With these 8 Ways to Prepare for a Cruise with Kids, taking a cruise with kids can be a fantastic way to see several parts of the world in a short amount of time! I love to cruise with our kids. We unpack once, but wake up in a different location to explore each day! While cruising is a “low key”, relaxing way to travel, there are still some ways to prepare before you cruise with kids!
Taking a cruise has become one of my favorite ways to travel. I love the cruise ships, the activities, the food, and that we do not have to plan every single day of our trip. While I really enjoy the planning process of a theme park vacation, cruising with kids is a great break from the planning.
Book Your Pre Cruise Stay ASAP
Arriving in the area at least a day before sailing is one of the best things you can do to take the stress off your trip. Cruise ships do not wait. So giving yourself at least one day to arrive before you actually sail is the best way to start off your trip.
Arriving in the area at least one day ahead of sailing not only takes the stress off of getting to the port on time. But you can also explore the area a bit and settle any last minute details before you sail. If you are cruising from Port Canaveral, the Hyatt Regency at MCO is a fantastic option. Or, you can stay at a Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort for the night. Disney Cruise Line offers transportation to cruise line guests from their resorts, and all cruise lines offer transportation from MCO to Port Canaveral.
Cruising from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, there are so many great options near both airports as well as the cruise ports! If you are cruising from an international port, or even Alaska, consider flying in two to three days before to adjust to the time zone and explore the area!
Decide How to Keep in Touch with Family at Home
First, research your cell phone provider, and see what your options are for international travel. Using the internet or making phone calls / texts is something you will want to research ahead of time.
Disney Cruise Line offers guests a small amount of free data on embark day. And from there, they have various internet packages you can purchase during your cruise. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian also offer various options for internet while on board their ships.
Often when arriving at a cruise port, you may be able to connect to the nearby WiFi of the port. This can work well if your provider allows this with your plan. There are often restaurants, coffee shops, or even stores that offer free WiFi to port guests.
Notify Your Bank / Credit Card Company BEFORE You Sail
You will need to have a credit card on file for your onboard charges while you sail. This is standard practice for cruise ships, and they charge your card at the end of your sailing before you disembark. You definitely do not want those denied, and you do not want to mess with verifying charges if you have spotty WiFi. Be sure to tell them that you are traveling so they can put a note on your account.
Take Small Bills for Tips
Having some small bills handy for tips is such a timesaver and convenient. We tip $1 per item that is brought to our room when we order Room Service. Also, you’ll want bills to tip the porters and those who handle your baggage. You may even need some to tip a driver if you are taking a cab somewhere, or private transportation.
Book Specialty Dining and Onboard Experiences ASAP
Depending on the cruise line, your window to book specialty dining and onboard experiences will vary. Onboard experiences vary from dining in specialty restaurants, onboard liquor / wine tastings, perhaps even character meets if you are sailing Disney Cruise Line. While there are PLENTY of activities and dining on any cruise ship that do not require reservations, it’s wise to book any that do as soon as that window opens.
Notify the Cruise Line of Any Dining or Amenity Requests
If someone in your family has a food allergy, reach out to the cruise line BEFORE you sail. This allows them to notify your dining servers and offer you options for dining when onboard.
Also, if you are traveling with a CPAP machine and need distilled water, you will want to notify them of that as well, so they can be sure to have some brought to your room. Also, items such as bed rails can be requested ahead of time.
Research Your Ports and Plan Some Activities
When you arrive in your cruise port, there is so much excitement! You are at a new destination, and ready to explore. But do you have a plan?
While cruising is very low key as far as planning goes, you will want to have a plan for your port days. Your time ashore is limited, so you do not want to waste time deciding what to do when you arrive. We try to explore the port for a few hours, but still get back onboard 1-2 hours before the required all ashore time.
Booking an excursion via the cruise line is probably the “safest” option. It will assure you are getting good service, in a safe environment, and back to the ship before it sails again for the next port. Exploring the cruise port is just as fun as well! Shops, restaurants, and entertainment are often found right at the cruise port itself.
Cruise lines often have their own private islands as well. This makes a great beach day, and we personally do not plan a lot of activities at Disney’s Castaway Cay or a similar port. Also, depending on the port, these days can be great to spend onboard. Being on a less crowded ship while others are exploring the port is so nice! The pools are emptier, the kids clubs are super fun, and the restaurants aren’t as crowded. There are typically a few onboard activities offered as well!
Check Your Identification and Travel Documents
What documentation do you need to cruise? This will depend on your destination. Passports are ideal, and the best way to travel. They are valid for air travel, entering ports, and work as identification. If you are sailing on “closed loop” cruise from a US port, a passport is not MANDATORY. It is highly recommended, but adults can travel with a government issued ID AND a birth certificate. Children can travel with a birth certificate.
Make sure your form of identification is up to date, and that your passport does not expire too soon within your travel dates. You will need your ID to get on and off the ship as well. So be sure to have a valid, current ID for the destination you are traveling to.
With a little time spent before you sail, your family will have a fantastic time at sea! You will make memories that you will never forget!