so no matter what type of room you book, if you’re toward the center of the ship you will feel less swaying when you head to bed each night (unless you’ve been drinking more than expected)
  • Think about your family dynamics – We originally had an MSC cruise booked for late may that we had to cancel. On that sailing we had a full suite which was 2 rooms. Our thinking was that we’d be able to have a private area to enjoy while the kids were down for the night. We sailed in a mini-suite with balcony cabin this past week and it was perfect in that we could put the kids to bed then relax out there until they were sound asleep. Consider your family’s needs for naps, feedings, waking and nighttime times/routines.
  • Consider the perks of the higher category cabins – For us, being in a mini suite meant we got room service delivered free of charge on Norwegian. Royal Caribbean has many suite perks as well. Some may be worth the up charge if you can swing it.

Last thing to note when choosing your cruise: No matter which line you go with… for the love of all things holy, as soon as you book, join the loyalty program for the cruise line. You get treats, discounts, coupon booklets, and lots of goodies as you continue to cruise.

And Yes. You can get your children signed up with the loyalty program as well! They will level up the same as you. John and I joked that Rohan will be a diamond member on all these lines before he even knows what benefits it affords him. Spoiled brat.

Don’t forget to save this post to return to when you’re doing your cruise planning. It’s a living post, meaning it will be updated frequently with links to helpful sites and resources for you.

Part 2 Coming Soon…

Thanks for reading. Any questions send em my way!

A Momshell’s Cruise Packing Essentials

cruise packing

[I swear I had this cruise packing tips post set to post last Saturday…. I messed up somehow but it’s all good. We’re back from the trip now, but I’m STILL posting this to share with you girls.]

Today we leave for our surprise family cruise! I’ve packed up the kids and will post separately on that. Even though it’s a family vacation, I’m going to squeeze in some “grown up” time with John, as well as some alone time, just to get my head right. I am a chronic over-packer and am trying my best not to do the same on this cruise. Here is what I’m packing this time, and some tips.

One crucial piece I am packing is this:

cruise packing essential

(many thanks to my lovely model)

Popular cruise advice says to take an over the door shoe holder like this one here for the bathroom door, but I prefer taking these shelves for the closet instead. It gives tons of extra space for your belongings and it’s neatly hidden away in the closet (and the closet doors still close perfectly). I’m an over packer and we’ll have clothes and supplies for four people this time. The extra shelving will be a godsend.

In case you’re curious. It does flatten down into a square that easily fits in luggage. I put it in the outside pocket of my suitcase: (Shout out to my Samsonite luggage from amazon for holding me down for sooo many years)

samsonite luggage

Takeaway Tip: Pack your own storage option if you don’t want to live out of your suitcase for a week

My hair gear essentials:

My hair takes a lot of abuse on vacation. chlorine, salt water, wind on the ship, sun, daily washing and manipulation… It’s a lot considering my normal regimen is so hands-off. I’m sure to take lots of conditioner for daily treatments, my sulfate free shampoo, wide tooth comb, boar bristle brush and plastic paddle brush, headbands, elastics, scarf, leave-in conditioner. (Kai and Ro will share with me)

Thank goodness we’re driving to the port and don’t have to fly with all this heavy crap. My trick is to travel with the bottles and jars that are almost done so I can just use them up while away, and have less containers to take home! (More space for souvenirs)

Takeaway tip: bring close-to empty products so you can toss the bottles while on board and bring home less stuff.

Takeaway tip: plan your hair care so you have to pack the least amount of products (they get heavy in those bags)

My skin/beauty essentials:

cruise packing beauty items

After getting a good burn years ago I realized I DO need sunscreen even though I’m blessed with melanin. My absolute favorite sunscreen for face is Neutragena Ultra sheer Dry Touch. (If you’re brown skinned you’ll LOVE that there’s zero ashiness and a great light feel on your skin – and no this is not a sponsored post lol) For body I use whatever I find on sale. #realtalk. And we’re trying out the Equate line from Walmart for the first time. I’m also bringing travel sized skin care products like my honey face mask and lip scrub, my bath mittens, and lotion. I don’t even bother attempting makeup other than eyeliner/mascara and lipsticks/gloss I’m packing my bright and tropical lip crayons from No7. I like misting my face (and John’s) when we’re doing activities in the hot sun so I’m packing my mineral water spray and taking Botanics wipes for wiping down my face all tired/drunk/worn out before falling asleep.

Takeaway Tip: Know thyself and pack accordingly. If you don’t wear a full face of makeup on the regular, you won’t magically start while on vacation.


throwing everything in

This is BEFORE I pared down….#judgemeifyawanna #iwasthrowinganythingin

So…I’m trying my best to pack light. I am good for taking 2-3 outfits for each day, swimsuits for each day with matching cover ups for each one, different shoes for each outfit, etc. Not this time. We won’t be participating in the formal nights on this cruise and with the kids I probably won’t want to do anything above casual. I realize now that it wont kill me to re-wear an item….so I’m just packing: 3 swim suits and cover-ups, a few sets of workout clothes, dresses, some tops and a few bottoms to mix and match. I only need to bring flip flops, sandals and sneakers.

Takeaway tip: It’s okay to rewear a pair of shorts in one week. Pack lighter than you think you need to (even if you’re bringing extra storage from tip 1)



I’m going super light on this cruise! Only 2 bags. Two!! This. is. a. big. deal. I’m just taking my big tote/diaper bag and my favorite small crossbody bag. Since we’re going casual I’m not bringing much jewelry, just a couple earrings, a small pair for day, and a bigger pair for night.

Takeaway Tip: Know your travel plans and pack accordingly. You won’t need to carry much besides your key card while on the ship anyway.


galaxy s7 edge waterproof case

We ordered some waterproof cases for our phones, packing my portable chargers. I’m taking my laptop just in case I’ll be able to do some writing after the kids go down for the night (doubt it) but also so the kids have a DVD player to watch Doc McStuffins or something (Norwegian charges $10 a pop for movies in the room).

Takeaway Tip: Know your ship’s offerings and pack accordingly. You can find out all about your ship on sites like Cruise Clues and Cruise Critics.

Things you DON’T have to bring on board: 

The ship is really good at providing the basics, just like a hotel. If you’re not picky about your toiletries, there’s no need to pack any. You can also leave your beach towels and blow dryers at home. If you’re a regular exerciser no need to bring any travel equipment, the gyms are fully stocked, and if you’re a beachbody junkie like I am you can use Beachbody on Demand for your daily workout.

Honestly, (I told you before) I have “what if” syndrome when it comes to packing (for a cruise, a land vacation, an overnight bag, a day out with the kids… anything.) What if Syndrome leads me to overpacking for every possible scenario. When it came to packing for the kids I let “what if” win, but for my personal packing for the first time ever I was able to keep my syndrome under control.  I still packed a lot… but way less than ever before. #improud.

What are your cruise packing essentials? 

Check out my packing list for Cruising with a Baby Here