Boy Playing Golf on a Cruise

What’s the Best Age to Start Cruising?

Are you a parent who wants to take your kids on a cruise but unsure of the best age to start? Personally, I took my daughter on her first cruise when she was two years old and my son when he was three. Below, I will discuss the best age to start cruising for kids. I’m also sharing my travel website password tracker as a free printable below.

Going on a Cruise with a 2 Year Old

What is it like going on a cruise with a 2 year old? I took my daughter on her first cruise when she was two years old. We sailed out of our home port in New York on a Norwegian cruise to the Caribbean. 

As a young mom with only one child, it was quite a stressful experience. First, my daughter was too young to join the kids’ club since the minimum age was three years old. Child care options were limited. 

There was a play area for toddlers, but it was not supervised, which meant that I had to be there with my daughter for her to play. 

Although they had babysitting services, I honestly felt terrible leaving her with a stranger, so in the end, I was the babysitter. 

I remember pushing her up and down the hallway so that she could nap. Every night, we had a very early dinner, and I would go back to our cabin by 7 pm so that she could sleep. 

Frankly, it was exhausting to be stuck babysitting a sleeping toddler in a dark cabin on a cruise ship. I didn’t get to watch any shows or enjoy a proper dinner because dinner time felt so rushed. 

My advice to other moms is not to cruise with a two-year-old. It’s not a vacation at all. You’re better off staying at home.

Best Age to Start Cruising

Going on a Cruise with a 3 Year Old

Cruising with a 3 year old was not any better. I went on a Holland America cruise with my 3 year old son and 6 year old daughter. We went on a seven day Christmas cruise to the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately, my son was still potty training and did not qualify for the kids club. My daughter went to the kids club on some days but didn’t like going alone, so I had both kids with me most days. 

Cruising with a 3 year old was not easy because we had early dinner every evening so the kids could go to bed by 7:30 pm, I had to deal with the occasional potty accident and to make it worse, my son was at the age where he kept getting sick since he just started preschool. 

We ended up going to the cruise ship clinic twice, which was a stressful experience. On Christmas Eve, my son complained of feeling unwell, and we spent Christmas Eve dinner waiting for the cruise ship doctor instead of enjoying the Christmas Eve dinner in the Main Dining Room. In the end, we missed Christmas Eve dinner for nothing. He was just cranky. 

In hindsight, all the visits to the clinic could have been avoided if I had packed a thermometer. I wish I had my cruise toiletry and first aid packing list with me; it would have saved me the hassle of visiting the clinic. 

Do I recommend cruising with a 3-year-old? No, I don’t. You’ll end up babysitting your child most of the time and not enjoying the onboard activities on the cruise ship. I recommend waiting until they are older before taking them on a cruise. 

Going on a Cruise with a 4 Year Old

Going on a cruise with a 4 year old was a little better but still not easy. This time, I went on a two week Norwegian cruise to the Caribbean with my parents and 4 year old son. We left my daughter at home as she had school. 

My son was fully potty trained so I was able to check him in the kids club. But he was still prone to the occasional potty accident so I still sent him in with pull-ups just in case. 

The kids club gave me a little break but it was too short, just 2 to 3 hours a day. The morning kids club hours was 9 to 12 noon and the afternoon hours was 2-4pm. 

I was so exhausted that after I dropped my son off at the kids’ club, I spent what little precious free time I had in my cabin lying down, reading a book, watching TV, and just relaxing. It always felt too short, and I was back again picking my son up.

My son’s experience at the kids club wasn’t smooth sailing either. He was the youngest kid there but because we cruised in February when there were not a lot of kids on the ship, he ended up being grouped with older kids and he didn’t like it. As a result, there were days my son refused to go to the kids club.

I even had to talk to the supervisor at the kids club to ask them to keep him separate from the older boys. They did a great job of keeping him separate and even left a bag of toys in our cabin to get my son to like the kids club again.

It was also challenging to go to the ports with my son because he couldn’t swim. It was exhausting taking him to the beach since I had to be 100% alert and watch him at all times. 

My evenings revolved around his early bedtime schedule, which meant it was lights out by 7:30 p.m. Dinner was very early and rushed. I was again stuck spending my vacation in a dark cabin on a cruise ship when I could be watching a show.  

All in all, the trip was tiring, and I ended up babysitting my son most of the time. I don’t recommend cruising with a 4-year-old because the kids’ club can be a hit or miss, and there’s not enough time to relax.

Best Age to Start Cruising

Going on a Cruise with a 7 Year Old and a 10 Year Old

I finally reached a stage in my life where it was easy to cruise with my kids. I went on a Caribbean cruise with both kids on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, departing from New York. 

It was a breeze compared to my previous experiences when I had to deal with toddlers and preschoolers. My 7-year-old and 10-year-old happily joined the kids club with no complaints.

They were old enough so that we didn’t have to rush back to our cabin for bedtime at 7:30pm. We could stay out late, enjoy dinner in the main dining room and watch a show afterward. They were able to participate in onboard activities like bumper cars. 

I think cruising with a 7 year old and 10 year old is prime cruising age. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went on the same cruise three times that year- once with my kids and my in-laws, once with kids and my parents and another time with my godparents and my daughter! Life was good!

Going on a Cruise with a Tween and a Teen

Let’s fast forward to cruising with a tween son and a teen daughter. We took our first European cruise with kids on Princess Cruise, sailing out of Southampton for a British Isle cruise. 

The experience was even easier this time around. Our kids could stay up late while we enjoyed dinner, watched a show and even participated in music trivia after the show. 

Although we checked out the kids club, we didn’t really use it. My tween son went for a day, but my teen daughter didn’t want to go.

However, it didn’t matter since they were great companions, and I didn’t mind them tagging along with me on the cruise ship. This was an excellent age to cruise to Europe because they appreciated the history and learned a lot from the shore excursions. 

Overall, cruising with a tween and a teen was the best – they were like mini-adults who didn’t have to sleep early, didn’t get cranky, and kept up with the grown-ups. I was able to enjoy being on vacation while taking them on a cruise that was both fun and educational.

So What’s the Best Age to Start Cruising?

I think the best age to start cruising is 7 years old. This is because at 7, they have a later bedtime schedule, which means that there’s no need to rush back to the cabin by 7:30 pm.  

You can enjoy dinner and a show on the cruise. This is also a good age for cruising because kids are eager to go to the kids club without any separation anxiety. And at 7 years old, they can swim which is a big deal when it comes to enjoying the beach and the pool. 

What’s the Best Type of Cruise to Go with Kids?

If you’re planning a cruise for your 7 year old, I’d recommend a beach cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda, or Mexico. You’ll have a good balance of sea days and beach days. 

For teenagers and tweens, a European cruise is great because it’s both fun and educational. They’ll appreciate the history behind the attractions without getting exhausted from back-to-back port days.  

Alaska cruise is also good for teens and tweens because they will be old enough to do some of the more adventurous shore excursions like kayaking to the glacier. And of course, a beach cruise is good for all ages. 

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