Cruising with (Younger) Kids

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Taking a Cruise with Children

cruise with children

My husband and I are a bit of anomalies because we’ve both been going on cruises for almost three decades.  Not combined, each.  We grew up going on cruises with our families in the 80s and early 90s before it was as common as it is today.  That being said, we’re both a little old-school in our expectations of what cruise lines should provide.  However we are willing to lower our expectations when a great deal/opportunity for our family pops up.  🙂

If you’ve never been on a cruise before (or if you have but without the kids) here’s a couple of things you should know before deciding to book a cruise for your family.

1. Many cruise lines often charge the same price for kids as the adults on the cruise. 

As a result adding two little people to your itinerary can automatically double your cost.  Our rule for picking a cruise for the two of us is no more than $100 a day per person.  With the kids now we still strive for $50 a day per person.

Even if the cruise is a bargain we still have an increased cost of travel, tours, souvenirs, etc.

There are two ways to get decent priced cruise deals for your family; one way is to find a cruise line that offers a kids sail free or a discount price for the 3rd and 4th person in the cabin.  Carnival and MSC are two cruise lines that offer these deals frequently.  Another option is to be flexible with your travel and if you can go during the off-season, you can often get discount rates for last minute cruises.
Cruise with Children


2. Tour on your own rather than booking your tour through the ship. 

We’ve often saved at least 50% and sometimes as much as 75% of the cost by touring on our own versus booking the tour through the ship.  We started buying travel books ahead of time to help us plan our day.  You can buy ones for particular cities, countries, or even ones designed for people going on cruises.  Our favorite travel guides are Rick Steves’ and Eyewitness Travel.


3. Kids clubs can be a great experience for your child and are included in the price of your cruise. 

However, if your child is below a certain age (usually under two or three-years-old) the kids club will not take them.  You may be able to hire a baby sitter through the cruise line, but it will cost you extra.  Some of the cruises also require they kids be potty trained; you need to research this before you book your cruise.


4. You will be expected to tip the same amount for the kids as you do for the adults. 

Technically you can always remove this charge and tip less (or more) if you want, however we usually stick to the standard tipping suggestion by the cruise line and tip the same amount per child as per adult unless we think we had extremely below-standard service.


cruise with childrenFor any cruise, make sure you’re aware of any additional charges ahead of time.  Most cruise lines charge for drinks (alcoholic and sodas) but things like milk, tea, and lemonade are free.  Each cruise line has various rules so look into them before you decide on a cruise line. One of the ways cruises keep their costs down is by increasing or adding to the “additional” charges on a cruise, so even if you’ve traveled on a particular cruise line before it’s still good to see if they’ve changed any of their policies since the last time you cruised with them.


I know cruising isn’t for everyone, but we love taking cruises with our kids.  Especially now that our kids are at a good age (8 and 4-years-old) that they get a lot out of them as well.


What are your tips for taking a cruise with children?


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.


  1. viguera

    July 7, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Tip #2 is a fantastic idea, and everyone should do it, but more so if you’re a family. Last year we did NCL NY-Bahamas with a stop in Florida and we rented a car and drove ourselves to Orlando. We were on our own schedule, stopped for food where we wanted and even did some downtown which we wouldn’t have been able to do if we were on the tour.

    The other other tip I can think of is that if it’s not included, bring it yourself. Some cruise lines offer soda packages and other stuff for a fee, but they don’t stop you from checking in 2 24-packs of soda or bottled water. The advantage is that it’s convenient (even if it takes space in your cabin) and it’s cheaper.

    Oh and don’t forget a power strip so you can charge all those tablets / phones / computers that everyone brings. Nowadays most regular cabins only offer 1 or 2 outlets so a power strip is a must.

  2. Tiff

    July 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Some good points there! I also forgot that some cruise lines are allowing passengers to not only bring water and soda but sometimes a bottle or two of wine as well. Definitely check the cruise line’s policy ahead of time.

  3. Jeanne

    July 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Great advice!

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