Fear not, parents everywhere! You CAN find fun for the whole family on your cruise!
Now that you’ve snagged a super deal on your cruise adventure, you’re ready to start planning your itinerary and building your arsenal of things to do.
Ideas and Tips for Entertaining a Toddler on a Cruise
We recently took a cruise to Alaska on Holland America Line (HAL). Holland America offers Club HAL, a supervised space for children ages 3-17 with age-appropriate activities and toys. Unfortunately, we could not take advantage of this free offering, since our daughter isn’t yet three. We asked the staff if we could allow our daughter to play in the club space while we watched her, but they said it was against corporate policy. Bummer.
Since we couldn’t use the Club HAL space and there was no playground on the ship, we had to get creative to keep our daughter happy and active on board.
- Sought out interesting and varied common spaces
- Frequented the observation deck and café (Explorations Café on HAL), which featured an assortment of board games and books (our daughter loved Connect Four and looking through the oversized coffee table photo books)
- Walked on deck three (loop around the ship)
- Pawned her off on Grandma and Grandpa for a change of scenery (highly recommend this—it kept everyone happy!)
- Slowly revealed new small toys, like stickers, coloring books, a Rubik’s Cube, etc.
- Read and read and read and read. Our daughter loves books, so we were constantly reading to her on our trip. I bought a few new lightweight paperbacks, which are lighter than board books, and therefore easier to travel with.
- We knew that the children’s pool on board was covered and heated, so we planned to pass the lazy afternoons swimming. That did NOT work out for us—it was simply too cold! We tried one day, and we were shivering in a pool that should have been at least 10 degrees warmer. If we had been in the Caribbean, it would have been a different story. Don’t bother swimming on an Alaskan cruise (of course, adults can hit the hot tub).
- We didn’t take advantage of the basketball courts or ping pong tables on board. There’s always next time!
- Assume you will want to leave the ship. Exploring ports is one of the best parts of the experience.
- Check out the descriptions of all available excursions before you set off. See your cruise line web site for details. It’s best to book ahead, especially for popular outings and those with limited capacity.
- We were fairly light on excursions on this 7-night Alaska cruise. We specifically avoided scheduling every minute of our time, as you never know when a meltdown or long nap is going to occur.
- Generally, we avoided any excursions that were more than two hours in length.
- We considered nap and meal times in our planning.
- We carefully evaluated the safety of the activities for a toddler. If you have questions, feel free to contact your cruise line’s customer service professionals.
- We pinpointed activities that we could easily do on our own at our leisure, like eating at a crab shack in Juneau when we felt like it, rather than booking a crab feast that we would have to be bused to.
- Here’s what we actually did in Alaska: the Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau (suitable for all ages), and the Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan (1 hour 15 mins, enjoyable for everyone). My husband and I also did a sea kayaking trip in Sitka while my parents watched our daughter.
We don’t allow screen time for our toddler unless she’s on a plane or train, or if it’s a special occasion like a party.
But if you’re desperate for a way to calm your toddler, HAL has en-suite smart TVs that feature an impressive selection of kids’ movies, including “Moana”, “Sing”, “Finding Dory”, “Pets”, and more. The interface was incredibly easy to use.
You may also want to bring a tablet.
Easy as pie, right?
In the final installment of this series, I will reveal the remaining de-classified tips for having a blast on your family cruise.
*Author’s note: these opinions are my own based on my personal experiences. I have not been paid to endorse any businesses, products or services in this blog
You may also like these blogs by Megan Sharma:
Cruise with kids: Travel tips for cruising with toddlers (baby/toddler travel guide series)
Baby/toddler travel guide series: going international
Baby/toddler travel guide series: what to pack
Baby/toddler travel guide series: the essentials!
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